Laughter could be heard wafting from the windows of Casa San Salvador, Franciscan Mission Service’s house of hospitality and training center, which is tucked in the Brookland neighborhood of Washington, DC. In the dining room, 13 individuals hailing from across the country gathered for dinner. This intergenerational group made a commitment to live simply in community while serving individuals experiencing economic poverty and marginalization through the ministry of presence, whether locally in DC or overseas. While this was not a new scene at Casa San Salvador, there was something novel about the 2021–2022 community.
Sister Meg Earsley, a Franciscan Sister of Perpetual Adoration (FSPA), sat at the table with her lay housemates, filling the room with a joy that radiates wherever she goes. She inspired her Casa housemates by sharing her love for cooking, playing Bananagrams, cleaning the kitchen, admiring creation, and leading prayer in the Casa chapel.
Born and raised in southeastern Wisconsin, Sister Meg grew up in a Catholic family but knew very little about religious life. “I think it was because of my not knowing about religious life that I felt a very direct call from God. I jokingly say that I wouldn’t have figured it out on my own, and I was getting old (just about 45) so God had to be really clear,” reflects Sister Meg. “I had been successful working in the software industry and had a position in leadership for an international company but felt restless, like there was another path for me.”
As Sister Meg discerned, she felt a direct call from God in adoration to become a religious sister and began researching orders. “After visiting and seeing how they live the Gospel every day, I understood why this was my direction,” she recalls. “It wasn’t until I had learned more about Franciscan spirituality and the theology behind it that I realized this was exactly where I needed to be.”
Learning more about Franciscan spirituality during her discernment and formation gave Sister Meg a deep appreciation for St. Francis. “He was simple and took the Gospel’s teachings literally, never diluting the message of love for God and neighbor,” she says. “It is this simple expression I long to imitate in my life. I also believe he saw all of creation as God does: beautiful, precious, and a unique expression of God’s creative love.”
The Root of Mission Work
After professing her first vows in the summer of 2021, Sister Meg began preparing for a year of ministry in Santa Cruz, Bolivia, which she began in early 2022. While some of this preparation took place within her community, the Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration decided to deepen Sister Meg’s mission preparation by entering into a distinctive partnership with Franciscan Mission Service (FMS), an independent nonprofit organization founded by Franciscans and led by laypeople.
Through this partnership, Sister Meg received three months of intensive formation at Casa San Salvador as part of FMS’s Overseas Lay Mission program. Within this program, the richness of Sister Meg’s formation as a sister converged with the richness of FMS’s 32 years of experience preparing and supporting lay men and women for mission in Franciscan placements around the world.
Through direct service experience, community living, and classes that expose missioners to a wide variety of relevant topics and practical concerns, Sister Meg and the other lay missioners in formation developed the tools necessary to succeed in their life and ministry.
The Overseas Lay Mission program broadened Sister Meg’s understanding of Franciscan mission being rooted in a ministry of presence and accompaniment. Through their dynamic training seminars, workshops, and retreats, FMS’s formation process covers topics such as conflict resolution, Catholic social justice, power and privilege, theology, advocacy, and a plethora of relevant subjects relating to overseas missions.
For the other lay missioners in formation, Sister Meg’s presence deeply enriched their experience. This partnership epitomizes what Father Anselm Moons, OFM, the founder of FMS, envisioned for the organization by bringing lay and religious together to be formed for mission.
After completing her formation with FMS, Sister Meg now serves with the Tertiary Sisters of St. Francis (TSSF). They are longtime friends and companions in Franciscan solidarity with the FSPA. The Bolivian Province of the TSSF ministers specifically in the Santa Cruz region of the country. They are active and involved in parish work, health care, and assisting those living in poverty.
“I desire to serve God by loving, being loved, and showing God’s love through relationships of inclusivity,” Sister Meg reflects. “I need continuing prayers, patience with myself, and the patience of others. I pray that as I take this journey of relationship with a new family in a new culture, we are all able to see Christ in one another.”
As Sister Meg transitions to serving in Bolivia, the lessons she learned in FMS’s Overseas Lay Mission program will stay with her.
“I know I can count on this large family for prayers, support, and understanding as I navigate the joys and challenges of mission.”
To learn more about FMS, visit their website: FranciscanMissionService.org.