‘It is in Giving…’

Sept. 2-8, 2004
‘It is in Giving…’
By Kristen Fox / SUN  Staff Writer
SUN photo(s) Paul Finch
Sixth Group of College Students Take a Year to Help and Care for Others

FrancisCorps, a volunteer program for Catholic men and women, welcomed its sixth group of volunteers at a special Eucharistic Liturgy and Commissioning Ceremony on Sunday, Aug. 15 at the Franciscan Church of the Assumption in Syracuse.

This year’s group of seven volunteers are from seven different states and six different universities. They include Nicole Bonk, Melissa Davey, Matthew Di Biase, Huy Huynh, Sinead O’Doherty, Abby Riewe and Lea Rosemurgy. The men and women will spend the next year living in community with each other while tutoring, mentoring, coaching, counseling or advocating for the underserved in the community. “My initial reflection on this group of volunteers,” said Brother Jim Moore, OFM, Conv. founder and director of FrancisCorps, “is how blessed the Franciscan community is.”

FrancisCorps volunteers share a process of personal and spiritual growth with one another and the local community in collaboration with the Conventual Franciscan Friars, Sisters of the Third Franciscan Order, Catholic Charities of Onondaga County and L’Arche. Volunteers receive a monthly stipend, room and board and medical insurance.

Brother Jim describes the unique FrancisCorps experience as “a blend of Franciscan community and Catholic living.” “It is 50 percent of both,” he said. “Our ultimate goal is to develop good, strong Franciscan and Catholic lay leaders for our church and community.” There have been 32 volunteers since FrancisCorps began five years ago. They have made a significant impact on several social service agencies and the people they serve in the Syracuse area. The new group of volunteers hopes to carry on this spirit in their efforts to assist youth, the developmentally disabled, the poor and the elderly. O’Doherty, 22, will volunteer as a youth mentor at Vincent House. Affiliated with Catholic Charities of Onondaga County, Vincent House serves the Hispanic population in a low-income neighborhood on Syracuse’s west side.

O’Doherty, from Pfafftown, N.C., explained that her motivation to join FrancisCorps stems from wanting to make a difference. “Recently I came face to face with the real impetus behind my desire to serve the poor: I want to make a positive difference in someone else’s life,” she said. “I have always felt compelled to give back to society since I have been so blessed and partially because I am selfish enough to want the reward of knowing that I have helped make another person’s life better.”

In May of 2004 O’Doherty graduated from Wake Forest University where she received a bachelor’s degree in English. Fluent in Spanish, English and Gaelic, she holds dual citizenship in the U.S. and Ireland and has studied and lived abroad 11 summers in a number of other places including West Africa and Costa Rica. She hopes to put her language skills and cultural experience to good use with FrancisCorps as she works with the children of Vincent House. “I have a lot to offer the children,” O’Doherty said. “I have worked with children before. I have found kids are the same no matter where you are: you have to connect with them as individuals and form a relationship.” O’Doherty believes that her travel abroad has made her more open to the Franciscan lay volunteer experience. “I am a bit more willing,” she said. “My work in Costa Rica was very intense. The people there are so poor. But I found this type of hands-on work to be so rewarding. It motivated me to keep going.” O’Doherty is not the only volunteer who is well-traveled. All of the volunteers have some type of experience working in various states or countries. That is part of the reason why this group of volunteers is so unique, according to Brother Jim. “This group has done much overseas and service work,” he said. “They will bring these gifts and talents to the community.”

Huynh, 24, is a native of Endicott and a May 2003 graduate of Hamilton College where he earned a bachelor’s degree in mathematics. He comes to FrancisCorps from Russia, his last stop on a year-long international journey as the recipient of the Thomas J. Watson Fellowship to study and research Vietnam and Vietnamese people living abroad. Other stops included Vietnam, Thailand, Korea and Australia. “I hope that I can bring comfort and peace to the people around me. I hope that I am challenged so that I can learn and grow both spiritually and as a person (not sure if those are separate),” said Huynh, whose older brother Mike was one of the first Francis Corps volunteers in 1999-2000. Bonk, 22, recalled meeting Brother Jim at a service fair at Notre Dame University where she was a science pre-professional major with a minor in Theology. She said that from the moment Brother Jim began talking about FrancisCorps she “fell in love with the program.” “I knew it was for me,” she said. “I liked the size of the program and the incredible support you get from the Franciscan community.” Bonk said that while there are other volunteer experiences to choose from, she was attracted to FrancisCorps because of the unique blend of outreach and community living it offers volunteers. “I believe the FrancisCorps community experience will be a great asset in continuing my spiritual growth,” she said. “I will also have an amazing opportunity to reach out and help those who need it most.”

For more information on FrancisCorps call Brother Jim at (315) 426-0481 or visit www.franciscorps.org.

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