Black Catholic Vocation Retreat Set for February

Jocelyn Thomas Friar News

WILMINGTON, Del. — Young men of African descent are invited to a vocation retreat in February at St. Joseph Parish to learn about Franciscan life and to hear about the experiences of African-American friars.

The retreat, which will begin with dinner on Feb. 12 and conclude at noon on Feb. 14, is open to men between the ages of 18 and 45. It is being organized by the HNP African Ancestry Committee, which three years ago sponsored a Go Down Moses Retreat.

David Hyman, OFM, committee chair, said he encourages friars to publicize the retreat at the Province’s ministry sites.

“It is extremely helpful when people are personally invited to events,” said David, who is stationed in North Carolina. “We have prepared a flyer that can be displayed at parishes, schools and other places. In addition, it would be wonderful if friars can talk with young African-American men who they think would appreciate the retreat and who might be good vocation candidates. That’s usually the most effective way to attract attendees — to personally talk with potential participants.”

The retreat will include meals, prayer, discussions, lodging at St. Paul Friary, and presentations. The speakers include five friars.

Michael Duffy, OFM, director of the St. Francis Inn soup kitchen in Philadelphia, will speak about “Service With the Poor.” Abraham Joseph, OFM, of Silver Spring, Md., and a native of Haiti, will speak on “My Experience as a Student Friar.”

Benedict Taylor, OFM, of New York City, and Paul Williams, OFM, pastor of St. Joseph Parish, will speak about “Men of Color in Ministry.” Benedict, who founded CREATE in 1973, has worked in Harlem for nearly 50 years with the homeless, the unemployed, and the addicted. Paul is director of the Diocese of Wilmington’s Office of Black Catholics, and is former director of a similar office at the Diocese of Charleston, S.C.

Vocation director and tenured professor at St. Bonaventure University Basil Valente, OFM, will speak about “Discerning a Call to Be a Franciscan.” During his presentation, Basil will discuss an understanding of “vocation” — the work a person is called to by God — noting, “the place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet. And, in this Year of Mercy, as proclaimed by Pope Francis, we’re called to be especially attentive to the deepest hungers prevalent in our world and address those needs with an unlimited capacity for love, understanding and mercy.”

In addition, theologian and school counselor Brenda Burns will give a talk titled “Changing Nation; Many Colors. Who Will Lead?” She is director of the Wilmington Diocese Gospel Choir.

Men interested in attending the retreat are asked to register by contacting Paul at by Feb. 1 and including “Vocation Retreat” in the subject line. St. Joseph Church, which marked its 125th anniversary in 2014, is located at 1012 French St. It is known as the “cradle of African-American Catholicism in Delaware.”

“I have noticed that retreats geared toward specific ethnic groups are well received and spiritually transformative for our participants,” said Basil. “Over the years, our Province has hosted many of these successful events — some for a weekend and some for just a day — and we’re certain that our African-American discernment retreat will be just as successful. Come and join us. Is God calling you to be a Franciscan friar?”

Information about vocation events can be found on

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

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