As the Year of Consecrated Life continues, a student friar in Silver Spring, Md., reports on a gathering of the Franciscan friar family in the nation’s capital that he helped organize.
WASHINGTON — More than 70 Franciscans from the OFM, Capuchin, Conventual, TOR, and Atonement friar families came together at Capuchin College on Thursday, March 12 for an evening of prayer and fraternity to commemorate the Year of Consecrated Life. The event was organized by four friars in formation — Rafa Anguinano-Rodriguez, OFM Cap., Vincent Yeager, TOR, and Emanuel Vasconcelos, OFM Conv., and me.
The idea came up shortly after last year’s Transitus liturgy. Rafa, Manny, and I had such a great time getting to know one another while we were planning the last two Transitus celebrations, and had such a sense of satisfaction in bringing all the branches of the family together, that we thought we should keep the collaboration going and organize something to celebrate the Year of Consecrated Life.
While several ideas were batted around, we decided to keep it simple and focused on getting as many friars together as possible to do what friars do best: pray and eat. The hope was to have an evening of the kind of Gospel joy to which Pope Francis called all religious in his letter proclaiming the Year of Consecrated Life: “We are called to know and show that God is able to fill our hearts to the brim with happiness; that we need not seek our happiness elsewhere; that the authentic fraternity found in our communities increases our joy; and that our total self-giving in service to the Church, to families and young people, to the elderly and the poor, brings us life-long personal fulfillment.”
The evening began with Mass at 4 p.m., with Fr. Gary Johnson, OFM Conv., presiding, Fr. Paul Dressler, OFM Cap., offering the homily, and with priests from all the branches of the Franciscan family, including Michael Calabria, OFM, concelebrating. The chapel was filled to capacity by the many friars in attendance. “It was a tremendous experience to sit in the front of the chapel and look back and see nearly every one of the seats filled with friars from so many communities,” said Br. Phil White, OFM Cap. “It was an amazing gift to break bread together in the sacrifice of the Mass at the altar and then again at the dinner table. I found it inspiring to learn so much about the charism of the other friar families.”
Following Mass were preprandium and dinner, where friars from the different branches were seated throughout the room to encourage mixing and mingling. Postulant Angel Vazquez was particularly impressed with how welcoming the friars at the dinner table were: “Even though we were complete strangers, and new to the Order, they were interested in who we were, what our stories were and how we got there. They gave some very sage advice and promised us that we would be in their prayers.”
This spirit of fraternity was echoed by Br. Emanuel, one of the organizers. “Some of us only see each other briefly in class or on campus, some friars have courses at The Catholic University of America or other schools that limit their interaction with others, and most of us aren’t even in formation,” he remarked. “Providentially, this evening gave us a chance to build new connections and share in some classic Franciscan fraternity!”
Abraham Joseph, OFM, couldn’t have agreed more. He believes that the evening “personally brought me closer to the brothers of the different branches. Although we cross paths all the time at CUA, the evening gave me the chance to connect with them on a deeper level, and will undoubtedly help strengthen our relationships and collaboration.”
The night ended on a high and caloric note with a variety of desserts prepared by the TOR brothers, and with many discussing the possibility of having more nights like this in the near future. As Br. Phil put it: “This was truly a great experience for me, and I hope it will become a spring break tradition! I can’t help but wonder if this was a little peek into what it will be like to be a friar in heaven, sitting around in joy with all the other friars and our Lord.”
— Br. John, a student friar at Holy Name College, professed his first vows as a Franciscan in 2012.