As 2014 draws to a close, we reflect with gratitude on the past year and those who make our ministries possible. Here are a few organizational highlights from another fruitful year of encouraging the laity to follow the Franciscan mission tradition of sharing in the lives with those on the margins.
Thank you for supporting us as we strive to make “The Shared World” a more peaceful and just place through relationship building.

Class 29 Arrives in Bolivia

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We are blessed to start each new calendar year with the sending of our newest missioners to their overseas placements. In 2014, four lay people arrived in Bolivia. They were received by the existing FMS community in Cochabamba and spent six weeks in language school while living with host families before beginning their service.
Following her heart for children and nonviolence, Valerie accepted an invitation to participate in the ministries of Centro una Brisa de Esperanza (CUBE), which strives to prevent sexual violence and offer support to survivors. Hady shares her years of professional and personal experience with local Bolivian ministries empowering women through fair-trade crafts and life skills classes.
In July, Mary and Nate were received by the community of Unidad Académica Campesina-Carmen Pampa in the mountainous area of Coroico. Living on campus and working in various capacities, the couple accompanies young Bolivians as they gain tools to become leaders in the development of their own rural communities.

Expanding online ministry

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As part of our growing online ministry, early this year we explored the connection between the sacraments and our call to mission through a special blog series, “Sacraments and Social Mission: Living the Gospel, Being Disciples,” inspired by a USCCB document of the same name and featuring posts by missioners and guest contributors.

In October, we also launched our new website with blog integration courtesy of Perisphere Media.

FMS exhibits at Los Angeles Religious Education Congress, unveils two new shirts

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The Los Angeles Religious Education Congress was an awesome opportunity to speak to people about the lay call to mission and the beauty of living out this call in the tradition of Saints Francis and Clare of Assisi. With roughly 40,000 attendees, the four-day event in Anaheim, Calif., is the largest annual gathering of Catholics in the United States.
To raise awareness and support of our work, we sold two brand new shirts, both designed in-house by Nonprofit Servant Leadership associate Jason Bach. You can still order yours online.

Jack Jezreel and Fr. Dan Horan, OFM, headline World Care Benefit and Celebration

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This year’s event was themed,“Profoundly Changed: New Disciples for Peace, Justice, and Hope,” and our two powerhouse speakers made for an engaging evening. In his acceptance of the 9th Annual Anselm Moons Award, JustFaith founder Jack Jezreel challenged Catholics to rejuvenate the Church through attention to Matthew 25, a Gospel chapter emphasizing faith formation as an integral aspect of discipleship. Keynote speaker Fr. Dan Horan, OFM, spoke on the similarities between St. Francis of Assisi and Pope Francis, highlighting the foundation of Franciscanism: relationships. Both presentations are available on our YouTube channel. 
Save the Date: Our next World Care Benefit and Celebration is scheduled for May 1, 2015 and will feature keynote speaker Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga, adviser to Pope Francis, and award recipient Fr. John O’Connor, OFM. 

FMS hosts first Short-Term Mission and Global Awareness Trip to Bolivia

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Having had lead trips to D.C., Kenya, and South Africa, we had the privilege this May to facilitate an experience for North Americans that helped open their eyes to issues of global poverty as well as the beauty of the Bolivian people and culture. We are grateful to all who helped to make the trip possible, including our current missioners and their ministry partners, FMS alumna Nora Pfeiffer with Franciscans International, Food First, and Carmen Pampa University.

Both members of Class 28 renew for a third year

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The initial commitment of our lay missioners for overseas service is two years. Beyond that, they can renew for one year at a time and can stay in the field for up to six years total. Annemarie Barrett and Jeff Sved, both of whom arrived in Bolivia in January 2013, discerned that they will remain in mission until at least 2016.
One driving force behind their individual decisions to stay in Bolivia longer: relationships. The friendships and collaborations between their ministry partners constantly call them to greater solidarity and growth.
To deepen her connection with some of the rural women with whom she works on sustainable community agricultural initiatives, Annemarie started learning Quechua, one of the indigenous languages of the region.  In November, Jeff made a visit back to the U.S. and shared with our missioners-in-training stories about the relationships he has built while in prison ministry as well as the importance of community. His lived example of accompaniment and openness to learning from those he encounters was an invaluable part of the new missioners’ formation.

FMS invited to Rome for first-ever OFM International Congress on Mission and Evangelization

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This conference was the first time that the Order of Friars Minor gathered members from around the world to focus on the topic of mission. Our presence validated the importance of collaboration between the laity and religious communities and affirmed Franciscan Mission Service’s leadership in the mission world. One example of fruit born from this gathering is a partnership with friars of St. John the Baptist Province who will welcome our lay missioners into their ministries in Jamaica in a few weeks.

Watch a video of the presentation to the Congresso by executive director Kim Smolik and read blog posts and live tweets about the gathering by communications manager Bridget Higginbotham. 

Rechristening the “Nonprofit Servant Leadership Program”

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Formerly known as the “Domestic Volunteer Program” this unique opportunity for young adults to engage in faith and service in Washington, D.C. was given a new name to better reflect the program’s vision. The two arms of the program now include the “Office Associates” whom work in our headquarters in areas such as development and programming, and the “DC Service Corps” which launches this fall to facilitate full-time direct service opportunities with DC-based ministries addressing poverty. We are answering our call to connect with the marginalized in our own community while inviting more lay people to participate in St. Francis’ example of relational mission.

Do you have the desire to use your gifts to serve the poor and marginalized through the ministry of the nonprofit sector? Join us!

Class 30 goes through formation, commissioned for service

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Five young adults spent the fall in prayerful preparation for two years of mission abroad. Their training included discussions on the Franciscan charism, cross-cultural living, and issues of poverty and justice; scripture study; daily prayer; regular reflection and critical analysis; and weekly homeless ministry. Thank you to the prayer partners, spiritual directors, guest speakers, and others who made this year’s formation possible. The training culminated in a beautiful commissioning Mass with a moving homily by celebrant Fr. Paul Dressler, OFM Cap.

In just a few short weeks, Amanda Ceraldi and Maeve Gallagher will join the Friars of the Immaculate Conception to minister to the children at Valley of the Angels in Guatemala. Brandon Newland and Patrick Montine will join the Friars of St. John the Baptist Province to work alongside the community of Savanna la Mar, Jamaica. Tom Little will join current FMS missioners in Bolivia at Carmen Pampa University.

Looking forward, we enter our 25th year of overseas mission with hope. We pray that 2015 will be another grace-filled year of forming and supporting compassionate servant leaders.  
Your prayers and financial offerings ensure that we continue to facilitate relation-based mission in the Franciscan tradition for years to come – thank you!