Franciscan Mission Service (FMS)
missioners serve first and foremost in a “ministry of presence.” Beyond caring for
the physical needs of those they serve, they work to cultivate relationships
and connections with them. “FMS believes in the power of relationships as the
catalyst for changing lives—[of] both missioners and those they serve
alongside,” says Kim Smolik, FMS executive director. “Our missioners listen, befriend,
and walk with prisoners, the unemployed, single parents, individuals living with
HIV/AIDS, refugees, orphans, and others.” Currently, 13 FMS missioners serve in
South Africa, Kenya, Bolivia,
FMS is the only lay
Franciscan mission program in North America. A
group of North American Franciscans from the Order of Friars Minor founded it
in 1985, and since sending its first lay missioners overseas in 1990, the organization
has facilitated more than 100 people in missions around the world. “We aim to
live and spread the Franciscan charism through sharing the major tenets of
Franciscan spirituality and values,” says Smolik.
Before they serve for two to
six years in various placements around the world, lay missioners take part in a
14-week, full-time formation program, in which they are educated in
spirituality and the Franciscan tradition, social justice/Catholic social
teaching, cross-cultural living and service, intentional community life, and
servant leadership in ministry.
The lay missioners are then partnered with Franciscan
religious serving overseas.
St. Francis said, “Preach the Gospel always. If
necessary, use words.” For FMS missioners, this defines their ministry of presence.
“When we enter other cultures, it is more important for the people to see us, get
to know us, and to be known by us,” says Smolik. “Rather than coming with the intention
of implementing program after program, missioners who engage in a ministry of
presence spend time with and listen to the people, empowering them to believe in
themselves, to identify solutions, and to value their own opinions.”
missioners’ ministry does not end upon their return home. “Many of our
missioners cite this experience as transformational and foundational to their
growth as lay Franciscans,” says Smolik. “Most all, either through their career
path, family life, or volunteerism, continue to serve the most vulnerable. They
live out the Franciscan values in their everyday lives and share them with
those around them.”
Visit franciscanmissionservice.orgfor more information.