Jul 26, 2022
By Emily Putzke
The Franciscan tradition runs deep throughout Western New York, particularly in the foothills of the Enchanted Mountains, where St. Bonaventure University immerses the region in the spirit of St. Francis. The effects of this Franciscan-hearted way of living can be felt hundreds and thousands of miles away as many Bonaventure alums have found their way to Franciscan Mission Service (FMS).
Franciscan Mission Service builds partnerships with lay Catholic women and men who are inspired to live and serve in solidarity with economically poor and marginalized communities across the globe as advocates for peace, justice, reconciliation, and care of creation. Long-term mission opportunities are offered through the Overseas Lay Mission program in Bolivia, Jamaica, and on the United States-Mexico border, along with yearlong domestic service opportunities for young adults in the DC Service Corps program.
For Sr. Margaret Carney, O.S.F., President Emeritus of St. Bonaventure University and a board member at FMS, and many Bonaventure alumni serving as DC Service Corps volunteers, overseas lay missioners, and board members throughout the years, the connection between these two organizations runs strong.
“I have learned so much about the work and the lives of our mission members serving abroad and our members serving right in Washington, D.C. Each of these dedicated volunteers is bringing untold generosity into the lives of persons who suffer in ways I can barely imagine,” Sr. Margaret said about FMS’ mission. “One of the gifts I have received is to be part of the work of Liz Hughes, a Franciscan leader whose work I admire a great deal.”
St. Bonaventure offers students the opportunity to live out the Franciscan ministry of presence, whether they’re involved in BonaResponds or serving at The Warming House, Bonaventure’s student-run soup kitchen.
“Francis and Clare of Assisi were close to the poor, to the ordinary citizens of their town,” Sr. Margaret said. “Our students show this same kind of solidarity on so many levels whether in the area around campus or back home. There is no student organization that does not find a way to do something for the needy or to support important services like blood drives, food pantries, collections for families in need, the list goes on.”
Victoria Wangler, ’21, graduated from St. Bonaventure with a double major in professional & creative writing and English literature and minors in marketing and Spanish. She is a current DC Service Corps volunteer, serving as FMS’ development and operations associate.
DC Service Corps volunteers are placed in nonprofits throughout the District of Columbia, including the FMS office, United Nations High Commissioner of Refugees, the Fr. McKenna Center, and Don Bosco Cristo Rey High School. Volunteers live together in an intentional community at FMS’ house of hospitality, Casa San Salvador, in northeast D.C. during their year of service.
Wangler credits St. Bonaventure with expanding her understanding of Franciscanism while she was a student.
“I had so many opportunities to lean more into my Franciscan spirituality. Volunteer days at Mt. Irenaeus and The Warming House, as well as longer term service trips, allowed me to directly use my hands and my heart to care for vulnerable people and creation,” she said.
Wangler first heard about FMS when she traveled with St. Bonaventure on a short-term service trip to Guatemala in June 2019. The students stayed at the Valley of the Angels Orphanage outside of Guatemala City, Guatemala, where they spent their days living and volunteering in the community. The trip was led by Meghan Meros, former associate director of FMS.
“It was an incredibly eye-opening and heartbreaking experience that had a profound impact on me. When I came back home, I had a fire in my soul to pursue service after I graduated from Bonaventure. The more I learned about FMS and its domestic service program, the DC Service Corps, the more I felt strongly to apply. I submitted my application in the winter of 2021 and by March I had signed the paperwork and began to plan my new life in Washington, D.C.,” said Wangler.
Lauren Barry, ’21, graduated from St. Bonaventure with her BA in psychology and with minors in sociology and theater. She was first introduced to FMS through a short immersion trip with Bonaventure to St. Francis Inn in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, during her freshman year. The trip was led by Jeff Sved, former director of the Franciscan Center for Social Concern at St. Bonaventure, former FMS board member, and an FMS lifelong missioner who served in Cochabamba, Bolivia.
By her senior year, Barry knew she wanted to do a year of service and was encouraged by Wangler to apply for the DC Service Corps. Through her role as case manager at the Fr. McKenna Center, she assists men experiencing homelessness with applying for Social Security, food stamps, and finding jobs.
Barry’s understanding of Franciscan spirituality, instilled at St. Bonaventure, has grown during her time with FMS.
“When I first came here, I thought care for creation was just nature, but then I broadened my horizons and now see it also as the creation of my Casa members and the relationships I have between them,” she said.
Wangler’s parents, who are also St. Bonaventure alumni, wrote her a letter to open after they helped her move into St. Bonaventure as a freshman in 2017.
“In the center of the page, my mother had written, ‘Welcome to your Bona Ventura – the good journey.’ The bona ventura. The good journey. What is this life if not a good journey? What are God’s plans for us if not the good journey? I am so happy to be here. I am so grateful for finding my home in the Franciscan tradition,” she said.
To learn more about Franciscan Mission Service, visit their website www.franciscanmissionservice.org.
(Emily Putzke is a communications associate at Franciscan Mission Service.)