As the bus slowly maneuvered its way through Assisi’s serpentine roads, our pilgrimage guides told us, “Welcome home.” And yes, after eight years of walking with the Franciscans on missions trips during college, during my year of service as a volunteer with FrancisCorps, and now as the Associate Director here at FrancisCorps, I did feel as if I had finally arrived at my spiritual home.
Throughout my pilgrimage experience in Assisi, one thing became abundantly certain: Francis clearly did some major walking in his time! While most of our trips to surrounding areas that impacted the life and ministry of Francis took an hour or two by bus, it must have taken him weeks or months to traverse a similar route.
This physical journey, however, has no comparison to the radical conversion Francis underwent from a young man seeking riches and glory to understanding the will of God by embracing the leper.
The physical and spiritual journeys of St. Francis, especially experienced in the same places he once called home, helped me put into perspective the experiences that brought me back to FrancisCorps and why I was drawn to FrancisCorps in the first place.
I remember driving up interstate 81 as an incoming volunteer, nervous but excited, as the Syracuse skyline peered behind the mountains, knowing that soon I would embark on a year-long experience of serving and living in the community.
This journey was the first of many in these last four years that saw me volunteer thousands of miles away in Alajuela, Costa Rica, move to Syracuse to serve as Associate Director, travel to countless cities and college campuses throughout the States to share the FrancisCorps experience with students discerning faith-based service, and ultimately walk in the footsteps of Saint Francis in Assisi.
Despite being alone on the narrow cobblestone streets of Assisi, I felt my FrancisCorps community members walking alongside me. It was through them and FrancisCorps’ emphasis on daily, intentional interactions based around service, prayer, and community living, where I grew and stretched in order to live out the Gospel in deep and meaningful ways. Today, valuing relationships, serving with joy, and discerning prayerfully, are all values that influence my roles as Associate Director, as a daughter, as an aunt, and as a friend. My time as a FrancisCorps volunteer is a part of a larger picture of who I am, but it is a part that remains with me, continuing to shape who I am as my journey continues.