November 12, 2013
FrancisCorps is a member of Catholic Volunteer Network (CVN) which represents over 200 Catholic volunteer organizations and the 20,000 volunteers working with us. This weekend CVN held its National Conference in Silver Spring, MD where the results of a survey of former volunteers was reported.
“Startling” is how Fr. Tom Gaunt, SJ the Executive Director of The Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA) described the ground breaking survey They interviewed over 5,000 young adults who had done a year of service like FrancisCorps. The survey found that former volunteers: attend mass weekly 3x more than their peers, have a startling and sustained degree of religious/parish engagement than their peers, donate to their parishes 4x more than their peers, consider religious life 3x more than their peers, 6% of them are in priesthood or religious life compared to <1% of their peers, have a higher degree of satisfaction with their lives than the average, have a divorce rate of only 9% and are 3x more likely to be engaged in civic/community action.
They also noted that “there is something in the water at Catholic high schools” that makes students more likely to do a year of service and that university Catholic campus ministries make a lasting impact on the lives of students and inculcating values of service.
John Allen, jr, CNN’s Senior Vatican Correspondent was the keynote speaker at the conference challenged Catholic leaders to understand that there needs to be a paradigm shift as the laity take on the bulk of the Church’s apostolic mission. Religious leaders’ commitment to lay empowerment will determine the strength of this mission. Allen said stated that this fits well with Pope Francis’ vision and we would do well to take advantage of this “Francis kairos moment” and invest in young adult ministers as privileged carriers of the Pope’s vision of a poor Church for the poor.
Other speakers included Dr. Carolyn Woo, CEO / President of Catholic Relief Services who challenged us to recognize the potential we have in working with young adult volunteers to transform their lives. Young adults are affected by a culture that is covertly hostile to the young by unrealistic expectations and competition. She said we need to form our volunteers to realize that service is not a transaction but rather a relationship and the primacy of persons over the primacy of markets. The love and service of our volunteers is a proclamation of God’s love and that the hands of the poor whom we serve form the altar of our sacramental offering to God. This is challenging since many young adults relate to God as a “divine butler” praying “Get me…” all the time. Faith formation imperative in working with young adults.
Mark Kennedy Shriver who reminded us of his father, Sargent Shriver and his founding of PeaceCorps, HeadStart and Vista and the need to recognize what our volunteers bring to the world. “What you do are acts of love and hope daily.”
The representatives of the Franciscan program members (FranciscanServiceNetwork.org ) also met during the conference to discuss how we can better cooperate in the formation of our volunteers in the Franciscan charism.