Franciscans Renew Vows

Jocelyn Thomas Around the Province

This month, friars around the world recommitted to living their vows of poverty, chastity and obedience.

Tradition says that the first Rule of Life of the Order of Friars Minor, called the Primitive Rule, was approved on April 16, 1209, by Pope Innocent III. Since the Franciscans have marked this as the date on which the Order was founded, it is also the date on which solemnly-professed friars throughout the world symbolically renew their vows.

Over the last few weeks, friars at locations around the Province renewed their vows in ceremonies ranging from casual to more formal events.

The friars at the St. Joseph post-novitiate formation house in Chicago with Provincial Ministers Fr. Robert Campagna, OFM, seated with stole, and Kevin Mullen, seated with chasuble. (Photo courtesy Aaron Richardson)

In Chicago, the simply professed friars living at St. Joseph Friary – most of whom attend Catholic Theological Union and are in the post-novitiate phase of their formation – renewed their vows on April 5 during a visit by Provincial Minister Kevin Mullen, OFM, and Fr. Robert Campagna, OFM, provincial minister of Immaculate Conception Province. The group included 11 student friars – Br. Josh Critchley, OFM, of IC Province, and 10 Holy Name members – who renewed their commitment to living the Franciscan vows.

“I am filled with hope when I hear one of my brothers profess to live the Gospel by following in the footsteps of Francis and Clare and declaring their desire to be poor, chaste, and obedient,” said Kevin, who professed his first vows as a Franciscan in 1976. “Their words challenge me ‘to begin again.’ I am happy to throw my lot in with theirs so that we can live the Franciscan life together and be of service to our sisters and brothers.”

The renewal was both joyful and meaningful, according to student friar Steven Kuehn, OFM.

“The renewal of vows was meaningful for me as it showed how God is continuing to call me and each of us here to move forward in our Franciscan journey,” he said. “It was especially meaningful to renew simple vows along with the other simply-professed brothers here in the house; it was also meant a lot to have the solemnly professed friars present who have continuously provided support, mentorship and encouragement during our journey thus far here at St. Joe’s. I feel very grateful and excited in continuing this way of life.”

He added, “I remember the joyous atmosphere as we all rehearsed together in the chapel the Thursday night prior to the renewal, and during the renewal itself. At the Thursday practice, we had fun going over who says what during the actual profession. I think it took us a few practices! Thankfully, we figured it all out before Friday morning. All in all, it was certainly a joyful and memorable morning.”

Two student friars renewed their vows at the locations where they are serving internships. Javier Del Angel De Los Santos, OFM, renewed his vows on April 9 at St. Camillus Parish, Silver Spring Md. Erick Lopez, OFM, received the vows in the company of three other friars – Jean-Marie Kabango-Lenge, OFM, Edgardo Jara, OFM, and Christopher Posch, OFM.

On April 12, Roberto Serrano, OFM, renewed his vows in the community chapel of St. Anthony of Padua Friary in Greenville, S.C. The following Monday, after Mass, Roberto described to students at St. Anthony of Padua School the meaning behind the vows.

On April 16, friar communities at several locations professed their vows.

Friars Philip O’Shea, Matthew Pravetz, Barry Langley, and Martin Bednar at their renewal of vows ceremony last week. (Photo courtesy of Matthew)

Two residents of Holy Name of Jesus Friary on the Upper West Side — Barry Langley, OFM, and Matthew Pravetz, OFM – visited Martin Bednar, OFM, and Philip O’Shea, OFM (former residents of the Ringwood, N.J., friary) at their new home at St. Cabrini Nursing Home in Dobbs Ferry, in suburban Westchester County. Barry served as presider, using a printed program that he had produced. The setting was lovely as was the spirit of the gathering, according to Matthew.

“The room overlooked the beautiful Hudson River,” Matthew said. “The service was simple, yet very prayerful and fully inviting. We recited the renewal of profession in unison. Barry had put together a very nice illustrated program with large print so it was easy to pray along.”

He continued, “We followed the prayer with a pizza reception, which was a lot of fun. The friars living at St. Cabrini liked the opportunity to reminisce – and there was plenty of that. Phil was happy to have been the celebrant of the daily Mass earlier that day.”

The friars in Boston after symbolically renewing their vows. (Photo courtesy of Frank Sevola)

Matthew, who serves as chairman of HNP’s Sick, Aged and Retired Directorate, added, “Our Cabrini residents seem to be pleased with the attention they are getting from the friars, who visit them regularly. They are  pleased with the care they are receiving from the staff.”

On the same day In Boston, 21 friars at St. Anthony Shrine renewed their vows. Frank Sevola, OFM, in his role as guardian, served as presider.

“We all renewed together so it was similar to how friars renew their vows at the annual Provincial jubilee celebrations,” Frank said.

– Jocelyn Thomas is director of communications for Holy Name Province.