Ministry in a Non-Profit Setting
At Franciscan Mission Service, we learn and practice a ministry of presence. As lay volunteers and missioners, we make relationships our first priority. While the projects and work that we do are important, we care most about encountering our brothers and sisters in Christ. Joining Franciscan Mission Service has helped me to be fully present with whoever is right in front of me. I learned to grow in empathy and humility as I look for Jesus in everyone I encounter.
My year of service with FMS involves serving as a DC Service Corps volunteer. In this program, my mission is domestic instead of overseas. As I serve as the Development Associate for FMS, I assist with several facets of non-profit management. My position involves fundraising initiatives, donor relations, and grant writing. From 9-5, I spend my weekdays working in the office or from home, so sometimes I forget that I’m a volunteer.
I look at myself and at our lay missioners serving overseas, and I sometimes feel inferior. They have tangible ways of serving, and their ministries change lives. They carry out the ministry of presence every day, and I sit at my desk in the office and wonder how I can possibly live the ministry of presence. Conversely, I sit at my desk, look at the work that I do, and notice that I embody the ministry of presence just as much as our missioners.
One of my favorite things to do in the office is write thank you letters to our donors. I type their names and addresses into a template, print the letters, and when our executive director signs them, I mail them. It’s a simple task, but I love it because I get to see firsthand how many people support FMS. It brings me joy to see so many people supporting our organization and our lay missioners during their time on mission. Because of them, we can accompany orphans, the elderly, survivors of abuse, prisoners, and asylum-seekers every day, and because of that, I craft our thank-you letters with so much love and gratitude. Although I’m not the one who signs them, I leave a piece of my heart with each one.
The Impact of Appeals
A long-term project of mine involves the Mission Cooperative Program, or MCP, which allows dioceses and archdioceses to partner with organizations and religious orders that focus on mission. I spent my first weeks at FMS researching dioceses and archdioceses and writing them letters of request, asking them to consider us for their 2021 mission appeal cycle. During this project, I learned that mission appeals aren’t just about money. When we visit parishes, we educate parishoners about missions and show them that lay people can serve overseas. They gain a deeper awareness of missions and inspiration to serve.
In 2018, a girl in college heard one of FMS’ mission appeals at her home parish. Because of this, she felt inspired to apply for the overseas lay missions program, but after some discernment, she applied for and accepted a position with FMS’ DC Service Corps instead. That girl was me, and now that I’m part of FMS, I understand the importance of mission appeals and how they can impact lives.
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Service Through Work
I can’t deny that the lay missioners and I have completely different missions, but although I’m staying in the country and working a 9 to 5, I’m still finding ways to serve with a ministry of presence. Inspired by St. Thérèse of Lisieux, I’m finding new ways to offer the gift of myself and do little things with great love.
Because I’m doing a year of service, I always remind myself that I’m not just working, I’m serving. I look at the other volunteers/associates in my office and I remember that our workplace is our ministry site. The things that I do in the office, no matter how big, small, interesting, or mundane, have lasting impacts. Helping FMS as an office associate allows the organization to run efficiently and supports our overseas missioners as they serve poor and marginalized communities and work for peace, justice, and hope.
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