SILVER SPRING, Md. – A group of 15 men from around the country – covering 12 states and four provinces – was welcomed on Aug. 27 to Holy Name College, where this 2020/21 class of postulants will spend one year living among friars, learning about and experiencing Franciscan life.
“This an opportune time for our new brothers to continue their discernment with the Franciscans while living in fraternity and praying with the friars,” said Basil Valente, OFM, HNP vocation director. “Especially now, people everywhere are responding to the clarity of St. Francis’ courage as a peacemaker; to the depth of his compassion for all people and all of Creation; and to his special concern for the poor and marginalized — all expressions of his profound love for Christ.”
“These men, who came from all over the United States, arrived in Maryland to begin living with the Lesser Brothers, and to continue their discerning of a vocation to the Franciscan life,” said John Gutiérrez, OFM, director of the interprovincial postulancy team and a member of St. Barbara Province.
Not only do the postulants represent a wide geographical area, but, as they often do, the men range in age from 26 to 47.
The welcoming ceremony was a pandemic-compliant event, according to John. In addition to the 15 postulants, participants were limited to the nine professed friars at Holy Name College and the three friars from St. Camillus Parish next door. The friars welcomed the men in the name of all the friars of the US-6 provinces – the communities that are participating in the restructuring of the provinces.
The Thursday afternoon event took place in the expansive St. Camillus Church, rather than in the chapel of Holy Name College, to provide greater space for social distancing.
Provincial Vicar Larry Hayes, OFM, secretary of formation for Holy Name Province who is stationed at St. Camillus, represented the provincials and secretaries of formation of the six provinces. He preached at the ceremony and presented the new postulants with the Tau cross, the symbol used by the Franciscan family.
Because of the lighter attendance this year and the fact that the group was in the church and not the chapel, the ceremony felt a bit unusual, said Walter Liss, OFM, guardian of Holy Name College, who along with Rommel Perez Flores, OFM, of Sacred Heart Province, and Gino Corea, OFM, of Our Lady of Guadalupe Province, works with John on the interprovincial postulancy team.
“Normally, we would have had visiting friars, provincials, and vocation directors from around the country attending the ceremony,” said Walter.
Due to the pandemic, the postulants spent the first 14 days of orientation in quarantine and wearing masks. But on Aug. 27, the feast of St Monica, the masks were lifted and each postulant was given the Tau cross and welcomed into the Franciscan community.
Larry explained to the postulants that the Tau was the symbol of the Prophet Ezekiel and that it marks wearers as those who “reform their lives and stand in the presence of God as righteous people.”
“He told those gathered that Francis loved this symbol and reminded his brothers that their habit is made in the form of the Tau cross,” said John. “Larry encouraged the postulants in their journey of faith toward the day when they, too, would ‘put on the Lord Jesus Christ’ and receive the habit, and take on the life of the Friars Minor.”
Walter said Larry provided a powerful recollection of a fraternal experience he had years ago while visiting a friary in East Boston when he was discerning a vocation.
“The joy, honesty, and warm welcome he received were important to his discernment of joining the friars,” said Walter.
After the ceremony, a properly socially-distanced preprandium and festive dinner were held to celebrate the entire brotherhood and this new phase of the 15 postulants’ lives, according to John.
Since summer 2017, when the interprovincial postulancy program was established, postulants have lived at Holy Name College, taking classes and working at ministry sites in the area. Once the placements are determined, the postulants will work several days each week at schools and ministries that serve the poor.
Working with the postulants gives Walter “great hope” for the future. “We are blessed that many solid and good men are attracted to our way of life, and are open to discerning God’s call,” he said.
“It is an honor to have so many postulants join our fraternity, particularly during the global pandemic when the good people of God need us the most,” said Basil. “As Pope Francis once said, ‘There is a hunger in today’s world for the values of St. Francis of Assisi.’ It’s a blessing that 15 men responded to that hunger by continuing their Franciscan journey as postulants.”
Three of this year’s class members came to the postulancy through Holy Name Province:
- Domingo Martinez, 41, of Lancaster, South Carolina, who learned about the friars through internet research which took him to the Province’s vocation website.
- Thom Schlinck, 23, of Orangeburg, New York, who got to know the friars as a student at Siena College near Albany, New York, from which he graduated in 2019. Thom strengthened his interest in Franciscans while serving last year as a Franciscan Volunteer Minister at St. Francis Inn in Philadelphia.
- Matt Tran, 23, of Cumming, Georgia, who graduated in 2019 from the University of Georgia, Athens, where his interest in a Franciscan vocation was influenced by Frank Critch, OFM, and David Phan, OFM, both of whom served in ministry at The Catholic Center at UGA.
The other 12 postulants include:
- from Assumption Blessed Virgin Mary Province: Mark Davenport, 47, of Eau Claire, Wisconsin; Joseph Doern, 37, of New Berlin, Wisconsin; Jason Dymek, 36, of Central Falls, Rhode Island; William “Jay” Sanders, 46, of Concord, New Hampshire; Tomerot Lambert, 23, of Manitowoc, Wisconsin, and Gaspár Tiznado, 26, of Houston, Texas.
- from Sacred Heart Province: Nolin Patrick Ainsworth, 29, of Juneau, Alaska; Thomas Harrison Pack, 29, of Chicago, Illinois, and Charles Wuebker, 46, of St. Louis, Missouri.
- from St. John the Baptist Province: Will Compton, 26, of Tampa, Florida, who is completing a two-year postulancy program; Miguel Garcia, 41, of Montgomery, Texas, and Andrew Harrington, 28, of Bridgeport, Connecticut.
Members of the previous class of postulants – who lived at Holy Name College from summer 2019 until June of this year, moved this summer to Old Mission Santa Barbara in California, where they were received as novices.
— Jocelyn Thomas is the director of communications for Holy Name Province.
Editor’s note: Information about the Franciscan training, or formation, program can be found on the BeAFranciscan website.
- “Discerning a Religious Vocation in the Age of COVID-19” – April 8, 2020, HNP Today
- “2019-20 Postulants Reflect on First Months of Franciscan Formation” – Feb. 13, 2020, HNP Today
- “Highlights from New Interprovincial Postulancy Program” — Jan. 10, 2018, HNP Today