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Formation Update: A Blessed Time on the West Coast

edgardo-zea-st-barbara-province

The author of this reflection will be graduating on May 16 from the Franciscan School of Theology at a ceremony at Old Mission San Luis Ray, Oceanside, Calif. It is the same date that two friars based at Holy Name College in Silver Spring, Md., will be graduating from Loyola University in Baltimore.

OCEANSIDE, Calif. — During my year at the Interprovincial Novitiate in Burlington, Wis., three years ago, my classmates and I had the opportunity to meet and to talk with the former General Minister of our Order, Fr. José Rodríguez Carballo, OFM. In the meeting, he made the point that, even though we belong to different provinces, we are part of something bigger — the Order of Friars Minor. He exhorted us to keep this in mind and to always have a spirit of solidarity, collaboration, and brotherhood among us as brothers and among our provinces in the United States.

Due to a number of reasons — including age and background — and with interprovincial collaboration, my post-novitiate journey has been different than that of my classmates at Holy Name College. For the past two years, I have had the opportunity to live among the friars of St. Barbara Province in California and to finish my Master of Divinity at the Franciscan School of Theology. My first year was in Berkeley in the Bay area and the second was in Oceanside in southern California. There is not a better way to describe my experience on the West Coast than to say that it was a blessed time.

It was a blessed time because I had the opportunity to experience the reality of what Br. José told us during the novitiate — that is, despite the differences between our provinces, we are all brothers in the same Franciscan family — brothers who care for and welcome each other, who support and help each other, and who pray, study, work, celebrate and laugh together. It doesn’t matter what our nationality is or the color of our skin or eyes, the ministry in which we are involved, or even the province to which we belong. What matters is that we try to live the Gospel of Jesus Christ as St. Francis of Assisi did.

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Varied Opportunities
During my time in California, I experienced two diverse fraternities. This past year, friars from 10 different countries and seven provinces were members of our community. Some were retired, others worked at the parish, the retreat center, the museum or at FST, and others, like myself, were students. I have not only had the opportunity to interact, live and pray with student friars but also with brothers who have followed the Franciscan journey for many years. Some of them were professors at FST and had been provincials in the past, and others were former missionaries. The wisdom, experience, knowledge, challenge, support, encouragement, advice, courage and love are some of the many gifts I received from the brothers of St. Barbara Province. I was blessed to be able to share their life and fraternity even for a short time. They welcomed me two years ago, and now I return to my own province with a heart full of gratitude.

In addition to the fraternal life, my time at FST was also blessed because I did not only study theology; I studied “Franciscan” theology. What a wonderful gift! For three years, I studied philosophy at the Catholic University of Costa Rica and almost three years of theology at the same school. During these years the Franciscan tradition was never mentioned. In contrast, the Franciscan School of Theology incorporates Franciscan spirituality and tradition into practically every class. Most of the courses I took – including the reconciliation practicum, preaching, pastoral theology, pastoral counseling, morality, Christology, and canon law – incorporated the contribution of Franciscan theology and spirituality. My study of theology was certainly academically rigorous, but it also transformed my heart. The faculty and staff at FST treated the students as brothers and sisters and were really interested in their growth.

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Gratitude to Many
During my two years at FST, I found more than a graduate school — I found a family. Yes, FST is a small school, but what I received there many big and important universities do not offer – a true “Franciscan” education. Franciscan spirituality and values are taught not only in the classroom, but also in the activities and daily life of the school. I am very proud of the education I have received at FST.

Once again, I can say that it has been a “blessed time.” I feel very grateful and thank God for allowing me to continue my formation and education and I also thank God for my Province’s trust in me and for its prayers. In a special way, I would like to thank Dominic Monti, OFM, Tom Conway, OFM, and Ron Pecci, OFM. I am also very grateful to the friars of St. Barbara Province who welcomed me and treated me as a brother.

Even though I missed the East and the brothers of my own Holy Name Province, I have truly felt at home during these last two years. For this I would like to especially thank Fr. John Hardin, OFM, Fr. Joe Chinnici, OFM, Br. Jeff MacNab, OFM, Fr. Tom West, OFM, and the FST faculty and staff who always supported and challenged me. I am grateful for the people I met during these two years and for the contribution they have made to the person and Franciscan friar I am today.

My time on the West Coast is finished, but the knowledge, experiences, and good memories I have gained will be with me always. It has been a remarkable and special time for me.

Br. Edgardo, a native of Costa Rica, professed his first vows as a Franciscan in August 2013. Information about the student friars of Holy Name Province can be found on the Be A Franciscan website.