Sharing the Spirit....
Reaching out to the less fortunate—those lacking the advantages that Franciscans take for granted—is a key mission of our parish. Our outreach program is broad and diverse: from the subway grates of Washington, DC, to the dirt floors of classrooms of South Sudan, our parishioners seek to make a difference in the lives of those we serve. Franciscans feel passionately about this ministry, and it is reflected in the St. Francis mission statement for outreach:
To identify needs in our community, our city, and the world where our financial commitment and hands-on involvement aid in alleviating human suffering, empower those in need to become self sufficient, and strengthen the love of Christ in areas we touch and within ourselves.
For more information, see Outreach Services.
Jack – Oakton
My favorite part of St. Francis is Outreach. I can't imagine St. Francis without an active Outreach program.
Over the years, I've been inspired by Franciscans who have organized and participated in these activities. We usually spend most of our Outreach budget on projects and organizations that engage our parishioners directly as volunteers. I think that our best projects mix a bit of money, a lot of parishioner involvement, and some help from a partner organization to accomplish something great.
For example, we bought supplies at Costco so that parishioners could make and deliver 200 bag meals to the homeless through a Salvation Army program in downtown Washington, DC. In another program, a partnership with Transitional Housing Corporation, we purchased mattresses and rented a truck so we could furnish an apartment for a homeless family with parishioner-donated furniture, and kitchen and bathroom supplies.
There are many outlets for our charitable impulses but, for me, it's important that Outreach be a Christian act. It's sometimes hard to understand God's will or know how to bear witness to Christ -- but these things usually seem clear when I'm working on an Outreach project.
Alternative House (Serving Abused and Homeless Children)
Sarah – McLean
I have been a member of St. Francis for a little over one year, after being a long-time member at a Lutheran church in McLean. I read about the Alternative House ministry in the bulletin one Sunday and saw it as a natural fit for my skills. I was a pediatric ophthalmologist previously. Now I’m an 8th grade science teacher, so I have a strong interest in nurturing kids of all ages—especially teens. I, along with several other parishioners, take dinner to Alternative House two Sundays a month. The best part is eating with the kids and staff, and simply by being present, showing them that they are worth our time. I'm not sure who feels better after our home-cooked meals, them or us! Meeting others from St. Francis who feel the same way has been an added bonus.
St. Francis School in Juba, South Sudan
Virginia – McLean
Hi, I am a wife and mother of three young children. I have been a member of St. Francis for about six years. The community is what drew my husband and me to St Francis. I was especially intrigued and impressed with the outreach program in South Sudan, namely the St. Francis School in Juba. When the opportunity to travel to South Sudan presented itself in 2013, I felt called to go. Having been a teacher, I was eager to see first hand the school, which we support. The strong connection between our church and the individuals at the school in Juba was amazing. It truly was a life-changing experience, one that would not have been afforded to me without the thoughtful nature of our church community.
Tutoring in Anacostia, Washington, D.C.
Ellen – Great Falls
I am one of several people at St. Francis who tutor elementary school children in Anacostia, Washington, D.C. These are children who struggle academically and have many challenges in their daily lives. Our emphasis is on improving their reading skills, but we make time to just talk, to get to know each child, to share some of our experiences and to listen to what they are thinking about. The children look forward to seeing us each week, and we are greeted with big smiles and hugs.
In addition to the one-on-one tutoring, we collect books for the children and have set up shelves in the cafeteria where they can find things of interest to read after they have finished eating and are waiting to return to their classrooms. St. Francis has a school supplies and winter coat drive each August so we are able to distribute warm clothing and notebooks in the fall for the children.
We help with Martin Luther King Day, a celebration at the school where entire families and neighbors come for a day of activities and entertainment, and in some cases we have a chance to meet the children’s families. It is a great privilege to work with these children, and I hope our presence and our friendship will make a difference in their lives.
Transitional Housing Corp. (Housing Services for the Homeless)
Janet – Great Falls
I've been attending since my son was baptized at St. Francis 22 years ago. The Outreach programs have always inspired me, especially the work St. Francis does with Transitional Housing Corporation (THC). On many occasions I've led the team of Franciscan volunteers to outfit an apartment from top to bottom for a homeless family. I was moved to do this when one of the coordinators came to speak at St. Francis and showed video of some of their clients.
One homeless lady was so touched she wept with gratitude at having a fresh pillow with an actual pillowcase! Like you, I take pillowcases for granted, and I knew then that I wanted to be a part of this ministry. I'm proud of the outpouring of apartment items that parishioners contribute when it's time to furnish a THC apartment and enjoy the challenge of putting my meager interior decorating skills to create a comfortable home. To hear the caseworker tell of the cries of joy and squeals of excitement when a homeless family walks through the door of its new home is profoundly rewarding.
Salvation Army Grate Patrol
Grant – Great Falls
Several years ago during the holiday season I had my first experience participating in the Salvation Army Grate Patrol. Throughout the evening we helped distribute prepared meals to over 80 homeless people within the urban center of Washington, D.C. At the time I was struck by the stark contrast between those weathered and desperate individuals who would spend their nights in the cold amidst the grand institutions that symbolize our great country. To see the homeless suffering only a 25-minute drive from St. Francis really put things into perspective.
As a youth who grew up in the sheltered community of Great Falls, this experience forced me to acknowledge and interact with the least fortunate among us. Yet, I also was able to find common ground. The homeless seemed to light up when I handed them a bag of food and a cup of hot chocolate. Several asked about my plans for the future. We are blessed by God to be brought together to serve one another.
I believe outreach is an essential part of our faith as Christians, and it is important to interact with others outside of our community—many who are different from the people in our daily lives. Activities like the Grate Patrol provide unique opportunities to broaden our perspectives and our understanding of God's will, as he works through our lives of faith.
Samaritan Ministry and Transitional Housing Corp.
(Employment and Housing Services)
Dana – Reston
The Christmas party for Samaritan Ministry and Transitional Housing was a lot of fun… Lots of friendly, happy kids and happy families… My favorite memory? Seeing the kids’ faces when they saw Santa Claus walk in. I loved helping out, and I would recommend this activity to everyone. It's a great opportunity to give your time to those who need your help, especially at such an important and special holiday for kids.