Two Vermont siblings have answered God’s call to be missionaries and serve others beyond the Green Mountain State.

Bethany and David Hojnowski grew up in Pownal and attended Mass at Sacred Heart St. Francis de Sales Church in Bennington. Both were involved with the liturgical choir, and Bethany was an altar server.

She currently serves as a Seton Teaching Fellow in the Bronx and works with seventh- and eighth-grade students at Brilla College Prep Middle School. During the day, she shadows the eighth-grade English Language Arts teachers and support them in the classroom, and she helps facilitate and teach parts of the class.

After school, she teaches the Catholic faith formation program. “Being in the classroom is so good. I love getting to form relationships with the students and other faculty,” she said.

She taught Totus Tuus in Vermont for two years which inspired her to do more service after graduating from De Sales University in Pennsylvania with a bachelor’s degree in dance and history. After hearing about the Seton Teaching Fellow program from a friend, she decided to apply. “It was the perfect fit for my interests, and it seemed like the next thing God was calling me to do,” she said.

Her brother also heard a call from God. He is a missionary with Franciscan Volunteer Ministry in Philadelphia at St. Francis Inn. He is on a team of four laypeople that serve alongside the Franciscan Friars of Holy Name Province.

The inn’s biggest ministry is feeding those in need in the community; they serve 150-200 guests a day. They also provide toiletries, run a thrift shop and provide mail services for those who are homeless. “It’s such a great organization with great people,” he said.

As a student at Le Moyne College in Syracuse, he went to the inn for a weeklong service trip. He went back three times and kept it in the back of his mind to return one day.

While finishing his graduate degree in computer engineering from Syracuse University, he felt dissatisfied: “I had lost a lot of the passion and joy my work had brought me previously.”

His peers and teachers were focused on the perfect career with a high salary. “I wanted something more than just graduating and making money,” he said. With a little help from his sister, he applied to Franciscan Volunteer Ministry. “She was the one who convinced me at the end to submit my application,” he said. “In a way, it gave me the confidence. If she can do it then it’s something that I can do.”

He likes that his ministry is so different than the things he had done in the past six years working toward his degree. “It’s so refreshing to serve others,” he said.

—Originally published in the Winter 2020 issue of Vermont Catholic magazine.

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