Ministry of Listening

IMG_2033-e1565280674579-278x300By Kate Timmermann, FC 21

Northside Syracuse, where the FrancisCorps house is and where our parish, Assumption Church, has its outreach ministries, is a diverse neighborhood made up of many small communities, each with its own culture and language. The population that Assumption ministries serve is among the most vulnerable and least remembered in the Northside: the families who struggle with mental illness, addition and generational poverty. At Friar Rick’s suggestion, I started what we have been calling a “listening ministry” in the Food Pantry at Assumption. I sit on the benches where clients come in for sandwiches or groceries, listen to the conversations around me and form relationships with pantry regulars.

I feel awkward there. It must be painfully apparent that I am not a pantry client and that I am in a world of which I have no experience. Sometimes pantry volunteers are confused why I am not working! Internally, I am shaken by the upheaval in these people’s lives because of their vulnerability, and I am angry that they are so often overlooked. I leave the pantry drained and exhausted, wondering if I have accomplished anything.

I have also been physically drained these past few weeks by a lingering ear infection, which both takes a toll on my energy levels and makes it harder to hear. That is right; the girl listening to people in the pantry is doing it with only one ear! I cannot help but be reminded of the blind man who cries for Jesus to have mercy on him so that he might see. I have been deaf to the plights of my brothers and sisters who come to the food pantry and I am still learning to ask for mercy of the Lord, that I might truly hear them.

The listening ministry is not only to hear the needs of those we serve, but it is also to affirm them as children of God. I am still deaf- or at least half deaf- and cannot hear their hearts, but I can try to reflect the love of Christ for the people who come to the pantry, who are now my friends, my brothers and my sisters. I am almost assuredly hopelessly naïve in many ways, but perhaps my youth and inexperience, which at first seems only inconvenient and exhausting to overcome, can allow me to create this position in the strange gray area between office and food pantry, between professionals in non-profits and the homeless who need their services, between Assumption Church as an institution and the Northside as a transient, argumentative, colorful community of folks just surviving.

A Reflection of God’s Love

IMG_2039-e1565280237970-263x300By Lauren Chacon, FC 21

FrancisCorps is like a seed that God tenderly planted in my heart. During my junior year
of college, Friar Rick, the chaplain of FrancisCorps, visited my campus ministry at the University of Texas at El Paso. I attended a presentation he gave on FrancisCorps and fell in love with the program. Despite my attraction to FrancisCorps, I had no intention of applying to the program. At that time, I had a career path set and I was determined to stick to it; however, the seed that God planted in my heart grew and blossomed into a complete desire to serve God through FrancisCorps. He called me to FrancisCorps; everything I longed for in a service program was embodied through the FrancisCorps volunteer program.

With God at the heart of FrancisCorps, His love is lived out through the Franciscan
values of community, service, and brotherhood. I am so very blessed to be a part of this
program and of this beautiful community. In just a few months my community has become a family, sharing life and love with one another. There is a fire in my heart to be a reflection of God’s love to His people through service in FrancisCorps.

A Perfect Fit In Progress

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By Stephanie Vogelman, FC 21

I have been surrounded by the idea of service throughout my entire life. My parents were the first people to introduce service and the different ways to serve to my sister and me. My dad served our country in the United States Navy and went on to serve locally in the Philadelphia Fire Department for over twenty years. Now he serves on an even smaller level by working as a postal worker, where he delivers mail to our community members and has formed relationships with the residents that are along his daily route. He has served many people around the world in many ways and I admire him for that. My mom, on the other hand, has practiced service in a more intimate way. When my sister and I were born, she dedicated the first several years of our lives to raising us. She made the sacrifice to be a stay at home mom and teach us how to be loving and kind to each other and to others. Both are incredible role models and I am so blessed to have such a great example set by them throughout childhood.

Fast forward to my senior year of college about to graduate with a Bachelor’s in Social Work, I took what I learned from them, and what I had learned from involvement in many service projects through Campus Ministry and through the Social Work Program and knew that service was what I wanted to do for the rest my life. But the tough question was: how? As my senior year drew on, I thought about my possible options, including grad school, finding a job in the social work field, or doing a year of service. The third option seemed like an impossible reality because of the pressure of society telling me that after school the expectation was to find a job, move out into your own place and start your life. I tried telling myself that this was not the right option for me; however, something always brought me back to the idea of this year long commitment to service. After a lot of thought and prayer, I realized that I would not be putting my life on hold but rather it would be a wonderful start to a new journey.

I started to research what program would be the best fit for me but could not seem to find one that encompassed all my values and interests. One day, I stumbled across the Franciscan Service Network website and saw this symbol of a sun with FrancisCorps next to it.  I thought it was different and interesting, so I clicked the link to website and fell in love with it instantly. FrancisCorps was everything I was looking for and more! Since my college was Franciscan, I had already fallen in love with the charism. I also loved the emphasis of community encouraged by the program because I love being around people and forming meaningful relationships with them. I was also intrigued by the work I could be doing with populations I had never worked with previously. I knew that this was where I wanted to dedicate the next year of my life to. It was a perfect fit.

Now, we’ve have been here about three months and the experiences that have been put in front of me have been challenging but also rewarding. Living in community with five other people, who have come from all over the country and even other parts of the world, has been such a blessing and I am excited to see how our journey will unfold throughout the rest of this year. Living in a new community completely different than what I am used to was an adjustment especially being around many different cultures in a small area. However, it has given me a chance to learn about what Syracuse has to teach me. I am serving at Cathedral Emergency Services and that has been an adventure all in its own. The clients that come in keep me on my toes with their various needs and I try to help in the best way I can, even if it is just acknowledging that they are not in their struggles alone. All the components of this experience are new and exciting, but what excites me the most is to see who and what I encounter will teach me and push me to serve others in the best way I can. I still feel that FrancisCorps is a perfect fit, but one that will definitely be a work in progress.

Accidental Joy

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By Caroline Friedmann, FC 21

My FrancisCorps journey started by accident. Nine months ago, I was in Indianapolis attending a FOCUS conference, called SEEK, and was scouring the booths for free stickers. Our Associate Director, Johanna, was at the FrancisCorps booth and very supportive of my mission of obtaining stickers! She and I had a five minute conversation where she told me a small amount of information about the program she was representing. At that time of my life, I was planning on looking for research assistant jobs to take a break in between undergraduate and graduate school and paid her no mind.

However, God had other plans for me. The following month, our brief conversation replayed in my head, but I had forgotten the name of the organization. I stumbled upon the sticker Johanna had given me, immediately researched FrancisCorps, and applied that day. Up until this point, a year of service was not something I had even considered. Yet, a peace came after applying and later receiving an acceptance; the same peace that comes from trusting in God to lead one down an unknown path.

I have been settled in Syracuse, New York for a little over two months now. Incredible joy and absurd peace has been in every moment, every place, and every breath taken in these past twelve weeks. I am working at Northside CYO Refugee Resettlement. Already, I have learned more about other cultures, languages, and people than I expected. These next 11 months are sure to bring triumphs and failures, joys and sorrows, and I am looking forward to growing with my community, learning how to better love and serve alongside them.

Seeking Silence

IMG_2044By Elias Arias, FC 21

I met my first group of FrancisCorps volunteers in 2014 as a member of JUFRA, which is a Franciscan youth group in Costa Rica. I still remember that it was a large group and from that moment, the mission of FrancisCorps captured my attention but I never imagined that I would now be writing as one of its volunteers. As the years passed, I met a total of five different groups of volunteers, who had their unique reasons as to why they left the comfort of their homes in the U.S. in order to serve the people of Costa Rica. They are among the greatest people I have met in my life.

After nine years of learning about the Franciscan charism and serving my brothers and sisters through JUFRA, I decided to apply to FrancisCorps. I officially arrived as part of FrancisCorps 21 on August 2 with many mixed emotions as I knew that it would be a difficult but rewarding experience given that English is not my first language. In those first few weeks, when people spoke to me, I would get very embarrassed and nervous because I did not know if I was answering correctly. During the first week, we traveled to Maryland for Orientation retreat, where I had the opportunity to know the members of my community better. Although I often felt mentally exhausted from hearing and speaking English all day, Caroline, Lauren, Kate, Steph and Tanner were and continue to help me navigate these new experiences.

I found that seeking silence, mostly because I did not want to hear any more English, gave me the opportunity to rest and appreciate the blessings that will come from this year. The blessings so far have come in sharing community meals and prayer, in translating for a newly arrived family from Cuba at the food pantry, and in experiencing the change in seasons. I do not know what God has plan for me in the next few months but I have confident that every day will bring a new blessing.

Growing In Compassion And Love

JillianBy Jillian Foster, FC 20

In the last few years, I have learned a lot about discernment and prayer. It started my sophomore year of college and there has always been one big decision or situation that I needed to pray and discern about. I have also started to feel a calling. That calling is very similar to what I am doing in FrancisCorps and my purpose for being in FrancisCorps. During my freshman year, I suddenly got an urge to travel and talked all about wanting to see the world despite my limited to nil international experience. Sophomore year, I chatted with a recruiter from the Peace Corps and studied abroad in Ireland the summer after. During junior year, I was accepted into a program that sent me to Malawi, Africa for two months the following summer and started being active in the Catholic Relief Services Student Ambassador program. During my senior year, I wanted to participate in a service experience abroad but decided to try domestic first, applied and was invited into a few different service organizations. Ultimately, I chose FrancisCorps.

This year has been a challenge and a test. A challenge that forced me out of my comfort zone and a test that addresses whether service is something that I enjoy and am cut out for it. These past few years, I have gotten attached to the idea of service. I believe everyone is called to serve and be a servant. There are many different ways of doing that, whether it is serving your family, friends, consumers of a business, or community, everyone is able to serve in some way or another. Fortunately or unfortunately, I have not felt called to the traditional lifestyle that most parents hope for their children: getting married, having kids, settling down or at least not yet. FrancisCorps is, for me, not just giving a year of my life to service, but the start of my career in service.

Much like my experience in FrancisCorps, I wish to seek new challenges and expand my comfort zone. I feel called to meet and live among people who are different than me. I desire to learn about different cultures and tongues. Through these experiences, I hope to be of service to others and be present to them on their journeys in life. I hope to cultivate a greater understanding and love for all of God’s children, my brothers and sisters around the world I have yet to meet. When FrancisCorps comes to a close, I have been blessed to join the Maryknoll Lay Missioners for a term of service in Haiti. God-willing, I hope to continue to be a servant to those I meet and grow in compassion and love.

Where To Next?

ElizabethBy Elizabeth McNulty, FC 20

Where to next? Isn’t that the ultimate question? It’s a very common one for us to hear, especially since the year has been winding down and people are getting curious. It’s also a totally fair question. We gave up a year of our lives to serve and that year is running out. So of course, the question is being pondered in other’s brains, and looming in our own. However, that does not make it any less terrifying or daunting. When asked this question, I usually refer to a state of panic. I always think that I need to have a beautifully eloquent answer as to what my “perfect plan” is for the next chapter in life.  I think about how I need to carefully word my answer to make my future sound successful, smart, and put-together because anything else will be a considered failing, right?

Wrong.

Society has a way of rating your own achievements and growth based on an often small-minded view of what success looks like. Go to school, get good grades, find a good job right away, get promoted, and make lots of money. While I know this schedule is a little dramatic, it is often at the very least a version of what people tend to see and expect. Truth is that I don’t have anything close to one of those “10-year plans” that people talk about. I don’t even have a 10-minute plan! Maybe I’ll open the fridge? Have a snack? In my humble opinion, success for me will not depend on how much money I make, how many connections I have, what awards and promotions I receive, etc. Now don’t get me wrong, all those things would be great to have and be recognized for, but I think true success depends on the little decisions I make every day that will either make me a better or worst person, and especially the people around me.

So here it is folks. The biggest failure for me will have nothing to do with my lack of worldly accolades. I truly believe that the biggest failure would be allowing myself to believe I am a failure simply because I do not perfectly fit someone else’s imposed view of “the successful person”. The biggest failure would be forcing myself into a mold that I was never meant to, and becoming a shell of the person I am suppose to be. The biggest failure would be living in this mold and making a lifetime of lukewarm contributions to society and the world, rather than really making my own unique and necessary impact on the lives I touch. The biggest failure would be cheating the world of what I have to offer by thinking that offer isn’t good enough.

So, for me, what comes next will be a job, and probably a few more after that until I find what I am best suited for. But of paramount more importance, what comes next will be a lifetime of using the lessons I have learned, as well as the lessons I will continue to learn, to help shape each decision I make in order to help make earth more like heaven rather than the alternative. Luckily for me, having had the privilege of participating in a year of direct service to a few different marginalized communities, I am now equipped with a fully stalked toolbox of those hard-earned lessons.

Ultimately where I’m called to go from here is not necessarily a “what” or a “where”, but a “who”. The question is not a matter of “where I am called to go from here”, so much as “who will I choose to be from now on”. At the end of the day, people are what matter, which is an all-too-forgotten concept. What will dictate my future is how I decide to handle situations, opportunities and, mostly importantly, the people that come into my path. I want to be ready if and when I do reach those pearly gates with a long list of people that I can say I helped bring. That is when I will consider myself successful.

The world has been graced with centuries of incredibly remarkable people who should certainly be revered as such. Their examples are great ones to follow and strive towards. But the world does not need another exact replica of these people, or their successes. Maybe exactly what the world needs is its very first Jenny Rose Anacan, Jill Foster, Isabel McCormick, Rachel Zanfardino, and even Elizabeth McNulty.

Life Resume

RachelBy Rachel Zanfardino, FC 20

Around this time last year, I was graduating from the best four years of my life. The kind of place that helps you to find yourself and feel that you might have an independent and unique purpose on this planet, even if you have no idea what that purpose is. Fairfield University constantly challenged me to reflect on the big stuff, and one of the hardest questions was: Who am I, whose am I, and who am I called to be? The first two were checked and checked.

But the part of who am I called to be? Well, I was going off to serve a marginalized community in Syracuse, NY with FrancisCorps so that was who I was called to be for now. However, I was hoping this year of service and reflection would help me make those big life decisions of who I was going to be in the long run. After graduation, many of my friends were going out into the world, getting their first jobs and apartments, moving away from home and starting their lives as adults. I wasn’t really ready to be an adult. In fact, I still don’t really consider myself an adult, just a big kid trying to coexist with everyone who already graduated into adulthood.

During this year of service, I think I found the answer of who I am called to be but not in the dichotomous black or white way that I was looking for. I thought I would figure out what my job would be, especially because society relies a lot on jobs, careers and money. When you meet someone, one of the first questions you ask them is “what do you do?” And I have come to realize, why does it matter? Why as a society do we fixate so much on what we do and hardly ever focus on who the people are behind the job?

As I have been worrying so much about my life after this year, where will I work, how will I pay my loans, how I will support myself, I remembered something else a friend of mine asked me: “If someone were to read your Eulogy what would you want it to say?” Whoa, kind of a weird question! Even though I am at the ripe old age of 23, I am not quite ready to think about my death. But then I got thinking… what would I want someone to say, how would I want to be remembered? Would I want the qualities that someone talked about in my eulogy to be the same qualities that I list on my resume for a potential job? Is there more to listing things like, shows up on time, works well independently or in groups, great Excel skills?

These are the qualities that you have to list when trying to market yourself to others. But are they the things that really matter about who you are? FrancisCorps is not only going on my actual resume but also my life resume. It is going under a list of experiences that have taught me to build relationships with people who are different than I am, to be a better listener (even as a huge talkative extrovert), to grow in empathy and understanding for marginalized populations and, most importantly, to voice my ideas even when others disagree with me. I am called to be Rachel. A person, who acknowledges the importance of others, leads with love, and preaches the Gospel, only using words if she has to. I am not a person who will be defined by careers and societal expectations, losing myself to the opinions and standards of others.

A eulogy is kind of like a life resume to God. It comes from the people who knew you best and outlines the important qualities that you had throughout your life. I don’t know what people will say in mine, but I hope that what they do say is that I treated others with kindness, and utilized the voice and the skills I obtained this year to make a difference in the lives of others.

Next Chapter

Jenny RoseBy Jenny Rose Anacan, FC 20

Ten. It has been ten months since I hopped on Hawaiian Airlines flight 50 from Honolulu, O’ahu to Queens, New York, and a few days later Delta flight 5943 for Syracuse, New York. It has been ten months since I started my journey across the country to begin a year of service in a city that I knew nothing about. All I had been warned about was the crazy winters and the amount of snow that New York can get. I had been questioned several times if I was sure of my decision to move to Syracuse. As I reflect back on the past ten months, it has been a roller coaster of so many ups and downs, but in the end I have come to conclude that the ride to Syracuse has been one of the best decisions I have made thus far! As the Hawai’i girl I am, I got to experience memories that I probably would not have been able to back in Hawai’i. From the more than 90 minute car rides (several times!), to being able to drive through state lines, to catching a train from state to state to visit a friend, and…you guessed it… to experiencing the four seasons!

In the ten months I have been at Vincent House, I have learned so much serving the children from kindergarten to twelve years old. Being able to provide a safe haven for these children after school in a youth center during the times that the highest number of crimes can happen has been such a blessing to me. God has placed me at Vincent House for my year of service for a reason. Vincent House was part of God’s plan for me and as the weeks to my last day come closer, I am starting to unfold a better understanding as to why it was part of God’s plan for me. The children at Vincent House have become one of my inspirations in life. They have given me validation as to why I would like to open up a nonprofit organization for children back home in Hawai’i. There were moments that were challenging, but overall, the children have brought so much joy and growth in my life.

In the next ten months, I will find myself two hours west of Syracuse in Buffalo. Here I will be pursuing a graduate degree in Higher Education and Student Affairs Administration. During my undergraduate career, I have found a passion in the Higher Education world. I know moving to Syracuse for my year of service has helped me transition from being away from home. I hope to take what I have learned during my year of service as I soon start my journey to my graduate degree. The children at Vincent House will have a special place in my heart and I hope that I am able to visit them once in a while as I am in Buffalo. It may be hard for me to pin point exactly what my year of service has taught me, but I know without a doubt that as moments come up I will come to the realization that FrancisCorps has played a significant part in what I am doing.

I thank God each and every day for bringing FrancisCorps into my life. I strive to bring God’s love through my actions and words. I strive to serve God’s people. I strive to make this world a better place each and every day no matter what I am doing in life. I am extremely excited for what God has planned for me in the next chapter of my life after FrancisCorps.

Discovery Of Love

IsabelBy Isabel McCormack, FC 20

Where am I called to go from here? Well, physically, in a few weeks, I am packing up and leaving Syracuse, leaving Francis House, and going home. I am hopefully starting a nursing program in Chicago within the next year, which is a decision I am confident in, and one that I can thank Francis House and its entire staff for helping me to see so clearly. When I think back to this year, though, I am not going to hold in high regard the moment that I made the decision to become a nurse. I am going to remember all the moments, both incredibly challenging and life-giving, that have shaped me into the person that has not only made the decision for my next step, but has also has impacted each step I will take after.

I am heartbroken to leave Francis House, and yet so ready to go on to my next adventure. I am going to take so much from Syracuse with me: the love from residents and their family members, memories from staff and volunteers who have become like family to me, the personal growth I’ve made, the many frustrations and joys both at the FrancisCorps house and my service site, and the life-changing friendships I’ve made. Each experience I’ve had this year, both large and small, has impacted me and has altered my trajectory for the path I am taking in life.

The most impactful “experience” I’ve had this year that I am going to be taking with me, and definitely the hardest to explain in a short blog post, is a new discovery of love. I have soaked up so much love and joy this year at Francis House, and reflecting on it, I know that I am called to share that love wherever I go, starting at home with my family and at school, and continuing on to my profession. I am called to a life of service, no matter where I am or in what capacity I am serving. There is a handful of people who I have met this year, or have heard about from other service sites in Syracuse, that have taught me this lesson. They live with so much love and generosity, not just doing service, but living service. Those are the people who change the world, one small community at a time. Those are the people that have inspired me, and that’s how I know where I am called to go from here. I have learned from this year that am called to be a nurse, but more than that, I have learned that I am called to be one that has a heart for service. I am called, to the best of my ability at every stage of my life, to reach out to and to generously serve both the people around me and those at the periphery.