NEW YORK — An opinion piece written by Provincial Vicar Dominic Monti, OFM, about what it means to live a Franciscan life, has been published in several secular and Catholic publications from New York to South Carolina.
Dominic’s article was inspired by both the Order’s 800th anniversary and the Province’s recent innovative recruitment strategy to advertise on New York City subways. The ad encouraged men to consider a new vocation and make a “life shift” to become a Franciscan. It read, “Day Shift, Night Shift — How About a Life Shift?”
Franciscans’ Relevance for Today
The article has been published by The Evangelist, the publication of the Diocese of Albany, the Catholic Herald of the Diocese of Arlington, Va., the Catholic Miscellany of the Diocese of Charleston, S.C., and The State, the largest newspaper in South Carolina.
Though the headlines vary — from “Challenges to Live a Meaningful Life” to “Meaning Hard but Possible to Find” — all focus on the theme of Dominic’s piece that begins, “Earlier this year, the Franciscan friars of Holy Name Province took an unusual route in reaching out to young adult men about considering a life of prayer and spiritual service in our Catholic faith community.”
He discussed how Franciscans are accustomed to making life shifts, taking risks throughout the Order’s 800-year history to be “heralds of the Gospel in the midst of society.”
“To this day,” he wrote, “St. Francis of Assisi continues to inspire, especially as the patron saint of animals, the environment and peace, families, merchants and even the state of Colorado, and against dying alone. But what did Francis mean by ‘living according to the pattern of the Gospel?’ How is that relevant and why is it risky in 2009?”
The publicity has been good for the Province, especially increasing awareness for the Order’s 800th anniversary celebrated this year. “The article has been helping to increase awareness about the Franciscans in general, the Province specifically, and about religious vocations,” Dominic said.
His piece reminds readers, “Franciscan priests and brothers live the Gospel today as preachers, confessors, teachers, pastors, and workers in various ministries, while helping the poor and the marginalized of society in such important areas as peace and social justice, education, healthcare, and immigration.”
Marketing Increases Awareness
Jocelyn Thomas, director of communications for HNP, said this opinion piece, traditionally called an “op ed” by newspapers because of its position running opposite the editorial page, is just one of the ideas in the Province’s marketing mix.
“The Province is working to inform people in the many geographic regions where the friars serve,” said Thomas, especially where Holy Name is most active — in New England, New York City, Western New York State, New Jersey, the Mid-Atlantic states, and in the Southeastern part of the country.”
The op-ed series was initiated by the HNP Office of Development as a way to increase visibility of the Province for future fundraising efforts.
Over the years, as the age of friars has risen and fewer men are joining the Order, the Province has been forced to develop creative new ways to recruit friars and communicate its story, according to Thomas, turning to more conventional marketing strategies.
While the Province recognizes today’s vocation challenges, the opportunities of the future are also noted by Dominic in his piece. He writes: “The challenge as we begin the next 800 years is to continue to find new ways to share Christ’s love as proclaimed through the Gospel, and to foster a deeper relationship for individuals with God and each other.”
“One way may be found on the inside wall of a subway car.”
Next week, on June 23, Dominic will be interviewed by Sirius satellite radio for Busted Halo.
— Wendy Healy, a free-lance writer based in Connecticut, contributes frequently to this newsletter.