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Overseas Lay Missioners

Holding Privilege on the Border

Editor’s Note: Lay missioner Kim Wagner recognizes a privilege that she has as a US citizen and realizes how she can use her privilege on mission at the US-Mexico border. As I leave the Centro de Recursos para Migrantes (Migrant Resource Center) in Agua Prieta, Sonora, Mexico after my volunteer shift, I walk along the…

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With the Sheep

Editor’s Note: Inspired by a passage from the Gospel of Matthew, lay missioner Victor Artaiz considers his time on mission as accompanying Jesus’ sheep. Being here on mission in Bolivia since January 2022 has allowed me to review my journey, to contemplate my experience, and to discern future steps in my life. Being steeped in…

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Choosing the Lesser Ministry

Editor’s Note: Lay missioner Ralph Anderson, OFS recalls his previous mission experiences and reflects on how God is calling him to serve in “lesser” ministries in Cochabamba, Bolivia. Mission is not something new in my life. My first experience was in 1966 with the Knights of Columbus. I was 12 years old, and we drove…

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Get out of the Tomb!

Editor’s Note: As we continue celebrating the liturgical season of Easter, lay missioner Joleen Johnson reflects on how God calls us out of our individual “tombs” and invites us into new, abundant life. Mark 16:1-5: “When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome, bought spices, so that they…

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All Aboard to Tucson: Facing My Fears. Mission Accepted.

Editor’s Note: Lay missioner Julia Pinto reflects on how God strengthens her to face her fear of driving so that she can serve migrants at her ministry site. March 13, 2024 Lengthy disclaimer: When you go on mission, especially to do some hot-topic work like humanitarian aid on the US-Mexico border, people often act like…

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Agony and Joy

Editor’s Note: Along with a Servite Sister, lay missioner Joleen Johnson contemplates the connections between agony and joy, especially in regards to Jesus’ Passion and Resurrection. As the Easter season begins, I wondered: What is the connection between agony and joy (or ecstasy)? I asked this question to a very wise Servite Sister* living here…

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An Ending and a Beginning: Reflecting on Life and Death This Lent and Easter

Editor’s Note: During her first season of Lent on mission, lay missioner Kim Wagner relates Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection to her reflections on the life of her mother. I can still recall the day like it was yesterday — March 31st, 2020. Upon waking up in my bedroom in my Dad’s house, I felt…

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Lent in Cochabamba, 2024

Editor’s Note: In light of this liturgical season of Lent, lay missioner Victor Artaiz reflects on how he’s living the three pillars of Lent–prayer, fasting, and almsgiving–while on mission in Cochabamba, Bolivia. Not all of our mission camino is filled with smiles and fresh air, cobblestone walks and views of fresh flowers, mountainside vistas and…

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Walking Toward Christ, Even in Discomfort

Editor’s Note: Lay missioner Ralph Anderson, OFS describes how Christ has been calling him to prayer in a special place in Cochabamba, Bolivia. I have been living in Cochabamba, Bolivia for seven weeks now. Things are very different here. I have spent time in Latin America throughout my life. My first mission trip was when…

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When Plans Change

Editor’s Note: As she returns to her ministry site after spending Christmas with her family, lay missioner Julia Pinto reflects on three strangers whom she encounters along the way. After being away for two years, I gratefully soaked in every moment I could with loved ones over the Christmas holidays. My heart was full as…

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Waiting Through the Seasons

Editor’s Note: As Kim Wagner anticipates beginning her time on mission, she relates her waiting to the liturgical seasons of Advent and Christmas. As I have worked to unpack my bags in my new home in Douglas, Arizona, I have begun to reflect on the past month and a half at home and the Advent…

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Nativity in Cochabamba

Editor’s Note: During the Christmas season, lay missioner Victor Artaiz describes the nativity scenes from his ministry sites and how they capture the simple joy of the Nativity. In spending my 2nd Christmas here in Cochabamba, the peace and simplicity of the Nativity really came into focus for me. In my ministry at El Abra,…

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Lessons from Preschool

Editor’s Note: Lay missioner Joleen Johnson recounts the lessons that she has learned from the preschool children at her ministry site. The pictures of children’s faces have been blurred for safety and confidentiality purposes. I recently changed my school ministry site to accompany the preschoolers at one of the Franciscan Sisters of Allegany’s schools. I…

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An Appeal for Prison Ministers Everywhere

Editor’s Note: Lay missioner Mari Snyder describes her experience serving in prison ministry and encourages others to perform this corporal act of mercy. I’ll miss climbing up into Norma’s white pickup truck and heading north 7.5 miles, speaking with my friend in my best “slow and halting” Spanish. We can stop shielding our eyes from…

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Day 13: Simplicity

Editor’s Note: For day 13 of our Advent series,  “The Day of Joy Drew Near,” missioner Julia Pinto contemplates the simplicity of Jesus’ Nativity and tells the story of a simple yet meaningful encounter. God, I don’t get it.. Why a barn in some far-off village? Why not have the King of the universe born…

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Day 10: Joy to Be Found

Editor’s Note: For day 10 of our Advent series,  “The Day of Joy Drew Near,”  Susan Sarkissian, a newly-commissioned missioner, recounts a season in her life when God helped her experience genuine joy. Today is a celebration of the birth of Jesus. There is great joy to be had in recognizing this incredibly humble and…

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Day 6: Multitude

Editor’s Note: For day 6 of our Advent series “The Day of Joy Drew Near,” lay missioner Mari Snyder uses an acrostic, a poetic device in which the first letter of each line forms a word, to describe the diverse people whom she encounters at her ministry site along the US-Mexico border. On a pilgrimage…

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A Happy Ending

Editor’s Note: Ralph Anderson, a newly-commissioned missioner, reflects on FMS’s in-depth Formation for Overseas Lay Missioners and his experiences with living in intentional community. “What can they possibly teach me in thirteen weeks of Formation?” That was my thought before beginning Formation at Casa San Salvador. I knew there was a lot I needed to…

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Holy Ground

Editor’s note: Reflecting on the Scriptural concept of “holy ground,” missioner Joleen Johnson ponders how each person she encounters, created in the image of God, is inviting her to holy ground. Have you ever thought about why God told Moses to take off his sandals when he came over to the burning bush? The story…

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Nourishment on Mission

Editor’s Note: Lay missioner Victor Artaiz relates to Jesus’ moments of rest and prayer in Scripture by sharing his own moments of prayerful reflection on mission. Entering into the 22nd month of my mission journey here in Bolivia, I began to reflect on how Jesus and holy scripture continue to light my path and provide…

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A Tribute to Our Lay Missioners

Editor’s Note: As this year’s Overseas Lay Missioner Formation comes to a close, DC Service Corps member Bohdan O’Shaughnessy dedicates this blog to FMS’s three recently commissioned missioners. In the not-too-distant future, the Casa is losing our three lay missioners as they embark to their international ministry sites. Last Saturday was their Commissioning Mass, and…

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Breaking Down Walls

Editor’s Note: Lay missioner Julia Pinto, who serves in the US-Mexico border region, describes an encounter with a woman whom she serves both physically and emotionally at the Migrant Resource Center. We had months of attending to very few people at CRM, the Migrant Resource Center. The number of people I attended to in my…

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All Great and Precious Things

Editor’s note: Inspired by a quote from John Steinbeck, missioner Julia Pinto reflects on what loneliness is teaching her while serving on mission in the US-Mexico border region. She shows up and greets us in the crowded gathering, office cubicle, family home, jail cell, big city, small town. We often ignore her, distracting ourselves with…

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What It Was Like on the Border When Title 8 Sunset Title 42

Editor’s note: When Title 42 was ended in May, missioner Mari Snyder and the organizations where she serves were preparing to support an influx of migrants crossing the US-Mexico border. She shares her reflections on the experience. It’s been just a few months since the May 11th reinstatement of Title 8, with the end of…

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Mystical Body of Christ

Editor’s note: Victor Artaiz, a missioner serving in Bolivia, reflects on the ways he sees the “mystical body of Christ”—that is, the Christian community—alive and committed to service in Cochabamba. In mission, we who have left home and family to accompany others living on the margins in other countries are encouraged and nourished by the…

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A Community of Accompaniment

Editor’s note: A dear partner of FMS and supporter of our missioners in Jamaica, Sister Maureen Clare, passed away in May. In this reflection, missioner Joleen Johnson, who lives in a convent in Kingston with the Franciscan Sisters of Allegany, reflects on the ministry of presence that the sisters and other convent residents showed toward…

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Memorials on the Migrant Trail

Editor’s note: Each year, an organization called The Migrant Trail in Arizona leads a solidarity walk across the US-Mexico border and through a well-traversed valley, giving walkers a chance to experience the region and bear witness to the place where thousands of people in migration have lost their lives. This year, missioners Mari and Julia…

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Video: Life as a Franciscan Missioner on the US-Mexico Border

Editor’s note: Lay missioner Julia Pinto takes us on a journey through her daily life and ministry as a Franciscan missioner on the US-Mexico border.   Question for reflection:  What part of daily life as a missioner on the US-Mexico border surprises you?  Where do you see God at work in Julia’s ministry?

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A Day in the Life at a Franciscan Convent

Editor’s note: When missioner Joleen Johnson found out that she had a day off from her ministry at primary school, she made a plan for how she wanted to spend her time.  But the day unfolded much differently than she expected, with many opportunities for ministry of presence with the residents of the Franciscan convent…

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An Interview with Sister Grace

Editor’s Note: In this video blog, Overseas Lay Missioner Joleen Johnson interviews Sister Grace, a Sister of Allegany in Kingston, Jamaica. Sister Grace shares her story of joining the Franciscan sisters and learning to love and serve the poor and marginalized of our communities. Question for Reflection: How have you developed your lifelong ministry? In…

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The Way the Wildflowers Grow

Editor’s Note: Happy Earth Day! In this poem, Julia Pinto, a missioner on the US-Mexico Border region, reflects on the ever-changing and adaptable nature of desert wildflowers. Through verse, Julia compares herself to these wildflowers, and shares how her experience on mission has forever changed her and her way of life.  Experience has taught me…

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Loneliness and Resilience

Editor’s note: Hogar Nuestra Casa, a home for girls who have experienced sexual abuse, is one of missioner Domonique Thompson’s ministry sites in Cochabamba, Bolivia. Reflecting on accompanying the girls through holidays like Christmas and Father’s Day, she recognizes how this ministry has expanded her understanding of both the impact of trauma and the power…

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Empanadas y Api Ministry

Editor’s note: Sharing food is a significant aspect of Bolivian culture, and it is a moving part of many of missioner Victor Artaiz’s ministries. He shares how, along with a few friends, he found another way to share food with people experiencing hunger in his neighborhood. It was an evening after Mass at San Francisco…

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Humility in Franciscan Mission

Editor’s note: Missioner Mari Snyder reflects on how she is learning humility, a key Franciscan value, through her ministries in the US-Mexico border region. Experiencing humility on mission is an oh-so-very-frequent occurrence. The words minor and lesser and to live on the margins of society are words used within the Franciscan community to describe –…

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Living Out Franciscan Values on Mission in Bolivia

Editor’s note: Missioner Victor Artaiz was welcomed to the home of a large family in the countryside of Bolivia.  During his stay with them, he witnessed Franciscan values come to life. I am no longer surprised by the levels of Franciscan values I experience on mission here in Bolivia!  Case in point are my experiences…

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Learning from Children

Editor’s note: Julia Pinto, a missioner in the US-Mexico Border region, shares how the children she meets and teaches at CAME, a migrant shelter in Agua Prieta, teach her how to be loving, welcoming, and intentional. “Maestra Julia, what words would you like to learn in Spanish? We can teach you.”  That is my best…

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Pressing Questions

Editor’s Note: Lay Missioner Mari Snyder reflects on the hardships of migration as she follows a trail through the Sonoran Desert on the U.S.-Mexico border. I invite you to look at the following picture and note your very first thought before reading further. Yes, the Sonoran Desert and its mountains are simply stunning; they’re a…

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Steve: How a Boy Who Couldn’t Speak Spoke to Me

Editor’s Note: Missioner Joleen Johnson serves weekly at Bethlehem Home, a home in Kingston, Jamaica, for children who experience various physical disabilities.  Although Steve, one of the boys, cannot speak, Joleen has heard God’s voice in a profound way through relationship with him. My Sunday routines are consistent, even when nothing else on mission in…

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A Feast Day for Our Wholly Human Families

Editor’s note: Reflecting on the recent Feast of the Holy Family, missioner Mari Snyder shares the mission statement, written during FMS Formation, that grounds her call to serve. Her experiences serving at the Migrant Resource Center this year have only deepened her call to serve “wholly human” families that she meets on the Border. Early…

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And it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life

Editor’s Note: Missioner Joleen Johnson shares a reflection on life and death that she wrote and shared for the Transitus prayer service, which celebrates St. Francis’s passing from life to death, and the deeper meaning she found after her grandfather’s passing a few days later. As a Franciscan Mission Service missioner placed in Kingston, Jamaica,…

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Day 7: Grime

Editor’s note: On this seventh day of our Advent blog series “His Light Would Not Go Out,” current missioner Domonique Thompson reflects on her ministry at a soup kitchen or comedor in Cochabamba, Bolivia. Instead of a transactional experience, she notices that those who come to be served find ways to serve themselves. Men, women…

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Day 6: Heal (or Not to Heal)

Editor’s note: On this sixth day of our Advent blog series “His Light Would Not Go Out,” returned missioner Rhonda Eckerman shares the profound healing she experienced once she left her burdens at the altar with Christ. I came to FMS in August 2020 heartbroken as I had recently lost my mother and my family…

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Day 5: Tarnished

Editor’s note: On this fifth day of our Advent blog series “His Light Would Not Go Out,” current missioner Julia Pinto explores how accepting our flaws, or what makes us tarnished, can lead to a more honest relationship with God. Tarnished? I don’t want to be tarnished! Rather than lackluster, I desire to be beautiful…

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When You Say YES to God

Editor’s Note: After two years of mission in the U.S.-Mexico border region, Overseas Lay Missioner Rhonda Eckerman shares her favorite memories of service and recounts the joys that come with saying “yes” to God.  Two years ago I said yes to Franciscan Mission Service and to a move to the U.S. – Mexico border taking…

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The Transient Southwest

Editor’s Note: Overseas Lay Missioner Julia Pinto shares glimpses, through poetry and prose, of the ever-changing nature of accompanying migrants on the U.S.-Mexico Border region.   Few people around, fewer things to do and see, Why do attachments here Seem to form so easily?   Neighbors, volunteer friends, confidantes, It all feels in vain. Mucho dolor…

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JOSE, ROAD TRIP, LIGHTS, AND SIRENS

Editor’s Note: Overseas Lay Missioner Rhonda Eckerman reflects on her encounter with suffering and injustice along the U.S.-Mexico Border.  Early one morning at the Migrant Resource Center in Agua Prieta, Mexico, I noticed a young man in the courtyard sitting apart from the group looking very sad and scared. I noticed he had several scratches…

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DAY IN THE LIFE OF DOMONIQUE

Editor’s Note: Overseas Lay Missioner Domonique Thompson shares about a typical Tuesday at her ministry sites in Cochabamba, Bolivia.  I shall choose Tuesday for a day in my life, because it is one of my favorite days. I live at the Franciscan Social Center in the center of the city. It is a space open…

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The Precious of Uvalde

Editor’s Note: Overseas Lay Missioner Mari Snyder laments and reflects on the mass shooting crisis in the U.S. through the lens of the tragedy in Uvalde. The Precious of Uvalde   By Mari Snyder   In the fresh spring of their lives  They could sniff summer wafting  Through louvered windows.     One … twice…

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100 Days in Jamaica

Editor’s Note: Joleen Johnson reflects on her first 100 days as an Overseas Lay Missioner in Jamaica.  I’ve officially been in Jamaica for three months now. In fact, I calculated it, and my 100th day in Jamaica was June 9th, 2022. My time here has felt like it’s just flown by, and I really can’t…

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La Paz Sea Contigo

Editor’s Note: Overseas Lay Missioner Victor Artaiz reflects on the gifts of the Holy Spirit working in his life as he serves on mission in Cochabamba, Bolivia. I recently celebrated the Feast of Pentecost with men and families at El Abra prison in Cochabamba, Bolivia. Within the Catholic chapel, the celebrant priest, Padre Juan of…

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