Formation: Season of Transition

Jocelyn Thomas Friar News

The season isn’t the only thing springing into summer. As they collectively wrap up their academic, internship, or service year, the postulants, novices, and simply professed friars are preparing to spring into new roles in their Franciscan journey.

Although the pandemic is complicating things – postponing events to later dates, rearranging travel, and modifying plans – a pair of friars are getting ready for ordination, and two others for solemn profession. Student friars are set to take on new responsibilities, and others are preparing for assignments at new locations.

Ordinations and Professions
Two Province members are expected to profess their final vows as Franciscans this summer, as the Provincial Council, last April, approved Angel Vazquez, OFM, and Jay Woods, OFM, for solemn profession.

Angel Vazquez and Jay Woods have been approved for solemn vows. (Photos courtesy of Octavio Duran)

“While solemn profession is still tentatively scheduled for Aug. 29, the date and location will not be confirmed until later this month due to the COVID pandemic,” said Larry Hayes, OFM, HNP secretary of formation and studies.

Abraham Joseph and Tito Serrano will be ordained priests soon. (Photos courtesy of Octavio Duran)

In the more immediate future, two friars are preparing for ordination into the priesthood – Abraham Joseph, OFM, and Tito Serrano, OFM.

Abraham, who was ordained to the transitional diaconate last month in Chicago, is scheduled to be ordained on June 13 — the feast of St. Anthony — at Holy Name of Jesus Church in Cedar Lake, Indiana. The noon Mass (11 a.m. central time) will be live-streamed on Facebook.

Roberto is expected to be ordained on Aug. 8 at Sacred Heart Church in Tampa, Florida. He was ordained a deacon last year at Sacred Heart Croation Franciscan Church in Chicago.

Several other friars – including Javier Del Angel De Los Santos, OFM, who was ordained a transitional deacon in Aprilare also preparing for their ordinations to the priesthood.

Internships and Temporary Assignments
Three simply professed friars who have been living and studying in Chicago this past year received 12-month internship assignments in preparation for their final vows. James Bernard, OFM, will be serving at St. Anthony Shrine in Boston, Massachusetts, while Steve Kuehn, OFM, will be at St. Bonaventure University in Allegany, New York, and Aaron Richardson, OFM, will be at the St. Francis Inn soup kitchen in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Eight friars have been given summer assignments at designated locations, where they will spend two months learning about Franciscan ministry at parishes, a rural Mountain retreat, and a soup kitchen. The friars and their assignments are:

  • Jason Damon, OFM (St. Francis Inn, Philadelphia)
  • Ian Grant, OFM (St. Bonaventure Parish, Paterson, New Jersey)
  • James La Grutta, OFM (St. Patrick-St. Anthony Parish, Hartford, Connecticut)
  • John Neuffer, OFM (St. Francis of Assisi Parish, Triangle, Virginia)
  • Richard Phillip, OFM (Holy Peace Friary, Mt. Irenaeus, West Clarksville, New York)
  • Carlos Portillo, OFM (St. Peter Claver Parish, Macon, Georgia)
  • Luis Rosado, OFM (St. Anthony Parish, Butler, N.J.), and
  • Steven Young, OFM (St. Camillus Parish, Silver Spring, Maryland).

Simple Profession in California
On July 2, nine men who have been novices for the past year are scheduled to profess their first vows in a ceremony at the Franciscan Interprovincial Novitiate in Santa Barbara, California. Three of the novices are from Holy Name Province: Edgar Alberto, OFM, Michael Specht, OFM, and Carlos Wagner, OFM.

This year’s class of novices. (Photo courtesy of Jeff MacNab)

The other novices are from Assumption Blessed Virgin Mary, Our Lady of Guadalupe, Sacred Heart, St. Barbara, and St. John the Baptist provinces. After their profession, they will travel to Chicago for the next phase of their Franciscan studies.

Since California asked residents to shelter in place earlier this spring, the novitiate community has been paying close attention to “how we balance our call to be a fraternity of prayer and contemplation, as well as action,” according to novice Adolfo Mercado, OFM, of St. Barbara Province.

“It has been a real blessing for us to have the friar community of Old Mission Santa Barbara to share meals with and learn how they are responding to the pandemic,” Adolfo said. “The friar community joins us regularly for Mass and Liturgy of the Hours throughout the week, which has enriched our prayer life.”

The novitiate is located in Old Mission Santa Barbara. (Photo courtesy of Jim McIntosh)

During the quarantine, the novices have participated in ministries differently than they did pre-coronavirus. Their activities have been wide-ranging – from making lunch bags for homeless neighbors and serving daily warm breakfast to homeless women and families who sleep in their cars in the mission parking lot, to phone-chatting with hospitalized and homebound Catholics, maintaining the beautiful mission grounds and reaching out in fraternity to elder friars.

Novices, who have chronicled some of their ministry activities in videos, have also ministered to family members and friends to help them navigate these uncertain times.

“Novitiate life during quarantine has presented the reality of our common life together as brothers,” said novice Neil Pavao, OFM, of Sacred Heart Province. “This has allowed me to come home to the reality that my foremost concern and love should be my family of friars and my relationship with God.”

Adolfo added, “The novices continue to trust God and remain flexible to respond to the needs of the times, looking to our confreres as role models and brothers.”

HNP novice Mike Specht, OFM, said that commitment to communal life like the Franciscans requires selflessness under normal circumstances. “That need to be selfless is amplified nowadays,” he said. “We live this vocation among brothers, and this virus reminds us of that in a deep and meaningful way.”

Postulants’ Plans
The group of men in the first phase of formation left Silver Spring, Maryland, last month, where they had been living at Holy Name College since August 2019 while completing their postulancy. After spending some time with their families, they head to Santa Barbara, California, where they will be received into the Franciscan novitiate on July 15.

The church at Old Mission Santa Barbara. (Photo courtesy of Jim McIntosh)

Comprehensive safety precautions have been arranged for their travels and the initial weeks in their new location. On June 28, the 10 men are scheduled to fly from their home towns to San Diego, California, where they will stay at San Luis Ray Retreat in Oceanside for two weeks, taking two online courses about Franciscan history, before moving on to Santa Barbara.

“By being at the retreat house they can be isolated and safe,” said John Gutiérrez, OFM,  of St. Barbara Province, director of the interprovincial postulant team. “They will then drive to Santa Barbara and settle into their home for the next year – the Franciscan Interprovincial Novitiate.”

The next postulant class is scheduled to arrive at Holy Name College in Silver Spring on Aug. 12. The group of approximately 15 men will begin the formation process that places them on the path to Franciscan life.

“We are all sort of in a waiting mode to see what next year will be like, after what we’ve experienced over these past few months with the COVID-19 outbreak,” said John, noting that he and the leaders of the formation houses in Santa Barbara and Chicago hold regular online meetings to collaboratively plan the formation process.

 — Jocelyn Thomas is director of communications for Holy Name Province.