SANTA BARBARA, Calif. — Eight men from three U.S. provinces professed first vows as Franciscan friars at Old Mission Santa Barbara on July 2. A small gathering in the novitiate chapel at the 18th-century mission included leadership from Holy Name, St. Barbara, and St. John the Baptist provinces, who formally witnessed the vows and received the new friars, as well as other friar-witnesses and faculty.
For Holy Name Province, Michael Blastic, OFM, a member of the novitiate leadership team since 2016, accepted the vows of Daniel Cruz, OFM, Tyler Grudi, OFM, Kevin Hamzik, OFM, and James Kernan, OFM.
For St. Barbara Province, based in California, Martin Ibarra, OFM, accepted the vows of Juan Luis Guerrero, OFM, and Joan Perez Lombera, OFM.
For St. John the Baptist Province, based in Cincinnati, Ohio, Frank Jasper, OFM, accepted the vows of Philip McCarter, OFM, and Brian Menezes, OFM.
During the Friday afternoon liturgy, Jeff McNab, OFM, the 2020-21 novice director, gave advice to the newly professed.
“It is the heart that makes this Franciscan journey,” he said. “Rich, powerful and attractive in a world that is filled with trouble. The heart is what the world needs. The brothers who surround you all make up this one heart that you are joining.”
At the ceremony, which was live-streamed on Facebook, the men formally signed a register of vows and received a cord, wrapped around their plain brown robe, with knots symbolizing the vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience. The robe and cord, along with capuche, or hood, comprise the Franciscan habit.
Brian Menezes said he now feels “a part of the larger Franciscan fraternity.”
There was music, preaching, prayer, and fellowship at the gathering, but for Brian one moment stood out: “When I knelt before Frank and recited the vows. Those were the vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience, of course, but the context of those vows is everything. It is in a circle of friendship, of brotherly love, of support and solidarity that will accompany the friar for life. The small gathering at Old Mission Santa Barbara was symbolic of that.”
Tyler, a native of Hershey, Pennsylvania, said the part of the ceremony that stood out for him was when the novices blessed water.
“All of us novices held our hands over the water and blessed it,” he said. “This reminded me of why I’m professing vows. We all have already been consecrated at Baptism, and it is our baptismal vows that we are reaffirming. It’s every Christian’s vows that we are affirming — the whole body of Christ.”
Tyler, Brian, and the others will spend the coming months in a ministry assignment within the new “Brothers Walking Together” program, a joint initiative of the six U.S. provinces in the process of uniting as one province. The program places the newly professed friars across all six provinces, are assigned to work in pairs with other Franciscans on society’s margins on the Caribbean island of Jamaica, and in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and at the U.S./Mexican border in Arizona.
After this ministry assignment, they will continue their Franciscan formation at the interprovincial post-novitiate formation house at St. Joseph Friary in Chicago’s Hyde Park neighborhood, where friars live in community while pursuing formal studies at Catholic Theological Union and other academic institutions. The friars there also serve simultaneously in various local ministries. In the fall, 17 friars are expected to be living at St. Joseph Friary preparing for lifelong Franciscan ministry.
On July 15, a new group of men, who spent the last year as Franciscan postulants, were formally received into the interprovincial novitiate for the 2021-2022 year.
— John Feister is a freelance writer for St. Barbara Province.
Editor’s note: Photos of the novices can be found on the Franciscan Interprovincial Novitiate-Old Mission Santa Barbara Facebook page. Biographical information about the student friars of Holy Name Province can be found on the HNP website.