Thanks to the efforts and support of friars around Holy Name Province, the Franciscan Vocation Ministry is flourishing as it continues its fall schedule of events.
Throughout the past few weeks, men considering life as a Franciscan have shared meaningful discussions with friars through Come and See/Discernment Weekends as well as with newly formed organic discernment communities around the Province.
Discernment Weekend in NYC
In New York City, five men gathered at St. Francis of Assisi Church for a Come and See/Discernment Weekend from Oct. 2 to 4, the feast of St. Francis. The entire friary community welcomed them.
Ten friars — Joseph Cavoto, OFM, Ross Chamberland, OFM, of St. Bonaventure University, David Convertino, OFM, Julian Jagudilla, OFM, Stephen Mimnaugh, OFM, Ramon Razon, OFM, Xavier Seubert, OFM, Timothy Shreenan, OFM, and vocation director Basil Valente, OFM — contributed to the weekend by giving reflections, coordinating meals and liturgy, or interviewing candidates. Other friars living in the house took time to visit with the candidates on an informal basis.
For many participants, one of the highlights of the weekend came during the Transitus service when they and the friars living at St. Francis Friary were blessed by Xavier, the guardian. Another significant highlight came when the candidates discussed the meaning Incarnational theology and how that theology is lived and fully expressed by the Franciscan friars.
“That blessing remained a significant moment for the men, as the candidates came to more fully understand how God might be calling them, in the same way he called St. Francis of Assisi, to follow in the footsteps of our Lord Jesus Christ,” said Basil. “Clearly, the way we friars witness the Franciscan life, both individually and communally, was of paramount importance to the discerners.”
Julian celebrated the feast day Mass attended by the candidates at St. Francis Church. During his homily, Julian inspired attendees by drawing connections between the relationships, pastoral styles and humility of Pope Francis and St. Francis of Assisi.
“Both St. Francis and Pope Francis carry the marks of Jesus in their bodies, the marks of Jesus that St. Paul mentioned in his letter to the Galatians in the second reading,” said Julian. “These are visible marks. For St. Francis of Assisi, the marks of Christ Jesus were the stigmata, the wounds of Jesus imprinted on his body. For Pope Francis, they are his gestures of compassion and mercy.
“We too are called to carry the visible marks of Jesus on our bodies,” Julian continued. “Perhaps not in the form of the stigmata, like that of Francis of Assisi, or not as dramatic and wildly popular as Pope Francis, but perhaps in our words and the way we treat each other, that through our words and actions and our treatment of others, the world may recognize Jesus through us.”
After the weekend was over, Ross remarked that “this was a very interesting, very diverse group of guys. Basil and I hosted a feedback session with them on Sunday, and we received very positive affirmation about their experiences.”
Vocations at St. Bonaventure University
Ross is stationed in Western New York, where 10 members of the men’s discernment community for the students of St. Bonaventure University gathered at the friary two weeks ago to share prayer and conversation. Ross, who coordinates the group, reports that so far more than 17 men have expressed interest in the community. Many have received a personal invitation from a friar and some have brought their friends along.
The community meets at the friary with Ross two Sundays a month for discussions, fraternal time and prayer, and on two Wednesdays a month, the men join the friars for their community night, complete with prayer, preprandium and dinner.
Ross said the friars are letting the program grow organically by listening and trying to provide what the men are searching for.
“I didn’t go into this with an agenda,” he explained. “I want these men to tell me what they think is worth their time. For many, this provides a reason to come together and spend time with one another without focusing on an event like a football game.”
The community is in its early stages, with men from a variety of majors and years of study.
“With this group and that age level, we’re really just planting seeds,” Ross said. “We have varied levels of interest. One of our guys is in application for postulancy, but most of them are not there yet. Most of them are just barely curious, but they’re enjoying it. There’s something about it that’s taking root in their lives.”
Ross and the Franciscan vocation ministry team encourage friars and laypeople to spread the word about St. Bonaventure’s on-campus residential discernment community for SBU students thinking about a religious vocation. The program is organized through The Lateran Center, of which Ross is director.
“We want to make it known that we have a candidacy opportunity for men at the undergraduate level,” Ross explained. “If someone you know is in high school and is interested in becoming a friar, he would look on Holy Name Province’s website and see ages 21 to 45 as when we accept people into our postulancy program. But what if he wants to go to college? He could begin this residential discernment community program at Bonaventure, which would allow him to major in whatever he wants and to have opportunities for Franciscan study and community, common prayer and service while remaining fully integrated in the life of the university.”
New Community in Boston
A new organic discernment community was formed earlier this month at St. Anthony Shrine in Boston after John Aherne, OFM, preached about vocations during the feast day Masses and invited men to join the group.
“The friars were available after the Masses to chat with folks,” said Daniel Murray, OFM. “Vocation literature was available, and we had a sign-up form for anyone who might have an interest. We received the names of three men who expressed some interest.” The friars will organize times to meet with these men in the future.
The organic discernment team in Boston comprises Daniel, John, Raphael Bonanno, OFM, Hugh Hines, OFM, Richard James, OFM, Barry Langley, OFM, and Paul O’Keeffe, OFM.
“Because of Pope Francis, the friars of Holy Name Province, and the men and women of our ministries, our discerners and applicants are experiencing the freedom that comes from a welcoming opportunity to choose religious life with the Franciscans,” said Basil. “The strongest influence on vocations proves to be personal connections with our Franciscan communities and the support of friars, family and friends.”
St. Anthony Shrine is one of several ministries that will host Come and See/Discernment Weekends in the coming months. Information about the vocation office’s event schedule is available on BeAFranciscan.org.
— Maria Hayes is communications coordinator for Holy Name Province.
- “St. Bonaventure University to Offer Residential Discernment Community” — Nov. 19, 2014, HNP Today
- “General Minister Encourages Creation of Organic Discernment Communities” — Sept. 2, 2015, HNP Today
- “Discernment Communities Emerge at Ministries Around Province” — July 8, 2015, HNP Today