Editor’s Note: The following is part of our daily holiday series celebrating “The Shared World.” Fr. Joe Nangle, OFM, is a former FMS executive director and board member.

The originating vision of Franciscan Mission Service remains compelling today, thirty years after it was articulated by FMS founder, Anselm Moons, OFM. Called by Franciscan leadership in North America to reinvigorate mission awareness in the U.S. and Canada, Anselm quickly realized that nothing short of extended on-the-ground experiences could penetrate an increasingly provincial, inwardly-orientated church community here.

Thus began the official North American overseas lay mission initiative of the Order of Friars Minor, Franciscan Mission Service. In 1990 Anselm sent out our first lay missioners; dozens would follow in the next 25 years.

When I came on as Anselm’s successor in 1994, his vision guided all FMS thinking and action. Generous Catholic lay women and men underwent a serious, three-month, orientation process preparing them for encounters with impoverished areas of the world; they pledged three years of service in their mission sites; and they returned to the U.S. and Canada to begin the most important dimension of our program: mission to the so-called First World. We had no need to tamper with this simple threefold program of Anslem’s

To cite just one striking FMS success story, let me relate here the experience of Mike, a lay missioner who served during our early days.

This young man brought with him significant administrative skills, so that it was entirely appropriate for us to place him as C.E.O. in an African bush hospital conducted by a congregation of women religious. The fit was perfect and Mike did exceptional work throughout his 36 months there.

On his return to the U.S. Mike found out about proposed cuts in financial aid to the country where he had worked and knew that his bush hospital would suffer the effects of such cuts.

Given his very personal connection with the country and hospital where he had served, Mike naturally made an appointment with the lending institution proposing the cuts and spoke with their bureaucrats about the devastating consequences such a policy decision would have.

In a dramatic way, this is exactly what Anselm Moons had in mind when he implemented his dream for educating North America to the world of underdevelopment and suffering beyond our shores.

While I doubt that Anselm ever expressed it this way, surely his dream included the hope that FMS lay missioners would be “spoiled for life” – and that their conversion overseas would help “spoil for life” all sorts of other North Americans.

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Fr. Joe Nangle, OFM

Fr. Joe Nangle, OFM, is the former executive director and former board secretary/treasurer of Franciscan Mission Service and a Provincial Councilor of the Franciscan Friars of Holy Name Province.

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