Franciscan Mission Service Commemorates Active and Engaged Laity at the 2019 World Care Annual Benefit and Celebration

On April 5, Franciscan Mission Service hosted the annual World Care Benefit and Celebration to highlight its unique commitment to mission and to recognize lay people who are heeding the call to work for peace, justice, and hope. In a Franciscan spirit of joy, attendees gathered to share their passion and support for Franciscan Mission Service’s nearly 30-year legacy of encountering Christ while walking alongside economically poor and socially marginalized communities.

As part of the evening’s program, FMS honored Jeff and Teresa Redder, OSF with the Anselm Moons Award, named in honor of FMS’ founder.  As long-time friends and supporters of FMS who are engaged in a variety of ministries with their Fraternity and parish in New Jersey, Jeff and Teresa truly answer Anselm’s call to “echo the message of Francis of Assisi to the Church and the world.” Jeff and Teresa’s award acceptance remarks spoke to the heart of the Franciscan charism and invited all gathered to consider “minority,” along with other aspects of the Franciscan tradition, in a new way.

At the event, FMS also honored Megan Bohatch, senior at Duquesne University, with the fifth annual San Damiano Award, given to college students who have demonstrated an outstanding commitment to service. Through her four years of service with her campus’ St. Vincent de Paul club, Megan has developed a deep resolve to “interrupt hopelessness.” In her award application, Megan described her passionfor service by saying, “If I can believe that our God would choose to dwell among us, to walk alongside of us…why would I not want to also dwell among his people and walk alongside of them?”

In addition to honoring Jeff, Teresa, and Megan, a highlight of this year’s World Care Benefit and Celebration was hearing from keynote speaker and honored guest, Bishop John Stowe, OFM Conv, of the Diocese of Lexington, KY.  Appointed to the episcopacy in 2015, Bishop Stowe has become known for his prophetic ministry in the Church.

In his address, Bishop Stowe reflected on the event theme, “Side by Side in the Vineyard” by highlighting examples of ministry partnerships and lay leadership that help build God’s kingdom in inclusive, justice-oriented, and peace-promoting ways. Having spent significant time on the US-Mexico border after ordination and having served in leadership in the Diocese of El Paso, Bishop Stowe shared the inspiration he drew from the several hundred lay ministers trained that in the diocese each year. He also reminded guests of the “contagious joy” which Pope Francis recognizes as so needed in the world today.  In considering Bishop Stowe’s words, guests had an opportunity to reflect on how this joy can serve as both a backdrop to and focal point for a Christ-centered life that overflows with love for God’s people and a spirit of service that unites all ministers—both lay and ordained.

Near the end of the evening, FMS premiered a new video produced by DC Service Corps alum, Kathleen Strycula. Titled “What is Mission?,” the video featured the voices of current and returned FMS missioners who broadened the definition of mission in light of their formation and lived experiences in Bolivia, Jamaica, and Guatemala. Mission, according to the missioners in the video, is a way of life.

In response to the video and the uplifting words shared throughout the event, many guests added prayer intentions to a prayer wall and pledged ongoing prayerful and financial support to further FMS’ ministries. Combined with event sponsorships and financial contributions from individuals who could not attend but sent in a donation, revenue from the evening over $35,000.   

“Our hearts are full of gratitude,” said Elizabeth Hughes, FMS Executive Director. “For one evening to provide time for fellowship and uplifting reflections while also providing support for the needs of our missioners and volunteers is not something we take for granted. The Board and I appreciate the efforts of all those who make the World Care Benefit and Celebration possible—and fun!”

So what’s next? Is it possible for such a special evening to be even more meaningful and celebratory?  Yes! Next year, Franciscan Mission Service celebrates its 30th anniversary and planning for the 2020 World Care Benefit and Celebration is already underway. Stay tuned for more details. We can’t wait to welcome you as our guest.