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2013 World Care Benefit: Remaining in the Catholic Church Today


Sr. Pat Farrell, OSF, past-president of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious has received numerous awards in the months since the organization’s conflict with the Vatican.

FMS Executive Director Kim Smolik presents Sr. Pat Farrell with the Anselm Moons Award.

But accepting the 8th Anselm Moons, OFM Award to a standing ovation on April 5 was a particularly special moment for Sr. Pat. The Franciscan sister from Dubuque, Iowa wiped away tears as Franciscan Mission Service honored her for her courageous commitment to Gospel living.

“This is a very treasured award for me and I am so honored to be here because this really feels like coming home,” Sr. Pat told the crowd gathered at St. Francis Hall in northeast Washington, D.C. “This organization represents some of the greatest aspirations of my own life: to be really Franciscan, mission and service.”

One of the founding goals of Franciscan Mission Service was that missioners would return to North America, bringing with them the lessons they learned overseas so as to transform society and church in a way of “reverse mission.” Sr. Pat was presented with the Anselm Moons Award because she embodied this vision after returning to the U.S. after 25 years in Latin America and serving as a patient and strong leader.

“My experience is both Chile and El Salvador is the greatest resource I brought with me to the experience of leadership in LCWR,” she said.

Sr. Pat shared stories and lessons from her time in the war-torn countries that still play in the back of her mind today. The first lesson was that courage is contagious; the second was that even when there are two opposing sides, we are still one and will have to live with each other after the conflict.

“We share a common faith, a common humanity, a common pain with those on the opposite side of Church polarization and all other polarization,” she said. “So if we can really hear each other, we have a head start on experiencing our fundamental connectedness.”

Connectedness was a theme for the evening as Franciscan Mission Service also highlighted their different programs designed to connect North Americans with the poor and vulnerable in order to bring about mutual growth.

This year FMS launched its first Short-Term Mission and Global Awareness Trip and participants Anna Robinson, domestic volunteer, and Rebecca Lynes, board vice president, shared how meeting with people in South Africa in February and the experience impacted them. Communications coordinator Bridget Higginbotham shared her experience of connecting with an elderly woman at a nursing home during her service as an FMS domestic volunteer last year.

Following Sr. Pat’s powerful testimony, keynote speaker Melinda Henneberger stood up to give hers on how she still feels connected despite the challenges to her faith that she experiences as a member of the mainstream media. The Washington Post columnist had titled her talk, “Keeping the Door of Faith Open: Remaining in the Catholic Church Today.”

Melinda said it was the first time she really spoke about her faith in publicly, and this honesty really resonated with the crowd. A question-and-answer session followed the keynote for the first time ever.

After the program, guests were buzzing about the speakers as they placed their silent auction bids and finished up the wine and desserts.

“Melinda was absolutely inspirational, as was Sr. Pat,” Jack McHale, FMS board member, said. “Both were refreshing and it makes me proud to be Catholic.”

Jack brought along friends Mike and Mary Ellen Rodgers who commented, “We go to events like these often in Washington. This one was special. We actually learned something tonight and are leaving inspired.”

Thank you to our sponsors, donors, volunteers for making this year’s  World Care Benefit a great success. Pleas see our YouTube channel for more event coverage.

We prepare and support lay Catholics for two-year international, one-year domestic and 1-2 week short-term mission service opportunities in solidarity with impoverished and marginalized communities across the globe.

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