These FAQs can help you learn more about our full-time overseas lay mission program.
At the heart of Franciscan Mission Service’s mission is a ministry of presence. As Franciscan-hearted people, we are called to engage with each person as an individual, created and loved by God. Through this relationship-centered approach, we promote a culture of encounter, which we believe is essential to bridging differences and promoting the common good.
This person-first approach also challenges our program participants to take a place of humility while on mission, as they seek to know and learn from those they serve alongside rather than believe their role is to lead, change, or fix a situation.
To say it another way: Our mission is not project-focused. Rather, missioners integrate into pre-existing ministries with the guidance and support of local Franciscans. Ultimately, the focus is on building relationships, being present to those the missioner encounters, and accompanying them on their journey.
As a Franciscan organization, FMS seeks to provide an in-depth experience of the Franciscan charism.
As an organization, we are guided by these core statements:
- We have faith in the transforming power of Christ’s love in the world.
- We believe the world is a graced place.
- We believe in the absolute and fundamental dignity of each individual and all of creation.
- We embrace Catholic Social Teaching as central to our faith and service.
- We have confidence in the wisdom of poor communities.
- We engage in a mission of presence, accompaniment, and advocacy.
- We believe strong theological and cross-cultural training leads to respectful and effective mission service.
Missioners live at Casa San Salvador during mission training and formation and live by the four pillars of the intentional community:
- Community and Hospitality
- Compassion for Those Living in Poverty and
- Simplicity and Reverence for Creation. These values then carry over into their time on mission.
Community and Hospitality – to bear witness to the Gospel through a Franciscan lifestyle and promote a welcoming spirit of inclusion
Prayer – to encourage union and a personal relationship with Christ through developing active and lasting prayer lives
Compassion for Those Living in Poverty – to live in solidarity and to develop friendships with the marginalized and people who are experiencing poverty
Simplicity and Reverence for Creation – to live the Gospel teachings of freedom and detachment in union with all of creation.
The three-month formation program is one of the hallmarks of our approach to mission. This intensive time of study, prayer, and service gives missioners the tools to live abroad successfully and fruitfully, while engaging in mission in a way that is respectful of the overseas receiving community.
FMS also actively practices a ministry of presence and accompanies applicants each step of the way. We value a personalized approach that provides individualized support throughout the application and discernment process, formation, time on mission, and re-entry into North American culture upon return.
“I love that FMS is small enough that we get to know everyone on the staff and feel so supported before going,” said a recent missioner, “Getting to work with and learn from many [returned and current] missioners (including the very first FMS missioner) was a blessing and gift that I hadn’t expected, and that I hadn’t heard of happening in any other program. Throughout formation it became clear that FMS sets itself apart in that it is not project-oriented, but people-oriented.”
The two-week Re-Entry Retreat is also an important and unique part of our program. FMS missioners commit to life-long mission after completing their time overseas. The returned missioners share their stories and experiences to increase North Americans’ awareness of social justice issues and to positively transform their home communities. To support returned missioners in this call, we hold tri-annual retreats for our missioner alumni and offer pathways for them to remain involved with mission and the ministries of FMS.
The missioners’ main ministry is one of service, presence, and companionship. They do this by offering their skills and loving presence to the community. They work in education, prison ministry, youth ministry, sustainable agriculture, pastoral ministry, and more areas. Ministry opportunities vary depending on the mission site. You can learn more about the many ministries our missioners engage in by reading their stories on our blog.
We accept missioners from all backgrounds, professions, and education levels. Every missioner brings individual gifts that can make a positive impact as they walk alongside those they serve.
We require that our missioners be a U.S. or Canadian citizen, generally between 22-62 years of age (age exceptions made on a case-by-case basis), Catholic, open to the Franciscan tradition, willing and able to commit to two years of service overseas, open to a variety of ministry placements, and with some cross-cultural and/or international travel experience.
While FMS attracts many applicants in their twenties as well as new retirees, our missioners range greatly in age. We recognize that the call to mission can happen at any time during one’s life. Currently we have missioners in their twenties, thirties, forties, and sixties. Applicants should be at least 22 years old.
Ministries and placement countries are determined through a process of mutual discernment that takes into consideration the missioner’s gifts, interests, language skills, and the needs of the receiving community, among other factors. While we invite our missioners to begin exploring country placement after acceptance, placement countries are not determined until mid-way through the formation program. This allows the FMS staff to have the opportunity to better get to know the missioner and for the missioner to better understand the differences among country site placements and chat with current missioners serving at each site.
This process of mutual discernment enables our Franciscan lay missioners to serve in a way that is respectful of the receiving community and acknowledges the gifts and desires of the missioner.
As an independent 501(c)(3) Franciscan Mission Service’s programs rely on donations and the support of returned missioners, alumni, and the extended Franciscan Mission Service support community. Our support-raising philosophy, which includes extending an invitation for prayer and emotional support, also requires that all of missioners engage in fundraising. FMS provides extensive tools and training to help missioners with this support-raising ministry. Missioners are given a minimum fund-raising goal as well as tools to help them meet that goal over the course of their time with FMS.
Many of our missioners have found support-raising to be a fruitful part of their mission experience, as the ministry allows friends and family to accompany them on their journey overseas. We recognize the value in the saying “Some give by going, others go by giving.”
Missioner candidates are directly responsible for transportation costs to and from Discernment Days and formation in Washington, DC, as well as a few other smaller expenses.
Our missioners are not required to know another language when they apply, and some of our sites are English-speaking so language school is not required. For our non-English-speaking sites, missioners will attend six weeks of full-time language school in country. During this time missioners live with host families to further aid in learning the language. A missioner’s language abilities are also taken into consideration during the country placement discernment process. In most cases, missioners who have no language background at all will only be sent to English-speaking sites.
In keeping with the Franciscan charism and emphasis on fraternity and communal living, our missioners live in an intentional Christian community with other Franciscan lay missioners and mission-focused individuals throughout their time in country. Specific arrangements vary from site to site. Many of our missioners also live in close proximity to Franciscan friars and/or sisters and engage in ministries alongside them.
During formation in Washington, DC, missioners-in-training live in intentional community at Casa San Salvador, the FMS volunteer house, with members of the FMS Nonprofit Servant Leadership Program (hyperlink to NSLP page).
Each missioner receives a modest monthly stipend that covers their food, housing, and transportation while in country. Health and life insurance, as well as travel to and from the country of service, are also provided. A modest re-entry stipend will be provided for missioners who meet their support-raising goal.
In order to build and sustain deep relationships on mission, it is important that our missioners only travel home if absolutely necessary during their initial two-year commitment overseas. Missioners are allotted vacation time and a vacation stipend for use on in-country or in-region travel. (Exceptions to the vacation policy may be made for significant life events such as an immediate family member’s wedding, but advanced approval from FMS is required.)
Missioners are encouraged to have family and friends visit them during their time on mission. These visits are a great way to have loved ones see the missioner’s daily life and ministries, as well as increase their awareness of social justice issues affecting the local communities.
Missioners who renew for a third year of service or more are allowed to take up to a one month visit home before returning to finish their time on mission.
It depends. Each loan has different policies regarding deferment, and it is your responsibility to contact the lending company and investigate whether or not this is a possibility. We will provide you with any necessary documentation of your commitment to FMS and evidence of your income needed to assist in this process.