This report is part of a series about the men who are studying to be Franciscan friars. The previous article described the annual intersession program, held in January in Pennsylvania. Below, the HNP postulant director reports on the recent activities of the men who are living at Holy Name College just outside Washington, D.C.
SILVER SPRING, Md. — Becoming familiar with the ministries and the friars of Holy Name Province is one of the goals of the postulant year. To accomplish this, attempts are made to visit a variety of ministries, either as part of a “ministry tour” or through individual site visits.
The first few months of 2015 have been full for our postulants, Eufemio Dimas, Camilo Garcia, Aaron Richardson, and Angel Vazquez. The four men are spending a year learning about the Province’s people, programs and culture.
In early February, the postulants and I traveled to St. Anthony Friary in Butler, N.J., our second visit there, to attended the Fraternal Gathering at St. Mary’s Church in nearby Pompton Lakes. The following day, we were hosted by Thomas Walters, OFM, at St. Francis Residence II of the St. Francis Friends of the Poor program. We had an opportunity to learn of the friars’ ministry to the mentally ill and financially challenged at one of three residences and to meet some of the residents. Andrew Reitz, OFM, pastor of St. Francis Parish on West 31st Street, hosted the postulants for lunch at St. Francis Friary and gave them a tour of the church and the ministry.
Seeing Friars in Ministry
The following morning, we met two friars — Peter Chepaitis, OFM, and Christopher Keenan, OFM — at All Saints Church in Harlem and helped at the food pantry there, along with volunteers from the Project Create Young Adult Program. We had lunch with Benedict Taylor, OFM, and Neil O’Connell, OFM, at the Young Adult Program’s residence, where we learned of the many-faceted ministry of Project Create. We also talked about the Emmaus Fraternity, friars who live singly due to their ministry, but come together regularly.
That afternoon, we visited Holy Name of Jesus Church on West 96th Street in Manhattan, where pastor Lawrence Ford, OFM, showed us around and explained the ministry the friars perform in that neighborhood. Later, we shared dinner with the friars of Holy Name Friary — Lawrence Hayes, OFM, Michael McDonnell, OFM, and Matthew Pravetz, OFM, who described his ministry at New York Medical College.
The following day, Sunday, we attended Mass at St. Anthony Church in Butler and then drove to Holy Name Friary in nearby Ringwood to visit with the friars there, many of whom we had met on an earlier visit.
On our final day of this New Jersey tour, we traveled to St. Francis Farm in Hardwick, N.J., where Francis Kim, OFM, showed us the farm, explained the operation and ministry, and treated us to a Korean feast, with the help of some volunteers.
Understanding Religious Life
The ministry visits of the postulants are balanced by lectures, workshops and retreats.
In addition to the weekly classes in Franciscan studies that I teach and a monthly seminar on human development issues led by Sr. Mercedes McCann, RSM, the postulants attend a monthly program “Claiming our Future, Men and Women Religious in Conversation,” sponsored by the Franciscan Monastery of the Holy Land in Washington, D.C. At this gathering of men and women religious, an expert in a field significant to religious life makes a presentation. Afterward, the attendees participate in small group discussions.
Special seminars are prepared to give the postulants information that helps them better understand our Catholic faith and Franciscan religious life. Daniel Grigassy, OFM, presented on liturgical practices, James Scullion, OFM, on Scripture, and Russ Testa, director of the HNP Office for Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation, on Catholic Social teachings.
Lent took the postulants to Aston, Pa., and the Franciscan Spiritual Center for a hermitage retreat, following St. Francis’s Rule for Hermitages.
The next week we traveled to Graymoor Spiritual Life Center in Garrison, N.Y., for the Inter-Franciscan Formation Program — a gathering of Franciscan of men and women in formation to regular religious life from all branches of the Franciscan family. It was led by Sr. Lynn Patrice Lavin, OSF, of the Franciscan Sisters of Philadelphia.
Most recently, the postulants traveled to the Franciscan Interprovincial Novitiate in Burlington, Wis., where the novices hosted a workshop, presented by Fr. Sean Sammon, FMS, titled “Human Sexuality and Celibate Chastity.”
There has been a great deal of travel and learning over the past three months, all filled with grace and blessing. Photos of the postulants’ activities can be found on the Postulancy of the Most Holy Name of Jesus Facebook page.
— Fr. Ronald, a solemnly-professed friar since 1982, is stationed at Holy Name College, Silver Spring, Md. Information about applying to Holy Name Province’s formation program can be found on the website of the Franciscan Vocation Ministry.