Discerners Participate in Retreat via Zoom to Learn about Franciscan Life

Jocelyn Thomas Be A Franciscan, Friar News

NEW YORK – Nearly 40 men considering a religious vocation participated in a virtual “come and see” retreat last month to learn more about Franciscan life and connect and pray with friars.

The Sept. 19 online event was hosted by Casey Cole, OFM, whose digital savviness and youthful enthusiasm in promoting the Franciscan charism has a national presence through his many video productions, including the series “A Friar Life,” and his popular blog, “Breaking in the Habit.”

The US-6 provinces (those participating in a restructuring process to become one province) sponsored the two-hour retreat over the streaming service Zoom – during which friars communicated the richness of their Franciscan ministries and fraternal life to discerning participants, who varied in age, culture, background, and geographic location. More than 50 men with interest in a Franciscan vocation had inquired about the virtual retreat, but some were not able to attend.

In his presentation, Casey, who is stationed at St. Peter Claver Parish in Macon, Georgia, shared personal reflections and questions on “what it means to be called.”

“It was inspiring to see the participants connect with Casey’s important vocational questions, including ‘Why Franciscan?’ Everyone seemed engaged throughout the retreat,” said Basil Valente, OFM, who has served as HNP vocation director since 2014. “Since more than half of all inquirers exploring Franciscan life find us through the internet, this Zoom retreat for discerners from across the United States seemed fitting and appropriate. Many thanks, prayers, and blessings to Casey for his hard work in promoting vocations and in his new ministry in Macon.”

Some participants took the time immediately after the Saturday afternoon event to reach out to HNP’s Vocation Office to express their gratitude for the opportunity to learn about Franciscans and to talk to friars.

According to Basil, the participants included first-time inquirers as well as inquirers already in discussion with other provinces or referred by their vocation directors. “We had a wide range of men in attendance from throughout the country,” he said.

Appreciative Feedback
John from New Jersey wrote on Sept. 20, the day after the retreat, “I woke up today feeling so refreshed and rejuvenated in the Lord from yesterday’s virtual retreat. Thank you so much for putting it together. I didn’t realize how much I needed that. As I watch Mass on YouTube today, I am reminded of how thankful I am for this opportunity.”

Several other participants offered follow-up comments.

Casey during the virtual retreat. (Photo courtesy of the US-6 Franciscans vocation office)

“It was very informative and so helpful for anyone, like me, who is discerning a vocation with the Franciscans. I can’t recommend it enough,” said Jeremiah from California.

Perry of Minnesota said, “I really enjoyed Fr. Casey’s presentation, as it gave some clarity to the book he has written and which I have read as part of my discernment.”

Tyler from Illinois stated, “The presentation was very clear, and it gave me a sense of the unique humanity of the friars when living in community. I found that refreshing.”

Those involved with vocation efforts hailed the retreat as an “enormous success,” including Jorge Martins, who has worked as Vocation Office administrator for Holy Name Province since early 2019.

“Fr. Casey did a marvelous job hosting a fruitful and helpful retreat for discerners, as they eagerly looked for an opportunity to respond to God’s call in their life, especially in the midst of a pandemic,” Martins said.

“As a layperson, I was inspired by the gathering of men and friars attending virtually from all corners of the country. The Body of Christ continues to grow, even over Zoom,” added Martins, who said that Casey was chosen by the US-6 vocation directors to host the virtual retreat because of his experience and charisma behind the camera.

Greg Plata, OFM, vocation director for Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary Province based in Wisconsin, agreed.

“Our brother, Casey, did an outstanding job of presenting some practical ways to discern God’s call to religious life, as well as the realities of community life within our brotherhood,” he said. “It was great to see so many men across the country interested in our way of life.”

HNP, which hosts the headquarters for the US-6 OFM Franciscan Vocation Office, plans to continue the use of virtual methods to communicate with men interested in Franciscan life. HNP will also utilize friars around the Province to connect in conversation with discerners in their geographic areas.

New Regional Vocation Directors
The HNP Office for the Promotion of Vocations recently announced a new team of regional vocation directors. They include the following:

  • In Florida – Henry Fulmer, OFM, John Hogan, OFM, Steve Mimnaugh, OFM, and Kevin Tortorelli, OFM.
  • Serving the Mid-Atlantic region – Michael Duffy OFM, Ignatius Harding, OFM, Edgardo Jara-Ayara, OFM, and John O’Connor, OFM.
  • In the Midwest – Juan De la Cruz Turcios, OFM.
  • Serving the New England region – Hugh Hines, OFM, Michael Johnson, OFM, Javier Del Angel De Los Santos, OFM, Tony LoGalbo, OFM, and Paul Santoro, OFM.
  • Serving New Jersey and New York City – John Aherne, OFM, Frank Critch, OFM, Barry Langley, OFM, Richard McFeely, OFM, and Michael Reyes, OFM.
  • In the South – Casey Cole, OFM, Hugh Macsherry, OFM, Bill McIntyre, OFM, Jacek Orzechowski, OFM, and James Sabak, OFM.
  • Serving in the Upstate-Central New York region – Mark Reamer, OFM, Roberto Serrano, OFM, and Dennis Tamburello, OFM.
  • In the Upstate New York-Western region – Ross Chamberland, OFM, and Angel Vázquez, OFM.

Information about joining the Franciscans can be found on the Be A Franciscan website and Facebook page.

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

Editor’s note: This summer, 15 men began their Franciscan journeys, by participating in the year-long interprovincial postulancy program in Silver Spring, Maryland.

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