As men interested in religious life explore the ways God is calling them to a more authentic way of living, they are finding support from Holy Name Province’s organic discernment communities.
Friars around the Province are welcoming men to join them for evening prayer, meals and other activities. These organic discernment communities are growing at urban ministries, such as St. Anthony Shrine in Boston, St. Francis of Assisi Parish in New York City and Sacred Heart Parish in Tampa, Fla. They’re also present on college campuses, including St. Bonaventure University, Siena College and the University of Georgia in Athens.
“To really discern, you have to be in the midst of Franciscan life for a period of time,” said Kevin Mullen, OFM. “There are people discerning wherever the friars are. We want to open the doors and invite them in.”
Many men discover Holy Name Province through its website and social media accounts. The organic discernment communities are essential for potential applicants as they seek to deepen their connection to the friars.
“The process of connection comes through personal interaction and invitation,” said Basil Valente, OFM, director of vocations. “This has proven true especially with the Province’s emerging pre-postulant discernment communities.”
Several of the members of the incoming postulant class of 2016-17 are involved with the organic discernment communities in their area. Said one, “As I have been discerning a Franciscan vocation, I find that I need to be around others who are going through similar experiences, while I let go of other aspects of my life. At this moment, I feel drawn to prayer in community, in addition to private prayer and attending Mass twice a week, all while getting to know the friars and their way of life.”
New organic discernment communities are evolving in other parts of the Province, including northern New Jersey, said Gonzalo Torres-Acosta, OFM, associate director of vocations, who is beginning the first of several “Franciscan Vocation Awareness Weekends” to be held at ministries in North Jersey. On March 13, he plans to visit St. Bonaventure Parish in Paterson, where he will speak at the weekend Masses — both English and Spanish — and offer information about Franciscan vocations.
“I will preach the Gospel of the day, share my personal story of how God calls me, tell people about our ministries, and, of course, invite young men to consider joining us and others to spread the Good News,” he said.
After each Mass, Gonzalo will be distributing vocation brochures, answering questions, and connecting interested men with friars, as well as inviting them to join the Province’s organic discernment communities.
Gonazlo also plans to visit other parishes in North Jersey to speak about Franciscan life. The Vocation Office staff hopes that the new organic discernment community in New Jersey will be co-hosted by local friary communities, including St. Anthony Friary in Butler, St. Mary Friary in Pompton Lakes, St. Bonaventure Friary in Paterson, Holy Name Friary in Ringwood, and Assumption Friary in Wood-Ridge.
Meanwhile, Basil will be traveling to various ministries in the South to encourage the creation of organic discernment communities there.
“Men are seeking a more personal relationship with God in genuine and integrated ways,” Basil said. “The strongest influence on vocations proves to be personal connections with religious communities, and the support of family, friends and community.”
In a video message published last year, General Minister Fr. Michael Perry, OFM, encouraged each province to develop and support organic discernment communities. Kevin echoed this in a recent letter sent to the friars.
“It’s important to note that every friar is responsible for helping men in discernment, not simply our vocation ministry team,” said Kevin. “We all should be involved in it collectively as fraternities. The best thing we can do is open our doors and invite people who are in discernment to join us, to pray with us, to come and share a meal with us, to see how we minister. Franciscan life isn’t something you read about. You catch it by doing it.”
The Vocation Office is eager to support and assist those friars who wish to begin an organic discernment community with their fraternity. Interested friars are encouraged to contact the Vocation Office staff at 646-473-0265.
In his letter, Kevin expressed his sincere thanks for the work the friars are doing to encourage vocations.
“Please accept my deepest gratitude to you, and to all members of Holy Name Province, for the important Franciscan work and ministry you accomplish to foster vocations to the consecrated life with our Province,” he wrote. “Please keep the men in our formation program and in our organic discernment communities in your prayers as they continue their initial journey in Franciscan formation.”
More information about Holy Name Province’s vocation ministry can be found on BeAFranciscan.org.
— Maria Hayes is communications coordinator for Holy Name Province.
- “General Minister Encourages Creation of Organic Discernment Communities” — Sept. 2, 2015, HNP Today
- “Discernment Communities Emerge at Ministries Around the Province” — July 8, 2015, HNP Today
- “St. Bonaventure University to Offer Residential Discernment Community” — Nov. 19, 2014, HNP Today