Flexible Friar Likes Diversity of Ministry

HNP Communications Friar News

As part of the formation process, prior to his solemn profession of vows, each Holy Name friar completes a yearlong internship — a time in a ministerial area that both the particular friar and the Province leadership feel best reflects the talents and interests of the individual, while also responding to the needs of the Province. This is the sixth in a series of profiles of student friars’ internships. It is based on information provided by the friar before he left in early July for a retreat in Italy.   

LOUDONVILLE, N.Y. — Edgardo Zea-Laura, OFM, gaining a reputation as a “flexible friar,” recently completed his internship at Siena College, one of the two New York schools sponsored by Holy Name Province.

The Peru native said he liked the diversity of ministry that working at a college provides, especially because it allowed him to use his Spanish language, work in prison ministry, get his feet wet in education, and try his hand at serving as a spiritual adviser to students.

The 32-year-old brother has already had diverse summer ministry experiences in a few Holy Name parishes, including St. Camillus Church, Silver Spring, Md., St. Joseph Church, Wilmington, Del., and St. Patrick – St. Anthony in Hartford, Conn., working mostly with the Spanish community, with youth and at a soup kitchen. But his internship year on the college campus, which finished early last month, stands out.

Internship on Campus
“I got a good experience during my internship because I could work with different kinds of persons and ministries,” said Edgardo. “Working on the campus is a different experience because I worked with both the students and staff.”

One of six siblings, he said he has especially enjoyed the camaraderie of the Siena friar staff, which includes more than 25 Franciscans. “Living with the friars at Siena College was good because I could share my vocation and they could share their experiences with me.”

Among those friars were Brian Belanger, OFM, his supervisor, and Dennis Tamburello, OFM, with whom he did prison ministry.

“Edgardo is a wonderful brother and has been very helpful to me,” said Dennis. “He’s very flexible and very friendly, so he’s already made a big hit with the guys. They love having him and I look forward to having him back.”

Edgardo added: “In the prison ministry, I could share my Franciscan life, and they can understand and learn about Francis. People who live in the prison many times need to talk with someone because many of those guys do not get any visits from their friends or family.”

Edgardo also worked with Dennis on Bible classes and taught some Spanish to the inmates.

His time at Siena also included spiritual direction with the department of student affairs. “In the beginning, it was a little hard because it was a new experience for me, but people in student affairs were competent and compassionate, and they can understand everyone’s need. When they needed some help with students, I was able to pitch in.”

Edgardo first became affiliated with Holy Name in 2006, while working in Lima, Peru, where the Province has a parish. Before joining the friars, he worked as a laboratory technician. “Most of my work was in the area of blood analysis because I had studied in this field for four years before joining the friars.” He began Franciscan work by leading a charismatic prayer group in the parish, where he also organized retreats.

Novitiate in Mexico
He then spent his novitiate year in Mexico, working as a catechist for both young people and adults who were preparing for first communion and confirmation. After completing his novitiate, Edgardo returned to Lima and began organizing and running a rosary group in the parish, where Christopher Dunn, OFM, is pastor.

“When I came to the States, my first ministry was as a catechist in St. Camillus Parish working with children preparing for confirmation. This was done in English. I also gave a Bible class in Spanish to adults. I did these ministries for one year,” he said. “That summer, I worked in the parish in Wilmington, Del., working with all the groups in the parish, organizing the meetings and the outreach of the parish. All of this work was in Spanish. The following year, I helped organize and run the meetings of the Spanish-speaking youth group in St. Camillus.”

The next summer brought Edgardo north to St. Patrick-St. Anthony Parish where he worked with parish groups and in the House of Bread soup kitchen. “I helped serve those coming to eat, as well as informally counseling those who wished to talk with me.” Last year was spent in Holy Name College in Silver Spring, where he worked with the brothers of Holy Cross at their soup kitchen in Southeast Washington, D.C., not far from the Province’s house of studies.

Edgardo participated last month in a solemn vows retreat in Italy and anticipates returning to Siena to continue to work on his ministries: as a spiritual assistant, prison ministry, visiting schools and gaining experience as an educator, using his Spanish, and at a Latino ministry at the Shrine Church of Our Lady of the Americas in Albany. He also hopes to obtain his bachelor’s degree from Siena.

“One of my best experiences was a fun service trip to teach kids in the Dominican Republic. In general, I had a good experience. I am going to stay in Siena this coming year, and I am sure I will have another good experience. Every year is different, but this is one of the good things about friar life.”

— Wendy Healy is a Connecticut-based freelance writer and frequent contributor to HNP Today.