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Ears to Listen: My Ministry of Presence

Ears to Listen Blog

Editor’s note: Our new class of DC Service Corps volunteers will each be reflecting on a way that they resonate with Franciscan Mission Service’s mission and spirituality. Jarrett Murano shares how his ministry of presence is lived out at his ministry site, Food and Friends, which delivers medically tailored meals and medical nutrition therapy to people living with cancer, HIV/AIDS, and other serious illnesses.  

During my DC Service Corps orientation, there has been an almost literal boatload of information thrown at me. So, when asked what is my favorite aspect of being a Franciscan, I had quite the time leafing through all the information I tried to retain throughout the past few weeks. Trying to sift through everything and find a definite answer was like trying to sift through overfilled vinyl bins they have at second-hand stores: if you look through enough of them, you’ll eventually find something good. After enough thoughts had been re-thought through, I think that I have the definitive answer. My favorite amid the sea of warped jazz albums, is the ministry of presence. I entered the FMS year without any tangible idea of why I was put here in DC. I still am only beginning to unravel that question.

This year I am serving at Food and Friends, a nonprofit organization that delivers homemade meals and groceries to individuals and families affected by chronic illness. They serve approximately 1,200 people weekly. My job specifically is to work with new clients to answer questions they may have, deliver their first meals or groceries to them, and generally make sure they understand the system. While this is a simplification of my role for the sake of brevity, being a person that listens is the majority of my job. Being a set of ears that can listen to the clients as they tell me what they need or what they’ve experienced is sometimes all that is required of me. 

Pope Francis’ Encyclical, Fratelli Tutti, explains this in a different way as a “culture of encounter.” In the encyclical, Pope Francis describes a striving of being “…passionate about meeting others, seeking points of contact, building bridges, [and] planning a project that includes everyone.” Food and Friends has been built upon that idea. The idea of Food and Friends was started in a local church’s basement where the original volunteers were serving food to people affected by HIV/AIDS. They served about 40 people, and it eventually grew into over 4,000+ people and nearly 1.5 million meals served per year. Food and Friends stays true to its original name, too, as we focus on building relationships with the people we serve. Pope Francis’s words of accompaniment above have been part of Food and Friends for the 30+ years it has existed. Thirty years of delivering not just food, but faces. Interactions. Security. Independence. Support. 

Reflection Question: How can you embrace the ministry of presence in your life?  In your work?  In your relationships?

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Jarrett Murano is a recent graduate of the University of Lynchburg with a degree in Graphic Design. His ministry site is Food and Friends, an organization that delivers healthy meals and groceries to individuals with chronic illnesses. When he’s not in the office, he enjoys gardening around the house.