Heaven On Earth

IsabelBy Isabel McCormack, FC 20

What do I say about Francis House? I have heard it described so many different ways: God’s House, Heaven on Earth, Love House, and even though those might sound like cliché’s, they all describe Francis House perfectly. As a home for people who are dying, it might seem like Francis House should be something sad and depressing, but there could be nothing further from the truth. Francis House’s mission is to surround dying people with the unconditional love of God, and I know that not only the residents, but everyone who walks into Francis House feels that.

The house is run by a few crucial teams: the volunteers, staff, and the caregivers. Volunteers keep Francis House running; they are around every single day of the year, from 8am to 10pm. They cook and clean, answer doors and phones, garden, and do maintenance work. We could not run without the dedication of all of our volunteers. Caregivers are responsible for actually caring for each resident, by bathing, feeding, adjusting, and talking to the residents and their families. The staff is the glue for both of these groups by coordinating schedules, admitting residents, fundraising, and absolutely everything in between. And believe it or not, despite the amount of coordinating that it takes to run a place that merits the name Heaven on Earth, absolutely no detail goes amiss.

I have been so fortunate in the past few months to experience how Francis House runs in all of these ways, because it gives me a better appreciation for the miracle that is going on. When I started, I worked with the volunteers and staff, filling in and assisting them when needed. In November, though, I was given the opportunity by Francis House to be trained as a Home Health Aide to be able to work also as a caregiver. I was terrified when I first started, because the residents were entrusting me with the care of their whole selves, and honestly, that’s an enormous responsibility. I’ve grown more confident in the position though, and even though it’s challenging, it’s been so amazing and fulfilling. Not to mention, because the people at Francis House are the best of the best, I couldn’t have asked for better teachers.

The work at Francis House is not quantitative, which is something that I struggled with when I started. Over time though, that has been my favorite part about Francis House. You can’t quantify the power of a smile, a kiss, or an “I love you”. I just feel so lucky that residents have let me join them during the last stages of their journey home. There really is no feeling in the world, and it is hard to put into words, but there really is no feeling in the world that compares to the sacredness of getting people ready for their final stop: Heaven.


Feeding The Soul


By Rachel Zanfardino, FC 20

I learned how to read in the kitchen. My mom would hand me a recipe, ask me to read the next step, and then to do whatever it said. It was something that sort of came easy to me and that I enjoyed doing. I have two brothers, and as far as siblings go, we couldn’t be more different. But the one thing that always seemed to unite us was food. We all liked cooking it, baking it, experimenting with it, and most of all, eating it. My mom put a lot of effort into teaching each of us the basics and expanding those out into more advanced recipes and techniques. I certainly took these skills for granted, as I did not realize that other people did not connect to food the way that we did.

When discerning my post college life path, I knew that I wanted to do service. FrancisCorps allows you to have a say in the site that you end up at, which made the program really appealing. As someone who utilizes food to bring people together, spread joy, and as a love language, I knew that the position at the Assumption Food Pantry and Soup Kitchen would be a perfect fit.

Behind the walls of 808 North Salina St. lies a beautiful organized chaos that helps fuel the souls and bellies of many of the people in the neighborhood. These last four months have given me the opportunity to work with volunteers, order, organize, and distribute food, cook, problem solve, collect donations, have a whole bunch of laughs, and talk with the people. As an extroverted person, I have never had a hard time talking to people but I also have never gotten to talk with people like this.

Working the desk at the pantry, my clients come in eager to fill their bodies with nourishment, and provide for their families. I start out each conversation with a “how are you?” This common US phrase is pretty confusing when you really think about it, as most people answer with a “good” without even thinking about it. When I ask people “how are you” there is a more intentional response. People are so willing to share so much about their lives with me, and I am so interested in experiencing their reality with them.

We feed a lot people! In fact each month, the soup kitchen can feed anywhere from 200-400 people each day, and the pantry can feed anywhere from 200-300 families each month. That is 200-300 families in the Northside of Syracuse who are reliant on an outside resource to ensure that they are able to do one of the most innate human activities: eat. These numbers shocked me in the beginning of my service. This is partially because it’s such a large number, but it is also because it has made me reflect on the way that I take food for granted. 

There are a few really distinct things that I have learned since starting to work here: everyone gets hungry: you, your volunteers, your family, your clients, their families, everyone. This hunger plays a direct impact on people’s moods and abilities with, for example, being hangry or hungry and angry at the same time.  This can directly impact someone’s ability to work, provide love and affection to their family, or simply function in general. There are some things that food can fix.  Food has the ability to bring people together, uniting them over a common necessity. A simple extra cookie can bring joy to the face of almost any child, and a bowl of hot soup can warm someone’s whole body on these freezing Syracuse nights. There are some things that food cannot fix however. Food isn’t the one to listen when people come in to talk about their unsafe and unsettled relationships.

I may be helping to feed the people of Syracuse with food but they are feeding me right back. Feeding my soul with simple joys and nourishing my spirit with the reminder of the importance of stories and conversation. My job has reminded me how important it is to show each person in this world the human dignity that they deserve and are often denied. Being a part of a marginalized community, many of my clients are treated as less than. By learning each of their names and hearing their stories, I am becoming full with the joy of these relationships.

Building Relationships

JillianBy Jillian Foster, FC 20

“On November 28th, I took Pat to All Saints for Mass. Afterwards, we went into the parish office to help out. I helped show Pat what needed to be done and made sure she had all the materials she needed. Pat said that she really enjoyed doing the service and helping out and I thanked her for all the hard work she did.”

There is so much more that goes into a day with Pat, a L’Arche core member, than what can be said in the mandatory note I have to make about her service goal. It has become a weekly ritual to go to Mass on Wednesdays, eat lunch with the wonderful staff of All Saints, help out with any projects they need done, and then go and get the paper. I spend most of my time at L’Arche with Pat, who she has grown very near and dear to my heart. We spend Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays together and I have learned a lot from Pat in that time. I have learned to slow down and take my time because as a 76 year old woman, she can do what she wants! I have learned to truly value my family and friends because she has many that she always talks about and loves. And I have learned how to talk with and listen to all the people I encounter throughout the day like how to ask for help when I need it or to just talk about holiday plans to the lady at the bank. Pat is very good at greeting people and engaging them in conversation because, as she would say, “I was raised right!” It is such a joy to be around her and the other core members, seeing their compassion for others and their humanity that I fear is somewhat lacking in the world.

Going to L’Arche was intimidating at first, despite all the wonderful things that I’ve heard. There is a lot to learn and a lot of securities, precautions, medications, finances, routines, etc. for each core member that needs to be remembered. The most important part though is the relationship with the core members. Walking into Art Class (the Tuesday L’Arche day program) for the first time was overwhelming. Everyone was talking at once and wanted to know what we were doing and what happened over the weekend and who I was and what I packed for lunch and what this friend did or said that day and a million other things that I had trouble catching because I didn’t know them and I had no way to follow the conversation. Luckily, I adapted quickly and the second time I went, I was more prepared. Nowadays, Art Class doesn’t seem as overwhelming as it once was. While certainly challenging at times, I have built a relationship with everyone and they respect me. In the Croyden home, where I spend much of my time, I have built relationships with the core members there as well. From brushing teeth to watching Gunsmoke, the core members at Croyden have been very open and willing to have me walk into their life for a year. Almost four months into my service and I am uneasy for it to end. While I have plans after this year, I am loathing leaving everyone here. For now though, I will keep forming those relationships because as relationships make up the core of L’Arche, they also make up the core of my life.

Following God’s Plan

Jenny RoseBy Jenny Rose Anacan, FC 20

During my undergraduate studies back at home in Hawaii at Chaminade University of Honolulu (CUH), I spent an immense amount of time serving the marginalized. I always looked forward to the days that I had to serve those in need. For me, serving those in need is serving God’s people and creating relationships with those in my community. During my time at CUH, I started to develop a

passion for the homeless and low income community, specifically the children. Another passion of mine is the importance of an education. As I put two and two together, I created a dream for me that one day in the future (many years from now), I will open a not for profit organization serving children. That being said, lots of time was spent during both my junior year and the summer before senior year looking at my post-undergraduate options. I had three: go straight into graduate school, find a job then go to graduate school, or do a year of service then go graduate school. After time seeking advice from those who knew me, I came to the decision that I wanted to do a year of service before graduate school. I love serving God’s people and if I could do it every day, why not? Plus, during my year I could possibly learn what it takes to run a not for profit.

I came to the decision that I wanted to do a year of service. During the first half of my senior year, I had my heart set on applying to a service program that was pretty well known among my peers especially in Campus Ministry. I had applied to this program having so much confidence in myself that I would get accepted, turned out I did not get accepted and I asked to be placed on their wait list (Note: weeks later I was given an update that there was an opportunity for me in that program). Lost and confused (can I say heartbroken? just cause I really wanted to get accepted into that program) about what I would do post undergraduate. I expressed to a professor of mine about what I was going through and she had asked me “is this what you want to do, a year in service?” I replied with a strong “yes.” I knew God was calling me to spend a year in service. She did some research and came across FrancisCorps, which was very similar to the program I first applied to. I talked to those I wanted to be my references (they were happy that I wasn’t just sitting around hoping a miracle would happen with the program I first applied to), they submitted the form and I applied to FC. The day after or maybe hours after I submitted my application, I was asked to set up an interview, and so I did! During the process of FC I also had the first program in mind as I was also going through more of their application process. Now with two program options for post-graduate service, I had to choose what was best for me, FrancisCorps.

Though prayer and community are crucial components of FrancisCorps, if I had to choose the one thing that excites me the most about the FrancisCorps experience, it will have to be serving at my service site, Vincent House. The first time I stepped into Vincent House, I looked at the place in awe and told myself “this is God’s plan for you Jenny, this is why you choose FrancisCorps, this is why God sent you here, when one opportunity closes another one opens, this is His plan for you in the next year.” I have been enjoying every second of my time so far, though there are some tough times, those outweighs the good times. I am excited to be part of an after school program that will serve children of the West side of Syracuse and I look forward to creating a relationship with these children and be part of their lives even for the short amount of time I have at Vincent House.


Deepening Faith Through Service

JillianBy Jillian Foster, FC 20

Since sophomore year at the University of Dayton, I soon discerned that I wanted to do a year of service. That was the time I became a Human Rights major. Over the next couple years I traveled abroad to Ireland and then to Malawi, Africa. The culture and people interested me. Being very blessed throughout my life, I was particularly taken with my time in Malawi, one of the poorest countries in the world and whose people lived very different lives than me. I loved learning a bit of the local language, talking with the farmers and teachers, and working with two Malawian university students. What someone might guess from this is that I wanted to do a year of service and they would be right. My intention was to go abroad for several years as a volunteer.

I found out about FrancisCorps at a post-grad year of service fair at my school. While initially interested in their Costa Rica program, I unfortunately cannot speak Spanish and was therefore ineligible to go. Nonetheless, FrancisCorps had been planted. After some research, through which I knew I wanted to serve through a Catholic organization, I realized that going abroad with the organization I wanted to be with was not possible right off the bat. I started looking domestically and while it was a long discernment process, FrancisCorps stuck out because of that commitment to community, which I came to value through the Marianist education I received, and prayer. It was small, but nurturing, and could be a lot more hands-on in the sense that the volunteers would have a lot of support. And indeed we have! The community has been so welcoming which helped ease us into our new environment.

When I was first accepted into FrancisCorps, I was most excited about the faith and prayer aspect with my community. God is very important to me and I really wanted to build a firm foundation of faith through service. If you asked me now what I am most excited about, I have to say it is the surprise pilgrimage to Assisi, Italy!

An Expression Of Love

By Elizabeth McNulty, FC 20


Picture this. It’s the year 2014. The youths of America have decided to band together and single-handedly cure ALS by dumping ice on each other. The nation is devastated when the game flappy bird is taken off the app store and are distracting themselves from the pain by flooding to the movies to see the 2nd Sharknado while texting each other through a magic watch on their wrists. And, of course, a wide eyed, eighteen-year-old girl was starting her first year of college 300 miles away from her cozy home in Northern Virginia. I pulled up to my dorm in the city of Steubenville, Ohio and was thrilled to finally be in the one place in the world that didn’t think I was saying “Stupidville” when talking about my college plans. Now I will be the first to admit that at this point, there was much about life that I was still very naive to. I still didn’t really understand much about how the world worked, or why things happened the way they did. I was still trying to figure out who I was and where I belonged, and most importantly, what God wanted to do through me. One thing; however, that I knew without any shred of a doubt, was that I absolutely loved to help people.

Now I know what you’re probably thinking, who doesn’t like to help others? It’s human nature! For me personally, when I am able to help another human being, another soul, I get a thrill of adrenaline and joy that is incomparable to many other experiences I have had in my life thus far. It is one of the most concrete ways I can both feel and see Christ on this Earth. In my mind, to help someone is to love someone, and to allow yourself to be helped by someone is an equal expression of love. And isn’t that essentially what we are put on this planet to do? Rather than feel alone in a cold and selfish world, I would much prefer to be a part of a movement where love and hope drown out fear and hatred. With this passion in mind, I knew ever since I pulled up to that dorm that I wanted to start living a more intentional life when it came to utilizing some of the unique talents I have been gifted with to make whatever impact I could on the people surrounding me.

Throughout the next three years, I threw myself into several different ministries and mission trips that my school offered. I had the incredible opportunity to travel to Slovakia, Nicaragua, and Ecuador, all on separate occasions for mission trips that lasted anywhere between a week to a month. I would end up describing each of these experiences as “life changing” and each had their own completely unique impact in my life. These experiences allowed me to stretch far beyond my comfort zone and meet God face to face through various challenges. I would argue that the people I served were able to give me even more than I was able to give them through their intense witnesses of faith despite their severe poverty. I was officially thirsting for more of these experiences and knew that they would somehow shape my life after college. Thus, after some discernment with a few other service programs, I applied and was accepted to FrancisCorps where I would be helping at an after-school program for a marginalized community. Being a special education major, I was thrilled to know I would be working with children and was ready to completely immerse myself into a year of service, using both the educational skills I had acquired throughout my college years as well as (and arguably of more importance), the tolls of loving others that I had come to learn.

Finding Ourselves Through Service To Others

By Isabel McCormack, FC 20


The reason that I wanted to serve, or actually, needed to serve, is because I’ve grown up in a bubble. I have lived a privileged existence, from my education, to the opportunities I’ve had. I have literally never gone without any of the basic needs, be it emotional, physical, or spiritual. My life thus far has been comfortable. I don’t say this lightly, but I also am not taking for granted how blessed I have been. I’m so thankful for everything I’ve received. I just know that my reality isn’t one that is shared by most people in the world, and as a senior in college trying to figure out my next steps, all I could see myself doing was learning about these other realities, by totally and completely immersing myself in it.

I believe that every human being shares the personal responsibility of making the world a better place in their own way, whether that be as big as changing laws and policies to impact millions of lives, or as small as changing a diaper with a smile. Every single person plays a role in this, without exception, and every single role is necessary. In order for a person to figure out where they fit into that, they need to match the needs of the world to their talents and what makes them happy. I don’t know where my talents fit in to the world around me, but I couldn’t have picked a better place to learn than FrancisCorps.

I don’t know if this year should be called a year of service, or a year of experience. I get to experience other human beings and the sunshine that they bring into the world, and through that, also learn what it is that I’m bringing to the world. In order to figure out what the world needs, I had to get out of my bubble. I moved away from my family and what I knew to live intentionally, finding my community and people in my workplace that I wouldn’t normally encounter. I want to share the best of me with the world, and I am hoping to find that this year as I find the best in the people around me.


Living Simply and Simply Living

By Rachel Zanfardino, FC 20


Why FrancisCorps? This, or something relating to why a year of service, is slowly becoming one of the questions that I answer most, behind who am I, where am I from, and where did I go to school. At first, answering these questions started feeling monotonous and scripted as I reiterated the same answers multiple times a day to many different people. But as I reflected on these questions, I realized that their answers help to make up who I am, why I am here and what I have been called to do.

I’m Rachel, named by my parents, and sandwiched between my two brothers, I always grew up interested in doing service and volunteering.  To answer the second question, I am from New Jersey and quite proud of that! Jersey is known for being overly prideful and needing to stand up for itself, as it is given a hard time by the rest of the country, which explains where my somewhat persistent, outgoing and passionate personality comes from. But the answer to the third question, where did I attend college, Fairfield University is definitely my “Why FrancisCorps?”

I chose Fairfield because of the factors of my past, such as my parents and my passions. However, in a way Fairfield chose me right back. Through the Jesuit values, I was able to recognize and channel all of my passion for service into forming my personal mission and values. The Jesuit value of “Men and Women, For and With Others” emphasized the importance of service in our everyday lives. Everything you do can and does impact the people around you. I embodied this ideal and from it became an orientation leader.  This is where I began to develop my strengths and skills as well as surround myself with a supportive community of friends and peers that encouraged me to do more and embrace Magis. Directly translated “more or greater,” Magis means recognizing the potential for all that I could do with my life and to actively pursue doing more. I re-embraced my faith and began to attend weekly Mass. It was not until I allowed religion to become a huge part of my life that I saw what I had been missing. The other two Jesuit values are Cura Personalis and Reflection. I could not fully embrace Cura Personalis, care for the whole person, without religion in my life. I began attending religious retreats and service trips, trying to make sense of what I needed to do after I graduated from Fairfield. Through reflection and prayer, I saw that I was being called to do a year of service, realized that service had to be faith-based, and I decided to answer that call. Fairfield had given me all of the right tools and now I wanted to put them into practice.

There are a lot of easy reasons to do a year of service after college. It is before you jump into a career path and you have other responsibilities; it is also a time to continue to “figure it out”. FrancisCorps particularly stuck out to me during my search for the right year of service because of its intentionality. I was looking to take a year and live intentionally in solidarity with a marginalized community and do service for and with them. FrancisCorps not only provides an opportunity to do this, BUT ALSO it is a program that allows you to do that kind of service with other people who are at that same stage of life that you are at, in addition to providing really direct and personal guidance. During the whole application process I really was struggling with where I should serve and who I should serve, but something about FrancisCorps always felt right, and because of that, I knew it was where I needed to put my year of service.  My placement site is at the Assumption Food Pantry and Soup Kitchen, where I assist a number of incredible volunteers in providing lunch and dinner to our clients as well as offering people food through the pantry to help stock their shelves for that month. I could not feel more at home at the pantry. My family has always found comfort and connectedness in food through preparation and eating. Knowing that I am able to help feed hundreds of people each day is something I am extraordinarily grateful for.

I have only been at this whole living in community and serving the marginalized population of Syracuse, NY for a few weeks now, and I can already say that it is nothing like what I was expecting. I do not think this is the kind of year that you can plan for, nor should you, because God has his own ideas for what is to come. The kindness and generosity that I have experienced from the members of the Assumption parish as well as the volunteers in the pantry and the members of the community that I am serving has been overwhelming to say the least! I expect that this year will help me to further figure out what it is that I need to do with my life. I also think it is going to strengthen and develop my relationship with my faith and with God. I am fortunate enough to have the ability to do a year of service and take this time to grow as a person. I look forward to the year ahead as I undergo this adventure of living simply and simply living. 🙂

Los Últimos

By Nico Angerosa, FC 19 Costa RicaIMG_1342

Rain, sunshine, and more rain. For Costa Ricans, this means “winter” is rolling in. For us volunteers, this means our summer is here, marking the closing of our year of service. What a year it has been of adventures in our community, getting to know Costa Rica and local culture, the Friars, the people we serve and equally as important, getting to know ourselves a little better.

This year has been important for many reasons.  It has helped us grow and mature. It has shown us the dependency and support we as human beings yearn for in each other.  We experienced this support within our various communities through our daily interactions, intentional discussions and communal activities. We also learned about this need through our work sites and interactions with the people we serve and serve with. For me personally, the most important thing I have taken away from this year is the amount of joy and pride the people of Costa Rica exhibit every day, even when they had little they offered everything.  We committed to this year of service with a Franciscan heart; to live and work in solidarity with poor and less fortunate communities. Leaving a bit of the materialistic lifestyle on hold for these 11 months has been truly inspiring and has allowed me to immerse myself into a different lifestyle than I am used to at home. Sure, I try to do what I can at home to live simply and humbly, but being in contact with poverty on a daily basis has a huge impact on you and your mentality. The phrase “come as you are” comes to mind every day. Don’t pass judgment, be authentic, and recognize the needs these people yearn for everyday – emotional, physical, and mental support – the same needs I, my community and everyone strives for everyday with the people you love.

As we finish up the year, we are also processing the knowledge that FC 19 Costa Rica, will be the last FrancisCorps group to bring service to this great nation, at least for now. It has been a truly humbling experience getting to know all of the amazing friars and locals, as well as each other, and simply doing what Jesus and Saint Francis ask us to do each and every day: to live in community, love thy neighbor, and love one another as brothers and sisters. After all, at the end of the day, that is who we are – global citizens, regardless of religion, of this incredible world, here to be in support of one another and to aid in times of need and rejoice in times of peace. The Catholic Church doesn’t wear the label “universal” for no reason. Get out there and show it; this is who we are, a loving and welcoming community.

I don’t know about you, but it seems there’s a lot of need that ALL of our brothers and sisters could use a little help with right now. So, I ask of you, please be present for those who need it most and have a part in making this place, our global community, our home, feel like home. “Preach the Gospel. If necessary, use words.”

Good Ol’ Stretch

By Beruchya Dao-Bai,  FC 19 Syracuse Photo Jun 03, 11 18 52 AM

I had just finished a busy day of work at 4:30PM and went to the gym. As usual, I took 15 minutes to walk to the gym and change into my gym clothes, spent 30 minutes on the elliptical, followed by a few weight training exercises. By 5:29 PM I was done and had exactly seven minutes to grab my gym bag and run to the bus stop that is near my favorite coffee place, “Cafe Kubal.” As always, I debated whether I had to stretch or not, and ended up racing to the bus stop. As I rode the bus which is a significant part of my daily pilgrimage to my service site, a thought came to me, as I briefly evaluated my workout that day. “Stretching hurts before it feels good.” Yes, stretching produces stress on your muscles until your muscles embrace the comfort of a pose that was once uncomfortable to yield benefits such as good posture, flexibility, injury prevention and stress relief. Indeed, I realized that this was what this experience was about, stretching mind, heart, and strength.

During FrancisCorps, I realized that the struggles I had deemed unnecessary and frustrating during my undergraduate experience, had prepared and enabled me to tackle discomforting situations in my sometimes turbulent work site. At work, I was bombarded with information that I had to process quickly and accurately to address issues that impacted the future, stability, and health of individuals and families vulnerable to homelessness. Additionally, I dealt with individuals whose moods, and behaviors challenged the Christian in me. As a novice at work, the information overload was such that the restroom became the sweet escape where I rested my mind. At home and at work, I was called to stretch my forgiveness muscles to forgive every day, multiple times a day, neighbor, client and self. As for plans, I am still learning that God wants me to be more flexible with his ways and to let him deal with the details of the life that he gave me. It is no longer about “my” plans for my life, but about the good plans He has for the life that he gave to me. I learned to do more of “trust in the Lord with all your heart  and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him  and he will make your paths straight” (Proverbs 3:5), for He adds, “ I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, to give you a future and a hope. (Jeremiah 29:11)”

Although God knows I love planning my life down to the minute, much like my daily schedule; He showed me that my program was inefficient until I thoroughly embraced stretching exercises. These are the times when plans changed or failed, uncertainty reigned, people hurt me, and I had to sit with the sentiments my experiences evoked. Through those times, He taught me to be more “still” and know that He is God (Psalm 46:10), to learn from how He spoke through events and people, to accept situations for what they were, and draw strength from Him in order to move forward invigorated. In struggling with God and allowing Him to stretch me, I felt inevitable tension and discomfort before feeling the effects of a “good ol’ stretch.” Indeed, He taught me that life is not just about running incessantly like I used to, or lifting heavier and heavier weights, but also about sitting in an uncomfortable pose to stretch the muscles that allow you to run farther and lift heavier loads.