Br. Kevin Kriso, OFM

Br. Kevin Kriso, OFMKevin is one of many men who became affiliated to Holy Name Province in 1988. He wrote this reflection during his postulant year.

America in 1989 is not much different from Italy in the 13th century when St. Francis was alive. Many people are more interested in seeking material possessions than seeking God. Everywhere there are wars because one country is jealous of another or is afraid of losing something it has or of not getting something it wants.

And then there are the outcasts. In the 13th century it was the poor and lepers. Today it is the homeless, people with AIDS and the refugees who are driven from their homes.

The condition of America in 1989 is part of my motivation to become a Franciscan. Over the past 11 years, I had been growing closer to God and realizing that because God loves me, God is calling me to express that love through action and a lifestyle choice.

I grew up in a good Catholic home on Long Island. My parents sent me to St. Hugh of Lincoln School in Huntington Station, where I was taught by the Amityville Dominican Sisters and many great lay teachers. I learned an early respect and love for God from them and my parents.

My journey with the Franciscans began in 1982 when I transferred from a state university to Siena College in Loudonville, N.Y., which is run by the friars. All through my college years, I became more and more concerned with the problems that I saw in the world. The rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer. There is widespread hunger in Africa, repression in Central America, an increase in drug use in this country and corporate greed that seeks only profits and runs over people in the process.

I began to feel the need to work to directly address these problems, to live a simpler lifestyle. In this way, there would be more for the poor and I could let people in this tired, hurting world know that God loves them and cares for them and wants a closer relationship with them.

Important values. I felt an attraction to the Franciscans at Siena because I could feel that they considered these values important, too. I had a million reasons why I couldn’t be one of them. But one by one those reasons fell away. I began to understand more and more that living as Franciscan was what I was called to.

However, before I could join the friars I needed to set my life in order. I had a lot of growing to do and wanted to deepen the commitments I had made in college. Last year, I lived in a lay community in Boston with seven other Siena grads and worked with them at St. Francis House, which is a day shelter for homeless people. I learned a lot from the people and not just to think about poverty or to talk about it.

I got into the middle of the situation and involved in people’s lives. I also was taught how to learn from people and to grow with them. I saw that I could help people rebuild their lives — one person at a time.

Our society and Church have gone through some incredible changes in the last 20 years. Many things which made sense, that we were so sure of, have changed beyond recognition — even since my childhood. The decline in religious vocations, the changed role of the laity, especially women, and the disregard of some people to the Church and toward God frightens many people. I look upon these things as challenges, not something to be afraid of.

Jesus said he would be with us to the end of time. The Spirit is blowing in different directions in our Church since Vatican II and I want to go with it as a follower of St. Francis.

— This essay was written in 1989 when Br. Kevin was serving as an affiliate. It appeared in the Winter 1989 issue of The Anthonian magazine.