The Franciscan Formation Process


After a man’s application to join Holy Name Province has been approved by the province’s board of admissions, he is ready to begin the education and training required to become a Franciscan friar. The Program of Initial Formation is a gradual process of personal, spiritual and ministerial development. During initial formation, men develop their personal character and theological understanding to be able to live and work effectively as Franciscan friars in service to the Church. There are three stages of initial formation.

  • Postulancy

    Formation begins when a candidate is accepted into Holy Name Province as a postulant. During the welcoming ceremony, each postulant receives a blessed Tau cross to wear – a favorite symbol of St. Francis of Assisi, who used it as his signature. Postulants are not yet friars and take no vows; instead, postulancy gives men time to ease into the rhythm of Franciscan fraternal life with daily prayer, Eucharist, common meals, recreation, and ministerial activities. Holy Name Province’s postulants live in community with postulants from six other Franciscan provinces at Holy Name College in Silver Spring, Md. During the year, postulants attend workshops and retreats, and travel to different Franciscan ministries to meet the friars and learn about their varied work. Interacting with friars in later stages of formation allows them to create a strong Franciscan peer support network. Each postulant is assigned a formation director to help guide him through this beginning stage and aid in the process of discernment. The postulancy program lasts from one to two years.

  • Novitiate

    After postulancy, men spend their next year as novices at the interprovincial novitiate at Old Mission Santa Barbara in California. This is the year when they receive the Franciscan habit to wear as an outward expression of their faith and values. Novices deepen their relationship with God, enrich their prayer life, and learn about Franciscan spirituality, history, traditions, and the Rule. They also spend two days each week working at different ministries. A key milestone comes at the end of the novitiate year, when novices profess their simple (temporary) vows for the first time. They also receive a cord with three knots symbolizing the vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience, to which they commit themselves for one year at a time. These simple vows are renewed annually throughout the rest of initial formation, until a friar is ready to make permanent vows.

  • Post-novitiate

    After a novice has made his simple vows, he enters the post-novitiate stage of formation, which lasts a number of additional years. Student friars renew their temporary vows each year as they engage in academic study along with regular ministerial work. It is a busy time filled with a wide range of experiences. The men live communally at one of the Franciscan communities at Catholic Theological Union in Chicago and benefit from the numerous educational opportunities that the Chicago metropolitan area has to offer. Some choose to study at Catholic Theological Union in preparation for priestly work, while others prepare for vocations as non-ordained brothers engaged in teaching, social work, counseling, administration, and other ministries. Summers afford student friars a change of pace from their usual schedules. This is a time of year for learning new skills and languages, or taking an extra course of interest. Student friars also spend summertime at parishes and ministry sites throughout the province honing their ministerial skills. Activities include teaching, working with youth or young adults, visiting individuals who are homebound or hospitalized, volunteering at a food pantry or homeless shelter, and providing immigrants with needed services. Toward the end of the post-novitiate stage, student friars spend an internship year working at a ministry of interest. This gives them an opportunity to apply their years of study in a real-life setting. The post-novitiate period concludes with another major milestone: final (solemn) profession of vows.

  • Ongoing Formation

    Even after initial formation has been completed, all Franciscan friars continue in ongoing formation throughout our entire vocations. During each stage of friar life, there are opportunities to attend workshops and retreats, learn new skills, and transition to new ministries. We are continually renewed as we re-discover Christ in the world around us, inspired by the enduring spirit of St. Francis of Assisi.

Postulancy

Formation begins when a candidate is accepted into Holy Name Province as a postulant. During the welcoming ceremony, each postulant receives a blessed Tau cross to wear – a favorite symbol of St. Francis of Assisi, who used it as his signature.

Postulants are not yet friars and take no vows; instead, postulancy gives men time to ease into the rhythm of Franciscan fraternal life with daily prayer, Eucharist, common meals, recreation, and ministerial activities. Holy Name Province’s postulants live in community with postulants from six other Franciscan provinces at Holy Name College in Silver Spring, Md.

During the year, postulants attend workshops and retreats, and travel to different Franciscan ministries to meet the friars and learn about their varied work. Interacting with friars in later stages of formation allows them to create a strong Franciscan peer support network.

Each postulant is assigned a formation director to help guide him through this beginning stage and aid in the process of discernment. The postulancy program lasts from one to two years.

Novitiate

After postulancy, men spend their next year as novices at the interprovincial novitiate at Old Mission Santa Barbara in California. This is the year when they receive the Franciscan habit to wear as an outward expression of their faith and values. Novices deepen their relationship with God, enrich their prayer life, and learn about Franciscan spirituality, history, traditions, and the Rule. They also spend two days each week working at different ministries.

A key milestone comes at the end of the novitiate year, when novices profess their simple (temporary) vows for the first time. They also receive a cord with three knots symbolizing the vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience, to which they commit themselves for one year at a time. These simple vows are renewed annually throughout the rest of initial formation, until a friar is ready to make permanent vows.

Post-novitiate

After a novice has made his simple vows, he enters the post-novitiate stage of formation, which lasts a number of additional years. Student friars renew their temporary vows each year as they engage in academic study along with regular ministerial work. It is a busy time filled with a wide range of experiences. The men live communally at one of the Franciscan communities at Catholic Theological Union in Chicago and benefit from the numerous educational opportunities that the Chicago metropolitan area has to offer. Some choose to study at Catholic Theological Union in preparation for priestly work, while others prepare for vocations as non-ordained brothers engaged in teaching, social work, counseling, administration, and other ministries.

Summers afford student friars a change of pace from their usual schedules. This is a time of year for learning new skills and languages, or taking an extra course of interest. Student friars also spend summertime at parishes and ministry sites throughout the province honing their ministerial skills. Activities include teaching, working with youth or young adults, visiting individuals who are homebound or hospitalized, volunteering at a food pantry or homeless shelter, and providing immigrants with needed services.

Toward the end of the post-novitiate stage, student friars spend an internship year working at a ministry of interest. This gives them an opportunity to apply their years of study in a real-life setting. The post-novitiate period concludes with another major milestone: final (solemn) profession of vows.

Ongoing Formation

Even after initial formation has been completed, all Franciscan friars continue in ongoing formation throughout our entire vocations. During each stage of friar life, there are opportunities to attend workshops and retreats, learn new skills, and transition to new ministries. We are continually renewed as we re-discover Christ in the world around us, inspired by the enduring spirit of St. Francis of Assisi.


Begin Your Discernment

Q: Some Franciscans call themselves “Father” and others “Brother.” What’s the difference? Are all friars priests?


A: As Franciscans, we see ourselves as brothers to one another, living in community. In this sense, all friars are “brothers” first and foremost. Some friars are called to the ordained ministry of priesthood and use the title “Father.” Other friars who do feel called to ordained ministry use the title “Brother.” Many people are not aware that St. Francis himself was not a priest. Francis’s focus was always on “the brotherhood,” and the Order of Friars Minor continues this tradition today.

 

Q: Some Franciscans call themselves “Father” and others “Brother.” What’s the difference? Are all friars priests?


A: As Franciscans, we see ourselves as brothers to one another, living in community. In this sense, all friars are “brothers” first and foremost. Some friars are called to the ordained ministry of priesthood and use the title “Father.” Other friars who do feel called to ordained ministry use the title “Brother.” Many people are not aware that St. Francis himself was not a priest. Francis’s focus was always on “the brotherhood,” and the Order of Friars Minor continues this tradition today.