NEW YORK — After completing a formation program of education and varied ministries — including teaching, counseling, parish work, art, and foreign missions — four friars professed their final vows as Franciscans on Aug. 21 at a Mass at St. Francis of Assisi Church on West 31st Street. Provincial MinisterJohn O’Connor, OFM, accepted the solemn vows of Cidouane Joseph, OFM,Robert Lentz, OFM, Erick Lopez, OFM, and Paul O’Keeffe, OFM, who come from diverse backgrounds and now profess to live in chastity, obedience, and with no possessions of their own for the rest of their lives.
“I hope that when people look at your lives, they raise their eyebrows because they see you are not living the status quo,” John said in his homily. “I encourage you to never give up seeking God and to stay focused on our father, St. Francis of Assisi, who led a life of radical devotion and service to the poor.”
After accepting the vows of these men, John said, “People learn about God from God-like people. We live in an age where everything is temporary and revocable. Your lives, however, point to that which is irrevocable.”
The solemn profession marked the culmination of the friars’ preparation to become full members of the Order and of the Province, said vocation director Brian Smail, OFM.
The newly professed friars have had diverse lives of service and education.
Cidouane, 44, is a native of Haiti and a graduate of the Grand Seminaire Notre Dame in Port-au-Prince and theWashington Theological Union in Washington, D.C. He began his studies as a seminarian for the Archdiocese of Port-au-Prince. In 2002, Cid came to New York City, where he met the friars at Holy Name of Jesus Church on the Upper West Side. Subsequent to his admission to the Franciscans, he pursued a degree in pastoral studies at WTU. After completing an internship at Holy Name of Jesus Parish, he has been transferred to St. Patrick-St. Anthony Church in Hartford, Conn. Cid will be ordained a deacon on Sept. 4 at the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington.
Erick, 37, grew up in Cuba and earned a bachelor’s degree in radiochemistry at the Instituto de Ciencias Nucleares de Cuidad de la Habana, and a degree in chemistry while living in Colombia. He came to the United States and settled in Hialeah, Fla., near Miami. After completing an internship at St. Patrick-St. Anthony Church in Hartford, he has returned to Washington for a final year of studies at WTU. Erick also plans to be ordained a deacon on Sept. 4.
Robert, 63, an iconographer, was formerly a friar of Our Lady of Guadalupe Province in Albuquerque, N.M., and transferred to Holy Name Province in 2008. He was born in Buffalo, N.Y., and grew up in Colorado. Robert earned a bachelor’s degree from Duns Scotus College in Detroit, and studied theology at St. Leonard College in Dayton, Ohio. The widely-respected artist has worked on several large icons and is in ministry at St. Bonaventure University in Western New York.
Paul, 41, was a teacher at Matignon High School in Cambridge, Mass., before becoming a friar. The native of Burlington, Mass., earned a degree in culinary arts from Newbury College in Brookline, Mass., and a bachelor’s degree from the State College in Salem, Mass. From 1997 to 2003, Paul worked as a lay missionary in Africa for the Society of Africa Missions and the Franciscan Mission Service. In 2009, he was graduated from Howard University, Washington, D.C., with a master’s degree in social work. Paul is based at St. Francis of Assisi Parishon Long Beach Island, N.J., where he offers counseling services at St. Francis Community Center.
John thanked the friars who “had a part in the formation of these men” — Thomas Gallagher, OFM, and Ronald Pecci, OFM — and those who helped with the liturgy, especially Christopher Coccia, OFM, and Timothy Shreenan, OFM, who were masters of ceremony. He also thanked Jerome Massimino, OFM, pastor of St. Francis of Assisi, and the other friars of the church for their hospitality.
John also acknowledged the musicians, led by Meredith Augustin, and the families of the newly professed friars. A note in the profession program, which also described “Le Jongleur de Dieu,” a new icon by Robert that was displayed in the church, offered a note of thanks to the families of the newly-professed. “You have been our first evangelizers and proclaimed the Word of God to us by the way you lived,” said the four friars. “You have shaped us into the men God called us to be.”
“When I knelt before Fr. John O’Connor to profess my solemn vows, old enough to be the father of the other friars making vows, I was aware of finally coming home,” said Robert. “A deep longing I had felt for four decades was filled. No words can express how I feel. God does, indeed, write straight with crooked lines.”
He continued: “As a young man, I entered the Order as the Second Vatican Council began its deliberations. I left in 1970, the day before I was to make solemn vows. During the following decades, life took me to amazing places, where I learned to paint Byzantine icons and to embrace the struggle for justice and peace.” During his struggle, Robert found himself arrested in Chile and homeless in San Francisco. “Each experience taught me something important about life and God’s extravagant love.”
Sr. Claire Andre Gagliardi, OSF, of Chesterfield, N.J., attended the profession. “It was a joy and honor to attend. I have known three of the men since they were novices. To watch the growth and grace in their lives over the years has been a grace in my life. The ceremony captured the sacredness of the moment, as they said their ‘Yes’ to God in our Franciscan family.”
— Jocelyn Thomas is the Province’s director of communications.