“These 40,000 hours are the equivalent of one person working for 20 years,” said Pat Schlauderaff, FCV Director. “That milestone represents an opportunity for young adults to enrich the lives of others and develop their own sense of self.”
A sponsored ministry of the Franciscan Sisters of Little Falls, the program is built on three pillars: service, community living and Franciscan spirituality. Volunteers, aged 21-30, make an 11-month commitment to volunteer full-time in local non-profit agencies that serve the needs of those who are poor and marginalized while accepting the challenge of living simply and in accordance with Gospel values.
“As young adults apply to the FCV program, they express their service interests and experience, which is then matched with a non-profit organization around the St. Cloud community,” Schlauderaff said. “Over the years, 30 volunteers have served full-time with 21 non-profit organizations.”
This years’ service sites include Casa Guadalupe/Diocese of St. Cloud Multicultural Ministry, Saint Benedict’s Senior Community, STRIDE Academy, Anna Marie’s Alliance, Place of Hope Shelter Homeless Program, and Boys and Girls Club-Southside.
Past service sites have included Cathedral High School –Service Learning Program, Hands Across the World, Caring Hands Dental, St. Cloud Diocese Office of Social Concerns, St. Cloud Diocese Mission Office, St. Cloud Catholic Charities Children’s Home, Lutheran Social Services of MN-Refugee Resettlement Program, Habitat ReStore, CentraCare Recovery Plus, Catholic Charities-Multicultural Ministries, St. Cloud School District Special Education, Opportunity Matters, Mid-MN Legal Aide, CentraCare Project Heal and Center for Service Learning for Social Change
“Long-term volunteering is not a year off work or school,” Schlauderaff emphasized. “It’s not uncommon that this experience for a volunteer year to be instrumental in forming the next steps for a young adult. This amazing opportunity typically starts with the person in August coming to FCV ready to change the world. After the 11 months of service they realize that they have changed: their world view, their spirit, their vocation of making a difference where they can. One of the difficult moments for most volunteers is realizing that they may not see the changes they seek, they plant the seeds, they water and nurture the young plants, and it is only in time that the seeds planted will take strong root and grow.
“They see the importance of positive role models and mentors in the lives of youth who have experienced trauma, what can happen when community organizations collaborate around an issue affecting the underserved or how a hospitable presence for a refugee family can help facilitate their transition to a new life in this country.”
In addition to the work they do, these Franciscan volunteers intentionally choose to live with others in a community setting. “The key word is ‘intentional,’” Schlauderaff said. “They want to learn from others as they purposefully form relationships based on faith and growth in that faith. They work through issues, much like a family, and they learn skills that will help them life-long, regardless of their career choice. In addition to the volunteer community, three Franciscan Sisters live at the Franciscan Welcoming House as well. This creates a living, dynamic, intergeneration community that is nothing short of life-giving and life-changing.”
She added, “Statistics show that people who commit to a year of service continue to volunteer and serve in their community and their church. Living simply and immersing oneself in Franciscan Spirituality for those 11 months changes their lives. Living the Gospel becomes a way of life. Simple things like caring for creation, committing to being the hands and feet of Jesus and going out in the world and making a difference has been proven over and over. From the Franciscan Community Volunteer program we have doctors, chemical dependency counselors, dentists, attorneys, people preparing for ordained ministry, social workers, non-profit leaders and more. They are blessed to have been able to have this experience! We are blessed to have had them in our community and our lives.”