For the FMS community, the DC Fourth of July brought the usual parades, musical performances at the Capitol Building and of course the fireworks by the Washington Monument. On July 4th, visitors traveling downtown also had the opportunity to experience international cultural, cuisine, crafts, and music, at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival. The festival featured a celebration of Peace Corps now in its 50th year of service, giving the Independence Day crowd of tourists a glimpse of the projects of volunteers doing service overseas worldwide.
The three of us from the FMS community who attended – two FMS volunteers and one Columban volunteer – had a chance to listen to stories from former Peace Corps Volunteers about about how their service impact their life and how they tried to bring a piece of their community back with them to the United States. Many of the values they bring are also FMS core values, focused on building community worldwide and promoting social justice. But listening to the stories, it made us as a community think about why we chose a faith organization as a means to serve.
A person’s decision to serve overseas can be based on several factors, whether it’s their desire to know another culture or the drive to help those most in need. FMS missioners tend to find their desire and drive rooted in their faith journey and vocation. The individuals who seek out FMS have because they are looking for something that integrates theological and contemplative understanding with their call to mission. Our missioners’ actions in their overseas lives find their influence in the teachings and love of Christ, a mission derived from the Gospel.
Like the Peace Corps Volunteers, they bring home a piece of their international community with them, but FMS missioners also bring a faith story with them. Just this year, several of our returned missioners have taken to the road for Mission Appeals to share the Franciscan charism, spirituality, and joy in living in intentional community. Many of the parishes are in remote locations, that only have twenty or so parishioners, yet our returned missioners are able to share their personal mission experiences, rooted in the Gospel, through the spirituality and contemplation of St. Francis of Assisi. It is not merely a call to action and service alone, but a call to renew our baptismal vows by deepening our faith and living out the love of Christ.