Alexandria M. Egler, Ph.D., Executive Director, Mission, Ministry & Interfaith Dialogue, Adjunct Professor of Religious Studies, St. Francis College
To live a life of love through a Franciscan lens means to be in relationship. A relationship with all of creation, with other human beings and ultimately with God. This trinitarian framework is the approach that both Francis and Clare embraced as they fell in love with God. Through their deep desire to know and love God they came to know their truth…a truth that resonates within each of us. This is that we as humans are invited into a deep and loving relationship with the Divine through our shared love for and service to others. What we learn from studying, imitating and praying with the lives of Clare and Francis is that when we create, build and sustain loving relationships, we are in service to others, to creation and to God.
Service reflects love and love invites service. Service affects a deeper understanding of our purpose and meaning which is a response to the unconditional invitation to be in relationship, to be in love with God, creation and one another.
As you read the poignant and unequivocal stories of the lives of service of our profiled alumni, I believe you will be struck with the profound simplicity of their vocations to serve others by living lives of love. It is as evident and transparent as that. Yet in these manifestations of lives dedicated in service to others, there is a prolific undercurrent of the spirituality of our Franciscan Tradition: God’s extravagant love poured out into this world. This is a love that is unceasingly and unselfishly shared with the poor, the marginalized and the outcast in very real and material ways as well as emotionally and spiritually.
Service is integral to what it means to be a Franciscan in the world. The understanding of service can be honored, unpacked, and fulfilled in myriad ways. We recognize those who serve in our armed forces, and as civil servants as police officers, firefighters, EMTs, sanitation workers. We pay tribute to our doctors, nurses and all who work in the area of healthcare. We honor the countless members of our communities who work in transportation and construction, our teachers, food delivery personnel, as well as our religious leaders: rabbis, priests, imams, gurus, chaplains, all the women and men who have continually put themselves in vulnerable positions to not only defend, form and guide our nation but who also keep our cities and our country moving forward during this deadly pandemic and throughout history.
Service is reflected in what we do for one another as members of a community. How do we listen, how do we hear, how do we respect points of difference? What can we offer those who are in need, who are vulnerable, lonely, weary, marginalized or forgotten? These are the questions and touchpoints of consideration that we are invited to reflect upon as we read these stories of our alumni, Richard, Kimberly, Patrick, Abraham, and Nicole. Francis and Clare of Assisi turned inward to God in order to externally share who they were with others. Through their pursuit of God’s love they came to discover the deep peace and all-pervading goodness of God at work in our world.
A Franciscan life of love is a life of generous and benevolent service to others. These profiles of our SFC alumni are indeed profiles of Franciscans who live lives of humble courageous and loving service. These alumni reflect the Franciscan values that are embedded in the wholistic education that is shared, received and sent out into the world. The Franciscan value of service began with the Franciscan Brothers of Brooklyn when they established St. Francis College over 160 years ago. It continues to anchor our campus life and clearly through the lives of these alumni and countless others, is very much a joyful practice in our world.
Peace and all good.