Friars in Florida, South Carolina Host Guests Interested in Franciscan Life

Jocelyn Thomas Friar News

Guests in Tampa with friars, from left, Roberto Serrano, Zach Elliot in vestments, and James Bernard (rear), Paul Santoro and Basil Valente (at right). (Photo courtesy of HNP Vocation Ministry)

Fraternities around Holy Name Province have been encouraging vocations by welcoming visitors to their ministries. Over the last few weeks, friars in Florida and South Carolina hosted men interested in becoming friars.

During Super Bowl weekend, Feb. 2 to 4, four men visited St. Anthony Friary in St. Petersburg, Fla. In addition to participating in the traditional discussions and meals that are an important part of a vocation weekend, visitors learned about new artwork created by Michael Reyes, OFM, who is stationed at nearby Sacred Heart Parish in Tampa. They also heard James Bernard, OFM, Paul Santoro, OFM, and Roberto Serrano, OFM, speak about their Franciscan journeys.

“We are so grateful for a truly blessed weekend of discernment with our brothers in Tampa and St. Petersburg,” said the HNP Franciscan Vocation Ministry on its Facebook page. “Four men came to spend time with the friars and pray for God’s guidance as they consider God’s call to them to the Franciscan life.”

Sharing Art and Stories
In a presentation titled “Poverty, Chastity, and Obedience: Artistic Renderings of the Franciscan Vows,” Michael spoke about a new, three-paneled series of paintings he created based on the joys and challenges of the vows.

“I used only four colors – they are very dark with glimmers of light,” said Michael, who professed his final vows in 2013. “The windows are Rose Windows – the one in Chastity is the Rose Window in Sacred Heart Church in Tampa. These represent the Church, and when one looks at the paintings, one is unsure if one is looking out of or into the Church.

“The darkness is important. People think of the vows as these wonderful things, but there are challenges with the vows, the reality of them. But there are also the flickers and gleams of light – the support of God, and the support of our brothers.”

Michael Reyes with his paintings. (Photo courtesy of Basil Valente)

Paul, a regional vocation director stationed in Orlando, Fla., said he was impressed by the men who came for the weekend.

“Each one is diverse in culture and experience,” said Paul. “Their love for God and the Church is evident through the many ways that they contribute to their parishes and jobs. They exude Franciscan values and all have a strong desire to work with and among the poor. Our Province would be blessed by their presence.”

James, a student friar, said, “It was a blessing to have had the opportunity to spend the weekend with the four men prayerfully discerning the Franciscan life. It was an inspired weekend of brotherhood, sharing sacred stories of our faith journeys and deepest desires to live the Gospel life in the footsteps of Saints Francis and Clare. I returned home to Chicago filled with gratitude for the presence and sincerity of these discerners, while also personally renewed, hopeful and energized by the experience.”

Around the Province
The previous week, Clemson University’s campus ministry held a vocation evening at which Daniel McLellan, OFM, pastor of nearby St. Andrew Parish, spoke.

“For several years now, students at Clemson have been invited to participate in a discernment program,” said Robert Menard, OFM, campus minister for Clemson University. “Initially sponsored by the diocesan vocation office, young men were invited to share a meal and reflection on specific life choices within the Church, often leading some to seek application to diocesan seminaries or religious formation programs.

On a less formal basis, religious sisters have visited the campus and met with individual students or gathered with small groups interested in learning about their communal life and ministry. This semester, we have begun a more formal program in which interested students – both men and women – gather for a meal and learn about vocational discernment from men and women religious, priests, deacons, and laity.

These opportunities are scheduled for every two weeks. We began the program with the Franciscans. Dan, Sr. Sharon, OSC, and Sr. Nancy, OSC, shared their vocational journey with the students. At a subsequent program, the Dominican Sisters and monks from Belmont Abbey share their stories with us. On each occasion, roughly five students engaged in prayer, fellowship, dialogue and an informative evening together. We look forward to the rest of the semester gatherings.”

Vocation night at Clemson, hosted by friars and sisters. (Photo courtesy of Robert Menard)

On Feb. 17, the Orlando friars stationed at San Damiano Friary in the Union Park Neighborhood welcomed visitors to a morning gathering. Todd Carpenter, OFM, and Paul Santoro, OFM, in conjunction with the Franciscan Sisters of Allegany, N.Y., held a vocation program at St. Joseph Church.

The morning of reflection was for men and women ages 18 to 40 who might feel called to religious life as a priest, deacon, sister or brother. It began with Mass at 9 a.m. and included a presentation.

Our turnout was not large,” said Paul, “but we are glad to have held the event and we plan to hold similar programs in the future.”

Next month, the HNP Vocation Ministry is holding an event at Siena College, outside Albany, N.Y. Participants at the March 2 to 4 Come and See Discernment Retreat will include men from Siena College and St. Bonaventure University in Western New York.

Information about the Province’s vocation and formation programs can be found on Basil Valente, OFM, vocation director since 2014, welcomes all those interested in a vocation as a Franciscan friar to contact the Vocation Ministry at

Jocelyn Thomas is director of communications for Holy Name Province.

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