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Working at St. Francis Inn in Philadelphia  has been an experience like no other in my life.  Heavily influenced by my participation in Spring Break Alternative, I decided to serve for a year after graduating from Saint Anselm in 2009.   After researching different programs, I was getting discouraged at not being able to find one that felt as if it were the right one for me: until I found Franciscan Volunteer Ministry (and kind of last second, might I add).  It offered the intentionality, the community, the solidarity, the spirituality and the service that I sought.  I applied, was accepted and moved down to Philadelphia to begin my year. Over a year later, I'm still here.

The decision to extend my time was, all at once, the easiest and hardest decision.  It was easy in the sense that it felt as though it were the correct thing to do.  FVM and Saint Francis Inn didn't seem to be done with me, and I felt that I could grow and develop in different and just as exciting ways within the context of FVM, and a second year at the Inn.  I loved the work.  I loved having time for intentional living.  I loved my neighborhood, our guests, and the relationships I had developed with them.   I loved observing and working with the fantastic team of friars, sisters and lay people who work, and some of whom have worked for 20 or so years, at the Inn every day, and I loved having a community to share the experience with.   Yet, the nagging feeling that I should be done with my year, that I should be finding a job in my field of study, that I should be continuing my education continued to nag at me and made it quite the difficult decision.

One of our guests, named Matt, asked me, in the midst of all this internal soul searching, what I was planning on doing when my year was finished.  I told him, quite honestly, that I didn't know.  He stopped, and with an easy and simple response essentially made my decision for me.  "We're not done with you yet," he told me.

Naturally, I had a minor and internal freak out, which quickly subsided to a feeling of calm.  I discussed my decision to re-apply with one of the team members at the Inn.  She told me that if I still woke up everyday eager to get out of bed even knowing that there was a good chance that today was going to be crazier, more hectic and less predictable than the day before, then it was a good decision.  I thought the fact that it had never even occurred to me that there might be someone in the world who wouldn't be eager to jump out of bed and do the work that I am blessed to do, talk to the people- my community, the team and our guests- I am fortunate enough to know, and enjoy each uncertainty existed was a great enough reason to continue.

So, I did.  I decided to continue my quest to find out what it means to be most fully human through service, through intentional living and through prayer.  To tell the truth, I can't imagine any other way to do that.

• Mary, Philadelphia '09−'10, '10−'11


If you're a former FVM and would like to contribute a story for the website, please e-mail Lizzy!

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