NEW YORK — Two friars professed their solemn vows as Franciscans on Aug. 26 at St. Francis of Assisi Church on West 31st Street during a liturgy with an international feel that evoked a theme of confidence about the friars’ calling.
Before an assembly of friends, friars and family members, Provincial Minister Kevin Mullen, OFM, accepted the vows of Casey Cole, OFM, and Ramoncito Razon, OFM, to follow the Rule of St. Francis.
Kevin remarked on the confidence that he has in the friars and that the two friars have in following their calling. In his homily, Kevin said, “When I spoke with Casey and Ramon yesterday, I experienced a sense of confidence. They had already experienced the outpouring of God’s love in their lives. They have been shaped by friars and laypeople who have helped them learn about what it means to live the Gospel.”
Casey and Ramon have been “able to hear the call of the Lord and respond to it,” said Kevin, whose homily is available as a video on the Facebook page of St. Anthony’s Guild. “You should be confident of the support of your brothers. Our brothers in the United States have spent a lot of time talking about revitalization. It is moments like this that symbolize revitalization.”
Pride in Their Sons
The confidence shown by Casey and Ramon was echoed by their parents.
“Casey has never doubted himself,” said Mark Cole, Casey’s father, who said his son first became interested in religious life through a high school youth group.
“We’ve watched for seven years as he’s gone through the formation program,” said Cole. “He has really found his calling. It’s been fun to watch him be transformed. It’s been good to see him grow and to see the support of the friars.”
Ramon’s mother, Josefina Razon, who lives in the Philippines, said words cannot express the joy in her family’s heart with her son, one of four children, professing his vows. “It may be painful not to have him around, but it gives me great joy to know we’ve given Ramon to God. To me, it seems that Moncito, as I call him, is no longer wandering. He is now journeying with God. I am very sure that Ramon has confidence about the life he has chosen.”
Concelebrating the Saturday morning Mass were five friars, three of whom were from out of the area. They were Provincial Vicar Lawrence Hayes, OFM, the Province’s secretary of formation and studies, and Joseph Rozansky, OFM, director of post-novitiate formation, along with General Minister Fr. Michael Perry, OFM, and Fr. Caoimhín Ó’Laoide, OFM, of Ireland, a member of the OFM General Council who visited from Rome; as well as Fr. Jack Clark Robinson, OFM, provincial minister of Our Lady of Guadalupe Province based in New Mexico.
‘Called to This Life’
Since professing their first vows in 2013, Casey and Ramon have been immersed in the formation program – studies as well as a range of practical experience in pastoral environments.
Casey, 28, became acquainted with the Franciscans as a member of a campus spirituality group while a student at Furman University in Greenville, S.C., where he graduated in 2011 with a degree in religious studies and a minor in poverty studies. The pastor of the nearby St. Anthony of Padua Parish, Patrick Tuttle, OFM, where Casey spent a summer as an intern, led the group at the time.
Casey, who grew up in North Carolina, completed an internship last year at Immaculate Conception Parish in Durham. He studied theology at The Catholic University of America in Washington and is currently completing a master of divinity degree at the Chicago Theological Union. Casey is the author of the blog Breaking In The Habit and has produced popular videos, including the series titled “A Friar Life,” that are available on YouTube.
“As much as I have already been living the life of a friar for many years, there is something about this milestone that has stopped me in my tracks and refocused my attention on the heart of my vocation,” said Casey. “For almost seven years, I have known that I was called to this life.”
Originally from the Philippines, Ramon, 40, graduated in 2001 from Ateneo de Manila University with a bachelor’s degree in development studies and moved to the United States. He earned his master’s degree in English education in 2007 from Columbia University in New York. Before joining the friars, he was an instructor at the Expeditionary Learning School for Community Leaders in Brooklyn, N.Y. He met the Franciscans after attending Mass at St. Francis of Assisi Church, where he professed his vows on Sunday. In 2014, he graduated from Loyola University in Maryland with a second master’s degree, in spiritual and pastoral care.
Having completed a yearlong internship this past June at St. Francis of Assisi Parish in New York City, Ramon is beginning an assignment in September as head of St. Francis Urban Center in Philadelphia, where he will also work with the team at the province’s St. Francis Inn soup kitchen.
“My solemn profession is the culmination of my active engagement with the truest desire of my heart – the questions that result from that desire, the challenges and implications that are integral to that desire, and, finally, finding God’s mercy amidst those questions and challenges with trust, hope, and love,” said Ramon.
Part of the Brotherhood
Many people took part in the profession Mass. Serving as altar ministers were student friars James Bernard, OFM, Nicholas Carbuto, OFM, and Steven Kuehn, OFM. John Aherne, OFM, who professed his solemn vows last summer, served as deacon. Masters of ceremony were Christopher Coccia, OFM, and Timothy Shreenan, OFM.
As the Mass concluded, Kevin expressed gratitude for the people who planned the day’s events, including Michael Harlan, OFM, who organized the reception. “I give great thanks to the pastor of St. Francis of Assisi Parish, Andrew Reitz, OFM, and to the wonderful musicians and to all the ministers of hospitality. We need to also thank the families of Casey and Ramoncito. It’s truly an international event. People have traveled from the Philippines and from Greenville to be here.”
“Ramon, and Casey, it’s good to have you as part of our brotherhood,” he added.
The General Minister ended the Mass by asking the congregation to sing the first verse of “The Summons” by Kelvin Grove, which was sung earlier in the liturgy during the preparation of the gifts.
Will you come and follow me if I but call your name?
Will you go where you don’t know and never be the same?
Will you let my love be shown? Will you let my name be known?
Will you let my life be grown in you and you in me?
Fr. Michael asked Casey and Ramon to note what the words of this song mean. “This is what we’re called to do. We don’t need to know where we’re going – just have faith. It is going to be okay.”
Photos of the Mass, taken by Octavio Duran, OFM, can be found on the Facebook page of St. Anthony’s Guild.
— Jocelyn Thomas is director of communications for Holy Name Province.
- “Eight Men Received into New Novitiate” – Aug. 25, 2017, HNP Today
- “Casey Cole’s New Video Series Shows Varied Lives of Friars” – June 29, 2017, HNP Today
- “Three Friars Profess Solemn vows – and Gratitude” – Sept. 2, 2016, HNP Today