The Franciscan Mission Service Program is comprised of three interrelated objectives:
- To identify and invite Catholic lay men and women from the US and Canada to serve as lay missioners among the poor and marginalized in Africa, Latin America, and Asia
- To support lay-missioners as they walk in solidarity with their adopted communities.
- To assist returned missioners in their commitment to "lifelong mission" to North America which includes a personal commitment to the Franciscan values of service to the marginalized, simplicity of lifestyle, and the promise to actively seek justice, peace, and the integrity of all creation.
Formation for Mission: Program Content
Missioners in formation spend 13 weeks in intensive preparation for mission at our training facility which is located in the Northeast section of Washington, DC. Although no formation program could fully prepare anyone for every aspect of life oversees, FMS offers a comprehensive curriculum designed to expose missioners in formation to a wide variety of relevant topics and practical concerns in hopes that each individual will develop the tools necessary to succeed in their life and ministry while on mission. Our formation program is also a time of "mutual discernment" for missioners and FMS. It is the final period of discernment, when either the missioner in formation or FMS can decide that mission is not an appropriate fit for the missioner in formation. Below are some of the main themes covered in our formation program:
1. Weekly scripture course with an emphasis on mission
2. Weekly sharing and pastoral theological reflection
3. A three part seminar on Catholic Social Teaching
4. A seminar on conflict resolution
5. A seminar on non-violence
6. A seminar on social analysis
7. Workshops on advocacy and methods to work for social justice
8. A workshop examining power and privilege, especially as it relates to service
9. An examination of approaches to service
10. Collaborative training seminars with other lay-mission programs on topics such as: trauma, grief, and cultural shock; globalization; health and safety planning.
Saint Francis traced the beginning of his life in ministry to a call from God which led him to a life of service among the lepers of his native Assisi, Italy. Ever since Francis’ conversion in 1206, direct service to the materially poor and marginalized people of society has been a hallmark of Franciscan ministry. Another characteristic of Franciscanism is expressed in the commitment to Gospel living according to the model proposed and observed by Sts. Francis and Clare of Assisi which is preached in word, action, and through communal living.
Missioners in formation will be introduced to Franciscan traditions and approaches to ministry by exploring such themes as personal conversion; communal living; simplicity of lifestyle; ways of working for to peace, justice, care of creation; and to witness through a ministry of presence and service in the spirit of Sts. Francis and Clare. Topics to be explored in Franciscan Traditions include:
1. Weekly seminars on the Franciscan approach to mission
2. A seminar on Franciscan history
3. A seminar on St. Clare of Assisi
4. Simple living according to the Franciscan tradition
5. Franciscan justice, peace and integrity of creation
6. The Franciscan charism of community building
Once missioners arrive in their host country, additional training for mission will continue for several months. This training may includes up to five months of language study in-country for those missioners who do not speak the local language.
Reality of Cross Cultural Living
One of the most challenging aspects of mission are the many complexities of cross-cultural living. Missioners will be introduced to several aspects of cross-cultural living including:
1. A three-part seminar on cross cultural realities
2. A seminar on establishing boundaries
3. A seminar on the theology of cross-cultural living
4. A seminar on changing relationships
5. A seminar on community organizing
6. Formal discussions with former FMS lay missioners on their experiences of enculturation.
Personal Growth and Spiritual Development
Missioners in formation are encouraged to see their time on mission not only as a time of service to the poor and marginalized, but also as an opportunity for personal and spiritual development. To help facilitate this development, our formation program offers an assortment of aides to help build upon trainees spiritual foundations and to expand their spiritual growth. Topic to be explored in personal and spiritual growth are:
1. A seminar on lay spirituality
2. A seminar on moral responsibility
3. A seminar on the components of religious growth
4. Daily time for prayer and contemplation
5. A seminar on the benefits of and techniques of journaling
6. A seminar on how to stay healthy while on mission
7. The Myers-Briggs Personality Test
8. A seminar on communication skills
9. A seminar on conflict resolution
Communal living is an important component of being a missioner in the Franciscan tradition. Our program is designed in such a way that majority of lay missioners will be living with other FMS lay-missioners in community. Community living is learned through practice and experience, thus our training period also includes the opportunity to live in community with other trainees and former lay-missioners. Training for community living includes such components as: prayer, ministry, planning of house activities, community recreation, house chores, mutual interest and support, meals, as well as hospitality to guests and community meetings.
Each lay missioner will spend one day a week in a cross-cultural volunteer project around the Washington, DC area. Time will be provided weekly to reflect on these experiences.
Missioners will be educated on the following practical matters of living and working oversees. The topics for discussion include:
1. Survival skills
2. Visa/work permit
3. Last will and testament
4. Durable power of attorney
6. Travel time while on mission
7. FMS contracts