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After college the possibilities seem unlimited for a college graduate: grad school, job, join the circus, or do a service year. I choose to do a service year. There are many different types of service opportunities in civic, religious, and secular venues. As a Catholic I felt it was my calling to do service through my faith. My original intention was to go to graduate school at Creighton University in Nebraska where I would teach in under resourced Catholic schools and pursue a master’s degree in Educational Leadership. I was all set to pursue this path and felt God had called me to do it for the next couple of years. Yet in a series of random events this plan faltered. To save a long story, everything all worked out and I landed on my feet and through more twists and turns I found my way to FrancisCorps.

FrancisCorps is a lay Catholic volunteer organization run by the Conventual Franciscans and modeled after the life and teachings of St. Francis and St. Clare.  The underlying message of FrancisCorps is to “preach the Gospel. If necessary use words.” The program places college grads in ministry sites in Syracuse, NY and Costa Rica. Since I did not know Spanish, Syracuse was the city I choose. My job will be Assistant Outreach Coordinator of the Food Pantry and Health Clinic at Assumption Parish. While doing this job I will be living in community with five other persons in a house. The genius of FrancisCorps is that participants not only get a valuable job experience but a solid community including the five other housemates and several other people who support the mission of FrancisCorps.

I arrived in Syracuse on August 20 and for the past week the Syracuse and Costa Rica groups have been doing our orientation/retreats at different sites. Our travels have taken us across New York, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey. We have learned the teachings and charism of St. Francis and the Franciscans. These values and principles are great things I hope to take away from this year and live throughout my life.

I am very blessed to have this experience and know that God called me to give myself to FrancisCorps this year. Serving the poor is often frowned upon and it is very easy to overlook their plight. Yet their experience and condition effects everyone and by helping them we can help ourselves. I start my ministry site this week and will be fully kicking off this experience. It promises to be a great year will change me forever.

This blog will be updated on a weekly basis with my experiences and my reflections. Look for photographs and other interactive media things too. Enjoy! God Bless! I leave you with this Franciscan prayer.


Dating God

Thomas Merton PaintingAbout two weeks after Pope John XXIII’s election to the papacy, Thomas Merton wrote to the pope to express his congratulations, share his reflections on the modern vocation of a monk, and to discuss his idea for a new apostolate that focused on dialogue and engagement with all types of people. There is much about this letter, originally written in French, that is striking, but as I read it recently in my research while working the latest book project I couldn’t help but think this particular section should be shared. Here Merton talks about how he sees his vocation as being a monk in the cloister, but not isolated within the cloister. He recognizes the value and importance of religious life for the broader world, especially in the modern age. Seven years before Gaudium et Spes is promulgated at the council called by this then-newly-elected pontiff, Merton outlines a real…

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Today I got an email from FrancisCorps for an invitation to the Commissioning Mass for the next coming in less than a month. I just thought man it all ends this weekend. Closing/transition retreat at Alverna Heights where the adventure started one year ago. My stuff has all been shipped home and I am now living out of my suitcase, literally. Job has ended. All of the memories, experiences, people, places, feelings, prayers, and above my own unique journey with Christ this year.

However, for all the feelings of ending and transition, I know this experience will always follow me in my life. It certainly shaped me in ways that would have not thought possible. Even when I thought I could grow no more well I was DEAD wrong. The most growth happened over the last half to third of the experience. Time seemed rough then with some crazy life happenings. Yet without my community and the support I had from FrancisCorps getting through the rough would not have been possible. Thanks to all the support and my own growth I have come all the more further.

Perhaps the best memories I have came from my community: Rebecca, Kait, Julianne, Cari, and Gina. I had so many adventures through the good, bad, and everything else in between in one year with them. Friends forever and our FrancisCorps bond will never die! And I could also not have done this year without the wonderful group of Bro Jim, Friar Rick, Jordan, and Sister Caryn. Their guidance, wisdom, listening, and presence all helped me in more ways than any of them will ever know.

With all I that I return home to my native Kentucky a little older, younger too, wiser hopefully, more self aware, and above all a better man committed to living a life dedicated to Christ and serving others. For now I sign of this blog. Not sure if the next phase of my life will have a blog but who knows. Good ol St. Francis said it best: “Start by doing what’s necessary; then do what’s possible; and suddenly you are doing the impossible.” 🙂

Impact


I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.

Maya Angelou

Been a little while since my last post, but time continues to fly. Two more weeks left at my job sites and a few more days afterwards I fly back home to Kentucky on August 2. I am starting to pack my stuff in boxes to ship home, starting to think about starting graduate school in the fall at EKU once I return home, and in the midst of all this I find myself questioning/reflecting the impact I made this year in Syracuse with FrancisCorps, my community, my job sites, and my personal growth.

I suppose its only natural to do this especially towards the end of an experience such as FrancisCorps. Personally, I have a tendency to be pretty critical of myself and always think I could have done more or said something else that have made a difference. However, by chance my mother happened to send me a quote by Maya Angelou as regarding the same things I have been coming to terms with regarding the overall impact I made this year. What I took away from gave me something to different to consider.

Words, actions are important yet they come and go, can be forgotten pretty quickly. In contrast, feeling endures. Long after words and actions are forgotten people the feeling of those are forever imprinted. This insight quickly shifted my thought process. My impact in FrancisCorps will be measured by how people remember how I made them feel by my actions and words not jut solely by the actions or words alone. Not that words and actions are not important, but feeling and the impact it creates will be far more important.

So I hope to follow the wisdom of Maya Angelou these last couple of week a I wrap my time in Syracuse and try to leave the many people I have grown to know this past year with a lasting positive impact.

Time is Flying


Hey all. Its been a little while since my last post; almost three months to be exact. So much has happened and it would do little to recall every last detail so I will just start with the last couple of weeks.

Over the Memorial Day weekend I and three other members of the community took a trip to Long Island and stayed at one of my community members home. It was my first time in Long Island and it was a beautiful area. Great weekend to soak in some sun and have a little fun. Last weekend was summer retreat. It took place at Friar Rick’s old parish in Toronto. For me this was the first time I had ever been out of the country and a chance to at long last use my passport! Retreat was great, reaffirming, and a reminder of just how fast time has flown by this year with FrancisCorps.

One of the great things about summer retreat was starting to begin to assemble our FrancisCorps scrapbook. This includes hundreds of photos, lots of construction paper, glue, scissors, and dedication. It will be an ongoing project from now until the end. In addition to retreat we got to explore Toronto. And I have to say it is a very diverse, populous cosmopolitan city.  Many things to see, do, and experience. We only really spent one day in the city. Definitely a place I would visit again!

My jobsites continue to be the same. Although the economic conditions continue to stagnate and we are always adding more households into our food pantry intake system. People continue to utilize the medical and legal clinics. The neighborhood is losing a important grocery store, Wegmans that serves many people on Syracuse’s northside. Its absence will only make their daily lives harder.  The WIC program that has been running at the Assumption Church for years is moving to a new location. In all it has not been the best of time for the people I serve in the locality. And to make matters worse with healthcare reform in threat and further cuts to the social safety net the situation might only get worse for people.

Even with all of this I know that I continue to an example and a servant of God bringing my example in the Franciscan way to the people I serve. I only continue to grow more and more fond of St. Francis/St. Clare and all of the Franciscan friars and sisters who are living their example. The Franciscan friars in the US are the only male order thus far to stand for the nuns amid tensions between the LCWR and Vatican. Franciscan sisters continue to do their ministries with the same heart despite tensions with Rome.

My time with FrancisCorps is coming to an end. In less than two months I will be moving on. At the end of summer retreat though I made sure that I was coming to make the most of my time left in Syracuse with my community and jobsites. As my past blog posts have indicated I have gained so much insights, but now things are starting to come together as think beyond FrancisCorps. I know I want to carry my work with the poor, social justice, advocacy, and the Franciscan charism  for the rest of my life!  I would have never discovered that without FrancisCorps!

I will try to be better about writing some more blog posts the next few weeks as my time with FrancisCorps winds down. For as St. Francis said, “‘It is not fitting, when one is in God’s service, to have a gloomy face or a chilling look.” I will continue to smile, be joyful, and serve God’s poor even in the midst of the sufferings they experience.

In the meantime I would invite you to check out this link. It is the Assumption Food Pantry’s YouTube channel. On it you will find me giving an interview and see several other neat videos on where I work!


This past weekend I and the other FrancisCorps volunteers took our Lenten retreat. FrancisCorps retreats are always good times to get away from work. This retreat in particular focused on us as individuals and learning about our qualities, positives ones and areas we need to improve upon. Without going too much into great detail about I wanted to share one thing about the retreat that stuck out to me, The Stations of the Cross.

As this week of our Lenten journey takes on a more serious and somber turn. Jesus as today’s Gospel alludes, knew of his coming death and the pain he would go through on his journey with the Cross. To remember and honor that, Catholics and other Christians participate in the Stations of the Cross. Created by the Franciscans as holy devotion the stations help us to see the human side of Jesus as he struggled to literally carry his cross. Likewise the stations serve for us as moment to not just walk in the steps of Jesus but to for Him to walk in our steps with us every step. 

Coming back to the retreat this weekend we did a stations devotion; however, it was a little different having reflections that apply to contemporary times. For me doing the stations helped me to realize the complex journey I have taken this year in ministry and all the people I have served. Secondly doing the stations made me see where Jesus had been in helping to bear my cross and the great love shown by Him on my behalf. Every step of the way he has been with me and you. Despite mine and your imperfections Jesus helps us to bear our cross. 

As Lent draws to a close and the journey draws the climax before the profound conclusion, lets incorporate the Stations of the Cross on our journey to not only walk in Christ’s steps but for Christ to walk with us jointly in our steps. Doing this we learn to carry our cross in the good and bad our lives with grace and love! 

To close I want to leave you with the  following two excerpts from the stations exercise we did from the 12th and 14th stations that I think are worth sharing and reflect on the FrancisCorps Stations of the Cross:  

We volunteers are confronted by examples of poverty on a daily basis and these examples change and mold us. The experiences I have as a volunteer will affect me for a lifetime. Jesus knew the ‘joy’ of the cross. Sacrifice, be it your own or the examples of others, can and will change your life. [Station 12: Jesus dies on the cross]

 

Yet if we look closely at the death of Jesus, he went down to the dead to be with them and finally to raise them up with him. By going to the tomb,  he brought us new life. In his footsteps we should all bring the message of peace, hope, love, and sacrifice to the places that are like tombs. [Station 14: Jesus is laid in the tomb]

 

 


Today in the Catholic tradition marks the feast of St. Joseph spouse of Mary and foster father to Jesus. Often overshadowed by the hoopla of St. Patrick’s day, this feast day invites to take a look at very unknown–yet paramount figure in Jesus’s life and our lives if we know how to make the connection. We know very little about St. Joseph expect for two specific stories and he had passed on when Jesus started his mission, but we can surmise much from what we know as well as what we do not know. Just look at how Jesus turned out?! Joseph must have had some influence…some and perhaps lots of influence.

Joseph had no idea what he was getting into when he intended to marry Mary who was born without sin and who gave birth to the Son of God. And who was Joseph an imperfect human in the company of two of perhaps the greatest human figures in history. Imagine how he felt at the dinner table at night. Interestingly when you look past Joseph’s seemingly limited role you can find so much to admire. The fact that Joseph opened his heart and followed Mary to raise the Son of God is so amazing. And he gets so little credit or mention. How many Josephs do we know in our lives who are not in headlines for doing the most ordinary but still amazing deeds or work? I know a few and they are some of the greatest people in the world! Who serve and are selfless in their commitment to their labors on through thick and thin.

I suppose where this all fits in for me his learning to embrace the ordinary of life and to have an open heart like Joseph. My time in FrancisCorps has really helped to look beyond what I thought was impossible; the results has been a greater opening of my heart to faith and making my life more of a true calling rather than just a list of jobs or a career. I am exploring a few different paths for when I leave FrancisCorps. However having too much fear is not really a requirement.

Having an open heart has made me feel like I can accomplish so much more than I once thought possible. There are days I come home from work feeling like I can do almost anything. Within reason of course. As the last few months of FrancisCorps come and go I pray that I may keep this openness of heart to God. I hope to follow the amazing ordinariness example of St. Joseph. His “yes” to God was just a vital to Mary’s crucial “yes.” Such a simple openness of heart to God led to a great calling for Joseph. It can be the same likewise for you and me. Just stay open!


As the month of February went so comes the madness of March. For the first time in at least 4 months our FrancisCorps community spent more time outside than inside enjoying a nice spring like day here in Syracuse. It really lifted our spirits to enjoy such a great day outside and the promise of more days like it come as the weather slowly warms–not that all of the snow or cold filled days are done. Still the sense of spring and promise of better weather has begun to left our spirits. 

Things are going well at my job sites. One very cool thing the staff and volunteers will be doing this month is having a float in the St. Patrick’s day parade. It promises to be a good event and I will firmly being in a parade. Our float will feature lots of Franciscan and St. Patrick related themes and characters. Somehow I was drafted to be portray the man St. Patrick himself on our float. I will have costume and all the trimmings. Not sure how it will turn out but expect pictures. It promises to be a real fun event! 

On a different note, it being the start of the second week of Lent, I just happened to listen to today’s Gospel reading on the “Transfiguration.” Pondering through its meaning I started to note the number of times I had been transfigured or had been a witness to another transfiguration. Then I realized this whole blog has been a witness to a continuous path of self-transfiguration for myself the last few months. However, today’s Gospel added another element to the story, resurrection. 

The experiences and insights I have made here (and they are many) have set me up to become a new and more developed person. As I consider what paths I want to pursue in the immediate aftermath and more long-term after FrancisCorps, the old me is starting to give way to newer me. Like Christ and St. Francis I have had my own self-transfiguration year with FrancisCorps. 

Every year of Lent we are asked to be active witnesses to the transfiguration of Christ in our own lives. However, transfiguration is only half of the way. We have to go through the steps and motions to meet Him at the Resurrection. Lent is only in its second week and life’s path of transfiguration is not always like Christ’s. And I still have much more of my journey to go in FrancisCorps;yet, I recognize the wonder path of self-transfiguration I have been on these past few months.

I pray my Lenten experience and the rest of the remaining time at FrancisCorps will lead me to closer to the resurrection of Christ this Easter and to many resurrections in life. Likewise let everyone have the same promise and path this season of Lent!