Eleven Men Received into Interprovincial Novitiate

Jocelyn Thomas Friar News

Eleven men were received into the novitiate during the Chapter of Mats. (Photo courtesy of Frank Jasper, OFM)

DENVER, Colo. – Surrounded by hundreds of Franciscans who welcomed them into the Order, 11 men were received as novices at a Rite of Reception during the historic 2019 Chapter of Mats.

At the Aug. 1 ceremony that took place toward the latter part of the week-long Chapter, the novices – among them three new members of Holy Name Province – were called forth by Walter Liss, OFM, of the interprovincial postulancy team, to begin the next phase of their Franciscan formation.

One by one, each of the new novices walked forward until they stood together as a group – an appropriate image at this convergent gathering of friars from the six provinces participating in the Revitalization and Restructuring Process. As the 11 stood as one before their brothers, the nearly 400 friars in attendance rose and acknowledged the novices with lengthy and exuberant applause.

As they signed The Book of Life for their respective provinces, the novices, who range in age from 22 to 45, were accompanied by leaders of each province, including Fr. David Gaa, OFM, of St. Barbara Province, Fr. James Gannon, OFM, of Assumption BVM Province, Lawrence Hayes, OFM, of Holy Name Province, Fr. Thomas Nairn, OFM, of Sacred Heart Province, Fr. Jack Clark Robinson, OFM, of Our Lady of Guadalupe Province, and Fr. Mark Soehner, OFM, of John the Baptist Province.

New HNP novices: Michael Specht, Carlos Wagner, and Edgar Alberto (Photo courtesy of Octavio Duran, OFM)

The ceremony opened with the singing of “The Servant Song,” and the affirming lyrics: “Will you let me be our servant? Let me be as Christ to you. Pray that I may have the grace to let you be my servant, too.”

This was followed by psalms and the proclamation of scripture readings, as well as a reflection by Tom Nairn, who spoke of the importance of wisdom deepened by love. “Are we perfect?” he asked. “No. Do we try to grow to become a contemplative fraternity in mission? Yes.”

Jack Robinson later asked the novices, “Dear brothers, what do you ask of us?” – to which they responded, “We wish to share your life in the brotherhood of the Order of Friars Minor.”

After Walter called forth the brothers, Jack proclaimed, “In the name of our Order, we accept you into brotherhood. May you become one in heart and mind with all of those who follow the example of St. Francis of Assisi.”

The ceremony concluded with the friars raising their hands in unison to bestow the traditional blessing upon the novices. The entire congregation then sang the Chapter of Mats song, “Brothers of Francis and Clare,” led by Fr. Rufino Zaragoza, OFM, co-composer of the melody.

Fr. Michael Lomas, OFM, Fr. Mark Macpherson, OFM, Carlos Portillo, OFM, and Fr. Rufino performed the music for the Rite of Reception.

The novices from Holy Name Province are Edgar Alberto, of Durham, North Carolina, Michael Specht, of East Aurora, New York, and Carlos Wagner, of New York City. Both Edgar and Carlos spent a year serving with the Province’s Franciscan Volunteer Ministry. 

Novices from the other five provinces include: from Assumption BVM, Fritz Newburger, of New Orleans, Louisiana, and Zach Zeman, of Elgin, Illinois; from Our Lady of Guadalupe Province, Jesus Osonrio, originally of Mexico but coming from Albuquerque, New Mexico; from Sacred Heart Province, Gino Grivetti, of Peoria, Illinois, and Neil Pavao, of Douglas, Georgia; from St. Barbara Province, Adolfo Mercado, of Sacramento, California, and Bruce Tran, from Los Angeles, California; and from St. John the Baptist Province, Joshua Richter, of Hamilton, Ohio.

Novices Reflect on the Ceremony
As they signed The Book of Life, the novices reflected on the significance of the Rite of Reception. Carlos said he thought about “the beginning of living the Franciscan charism in fraternity and charity – living the holy Catholic Church in its life and mission.”

Adolfo said he found himself scanning the room, “making eye contact with the almost 400 friars, thinking about their amazing ministry, and that each friar understands the charism through his own heart. I thought about how I will internalize our charism and live out my faith.”

After the reception, the assembled friars blessed the new novices as they begin their novitiate year. (Photo courtesy of Octavio Duran)

Michael said,” Being received into the novitiate at the Chapter of Mats drove home the reality that I am becoming a part of something much larger than myself. Most receptions into novitiate happen in small gatherings of friars at private ceremonies. To be received, and then applauded emphatically, by hundreds of friars from all over the nation was a moment of pure joy.”

He added, “Having so much affirming support from friars whom I’ve known for years or who I had just met emphasizes the importance of this brotherhood. When the novitiate experience challenges me, I can recall that moment and feeling when 400 friars showed me that I do not walk alone on this journey, but with my many brothers.”

Fritz said: “As I looked around the room filled with friars, I thought, how happy I am to be part of this Franciscan life and to be with these friars.”

The novices, who recently finished their 12-month postulancy at Holy Name College in Silver Spring, Maryland, and are now beginning their yearlong novitiate at Old Mission Santa Barbara in California, will receive their Franciscan habits on Oct. 16. Leading them at Old Mission is the interprovincial team, which has been together for a decade, of Michael Blastic, OFM, and St. Barbara Province members Br. Jeffrey McNab, OFM, and Fr. Freddy Rodriguez, OFM.

“The novices were ‘blown-away’ by the warm and welcoming response of the brothers for their reception,” said Michael Blastic. “The ritual served as a prophetic sign of what these next years must be about – being welcoming brothers to one another as we move together from the past into the future. The Chapter of Mats was a wonderful experience of fraternity. Despite the differences in each province, we have much in common – and this is what came through during the weeklong Chapter,” he added.

Videos in which the new novices describe their feelings about the Rite of Reception were distributed to all US-6 friars in the fourth of five daily reports about the Chapter of Mats. They can be found on the Facebook page of the Franciscan Friars of Holy Name Province, and on the US Franciscans website.

 — Jocelyn Thomas is director of communications for the Province.