God continues to invite us to participate in the mission of love. Crossing borders and encountering our brothers and sisters around the world is an opportunity for a mutual exchange of the joy that comes from living the Gospel. We not only evangelize others, but are changed in the process and evangelized by those we encounter! In this space you can hear the stories of people who have been changed by their encounters on one of our immersion trips.
I have been on several trips with Br Paul and will be going to Turkey in October and Cuba in March with him.
I have had the pleasure of working with Br. Paul as a coordinator for college students at the Catholic Center at the University of Georgia. We have been extremely blessed by the collaboration with Br Paul to send our students on wonderful trips both domestically and internationally. All of our students come back with a new awareness of the reality of the world and better understanding of catholic social teaching. Our students plan on going to these trips thinking they will change the lives of those they will encounter only to find out they are the ones who are changed by the experience.
The best opportunities we provide our students is the opportunity to travel the world with the Franciscans and experience a ministry of presence. They are able to reflect at the end of each day on what they have seen and how that has effected them. Br Paul does a great job in putting these trips together with great care and collaboration with his partners.
I look forward to future trips and a continued partnership with Br Paul and Franciscan Missionary Union.
The God of Surprises had a huge one in store when I read of a journey to South Africa in the bulletin of St.Anthony’s Shrine (“Arch Street”) over a year ago. In lovewith Africa since my 2012 Ghana journey, I was eager to experience the learning and service opportunity offeredby this trip with college students, a few older folks andBr. Paul O’Keeffe, head of Mission and Outreach for the Franciscans. Br. Paul had planned a rich schedule encompassing historical reality, present-day social justice issues, personal encounters with children orphaned by AIDS, and opportunities to meet heroes of the movement on behalf of people oppressed by centuries of colonialism and a brutal segregation system known as “apartheid”. Just as it sounds, apartheid’s objective was separating people from each other, categorizing and devaluing them on the basis of color, keeping the native people virtually enslaved for hard labor in the gold, silver and platinum mines that enriched those who had traveled across the sea to plunder and inhabit the African continent. One of the most beautiful surprises was the deep peace of people who had suffered greatly and yet realize that we are called to forgiveness and to love. That peace seemed embodied in the hills, plains and skies of this land where time – and humankind – began.
Each of our eleven days in country began with prayer from Br. Paul’s “Prayers for the Journey” and orientation to what lay ahead. The first day’s prayer included reflections on mission, the Prayer of St. Francis as intention, and commissioning with Franciscan Tau crosses. We were to grow in appreciation of the order’s charisma – living and ministering with the poor – while meeting heroes of care and compassion throughout our journey.
My name is Katherine, and I have been blessed to be a part of two trips with Br. Paul. The ﬁrst was in Spring 2013, when I traveled with a group from the University of Georgia Catholic Center to Washington DC for one week. Here, we were able to serve the community and witness the poverty, spiritually and ﬁnancially, that exists in our nation’s capitol. In a city where there is so much power and so much wealth, we held the hands of those who were unable to feed themselves consistently, and we met the soldiers ﬁghting on their behalf. I was inspired by this experience to learn more about the Franciscan Mission Missionary Union and their various other experiences oﬀered to young adults. After graduating in May 2013, I traveled to South Africa with new friends who were on the trip from other schools. Going to Africa was a dream of mine, and I am so grateful I was able to through the lens of the Franciscans. My time in Cape Town, Johannesburg, and Rustenburg allowed me time to reﬂect on my goals regarding social justice, my passion for learning about other cultures, and my faith in God. There is so much beauty, warmth, and love in a country where tragedy and suﬀering abounds. I cried every day; I laughed every day; I learned of the pain apartheid inﬂicted then and now; and I learned more about human resilience than I imagined I could. My time spent in South Africa was spiritually renewing, and I will treasure it always.