Formation Students Gather for Annual Workshop

Jocelyn Thomas Friar News

SILVER SPRING, Md. — Eleven men in the various levels of initial formation as Franciscans in Holy Name Province came together for their yearly meeting at Holy Name College earlier this month for several days of fraternity and education.

This program, usually labeled the “intersession” because it traditionally is held between academic semesters in early January, attempts to provide some Franciscan content not usually available in regular academic courses, but more importantly, lets the men in initial formation get to know one another better on a personal level, said Dominic Monti, OFM, the Province’s secretary of formation and studies. Because of this year’s Provincial chapter, the program was not able to be held at its usual time, and was scheduled during spring break, he said.

The March 9 to 11 gathering included prayer, presentations, meals, discussions and an excursion to Baltimore.

This year, three postulants, based in Wilmington, Del., as well as George Camacho, OFM, who is participating in the interprovincial novitiate in Cedar Lake, Ind., joined five simply professed friars and another novice, Ross Chamberland, OFM, who live at Holy Name College. Intern Dwayne Fernandes, OFM, stationed in Raleigh, N.C., for the year, also came for the program. Four other simply professed friars on internship were unable to attend. The formation directors from Silver Spring and Wilmington, Del., Thomas Conway, OFM, and Tony LoGalbo, OFM, from Silver Spring and Ronald Pecci, OFM, and William Herbst, OFM, respectively, also attended the program.

The participants arrived in time for Ash Wednesday evening prayer, followed by dinner. Due to the penitential nature of the day, the usual festive welcoming gathering was more subdued, Dominic said. “Instead everyone joined the Holy Name community in a meditative Stations of the Cross service at 9 p.m.”

Justice and Peace Presentation 
Thursday was devoted to a workshop on “Conducting Civil Conversation on Difficult Issues,” using the test-case of immigration. This topic was chosen by the formation team to follow up on the Province’s decision at Chapter to advocate for the just treatment of immigrants in our society, but at the same time respecting our Franciscan role as peacemakers, Dominic said. How do we raise these issues in a way that brings people together (whether in a parish, school, or other setting) rather than divides them?

The workshop, which has been presented in two other venues in the Province, was led by Russell Testa, director of the Province’s Office for Justice, Peace, and Integrity of Creation, and Megan Nerz of St. Francis Parish in Raleigh, a member of the JPIC Directorate. The friars seemed to enjoy the role-playing exercise, Testa said.

An evening recreation, including “movie night,” closed the day, Dominic said.

Visit to Baltimore 
On Friday morning, Dominic led a discussion among the formation students, sharing their experience of the Province’s formation program — what did they expect it to be? How has it been different? In what ways could it be improved? — their experience of the Province itself, and their hopes and fears with regard to the future of Franciscan life in the United States. 

On Friday afternoon, Dominic took the students to the Walters Art Museum in Baltimore to view the missal from the church of San Nicolo in Assisi, most likely the very book that Francis and his first two companions opened in 1208 when they were trying to discern their way of life, he said. Afterwards, the students continued their visit of the Walters to see “a fine exhibit” of medieval reliquaries and a painting of St. Francis by El Greco. Afterwards, they visited the nearby recently restored Basilica of the Assumption, the first cathedral in the United States.

The program ended on Friday afternoon rather than being carried into Saturday morning as usual to enable friars to attend the funeral of John Mahon, OFM, in Butler, N.J., Dominic said.

Dwayne said he found the gathering to be worthwhile. “It felt good to come back to Holy Name College and reconnect with everyone, especially the novices and new friars in the house,” he said. “The workshop afforded crucial facts on immigration and excellent tools for dialog. Our conversation with Dominic, the next day, was most fruitful and, of course, it was absolutely thrilling to see and touch an 800-year-old book that might have been touched by St. Francis himself.”

He added: “The best part of the formation gathering, though, were the meals — because where else can you sit down at a table and have almost every country in the world represented?”

This is the second year that Holy Name College hosted the gathering. Before 2010, the intersession was held at theFranciscan Spiritual Center in Aston, Pa.

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