A Year-Long Journey

Oct 6-12, 2005
VOL 124 NO. 34
A Year-Long Journey
By Claudia Mathis/ SUN staff writer
SUN photo(s) Chuck Wainwright
FrancisCorps branches out to Costa Rica

On Aug. 21, the seventh group of FrancisCorps volunteers was commissioned at a special Eucharistic liturgy at Assumption of the Blessed Mary Church in Syracuse. Three of the volunteers will serve in Costa Rica this year. Susan Beddes will serve as Assistant Outreach Coordinator at St. Francis School in Moravia, Costa Rica. Daniel Menendez will be working at a school with at-risk students in Costa Rica. Adam Morales will serve as an assistant at San Gabriel’s, a home for terminally ill children in San José, Costa Rica.

The pilot program was initiated this year in Costa Rica after Brother Jim Moore, OFM Conv., director of FrancisCorps, was invited by his Conventual Franciscan brothers in Costa Rica to begin the program there.

Brother Jim started the FrancisCorps program in Syracuse eight years ago.

“I was asked by my community to begin this ministry,” he said. “It took one year to get it up and running and we have had seven years of wonderful volunteers ministering here since then. The program in Costa Rica is very similar to that of the program in Syracuse — a faith-based, one-year Franciscan lay volunteer experience. The volunteers live in the community, pray together every day and minister to the underserved. Like Syracuse, they are supported by the local Franciscan friars.”

The FrancisCorps volunteers minister as youth mentors at neighborhood youth centers, caseworkers at women’s shelters, assistants at a local L’Arche house and caseworkers at emergency assistance sites.

FrancisCorps volunteers share in a process of personal and spiritual growth with one another and the local community in collaboration with the Conventional Franciscan Friars, the Sisters of St. Francis, Catholic Charities, Franciscan Collaborative Ministries and the Asian Apostolate of Syracuse.

The volunteers who participate in FrancisCorps are for the most part college graduates between the ages of 21 and 25. They are willing to commit to one full year of service beginning in early August. The participants share close friendships and insights of Saints Francis and Clare and their gifts to the world. Additionally, they share orientation, on-going training and supervision, retreats and Franciscan support. Through their participation in the ministry, the volunteers gain an appreciation for the plight of the poor and also life-long skills and insights.

“I believe that FrancisCorps has been a life-changing experience for our volunteers,” remarked Brother Jim.

Former volunteer Matthew Bizzarro thinks that his participation in the FrancisCorps ministry was the best thing he’s ever done. “I’d do it again,” said Bizzarro. “Through working at the Northside CYO, directing an elementary and after-school program, I learned what it’s like to live in a community and I learned a lot about other people. It helped shape me into a well-rounded person. It’s an amazing program.” Bizzarro has served as campus minister at Mother Cabrini High School in New York City for the last five years.

Former volunteer Michelle Bernier thinks her experience at the Assumption food pantry as a FrancisCorps volunteer helped her attain organizational and communication skills. She is using these skills today, serving as administrative assistant at the Assisi Center in Syracuse. She assists Brother Jim with the FrancisCorps volunteer program. “I gained a different perspective on religious life — a deeper understanding about what religious life is all about,” said Bernier. “The Sisters of St. Francis and the Conventual Franciscan Friars were so good at inviting us to be a part of their community life. It was an amazing community experience for me. Working as a FrancisCorps volunteer impacted me in the way I perceived my role as a layperson and how I participated in the church. It gave me a template of living of how to be a spirit-filled person.”

Katherine Canner-O’Mealy, a current FrancisCorps volunteer, is serving at Vincent House as a youth mentor. She works in the pre-school program and also runs a program for 11 children, aged 10 to 14, who are involved in service projects. “It’s been great so far,” said Canner-O’Mealy. “I love working here. It’s unique here — we have a lot of community support. Our priority is to spend time with the community. We usually share a meal with them every day.”

Michael Flores is serving as assistant outreach director at both the Assumption food pantry and at Franciscan Northside Ministries. “Working at these sites, I’ve learned to be more compassionate and to be more accepting of other people,” said Flores. “I enjoy working with the friars and sisters. I’m always smiling when I am working there. The FrancisCorps is an excellent idea and program. I’ve formed some close bonds and friendships.”

For additional information about FrancisCorps, contact Brother Jim Moore, OFM, Conv. at (315) 426-0481.

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