Beginning a Year of Prayer and Study

Jocelyn Thomas Friar News

BURLINGTON, Wis. — Sixteen men, including four from Holy Name Province, were received into the Franciscan interprovincial novitiate on Aug. 15, beginning a year focused on prayer, reflection and study.

The former HNP postulants — Dennis Bennett, OFM, Casey Cole, OFM,Edgardo Jara Araya, OFM, and Ramon Razon, OFM — were received into the Order by Provincial Vicar Dominic Monti, OFM, on Aug. 15 during solemn vespers in the chapel of St. Francis Friary.

Dominic and Brian Smail, OFM, vocation director, both of New York City, and Ronald Pecci, OFM, postulant director, from Wilmington, Del., were among roughly 25 friars representing all seven participating provinces, said Brian.

The Service
“One of the most moving moments of the liturgy,” according to Brian, “was when members of the formation team, including Scott Brookbank, OFM, washed the feet of the new novices as the familiar passage from John’s gospel was sung by Fr. Ralph Parthie, OFM.”

In his homily, Fr. Ralph, of Sacred Heart Province, highlighted the foot-washing as an example of the “life of service to our brothers and sisters” that the men were now embracing, said Brian. The other new novices represented five other American provinces — Assumption, Immaculate Conception, Our Lady of Guadalupe, Sacred Heart, St. John the Baptist — and Canada’s Christ the King Province, based in Edmonton, Alberta. Fr. Ralph, like Scott, began his role as part of the four-person novitiate leadership team this summer.

During the service, the four novitiate team leaders were officially commissioned.  They are Scott, Fr. Ralph and Fr. Dennis Schafer, OFM, of Sacred Heart Province, and Fr. Henry Beck, OFM, of St. John the Baptist Province.

A dinner followed the liturgy. The next day was free for the novices to settle into their new home.

The Transition
The novices are beginning a year that will be a stark contrast to their previous year, the postulant year. Their days will be structured and their communication with those outside the novitiate will be limited, said Brian.

“This is a year of spiritual development for the student friars,” said Brian. “They will deepen their sense of Franciscan spirituality and learn to detach.” In his blog, Breaking in the Habit, Casey wrote about what this year means to him.

“Believe it or not, this will be the most freeing year of my life,” said the North Carolina native.

His Aug. 13 post, titled “Goodbye Wilmington, Postulancy Blog,” said: “The trip itself offers us a very long, tangible transition from one year to the next, from postulancy to novitiate, from one lifestyle to another. When we arrive in Burlington, we will officially be received as friars in the Order. That’s right: Br. Casey Cole, OFM, (but please, if ‘Casey’ was good enough for God on the day of my baptism, it’s good enough for me. No ‘Brother Casey’ nonsense from my friends and family.)”

On Aug. 17, he described the parameters of his new life: “I will be without social communication such as Facebook, texting, this blog, or anything that uses the Internet. I will surrender the use of my bank account and credit card, and will live on a modest stipend of $50 a month, giving any money I receive toward the needs of the house. I will have almost no control over the way I spend my time, when I can leave, and where I can go. I will spend much of my time in quiet.”

He added: “This past year has been a wonderful experience writing this blog. I’ve enjoyed doing it, and cherish the comments I’ve received here and elsewhere. I will be praying for all of you, as I hope you will pray for me. I fully plan to relaunch the blog in a year, and will probably write a few reflections throughout the year.”

This is the second year that St. Francis Friary in Burlington has housed the interprovincial novitiate. The four HNP novices began their Franciscan formation last August in Wilmington, where they spent their postulant year. Later this year, they will be given their Franciscan habit. Photos of the novices can be found on the interprovincial novitiate’s Facebook page.

— Jocelyn Thomas is director of communications for Holy Name Province.