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Formation Update: Novitiate Life for a ‘City Boy’

franciscan-novice-class-2016

The novices received their habits last year. From left to right: Provincial Vicar Lawrence Hayes, Aaron Richardson, Angel Vázquez, Eufemio Dimas, and Joseph Rozansky, director of post-novitiate formation. (Photo courtesy of the novitiate)

Last August, 13 men began their novitiate year, the second phase of their Franciscan training. Over the last five months, they have been taking courses that include topics such as prayer and spirituality, Franciscan history, liturgy and music, and the history of religious life. They have also been adapting to community life. One of Holy Name Province’s novices took time recently to describe the challenges and the personal growth that he has felt as part of the Franciscan formation program.

BURLINGTON, Wis. — Coming to the Franciscan Interprovincial Novitiate in Wisconsin was a major change for me. All my life I have lived in cities — New York City, Albany, N.Y., and Tampa, Fla. Relocating to this small rural Midwestern town has been a major shock to my system. Learning to slow down has been my biggest obstacle. One of the best things I’ve learned over these past few months is that the novitiate year, so far, is the perfect place to overcome one’s obstacles.

The best thing about this year is that we are given to time to grow personally and spiritually. For me, this means working harder to become physically healthier, emotionally prepared for the challenges faced in ministry and grounded in my Catholic-Franciscan spirituality. I’ve also come to the realization that my past fear of being stuck in the middle of “nowhere” is just a state of mind that I’ve changed to “now here.” It’s about having a certain sense of mindfulness and being present in the moment and, in this moment, I am in a place that fosters and supports healthy change. Thinking in this way has greatly helped me not only to grow emotionally, but also to reflect on past life experiences.

This change in my emotions has been a major aid to the changes of my physical health. Before entering into the Franciscan formation program, I was very overweight. By being able to reflect on experiences and current emotions, I’ve been able to make healthy changes in my eating habits as well as my exercise habits. With the support of my community, I’ve been able to lose weight and feel great.

 

Two moments have happened so far that are clear signs of healthy spiritual changes for me: the divestiture and receiving the habit. The first occurred two months into the program where we had a few days of recollection to reflect about our lives and think about some concrete items we wanted to rid ourselves to make the most out of our novitiate year. I chose my credit card, iPhone and college ring. I gave up the credit card as a means to rely more on my brothers and also to know what it is like to limit myself financially. I gave up the smartphone because I knew it would be a distraction for me and keep me from making the most out of this year. Finally my college ring. This was a symbol of pride for me. I’m proud of my school and my education; however, I wanted to let go of the idea that I could do anything on my own. I’m here to join a community and letting go of my pride is a big step in doing that.

The second moment was receiving the habit. It was a very emotional day for me. We had many guests come to the house, all of whom were friars from our provinces, to witness and share in our moment. Receiving the habit for me is a symbol of moving closer to living out my Catholic-Franciscan spirituality.

So, moving this city boy out to the cornfields of Wisconsin turned out to be the best move I’ve made so far. I look forward to the other moves I will make with the Franciscan community.

Br. Angel, a native of Staten Island, N.Y., is a graduate of Siena College, Loudonville, N.Y. 

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