Continuing the Charism–Alumni Spotlight

Neil Savoy
Franciscan Volunteer 2015-2016

As a member of the Franciscan Volunteers: No Risk, No Gain program, I was able to continue in my spiritual journey and expand the values that drive my everyday life and career. I was raised Catholic.  In fact I was baptized at a Franciscan church. But as I got older, I began to wrestle with my understanding of myself and the Church. After attending a Catholic college where I became involved in our LGBTQ+ organization and Campus Ministry retreats, I came to understand that as a gay man, my sexuality and faith were not irreconcilable. In fact, when I applied to the program, the sisters were so warm and welcoming to me that I was immediately drawn in.

As someone who had studied abroad in Spain and majored in Spanish, it was important to me to find a service program that would offer me a chance to use my language skills. My placement with the Family Counseling Center of St. Paul’s allowed me to work with an incredible staff committed to working with Wilmington’s Latino population. I was inspired every day by the organization’s commitment to helping a population that too often goes underserved and could address the intersection of a non-majority community and mental health.

When I think back on the Franciscan values that resonated with me most, meeting people where they are immediately comes to mind. As someone who is pursuing a career in student affairs and with the administrative work that shapes the student experience outside of the classroom, I am constantly reminded of the need to personalize the care I offer students. Meeting people where they are is about recognizing the wholeness of a person, understanding what has led them to where they are now, and walking with them—if only for a limited time—as they discern their next step.

Discernment was another piece of Franciscan spirituality I came to appreciate. When I joined the program, I had yet to finalize my career aspirations. At the time, I planned to pursue work with the federal government but was unsure of this direction. As the topic of discernment popped up again and again as a Franciscan volunteer, I realized I wanted a career that would be fulfilling for me but also of direct service to others. This led me to recognize that continuous growth and learning were values that had always driven my life and that student affairs would allow me to live by them every day.

Reverence and care for creation also stand out from my experience. I had been told before joining the program to “find God in all things,” and while I felt I understood this expression, I found that the Franciscans lived it out in their relationship with the Earth and its people. Working within higher education, sustainability is continuously gaining traction as something we need to be mindful of in our strategic planning and daily operations, and as we do so, I am reminded of the gifts around us, both human being and our surroundings, that require our careful stewardship.

Last, the program taught me a lot about community. Mikah, Kathleen, and Sabina were some of the most loving people I have ever met. They welcomed me with open arms, and were sincerely invested in the well-being of one another and the group as a whole. We each had very different backgrounds but we found communion in our desire to grow in our relationship to God. While I ultimately left the program halfway through as I needed to tackle some private challenges, my community members were supportive of my need to take a step back and we remain in touch to this day.

Volunteer Alumni

Kathleen WebsiteKathleen Lamontagne 
Hometown: Manchester, NH

Ministry: I volunteer as an organic gardener on Red Hill Farm. I love caring for creation by cultivating natural gifts from the earth to feed God’s people.

As a nature enthusiast, I love spending time outdoors, whether it is hiking, swimming, going for long runs, or just exploring the natural world. I am always up for an adventure and enjoy traveling to new places and immersing myself in different cultures. I like to make creative gifts and bake gluten free treats for my big family. I am excited to start dental school this fall so that I can live out my calling to lovingly serve my community as a dentist.

Sabina1Sabina Marroquin
Hometown: San Antonio, Texas

Ministry: The community at the Aquinas Center in Philadelphia, is a favorite part of my ministry. The diversity, hospitality, dedication, and faith present there has been so life giving! I especially enjoy when we host groups at Aquinas and they are able to be immersed in our community for a week. Watching people come together from various walks of life is always beautiful.

My first day of ministry was a late night that ended in a storm and the discovery that my car battery had died.  With almost no phone battery left, I thought I was going to be stranded in a brand new city. Thankfully someone from Aquinas came with the parish priest to give my car a jump and save the day. It’s been an adventure every day since!

Mikah WebsiteMikah Ochieng
Hometown: Taneytown, MD

Ministry: My ministry site is at Anna’s Place in Chester, Pennsylvania. There I am able to work alongside the sisters while helping to bond with and instruct students from the Chester area in computer skills.

I really take interest in the happenings of my city, Philadelphia, whether that takes shape in its exciting cultural events, music, food, recreational opportunities—such as biking along the Schuylkill river—or enjoying the nightlife environment with friends.  I had something interesting happen to me recently. Over the weekend, I was driving back from Massachusetts with a friend. About halfway through the trip—while we were driving through New York City—our car conveniently decided to give up the ghost. We ended up stranded for some time before we got our car towed off the highway in Queens and into the Brooklyn neighborhood where we would have to wait for what felt like an eternity before AAA towed the car to a mechanic. By then it was getting late in the evening and we had no other option but to find some other way back to Philadelphia. Did I mention that our cell phones were dying?  The AAA service worker was kind enough to allow us to charge our phones in his truck as we were being towed—he even dropped us off at a subway station and directed us to where we could catch a bus back to Philly. In the end we made it back home safely and sanely after a 12-hour ordeal. In retrospect, however, it was a transformative bonding experience between the friend with whom I was traveling and me.