ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — The day the recent Come and See/Discernment Weekend at St. Anthony Friary ended, friars awoke to find notes from discerners pinned to their bulletin board.
“I want to extend my deepest gratitude to you for giving me and my fellow candidates such a wonderful, faith-filled weekend,” one note read. “I feel strengthened and energized in my own discernment after spending time with you. … Keep carrying on the spirit of peace, joy, love and humility that is so central as Franciscans, and thank you all for such a blessed time!”
For the men who visit friaries during discernment weekends, the experience is often affirming and encouraging as they continue to explore their vocation to religious life. For the friars, the experience can be just as meaningful.
“This past weekend, we all experienced a wonderful and encouraging event in that we ‘older’ friars were privileged to share our life stories with each of the enthusiastic young men who are discerning a vocation to our holy life as Franciscan friars,” said Mario Di Lella, OFM, of the Nov. 6 to 8 event. “In several conversations with each of them, one on one, I was strongly moved to encourage them to pursue this high calling.”
“Their love of God our Divine Master and their prayer life was most enlightening and amazing to me,” he continued. “To think that in our present materialistic world, all of them were willing to give up a life ‘of the world’ to be present and loving to everyone ‘in the world.’ What a tremendously generous spirit — the spirit of our Lord Jesus and of our Holy Father, St. Francis!”
Among those who shared their Franciscan journeys were John Anglin, OFM, Frank Critch, OFM, Thomas Jones, OFM, Daniel Kenna, OFM, and vocation director Basil Valente, OFM. Guardian Joseph Hertel, OFM, played a large part in welcoming the candidates to St. Petersburg. Other friars also shared their stories informally in the recreation room and around the dinner table.
“It was a blessing to see and hear friars reflect on their journey as a Franciscan and to hear the hopes and dreams of those who are inquiring and who are interested in becoming part of the Franciscan story,” said Frank. “There was an instant connection, one the guests discerning frequently commented on throughout the weekend. The friars were interested in each man’s story and continually reiterated, ‘This is your home for the weekend.’”
Dan, a regional vocation director rooted in Tampa, Fla., found himself energized by the experience.
“I always enjoy sharing in these weekends because I find them to be personally encouraging,” he said. “The men being attracted to the Order are generous, wholesome and bright. This past weekend, I particularly enjoyed the meal we shared here at Sacred Heart Friary with the group. There was great energy around the table, some serious conversation, and yet many a laugh.”
Witnessing the Working of the Spirit
Farther north, the community at St. Francis of Assisi Friary in New York City welcomed several candidates for an Asian-American Day of Recollection for Vocations on Oct. 25. During the event, organized by regional vocation director Julian Jagudilla, OFM, and Ramon Razon, OFM, men were introduced to religious life with the Franciscan friars.
“It was wonderful to see these men prayerfully discerning God’s will,” said Christian Seno, OFM. “Whether or not they ultimately feel inspired to discern a call to religious life is secondary — the fact that they took time out of their busy lives to spend a day in prayer and fraternity was evidence enough of how seriously they take their relationship with God and how sensitive they are to God’s will in their lives.”
The depth of sharing impressed regional vocation director Stephen Mimnaugh, OFM, who also took part in the retreat.
“Often, it takes time to develop sufficient comfort to speak candidly about one’s prayer life and God’s activity in our lives,” he said. “The men who attended the day of recollection spoke easily and honestly about such experiences. It is always such a privilege to witness the working of the Spirit in other lives. It’s simultaneously humbling and inspiring. It rekindles my excitement about being a Franciscan.”
After reflecting on the event, Ramon remarked that he learned that “the genuine result of our efforts to invite men to the Franciscan way of life is any outcome that stems from God’s own agenda. What that looks like for each individual depends on how God’s heart speaks to the heart of anyone who desires and welcomes God’s presence in his life. We are here to be brother to anyone who is touched and moved by this powerful invitation.”
The final Discernment Weekend of 2015 will take place from Dec. 4 to 6 at St. Anthony Shrine in Boston.
In other news, the Franciscan Vocation Ministry introduced a new logo last month — a silhouette of a friar, arms lifted in praise and in welcome, his head haloed by the sun, Holy Name Province’s seal.
“This is a refreshed version of the vocation office’s previous logo. The design was suggested by Michael Reyes, OFM,” explained Basil. “The sun echoes the Provincial logo and refers to Francis’ ‘Canticle of the Sun,’ visually linking the vocation office more closely with the Province. The friar’s outstretched and open arms represent the welcoming spirit of the Franciscan Vocation Ministry.”
— Maria Hayes is communications coordinator for Holy Name Province.