Saturday, June 7, was a bittersweet day in the history of Franciscan Mission Service. As the Board Committee met that afternoon at the Franciscan Monastery to discuss the future course of the organization, the members of the office were at Casa San Salvador down the street, setting up for a dinner to honor the passing of an era. After five years, Associate Director Mariam Kaldas was leaving Franciscan Mission Service.

The evening began in appropriately makeshift Franciscan fashion, as nearly forty people squeezed into the dining room of Casa San Salvador for the Pentecost Vigil Mass, celebrated on a dinner-table-turned-altar by Fr. Joe Nangle, OFM. His homily, delivered in the same colloquial manner as his reading of the Gospel, paid homage to the special friendship that Fr. Joe and Mariam have developed over the years, particularly in the way Fr. Joe’s Franciscan charism has been enriched by Mariam’s Coptic Orthodox traditions, and vice versa.

Mariam (with her mother) receiving a blessing from Fr. Joe

After Mass, the members of the board and other guests (including Mariam’s mother) moved to the front rooms of the house, where they mingled over wine and light hors d’oeuvres while members of the office staff worked to return the makeshift Mass space to a dining room.

As board members, office staff, and Casa community members chatted over falafel, spanakopita, and other delicious Greek cuisine (Mariam’s favorite, chosen for the occasion), several people stood up to offer a few words about the night’s honored guest, including Executive Director Kim Smolik. From the moment five years ago when Mariam came on board as the organization’s very first Nonprofit Leadership Program associate, Kim said, she has grown to become an invaluable part of the Franciscan Mission Service family, on both a professional and personal level. When Mariam met and eventually married her husband Mark, Kim was happy for her, not just as a boss but also as a friend.

The delicious spread of food

After accepting a plaque honoring her service, Mariam spoke briefly about the role Franciscan Mission Service has played in her own life. Picking up the thread from Kim, she said that her time with Franciscan Mission Service has been instrumental to her growth not just as a working professional but as a person. Though she herself is not Franciscan, the values that Franciscan Mission Service embodies—ministry of presence, concern for the most marginalized, care for creation—are ones which she will carry with her for the rest of her life.

Mariam accepting her plaque from Kim

This was the first of two events honoring Mariam. A happy hour event was also held at Casa San Salvador on Tuesday, June 10. Attendees included two returned missioners (Katie Mulembe and Pat Clausen), former house managers Daeana and Eduardo Padilla, former Nonprofit Leadership Program associates Rachel Roa and Susan Zagar. Also in attendance were friends from the Brookland neighborhood, Franciscan Action Network, the Franciscan Monastery, and Catholic Volunteer Network (where Mariam was a board member).