As he handed out free bag lunches to feed hungry neighbors on Syracuse’s Northside, Alexander (A.J.) Lapoint didn’t know exactly how God was calling him. As a member of FrancisCorps, a young adult Franciscan volunteer service experience, A.J. was spending a year of his life living and praying with others as each served the poor. Whether he was offering sandwiches, hot meals, or bags of groceries, A.J. was encountering Jesus in the people he served, and deepening his Christian faith.
Founded in 1998 by Br. Jim Moore, OFM Conv., FrancisCorps has asked a few basic questions: How do we share the passion and vision of St. Francis of Assisi with the next generation of Catholics? How do we empower lay young-adults to make a difference? Its answer is to offer a year of living in community and providing Gospel service to brothers and sisters in need. In FrancisCorps, young adults live, eat, and pray together in one of two FrancisCorps volunteer houses: one located in Central New York in the city of Syracuse and the other in Alajuela, Costa Rica. In both Syracuse and Alajuela, FrancisCorps has seven different placement sites for the volunteers.
The placement sites work directly with the poor in after school community centers, in community centers for developmentally disabled adults, in food pantries for the poor and marginalized, assisting with refugee resettlement, helping at addiction treatment centers, and in a shelter for battered women and children to name a few. In its 17 years, over 100 FrancisCorps volunteers have experienced this life-transforming year of community life and service to the poor.
As important as the service is to FrancisCorps, though, it isn’t its only mission. According to A.J. LaPoint, “the heart and soul of the FrancisCorps experience is found in the community experience. It is through community activities such as shared meals, prayer, weekly house meetings, and retreats that the volunteers are able to process and internalize their experiences so that it can shape and form them.”
In 2015, five years after he served in its tenth class of volunteers, Alexander (A.J.) LaPoint returns to FrancisCorps as its Director. A.J. will be taking over for Friar Rick Riccioli, OFM Conv., the current Director. Friar Rick will continue to serve as the Franciscan chaplain to FrancisCorps, coordinating the fraternal relationship with the friars and providing the faith and Franciscan formation for the FrancisCorps volunteers. A.J. says “I am excited to be able to give back to a program that has been so influential in my own life in such an important way. I look forward to working with Friar Rick, the Franciscan Friars Conventual, and the entire FrancisCorps family to continue to grow the FrancisCorps experience for all our volunteers and the communities they serve!”
For more information on volunteer opportunities with FrancisCorps or to support this vital Franciscan ministry, go to www.franciscorps.org or write to A.J. directly at Alexander@franciscorps.org. †
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