Vocation Weekend Connects Candidates with Grieving Parents

Maria Hayes Friar News

Participants in a recent discernment weekend at St. Anthony Shrine

The discernment weekend in Boston brought together friars and candidates of varied backgrounds. (Photo courtesy of Basil Valente)

BOSTON — Men who gathered at St. Anthony Shrine last weekend to discern their call to Franciscan life shared their Saturday with a special ministry that is unique to the church on Arch Street.

The Emmaus Ministry for Grieving Parents was also hosting a retreat on March 21 at the Shrine’s friary for parents who have lost a child. Throughout the day, the men discerning a vocation to friar life and the retreat participants had time to offer each other support, share meals and prayer, and listen to and learn from each other.

“From the beginning, I felt a blessing could come from the two events being held at the same time,” said John Maganzini, OFM, a member of the Emmaus Ministry’s retreat team. “All throughout the weekend, I noticed the men discerning their vocation and the parents had moments to engage in conversations and moments of presence to one another.

“Afterward, as I read the parents’ feedback, it was clear that one highlight of the weekend was the chance to be with the friars and share the hospitality of our home, and to meet the candidates,” he continued. “It was special for the parents to share time and conversations with men interested in joining Franciscan life. All throughout the weekend, the two groups prayed for one another.”

He concluded, “I believe that meeting the men gave the parents hope, a hope that Franciscan life will continue to grow and bring the gift of presence and many other blessings to the life of the Church.”

Following St. Francis
The vocation discernment weekend began on Friday, March 20 with evening prayer and a welcome given by Gene Pistacchio, OFM, and vocation director Basil Valente, OFM. After a social gathering and dinner, associate vocation director Gonzalo de Jesus Torres-Acosta, OFM, led introductions before George Camacho, OFM, and Eric Carpine, OFM, gave a talk called “What Does It Mean to be a Franciscan Friar Today?”

“Although stemming from different backgrounds, all six candidates expressed themselves openly and honestly regarding their potential call to Franciscan life,” said George. “Furthermore, there was no lack of candor and humor as various friars recounted memories and current anecdotes of community life, including both the joys and challenges of following in the footsteps of Francis of Assisi.”

The retreat continued on Saturday with morning prayer, followed by a presentation about the ministries of St. Anthony Shrine, given by Daniel Murray, OFM, of the Franciscan Spiritual Companionship Ministry and two staff members — Julie Ogden, director of human services, and Jackie Stewart, director of evangelization.

During the weekend, the men assisted Ogden in assembling items for a Kids’ Program distribution that will take place in April. “What these eight guys happily did in 20 minutes would have taken one person a couple of hours to complete,” noted a post on the Shrine’s website.

Dennis Bennett and candidates at the recent discernment weekend

Dennis Bennett and two candidates at the recent discernment weekend. (Photo courtesy of Basil Valente)

Journeying with the Franciscans
After lunch, Dennis Bennett, OFM, a student friar, and Hugh Hines, OFM, a Franciscan friar for nearly 60 years, gave a talk titled “Our Journey with the Franciscans.”

“It’s great to hear how our student friars give witness to their decision to leave their prior careers and pursue the Franciscan dream,” commented Gene. “Our candidates truly relate with our student friars when they share their work experience prior to becoming friars. These men who are coming to us are arriving later in life and bring with them a wealth of experience and professional skills. It’s very meaningful for me to hear my experienced brothers speak about how they came to be a Friar Minor and share the spiritual richness of their involvement in a variety of ministries.”

The candidates then met one-on-one with a friar before gathering for dinner and enjoying free time together. On Sunday, the men attended Mass at the Shrine and had brunch together before meeting individually with Basil.

“Once again, the vocation ministry of Holy Name Province hosted a prayer-filled and successful Lenten retreat,” said director Basil, vocation director since summer 2014. “Thanks to all the friars at St. Anthony Shrine in Boston, a variety of lay ministers, including men and women in the Emmaus Ministry, and the entire vocation ministry team, our spring discernment retreat was a huge success.”

For George, a student friar at Holy Name College in Silver Spring, Md., the weekend compelled him to think about the reasons why he joined the Order, and why he continues to pursue Franciscan life.

“I am blessed for the transparency and kindness with which the friars of Holy Name Province have helped to support my own vocational discernment since I entered the formation program,” George said. “This past weekend presented an opportunity for me to do the same for other men considering a call to Franciscan life. I pray that the Lord continue to guide and inspire them on their journeys.”

Gene expressed his gratitude to Basil and his assistant, Benjamin Simpson, for the work they have done in promoting vocations and organizing retreats.

“These discernment weekends are an opportunity for the friars to celebrate our consecrated life as we remember our past and look forward to a living hope in our future because of the men who are sent to us,” said Gene. “I am grateful for their history, their desire to serve and for their attraction to and inspiration of our Franciscan life.”

Maria Hayes is communications coordinator for Holy Name Province. Information about upcoming vocation events can be found on the Be A Franciscan website.