“Go with God”
FrancisCorps began as just another application to just another program on just another winter’s day. When I was accepted into the program and arrived on August 7th, that swiftly changed. What was an exciting idea quickly became tangible and oh so invigorating. I arrived at the FrancisCorps house, chose the best room, moved all my belongings in the sweltering heat, loitered in the mall to steal its air conditioning, made my way to the retreat center where orientation took place, and met the 7 people who have changed my life forever. It’s been 15 weeks since we volunteers awkwardly greeted each other for the first time. Yet I feel like these people have irremovably become my community—my family. Circle questions, day trips, late night prayers, raucous laughter about silly things, dramatic retellings of our workdays, deftly navigating community living with 8 people, group hugs, an abundance of shoulders to cry on, meticulous planning, long hikes where some of us tut and sigh at the feet-draggers in the back, community meals, and above all—love. How did my FrancisCorps journey begin? Thanks to Kasia, Jenna, Janet, Jazmin, John, Miranda, and Miriam—it began with love and unending joy. It’s hard to believe that just over 15 weeks ago, these were strangers. Now I cannot imagine anyone else with whom I would rather spend this year of growth and service.
The FrancisCorps experience is whatever I make of it. That is what I find most exciting. Sure there is some pre-planned structure and events but the result goes beyond that baseline. Take my service site for example. Yes, the Catholic Charities Men’s Shelter would probably never have heard of me without the Franciscan connection. Yet beyond that, the decisions I make and the way I feel is entirely up to me. My time at the shelter so far has been downright incredible. Is it what I expected? No. Did I choose to adapt and accept the site and meet all its people where they are for who they are? Heck yes! Now I can greet 90% of our clients by name. Which always makes me smile when I do so and they reply “You already know my name? I don’t even know yours!” Whether it’s joke-filled conversations in the security booth or listening to a man break down and admit he needs help—I treasure the gift FrancisCorps has given me in allowing me to be there.
This free-spirited approach applies beyond my service site as well. Syracuse and Onondaga county have offered many opportunities to craft my FrancisCorps experience into something uniquely Olav. Armed with my new Franciscan family and two gently-loved vehicles, we’ve made memories that I know will be treasured for years to come. I am truly grateful at this program’s method. It feels as if we were given a solid foundation on what it means to be Franciscan and what it means to be a volunteer, then given the keys to our own lives and told to “Go with God” to make of this year whatever we like. So far, I indeed do like this year and look forward to whatever joyful mischief the next 8 months bring.
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