Perhaps you have just recently graduated from a college that’s cost you your life savings, countless sleepless nights, and many antisocial weekends. Or perhaps you just celebrated your 20th anniversary at a job you’ve kept through thick and thin. Whether you are 22 or 62, discerning a call to mission can be a journey.

For lay people applying for mission with Franciscan Mission Service, a two-day retreat at our Casa San Salvador headquarters in Washington, D.C. creates a space for them to continue the discernment process. In late February we held the first “Discernment Days” of the year and invited five lay-people, from Florida to southern Canada, who had passed the first two phases of the application process.

Some arrived in D.C. standing at the gate of mission work, just waiting for the Holy Spirit to open the door. Others saw the gate on the horizon and all the bridges they’d have to cross before that final entrance. The goal of the retreat was to further explore this call to mission, loud or whispering, through spiritual reflection, one-on-one guidance, and workshops.

Directors Kim Smolik, Miriam Mitry, and Br. Paul O’Keeffe, OFM facilitated the retreat and spent most of the time conducting one-on-one interviews with the attendees. These are not like job interviews. It’s a conversation between those trying to work through a vision of mission work and the reality of going on mission – a mutual exchange of experience and expectations to see if the partnership of the lay-person and the organization is a good fit. Values, philosophy, and theology are explored, history examined, and possibilities envisioned.

It can be an exciting time for someone vibrating with a strong desire to serve abroad, or a contemplative time for those still trying to answer the question, “Is this the right thing for me? Is this the right time?” Between two book-end masses, a lot of discussions, and a special visit from returned missioners Don and Pat Clausen, the hope for these five lay-people, is that that question becomes a little less daunting and a little more freeing.

So, whether you are just beginning your adult life and looking to see where it will take you, or exploring a life long desire to live out “Go, and make disciples of all nations” literally, Discernment Days may be the answer to, “how”.

FMS will be hosting another Discernment Days retreat at the end of this week. If you have an interest in mission overseas, or are discerning another service opportunity, visit our website for resources on discernment and spiritual decision making.