Friday, April 18, 2014

Poor and Free: "Letting Go of Lent"

Franciscan Mission Service presents: 
“Poor and Free: A Spiritual Yes to Less” every Friday in Lent

Past Series contributions: 

Fr. Martin Day, OFM Conv., is a former board member of Franciscan Mission Service. In this entry of "Poor and Free: A Spiritual Yes to Less", Fr. Martin reflects on the joy in "letting go" of self-judgments and the happiness from celebrating God's loving mystery. 

We wish all Christians a meaningful Good Friday and hope that we are all brought closer to God's love.

Where are we at this point in our Lenten journey? It could be an occasion for us to “buckle down” and give a final push to our Lenten resolutions. Perhaps we can still make it!

Or, we might be at the point of thinking that we were a bit too ambitious when Lent began and, at this point in the penitential season, we might be confronted with the reality that what we said we were going to do has become a mathematical impossibility. This latter case might apply, for example, if we thought that, somehow, our Lenten fasting would lead to a reduction in waist size.

I would like to suggest another option: Perhaps it is best if we “let go” of Lent.

"To let go of Lent means to forget ourselves for a moment" - Fr. Martin Day, OFM Conv.
Lent is designed to prepare our hearts to celebrate the feast of our salvation. The first step in the process is to come to a deeper realization that the salvation being celebrated actually applies to us! Lent helps us get past the notion that we can save ourselves—if we are good enough then God will have to let us into heaven.

The most successful Lent could be the one where we come face to face with our inability to measure up on our own to the demands of the Gospel.

At this point in the season, however, the focus shifts. Whatever has happened, or not happened during this Lenten season now has to give way to the actual celebration of salvation. We have now to relinquish the center stage, which we had previously occupied with attentiveness to our prayer life, our almsgiving, our fasting and abstinence, to the work that Christ has done through his sacrifice on the cross, and the work that is continuing through the power of the Holy Spirit still at work in the world.
"To let go of Lent means to forget ourselves for a moment and revel in the simple fact that God has seen fit to save us"
These realities will always be the main event, even if we feel much more in touch with our response to them, however lacking it may be.

To let go of Lent means to forget ourselves for a moment and revel in the simple fact that God has seen fit to save us, without there being any other reason to do so other than the fact that he loves us, and wants us to fulfill the purpose for which we were made—to rejoice in the life prepared for us from the foundation of the world.

Would that it were true that we were worthy of so great a gift. But the good news of salvation is that the gift is ours even though we are not worthy of it. We can only be in awe of that. And in our awe Lenten resolutions fall away. There is much more important work at hand—to celebrate the mystery of God’s redeeming love.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Takeaway Wednesday: 8 Characteristics of Discernment

It's National Volunteer Month with Franciscan Mission Service! Get excited, be inspired, and serve others during April.

In today's post, Program Coordinator Natalie Helfrick writes about the importance of prayerful discernment when considering both service opportunities and life-paths. In the joyful Franciscan spirit, Natalie advises us that the most important aspect of discernment is inviting God into our lives.

Discernment isn't like a game of hide-and-seek where God is the hider and we are the seekers. It's not a test to see if we can find His hidden will and "figure it out", "make sure our intentions are 100% pure" (they probably won't ever be!) and "pick right".

Rather, it's a process of uncovering the Goodness and Will of God as He uniquely knit them into our deepest desires and inner-most selves.

I recommend checking out this article called Praydreaming: Key to Discernment by Fr. Mark Thibodeaux (S.J.). In it, Fr. Thibodeaux highlights an exercise called "prayerdreaming" that he introduces in his book on discernment called God's Voice Within.

He shares:

"How, then, do I tap into these great desires? I daydream, that’s how! I fantasize about great and beautiful futures. I let God dream in me and I sit in silent awe and wonder as these holy dreams come to life before the eyes and ears of my soul."

God doesn't want us to be fearful and worried in the dark. Rather, the waiting, unknowing period can be clarifying of the goods we're choosing between, purifying of our intentions, and increasing of our trust as we invite God to direct our sails.

I once heard the anecdote: "A man came to a fork in the road and said, "Which way, God?" 

God replied, "I am with you."
"...what matters is that we're inviting God into our plans and decisions...."
Franciscan Mission Service offers a resource of materials for discernment on our website.

Here are some essential characteristics for discernment:
  1. Openness: Abandon any preconceived outcomes you may have and enter into discernment with an openness to accept any possible result.
  2. Humility: Recognize your imperfection and be willing to learn and be guided by God and others.
  3. Selflessness: Put your own desires aside, especially those driven by passions, and open your heart – putting no conditions on what God might call you to be or do.
  4. Courage: It takes courage to give up control and put the decision in God’s hands. Be ready to act boldly, if necessary, and be prepared to take risks.
  5. Knowledge of Yourself: Seek to grow in knowledge of yourself, becoming aware of your own strengths, weaknesses, and tendencies. The evil one will always attack you at your weakest points, so you must know your own weaknesses. By knowing yourself, you will also become more sensitive to the way God communicates with you personally.
  6. Honesty: Be honest with yourself and your feelings. You may feel called to do something difficult or uncomfortable. If you discern that call is from God, embrace it in the same way that you would embrace an “easy” or “favorable” calling.
  7. Patience: Understanding God’s will is an ongoing process. If you experience no feelings of consolation or peace while discerning, you must wait.
  8. Quiet: In order to listen to God, you have to make yourself quiet. This includes quieting the chatter of your mind. Meditation and centering prayer are good methods to “become quiet” before God.
So, what matters is that we're inviting God into our plans and decisions, asking to be led and accompanied. Thus, while we'll rarely have crystal clear certainty before we choose, we're called to trust that God knows our hearts and will bless us and make good of our sincere efforts to do God's will, even if we "miss the mark."

Natalie Helfrick is Program Coordinator for Franciscan Mission Service. A native of California and graduate of the University of Notre Dame's Echo program with a masters degree in theology, Natalie comes to Washington D.C. having spent a year-and-a-half in Bangkok, Thailand through Heart's Home, offering the "charism of compassion" as a sign of hope to those experiencing despair and desolation.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Forming New Disciples: 2014 World Care Benefit

Franciscan Mission Service recently celebrated the 2014 World Care Benefit! In today's blog, we share the evening in a post of gratitude for Anselm Moons, OFM award recipient Jack Jezreel, keynote speaker Fr. Dan Horan, OFM, and all of our sponsors and members of the Franciscan family.

As part of Friday night’s 2014 World Care Benefit, Franciscan Mission Service honored JustFaith founder Jack Jezreel for his impact on adult faith formation in the U.S. with the 9th Annual Anselm Moons, OFM Award.

About 120 people gathered at St. Francis Hall in northeast DC for an evening themed, “Profoundly Changed: New Disciples for Peace, Justice, and Hope.” JustFaith is a faith formation program for adults that, like Franciscan Mission Service, emphasizes social justice and mission service for the marginalized as essential to authentic faith formation.

9th Annual Anselm Moons, OFM Award recipient Jack Jezreel with Executive Director Kim Smolik
A video from Hady Mendez, an FMS missioner in Bolivia, testified to JustFaith’s influence on her discernment to answer God’s call to mission through Franciscan Mission Service.

During his acceptance speech, Jack addressed the urgent need for Catholics to follow the encouragement of Pope Francis to rejuvenate the Church through attention to Matthew 25, a Gospel chapter emphasizing faith formation as an integral aspect of discipleship.

“There should be no Christian disinterested in justice because that would be dismissing Jesus,” Jack said, “Social mission must be connected to spiritual mission.”

Attendee Cara Costa greatly enjoyed Jack’s acceptance speech, saying, “The words that stand out are, ‘We need to die for something to move on to the next phase of our lives.’ That’s really helpful for me to hear, this call to travel to a new phase by asking myself the question ‘What do I need to die to in order to move on?’”

Following Jack’s acceptance was another well-received and thought-provoking speech by keynote speaker Fr. Dan Horan, OFM. The popular author and retreat leader focused on the similarities between St. Francis of Assisi and Pope Francis, highlighting the foundation of Franciscanism: relationships.
Keynote speaker Fr. Dan Horan, OFM
“A better translation for Yaweh is ‘I AM the one who will always be there for you’...The name of God is ‘relationship’,” Fr. Horan said, “If the name of God is ‘relationship’, who do we say that we are?”

Fr. Curt Kreml, OFM Conv., who taught a class on moral theology for lay Franciscan missioner formation this fall, stated that his favorite part of the evening was hearing both Jack Jezreel and Fr. Horan speak.

“I think Fr. Horan got to the heart of the Franciscan charism. It’s about relationships. His words animate all Franciscans to form relationships in love,” Fr. Kreml said, “But, it was also nice just to have similar-minded people come together for an evening and enjoy each other.”

The branches of the Franciscan family tree were represented by the Conventuals, Capuchins and Order of Friars Minors; Franciscan sisters; the Friars of the Atonement, a Third Order Regular organization; Secular Franciscans from various fraternities; and members of other organizations such as Franciscan Action Network. Catholic Climate Covenant was also represented, as well as Education and Outreach for USCCB.

Members and guests of the Province of Our Lady of Consolation, including current Franciscan Mission Service board member Fr. Wayne Hellmann, OFM (Conv.) (top row, second from left.)
Before and after the speakers, guests enjoyed mingling over Lenten Friday-friendly appetizers and desserts and perusing the silent auction, which featured art such as wooden inlays from Bolivia. New to this year’s event were free samples of the wine and dessert items that were up for bid.

The sales table featured originally designed posters of Pope Francis as well as two original t-shirts: “Hanging with Franciscans: Make it a Habit” and “The Pope Gives Me Hope”. Both t-shirts are also available online. Proceeds from the entire evening, including the auction and sales table, went toward Franciscan Mission Service’s many ministries that create pathways for mission for the laity.

“The event was a success in so many ways,” Executive Director Kim Smolik said, “Above all, it was wonderful for so many Franciscans, religious and secular, and Franciscan-hearted people to gather and share an evening celebrating our mission: forming new disciples for peace, justice, and hope in the spirit of St. Francis.”

Thank you to all of our guests, silent auction donors, event volunteers, and sponsors.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Mission Monday: A Helpful Guide on How to Get Lost in a New City

In today's post, missioner Valerie Ellis proposes a satirical guide to urban navigation. Although new missioner Valerie Ellis was having an awfully hard time adjusting to the new city in January, she is happy to report that she only occasionally gets lost in the Cancha, and might not be the best guide anymore for getting lost in Cochabamba.

Now that I have lived in Cochabamba, Bolivia for awhile, I would like to share this helpful guide with you before I master the city and forget everything I have learned.

1. Do not look at a map before you leave. This is one of the most surefire ways to ensure that you will be able to get lost with ease.

2. Walk for at least half an hour after you realize that you may not know where you are going.

3. Don’t look at a watch or cell phone because you are so paranoid from the horror stories that you have heard about people getting (non-violently) mugged, and you do not want to end up in the same predicament.

4. Walk as quickly as you can in the wrong direction because you do not want to appear like a tourist.
View of Cochabamba by Valerie Ellis
5. Ask five people in broken Spanish (or your language of choice) how to get to a place that they have never heard of, and for which you do not know the address. Have one of them tell you, “No entiendo nada,” which could either mean, "I don’t understand you at all", or "I don’t understand because I have never heard of the place that you need to go."

6. Against your better judgment, ask a security guard from a reputable business how to find your way. When you finally locate your destination, burst into tears at the first person you recognize. After all, you spent all this time feeling like an idiot, and you would not want to let that feeling go!

7. Since you are such a big fan of the movie Groundhog Day, start all over in the same predicament the next day.

8. Be overly confident, because when you left your destination the day before, you paid attention to the street signs so you would know where you were going.

9. Realize that when you were looking at the street signs the day before, the sign you took note of was actually telling you how to get to the following street. Take that street instead of the one where you needed to turn.

10. Call a local person you know. Make sure that you are really frustrated, and that the information you give is not at all helpful because, in reality, you still know nothing about your new city.
    For you rebels who don’t like getting lost and actually like knowing where you are going, I will leave you with this happy ending (if you have enjoyed this instructional guide, here is your warning to stop reading): Your point of contact knows the city like the back of her hand, and she can talk you out of a cardboard box, or in my case, using local churches and businesses as landmarks. 

    When you get home, look at your map for the second time (because being someone who doesn’t like getting lost, you would have already reviewed it after your first day of being lost), and realize that the streets actually intersect and/or turn into each other and that your confusion stemmed from not being an “idiota” (or whatever the equivalent is in your country’s language of choice), but from being in a slightly wrong location on the correct streets.

    Also for you “glass half full” types, I will leave you with this reassuring song so you can remember why you are in your new location in the first place:

    Valerie Ellis is originally from Wichita, Kan., and prior to seeking mission life most recently lived in Tampa, Fla. Valerie has travelled internationally for work and pleasure, and designed and taught a class at Hillsborough Community College called “Avoiding Violence: Be a Part of the Solution.” Valerie hopes to work with children in Cochabamba and apply her knowledge of non-violence while on mission in Bolivia. 

    Friday, April 11, 2014

    Poor and Free: "Beyond Detachment"

    Franciscan Mission Service presents: 
    “Poor and Free: A Spiritual Yes to Less” every Friday in Lent

    Past Series contributions: 

    Marie Dennis has several ties to Franciscan Mission Service, including past involvement with Maryknoll organizations and current involvement with Pax Christi International. In 2007, we presented her with the Anselm Moons AwardShe also was a Souposium speaker and facilitated our returned missioner retreat in 2013. In this installment of our Lenten series, "Poor and Free: A Spiritual Yes to Less", Marie addresses the nuances and complexities of responding to social injustices with generosity and joy.

    Your work has called into question the ethics of just-war theory. In free-market capitalist democracy, how is it possible for Christians to translate spiritual poverty into public policy?

    Actually, I believe that spiritual poverty (Blessed are the poor in spirit …) is much more challenging than we are led to believe. Spiritual poverty moves us beyond “detachment” from the material possessions that we continue to accumulate toward real simplicity of lifestyle and – most importantly - into relationship with those who are impoverished in order to interpret reality from their perspective. 

    From that vantage point, we can begin to evaluate laws or public policy proposals and business or consumer practices by how they affect people who are poor and we can work with impoverished people to change the structures and transform the systems that create or perpetuate poverty.

    "The values and priorities of the Gospel have to inform decisions in the public arena"
    What is your response to a woman or man in a position of political authority who states that their Christianity is a private matter not necessarily conflicting with aggressive geopolitical stances or domestic policies indifferent to the marginalized?

    The responsibility of elected or appointed officials in a pluralistic society is very complex. Their personal faith will, hopefully, have a significant impact on their own values and integrity as a human being, which should be evident when they are running for office or being considered for appointment. 

     However, Christianity is not only about personal morality. Jesus’ powerful preaching and witness in the context of first century Palestine made evident that his invitation was also to discipleship in the public sphere. He emphasized over and over again the privileged place of impoverished and excluded peoples; the great need for compassion; the centrality to the discipleship journey of the work for social justice or righteousness; and the call to peacemaking and reconciliation. 

    Those are political tasks. The values and priorities of the Gospel have to inform decisions in the public arena – of both ordinary citizens and political authorities, but careful discernment about specific programs or policies will still be required as we struggle to apply these values to particular situations in our own times.

    Is spiritual poverty the ultimate antidote to war and violence?

    That depends on how you understand spiritual poverty. To be poor in spirit we have to shape our lives and futures from the standpoint and for the sake of those who are poor and, as we are slowly learning, in harmony with the integrity of creation. 

    That implies that spiritual poverty would be manifest in right relationships with the whole earth community (that includes humans), which moves in the direction of shalom – something much deeper and wider than the absence of war. Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, including his “hard sayings” (“love your enemy,” “turn the other cheek,” “you cannot serve both God and money,” “forgive”), offer a beautiful and comprehensive map for his disciples – and a powerful antidote to war and violence.
    Blessed are those who “live simply so that others may simply live”(Mohandas Gandhi)
    Despite the war and destruction in the world, Pax Christi’s message of peace is very positive. How does spiritual poverty figure into the joy of faith in Christ?

    Blessed (often translated as “happy”) are the poor, for they shall be called children of God… Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. One of the clearest measures of beatitude (or ultimate happiness) is poverty -- poverty that is both real and relational. Blessed are the poor themselves and blessed are the poor in spirit. 

    Blessed are the “throw-away” people, the survivors, the unemployed. Blessed are the migrants and the immigrants, the tortured, the violated. Blessed are all the people who are struggling to survive, to find a decent quality of life -- and blessed are those who “live simply so that others may simply live”(Gandhi). Deep joy flows abundantly from following the Beatitudes’ counter-cultural roadmap.

    You are the first woman to hold your leadership position at Pax Christi. How does spiritual poverty include detachment from prejudices, opening people’s minds and hearts to the conversations with women that build relationships and just inclusivity?

    To be poor in spirit, we have to believe in the equal dignity of every person in the eyes of God and act accordingly. That includes women. Jesus’ message about inclusive community was very clear and he repeated it often, in spite of the fact that it regularly got him in trouble and probably led to the Cross. 

    The obstacles to justice for women are many – from personal prejudices to systemic and structural barriers. The right relationships that flow from real poverty of spirit take hard work at many levels of life, regular practice and patience. But they are possible if we transform habits of exclusion both personally and politically.

    Marie Dennis is co-President of Pax Christi International with South African Bishop Kevin Dowling. She is also a Pax Christi USA Ambassador of Peace and contributing editor of Sojourners. She is author or co-author of seven books, including Diversity of Vocations (2008). She has also been involved with the White House Task Force on Global Poverty and Development, Catholic Peacebuilding Network, and Jubilee USA Network.

    Monday, April 7, 2014

    Mission Monday: "You're Going to Have to Wait"

    In today's post, missioner Annemarie Barret reflects on the privilege of time and how waiting on others, on events, and life in general has personally affected her and informed her toward deeper ministry of presence.

    “You are going to have to wait.”

    I remember Hermano Ignacio’s warning when he visited during our formation in Washington, D.C. He has lived in Bolivia for over 35 years and of all the things he decided to share with us about the reality of living in Bolivia, he said, “You are going to have to wait.”

    Of course, he was right.

    Waiting, more waiting, and still more waiting is one of the only constants in my life here in Bolivia.

    I cannot be sure if the other people will show up to the meeting, if the store will be open, if the traffic will be bad, if the micro bus line is running, if the gas truck will come. Well, I really cannot be sure of anything except the fact that I will have to wait to find out.

    Fellow garden worker in Santa Rosa with her daughter
    And in the midst of all of that waiting, it is pretty easy to get frustrated, to hate the world, to do everything but see beyond my own damn nose, to forget sometimes that I am not the only one waiting.

    But the relationships I have with Bolivians, specifically my relationships with the women in Santa Rosa, a more marginalized community in the southern zone of Cochabamba, remind me that this experience of waiting is not new for them. It has always been a significant part of their reality.

    Twice now, while visiting the house of one of the women in Santa Rosa, she has seemed very worried and distracted. She fidgeted around and kept opening and closing her cell phone.

    I finally asked what might be wrong. Both times, she was expecting her dad to visit from the campo but did not know when he would be arriving and could not get ahold of her siblings to find out. All she knew was where he was supposed to meet her, in the cancha, the largest open air market in the city, at least a 45 minute micro bus ride and a potential 30 plus minutes of waiting for the micro bus to pick her up from where she lives.

    The second time this happened, she accepted a ride into the city from our working team after we finished our meeting in her community. As I sat next to her on the ride in the back of our truck, she explained that she had left her cell phone at home with her kids. It was not like she could call her dad, anyways. He did not have a phone with him either.

    Newly planted garden in Santa Rosa
    But it was getting dark and her kids were home alone without dinner made, and she knew she still had at least another 30 minutes from where we were going to drop her off to arrive at the spot to meet her dad.

    She didn’t even know if he would wait for her that long. If she did not make it in time, he might just leave, which would turn her right back to waiting for the micro bus to take her back to her kids.

    With a half smile and mostly worried face she said to me, “I just wish I had wings. I wish I could just fly to the cancha.”

    Her experience is common. Another day, I visited one of the other women’s homes in Santa Rosa and I found her dad, who had also arrived for a visit from the campo, waiting outside her house. She was not home, and he did not have a way of contacting her. He heard from a neighbor that she had gone to the cancha. It was nearly 6 PM, and he told me he had been waiting since noon. He still did not know when she would get back.

    Sharing a meal with a family in Santa Rosa
    My experiences of waiting strike me as distinct from the waiting the women in Santa Rosa experience. I can complain all I want, but I still have a cell phone, no kids, money in my pocket, and easy access to transportation. The list of privileges I have that save me from ever experiencing too much anxiety has been long my whole life.

    But in living closer to the reality of these women, I am learning to see those privileges more clearly, to see how unfair, unjust their daily reality can be compared to my own, largely because we come from different economic backgrounds and I have always been able to buy my way out of such anxiety or suffering.

    And as a Franciscan lay missioner, I am also learning that the solutions to these complex problems do not lie in quick fixes like buying these women easier access to communication. Only in drawing closer in relationship with them are we able to begin to understand the complexity and begin to journey together with them in forming a response.

    For me, that journey begins with awareness, recognizing that there exists a grave world-wide inequality in access to resources. For those of us who are not quite so marginalized, available resources are just part of our daily lives, like access to potable water, nutritional food, effective education, reliable transportation, and basic forms of communication. We talk about them as rights, but many people I know experience these as privileges they do not know.

    But in knowing them, in sharing relationships with those who are marginalized in our communities, we may come to not only know the suffering, but the resilience and potential for solutions that exist in these communities as well.

    From St. Paul, Minnesota, Annemarie graduated from Loyola University in Chicago in 2012 with a degree in Communication Studies. Possessing a strong interest in social justice issues and some experience with international travel, she began her two years of mission in Bolivia in January 2013.

    Friday, April 4, 2014

    Poor and Free: "Faith Keeps Hope Alive"

    Franciscan Mission Service presents: 
    “Poor and Free: A Spiritual Yes to Less” every Friday in Lent
    Past Series contributions: 

    Today's installment of our Lenten series is an interview with Sr. Marie Lucey (OSF). She is Director of Advocacy and Member Outreach of Franciscan Action Network. Providing a Franciscan perspective to social advocacy, her interview reflects the joyful freedom of how saying "Yes" to God allows us to respond to God's love and call to serve.

    How have your vows as a religious sister given you freedom through a commitment to living without material attachments?

    I do not have the responsibility of a family or maintaining a home, so I’m free to give my time, energy and skills to the ministry of working for justice and peace.

    Through your past roles as LCWR liaison to Coalition of Catholic Organizations Against Human Trafficking, among other justice and peace organizations, how has your commitment to spiritual poverty, or voluntary simplicity, inspired or affected your commitment to social justice issues?

    I am no longer the LCWR liaison to the CCOAHT, but now represent Franciscan Action Network to this organization and others. My vow of poverty is not as much about material things as it is about availability, being open and ready to respond to the needs of others and the call to work for justice.
    Sr. Marie Lucey at a rally for immigration reform
    When faced with social injustices and political agendas unconcerned with the poor, many people ask, “What can I do?” How do you respond to that question? Where does the freedom of spiritual poverty fit into that response?

    • First, remember that you are not the savior of the world--there was only One-- so know that it does not all depend on you. 
    •  Second, bring to prayer every injustice you address, not only personal prayer, but prayer in community with others, and also contemplative prayer. 
    • Third, become knowledgeable about the problem or issue you address. 
    • Fourth, speak truth to power, that is, to those who are in a position to make the change called for. 
    • Fifth, work in collaboration with others; don’t be a lone ranger. 
    Finally, celebrate and keep a sense of humor. All of this requires the "letting go" that is the challenge of spiritual poverty.

    Franciscan Action Network is involved in a campaign for just immigration reform. Does the concept of righteous anger have a spiritual role in such pressing social activism? Where should joy fit into our responses to social injustices?

    We collaborate with members of the USCCB Justice for Immigrants Campaign and the Interfaith Immigration Coalition. Yes, anger at injustice is as true for us as it was for the biblical prophets and Jesus, an anger that leads to action calling for change in unjust systems. Deep joy is essential, the joy that comes from walking in the footprints, sometimes bloody footprints, of Jesus.

    Despair or pessimism is paralyzing. Without hope, we might hear, but not respond to the cry of those who are poor, oppressed, marginalized. Faith, not in successful outcomes, but in a loving God, in the resurrected Jesus, in the unjustly treated themselves, keeps hope alive.

    Sister Marie (OSF) previously served as her congregation's Congregational Minister (President) after serving as Director of Corporate Social Responsibility, Justice and Peace Coordinator, and educator. She has participated in delegations to Nicaragua, Mexico, and a delegation of women religious to the Middle East to learn about the Iraqi refugee crisis in order to promote awareness, advocacy, and assistance. She currently serves Franciscan Action Network as Director of Advocacy and Member Relations.