Editor’s note: Missioner in formation, Tom, reflects on his Saturday and the inspiring people he met along the way. 

Saturdays at Casa San Salvador are days when our many intentional community members become creative.  Last Saturday was no exception. Many of our housemates went to Salisbury, Maryland, to the National Folk Festival.  The day was very close to perfect: bright sun and cooling breezes. Some of those who went enjoyed a side trip to the beach where they played football and lounged in the sun and sand before enjoying the music, culture, and food of the festival and the camaraderie of each other. 

Only two of us stayed at the Casa.  One housemate was studying for her graduate courses, buying and preparing food for Sunday’s meal and having a bonding day with her fellow grad students.  As for me, well, I was feverishly addressing and stuffing my support-raising letters. About mid-morning, while I was writing out those envelopes, my housemate came to my room to tell me that there was a group of young adults from St. John’s Episcopal Church in Ellicott City, Maryland, who had come to our front door for the expressed purpose of making a donation to Franciscan Mission Service.  I was the only missioner at home so I, by luck, was the one to receive this group of about 10 young adults and their adult advisor.  

When I walked out onto our front porch, they were gathered on our front steps, and, after I introduced myself, they each shared their names.  Then they related why they had chosen Franciscan Mission Service as the recipient of their donation. They all knew about the life and work of St. Francis of Assisi and, in fact, their youth group is planning a pilgrimage to Assisi for summer of 2020.  Their J2A — Journey to Adulthood — group has a history of traveling to special places of holy ground – like the Camino in Spain, and sites of World Youth Days. They are quite serious about growing their spiritual lives in order to be fully committed to Jesus Christ, the Good News, and the promises made on their behalf by parents and godparents on their baptism days.  This excerpt comes from the parish website (stjohnsec.org/learn/youth/):  

J2A Confirmation (8th & 9th Grades)

The middle portion of the program (8th & 9th or 9th & 10th graders) engages youth with the skills and critical thinking involved in adulthood. The youth plan and embark on a pilgrimage together at the end of this segment. During this time we incorporate exploration and discernment regarding the youth’s decision to be confirmed.

I shared the places where our missioners currently serve in a ministry of presence:  Bolivia, Guatemala, and Jamaica, as well as the abandonment to our loving and merciful God that we discerning lay missioners are striving for as we watch and pray for the revelation of where we will serve for the next 2 or more years.  I honestly told them that at this time we know very little about where we will go but we know that our God will provide for us because of their prayer for us and the generosity they gifted us with today. 

These young men and women inspired me greatly!  They each seemed sincere in their love for God in themselves and in their community and in our world.  The accompanying adult advisor who stayed at the back of the group only came forward when one of the young people spoke about a mission trip to Guatemala the prior year.  She recommended a book by Sarah A Lanier: Foreign to Familiar.  Sounds like a great read for any missioner preparing for a ministry of presence.