Collaboration Grows Among ESC Vocation Directors

Jocelyn Thomas Friar News

Vocation directors of the English-speaking Conference at their 2017 meeting. (courtesy of Basil Valente)

TAMPA, Fla. — A heightened sense of energy and collaboration is evident in the vocation work going on around the English-speaking Conference. Friars are working together to strengthen their recruiting, discussing ways to create promotion methods that are consistent across the United States, and where possible, across all of the English-speaking provinces.

This month, representatives of the conference gathered in Tampa for the 2017 ESC vocation directors meeting. Eleven friars – of varying backgrounds and experiences – evaluated the need for closer collaboration as the Franciscans in the United States work toward revitalization and restructuring.

The meeting, which took place Sept. 5 to 8 at the Franciscan Center, focused on coordinating a unified vision and approach to vocation ministry in the United States and around the world.

“I remain inspired by the Holy Spirit and the collaborative nature that guided us throughout the meeting,” said Basil Valente, OFM, president of the ESC Vocation Directors Committee. “The diverse backgrounds and experiences of the friars provided for a rich discussion of opportunities for cooperation in our movement forward both as individual provinces and as an Order.”

Over several days – conveniently before Hurricane Irma’s arrival in Florida – the participants discussed their application and discernment processes and their ideas for improvement. The 2017 meeting included an election – choosing Fr. Richard Goodin, OFM, of St. John the Baptist Province, as secretary-treasurer of the committee – as well as the recommending of two task forces.

The meeting was successful from several perspectives, according to Michael Reyes, OFM, one of Holy Name Province’s regional vocation directors.

“All the vocation directors from different provinces shared openly about their joys and challenges,” said Michael, who is stationed at Sacred Heart Parish in Tampa. “This was very helpful in having a broader understanding of such important ministry.

“I enjoyed having quality fraternal time with the brothers from the different provinces,” he added. “We had friars from England and Ireland. It’s nice to hear stories and share experiences about vocation ministries with one another.”

In addition to Basil, Michael and Fr. Richard, the participants in the 2017 meeting were Fr. Patrick Lynch, OFM, of the Province of Ireland, Fr. Erick Pilarcik, OFM, of St. Barbara Province, the vice president of the committee,  Fr. Greg Plata, OFM, of Assumption BVM Province,  Fr. Page Polk, OFM, of St. John the Baptist Province,  Fr. Erasmo Romero, OFM, of Our Lady of Guadalupe Province  Fr. Thom Smith, OFM, of Sacred Heart Province, Kevin Tortorelli, OFM, of Holy Name Province and Fr. Donal Walsh, OFM, of the Custody of the Immaculate Conception in England.

Reports and Ideas
The meeting’s agenda included vocation statistics as well as the application and formation processes, focusing on ways to develop a common discernment process for each province.

“The vocation directors aim to keep the central focus the humanity of both the friars and the candidates involved, avoiding becoming too clinical in their process, as a response to the reality that the primary factor in a candidate’s determination on whether or not to apply is their experience of community with the Franciscans,” said Basil, vocation director for Holy Name Province since 2014.

Trends in online evangelization were emphasized through analysis of the most recent findings of the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate, which report that up to one-third of candidates are introduced to religious life through online means.

“The importance of diversity and multiculturalism were also touched upon, and the need to embrace opportunities which provide for ministry offered in multiple languages to a wider audience was addressed,” said Basil. “The discussion was rooted in the Franciscan spirituality of community and truly extending the invitation to all men called by God; to cultivate a community where everyone feels they belong and have a place.

“We noted that the vocation directors could help set a model of collaboration for other areas of friar life,” Basil continued. “The vocation directors embraced the opportunity to be leaders in the effort for ongoing and comprehensive interprovincial collaboration and cooperation, in concert with our now fully interprovincial formation programs. We felt the inspiration of St. Francis during our prayer and meeting times, uniting us in common mission not only as brothers within our provinces, but as brothers within a truly global Order founded in fraternity, prayer, and service.”

Building on the document “Policies and Guidelines for Candidates Seeking Admission” provided by the U.S. provincial ministers, a common discernment process was suggested to allow for greater interprovincial activity during the discernment process itself, not only during formation. Basil proposed establishing organic discernment communities across the United States, and the idea of shared Come and See/Discernment Weekends was proposed. To discern the nature of these suggestions, the friars discussed the possibility of creating two task forces – one to focus on the application packet and one to create interprovincial discernment activities.

As another step toward common vocation promotion, the friars were encouraged to begin preaching about vocations at Masses with friars from other provinces.

The vocation directors are one of the several interprovincial groups – including archivists, communications, development, formation treasurers, and justice, peace and integrity of creation – that meet annually to share ideas and best practices.

Local Efforts
Basil said he is pleased with the creative and collaborative ways that Holy Name Province’s ministries and friars are promoting vocations.

Daniel Riley and attendees of St. Bonaventure University’s ‘Come and See’ vocation event (courtesy of Ross Chamberland)

“I feel especially moved by the embrace of each of my brother friars in Holy Name Province, and throughout the Order, as each friar works to support and nurture vocations,” he said. “Vocation ministry is both a blessing and an encounter of community, one centered on our candidates’ experiences with the individual friars and friar communities throughout the Province. I am inspired daily by not only the willingness but the joy with which the friars reach out to and connect with our men in discernment. I remain grateful for the opportunity to journey with such good men seeking the will of God in their lives. To be a part of someone’s journey of self-discovery and revelation, to see that moment when they realize they have found their place in the world among this band of brothers, is a true joy and gift.”

Over the last several years, organic discernment communities – informal settings in which men can informally learn about Franciscan life – have developed around the Province. Earlier this month, the discernment community at St. Bonaventure University in Western New York, coordinated by Ross Chamberland, OFM,  welcomed more than 20 young men to a Come and See evening, where participants joined for evening prayer and dinner with the friars and men who are part of SBU’s undergraduate residential discernment program.

In Boston, St. Anthony Shrine on Arch Street will be hosting a Come and See evening on Oct. 24 as well as a discernment weekend from Dec. 1 to 3. The HNP Vocation Ministry’s staff has also planned a special retreat for the feast of St. Francis for men in application, and a discernment retreat in St. Petersburg from Nov. 3 to 5.

This summer, HNP’s regional vocation directors gathered with Basil and Vocation Office administrator Benjamin Simpson for fraternity and education before beginning their three-year role.

Information about Holy Name Province’s formation program can be found on, where details about applying to the Province are located.

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

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