For more photos from our returned missioner retreat, please see our online album.

Domestic Volunteer Sarah Hoffeditz writes about her experience last weekend as the Franciscan Mission Service staff joined some of our returned missioners in Colorado for a retreat we host every three years for those who have served with us.

Their stories were inspiring. Our returned missioners went around the room at our June 2013 Returned Missioner Retreat telling stories about their years on mission in places like Bolivia, Zambia, El Salvador, Brazil, South Africa, Nicaragua, and Colombia.

They told of townships where they’d worked in South Africa; about schools they taught at in Bolivia; about their work at hospices, clinics, and orphanages; as catechists and gardeners. The list goes on and on.

However, their stories were not nearly so much about what they “did” as they were about the people they “did” things with. Whether people they worked with or people they served or even just people they befriended along the way, it was the people in the stories who stood out.

If I had any confusion about what ministry of presence before attending this retreat, I certainly didn’t after. These amazing people were living examples of what it means to accompany people on their life journeys.

Living out their Franciscan values did not end upon their return to North America, either. In one way or another, all of them work to continue touching the lives of others.

Cecilia Marcy (Bolivia 2004-2006 and South Africa 2010-2012), discussed how, after a recent move, she and her husband and fellow missioner, Tim Marcy, sought out the poor in their community and immediately set to work. They now spend time with special needs people in the area, a group that was in the most need of their help and friendship.

Alexandra Hoch (Bolivia 2000-2003) runs a small hospitality house near downtown Denver. She offers affordable housing for both short term and long term guests visiting the area, sharing mission stories of Bolivia with all and keeping alive the stories of those with whom she walked in solidarity. The service she offers also allows people of lower incomes to stay near downtown when many cannot afford the price of the expensive hotels. She has formed many very meaningful friendships with her guests, continuing her ministry of presence.

Other returned missioners have gone on to do things like work for and with nonprofits, work with Catholic youth groups, care for the environment with work in ecojustice and agronomics, and much more.

Whether spending time with them in reflections facilitated by Marie Dennis of Pax Christi International, exploring the grounds and sharing meals at the Franciscan Retreat Center, hiking in Garden of the Gods park, or celebrating Masses, I thoroughly enjoyed getting to know these 12 returned missioners during our long-weekend in Colorado.

Many were modest when talking about how they live out their returned mission with Franciscan values. But mission had clearly changed them all. They embodied the Franciscan charism. They inspired me. They taught me. They made me see things in a new light.

I encourage you to read their stories on our website. They may just inspire you, too.

Sarah Hoffeditz joined our staff in January of 2013 as communications and development associate in January of, 2013. She graduated from Bellarmine University with a degree in Communication and a minor in English in 2012.