The article below was published by St. Anthony Messenger magazine, the publication of the Franciscan Friars of St. John the Baptist Province in its May 2019 issue. It is part of the Followers of St. Francis series, which has featured an assortment of laypeople and friars through the years. This installment, which was titled “Communicating the Charism,” describes the work of Jocelyn Thomas, communications director for Holy Name Province, who began her role nearly 13 years ago — in summer 2006. The article was written by Janice Lane Palko.
Like a golden thread running through a beautiful tapestry, the Franciscans have been woven into the life of Jocelyn Thomas, director of communications for Holy Name Province, one of seven provinces of the Order of Friars Minor in the United States. Since 2006, Thomas has been responsible for managing the internal and external information flow for the province.
The eldest of three children, she was born in New York City, but like many, her parents moved from the city to northern New Jersey to raise their family.
“Neither one of my parents was from the area; my mother was raised in Chicago, and my father was born in Sydney, Australia. He grew up in London, England, and in Kingston, Jamaica,” says Thomas. “I think I inherited my love for travel from my father and my gene for service from my mother and her side of the family.”
Thomas says,”She had a strong faith, and she would have enjoyed seeing me work for a religious organization!”
Thomas attended Catholic grammar school for two years and then public schools, graduating from Montclair, N.J., High School in 1973.
Although she can’t remember a time when she wasn’t aware of St. Francis or the Franciscans –because of having regularly attended Mass and religious education and having an aunt who was a nun — the first time the Franciscans figured prominently in her life occurred during the summer of 1973.
“I had been accepted at St. Bonaventure University in Allegany, N.Y., a Franciscan university, and I was working in a bakery on Long Beach Island at the Jersey Shore when two young men wearing SBU shirts came into the bakery. I waited on these two good-looking guys, assuming they were students.
“A few weeks later, at SBU freshman orientation, I saw them on campus-wearing brown habits and I discovered they were friars!” she recalls.
“Coincidentally, when I came to the Provincial Office in 2006 to interview for my job, one of the friars I’d met at the bakery was there 33 years later!”
Her work with the Franciscans has been more satisfying than her other positions. “I enjoy the variety of duties that I execute and the nearly 300 Franciscans, my ‘internal customers’ with whom I work and write about.
“Each day includes a little of everything: research, writing, editing, interviewing, public relations, and planning meetings,”‘ explains Thomas.
She also appreciates working with friars and laypeople around the world as part of her role as chair of the friars’ English-speaking Conference Communications Committee.
“I’ve gotten to know friars with a wide range of interests and skills from the director of a soup kitchen that feeds hundreds of people daily, to bishops, authors, physicians, and scholars,” she says. “I admire the Franciscans’ sense of social responsibility — how they take the message of Jesus and St. Francis and translate it into modern life and current needs.
“I’ve often been told I’m good at connecting people. Friars are known for fraternity and for emphasizing the importance of a relational life,”‘ says Thomas. “Perhaps my personality had a Franciscan flavor to it before I took the job, and maybe even before I arrived at St. Bonaventure.”
— Janice Lane Palko is a freelance writer for St. Anthony Messenger.
Editor’s note: Past issues of St. Anthony Messenger are available on the magazine’s website.
- “ESC Communicators Focus on Sharing Franciscan Message” – Aug. 5, 2015, HNP Today
- “Three Named Alumni of the Year at St. Bonaventure’s Annual Reunion” – June 7, 2012, St. Bonaventure University website
- “St. Anthony Messenger Press changes Name” – Nov. 23, 2011, HNP Today
- “HNP Communications Office Marks 40 Years of Ministry” — Feb 3, 2010, HNP Today
- “ESC Communicators Gather in California” – Sept. 16, 2007, HNP Today
- “SBU Pilgrims Visit the School’s Early Roots” – Sept. 10, 2008, HNP Today
- “Province Hires Communications Director” — Aug. 23, 2006, HNP Today