Friars of Holy Name, St. John the Baptist, Sacred Heart, and Southwest Province of Our Lady of Guadalupe Share Thoughts on Unification of US-6

HNP Communications HNPNow

Starting with this edition and through the final publication of HNP NOW, the staff will interview friars of Holy Name Province and the other US-6 provinces, asking them to share their thoughts and reflections about the unification of the six provinces into a new national Franciscan province in the United States. Here is what the friars, who were interviewed this month, had to say. 

Henry Beck, OFM
St. John the Baptist Province
Member of fraternity and staff at Holy Cross Retreat House, Las Cruces, New Mexico

A New Vibrancy and Vitality

I am hoping and praying for a new vibrancy and vitality. It is a chance to look at our lives and how we want to minister and live. As a coast-to-coast province, we have to examine how we can serve and bring the Gospel to people in the midst of everything that’s going on in our world. I like the fraternal relationships being formed among the legacy provinces. I have worked in formation and in the JPIC office, so I have been able to develop bonds and relationships with friars of other provinces. This has happened on smaller scales, but the door is now opening much wider. It was bittersweet when I went to the province farewell gathering. But after the homily by Fr. Mark (Soehner, provincial minister), I felt grateful for the many friars I grew up with and who mentored me. I am hopeful that this will encourage and empower friars in their mid-range and younger years to begin to shape this new province. I want to be helpful and add my energy, but as with the heart of any new venture, the younger members of our fraternity have a chance to shape the new province from their perspective. I am so grateful to Fr. Larry Hayes and Fr. Mark, and to the new provincial council members, for their willingness to be the core to the leadership team.

Murray Bodo, OFM
St. John the Baptist Province
Writing ministry (new book will be released in March), spiritual direction, and occasional retreat work
Pleasant Street Friary, Cincinnati, Ohio

All Living and Ministry Is Local

Becoming a national entity could sound overwhelming and frightening. There’s grieving, but there is also excitement of what will be new about fraternity and ministry – even for an 86-year-old friar like me! The new province is an opportunity to re-think both our ministries and our fraternal lives together. I will miss the intimacy of the smaller home province and only one I have known in St. John the Baptist, but even as a national province, I have learned that all living and ministry is local. With friaries of four, five or six brothers, there will be greater opportunity to share on a deeper level fraternally. Every brother will have relevance. People are always on the move and friars have always been there for them. This will be an opportunity to do ministries that we haven’t done before – I call it 21st century outreach. We need to be peacemakers and reconcilers for our country, especially as resentment of certain populations – like migrants – gets worse. Our work will be to make the Church open and welcoming to everyone, so that people know they can feel comfortable turning to the friars. But it starts in our own local fraternities. If we have good, healthy friaries, we can relate to the people and be welcoming and inclusive to all who we serve.

Michael Chowning, OFM
St. John the Baptist Province
Parish ministry, Holy Family Parish, Oldenburg, Indiana

Ministry Life Much Like R&R

In a lot of ways, the unification process has made me reflect on my discernment with the Franciscans. It was a very challenging thing for me. I am the youngest of nine and grew up in a household with 15 people, including extended relatives. Coming from a large family factored into selecting the friars. I needed to be in an environment that was social and supportive, with a strong sense of community life. I always wanted to go to the missions, which was a big draw. But that didn’t materialize because my first assignment was teaching ministry – which turned out to be 10 years. Every time I attempted to request an assignment with the missions, they had another need for me to fill. In this way, my ministry has been a lot like revitalization and restructuring. It’s a response to spirit and obedience, and to the brothers – accepting the assignments and the will of God expressed through my brothers. Then revitalizing and restructuring and adapting to something new. As individual provinces, we may have settled in and gotten used to established routines and a way of life. Unification is challenging us and forcing us to move out of that comfort zone and routine, and to respond in a life-giving, refreshing, and revitalizing kind of way. I see this as an opportunity and call for me – even at age 83 – to find a new dimension as a friar and priest. I don’t want to be left behind! This will require leaving behind some of my old ways, and finding a new direction, new achievements, as an elder friar. It’s a fresh challenge. I see my role as foundational, and by that, I mean that I have the opportunity to be a steady presence of fraternal service and prayer in support of the leadership and the friars in active ministry. I have a supportive role to assist in the workings of the Spirit in the Order and new province.

Gino Correa, OFM
Southwest Franciscan Province of Our Lady of Guadalupe
Director, Interprovincial Postulancy Program
Holy Name College, Silver Spring, Maryland

Bridging the Divide with Gratitude and Blessing

I am hopeful that we can be a province of men who are at both ends of the age spectrum. We have a good representation of young men with fresh and new ideas, and I hope it’s possible for our older friars to bless and encourage the younger guys, and that our younger friars can thank the older men and acknowledge their gifts and what they have received from them. Gratitude and blessing help bridge the things that we see dividing and polarizing society. As friars, we should not be afraid to acknowledge the gifts that the other brings. This unification involves hard work. Evangelization is about modeling in one’s own life the ideals and truths we are trying to teach, not just with words but in how we live our life in fraternity. Hopefully, this is not just a slogan, but that our fraternity is a model that shows it is possible to heal divisions and bring people together – one Nation, one Church, one Order, and one family in Christ that we are called to be. Today’s world especially needs more examples of this. We are all very much aware that we are stepping into a mystery of not knowing what’s ahead. We are fueled not by fear, regret or nostalgia, but instead by hope, love and God’s faithfulness.

Tyler Grudi, OFM
Holy Name Province
Currently in ministry with Pueblo Native Americans in Laguna Pueblo, New Mexico

Opportunity to Respond to ‘Who’ We Want to Be

There is much discussion around “unification” and where our new provincial and ministerial boundaries will be. Some of us will leave our home province for the first time and enter new realities in unfamiliar places. Already in our few years in formation, my classmates and I have been blessed by opportunities to stretch ourselves beyond our comfort zone, and made all the better for it. We have experienced life in the missions of Jamaica, along the border, and at migrant centers and ministries for the homeless and mentally ill. Unification can be a stretching experience as well if we let it, especially if we remember that more than just our boundaries are expanding. We are revitalizing our life together, and that will make all the difference for the future of this province. The question of “where” we want to be is important, but equally important is the question of “who” we want to be. When the minister general spoke to the student friars in San Luis Rey this past June, his hope for the new province was that we remain close to the poor – not just that we do things for them, but that we really live among them in their everyday experience of life. These words challenge me, as I hope they challenge our new province, as we attempt to live as contemplative fraternities in mission in the context of the whole United States. I don’t have many fears about the future, but I do have many hopes – that the secular world truly becomes our privileged space of sharing the Gospel; that we do mercy work with the poor; that we work in solidarity among our sister and brother refugees and asylum seekers at our borders; that we continue to learn from the rich faith traditions of the indigenous people of this land, particularly the Pueblo, Athabascan, Tohono O’odham and others among whom we are already ministering. In my own journey as a friar, I hope to listen more closely to marginalized voices, and to be fearless in our dialogue with every person and all cultures. In short, my hope for the new province is a renewed sense of our identity as a missionary fraternity.

Albert Haase, OFM
Sacred Heart Province
Author of 17 books, preaches parish missions throughout the country, gives spiritual direction via zoom
San Miguel Friary, San Antonio, Texas

Interprovincial Living Already Here

I feel like I have had a head-start in interprovincial fraternity because I have been living at an interprovincial friary where three of us are from one province and two from another. It has been an interesting journey from the beginning. We quickly realized how unique Franciscan vocation is – that you may come from different provinces, but we’re all Franciscans following Francis and living the Gospel life. Listening to the stories of other guys made us aware how rich our Franciscan life has been in the United States. I am extremely excited about this venture because it will open us to a broader sense of ministry. Sacred Heart has been known globally for its missionary work, especially with foreign missions. My hope is that this can be absorbed into the new province. This is an opportunity to go beyond where we are used to ministering and be more creative with new ministries and experience a renewed dynamism in our Franciscan life.

Dale Jamison, OFM
Southwest Franciscan Province of Our Lady of Guadalupe
Pastor, St. Mary Friary, Tohatchi, New Mexico
Director, Native American Ministry, Diocese of Gallup

Balancing Hopes with Realities

My hope is that the new province leadership will address fraternal and administrative responsibilities, making decisions with the interest of the brothers in mind, just as the provincials of each province did – particularly, senior care, which is a main concern as our brothers are getting old and our numbers are diminishing. Guys are not as provincial as it may seem. Over the last 10, 15, 20 years, there are more friars in the air than on the ground – meeting, assembling, working and collaborating with friars from other provinces. Many are already familiar with other territories and friars. I like the emphasis that’s being placed on the Contemplative Fraternity in Mission aspect of our houses – intentionally making more time for fraternity, having house chapters and meetings, praying and having meals together, time for conversation and recreation, playing cards. Ministry is important, but the synodal aspect – this model of everyone having input in house, everyone being heard – is equally vital. Just because we are becoming one fraternity doesn’t mean we are getting bigger. Our numbers are dwindling, the pool of available men under 70 is getting less and less. Our hope of possibly expanding the itinerant nature of our ministry has to be balanced with reality. We can’t be all over the U.S. just because we are a national province. We should focus on building local dynamic, energized communities of 3, 5, 7 mixed-aged guys, spending time in prayer, fraternity, recreation, and ministry, and in supporting one another.

Brian Jordan, OFM
Holy Name Province
Pastor, St. Camillus Church, Silver Spring, Maryland

Kudos to Those Who Did the Heavy Lifting

I applaud the efforts of all those involved in this hard work and doing all the heavy lifting during this unification process. We were consulted on many key points and levels throughout the process, a privilege that members of other religious orders don’t have. I look forward to fraternity in ministry, not fraternity in misery. As seasoned friars and faith-filled Franciscans, we will come together as a fraternity in ministry. It will demonstrate to the people we serve that we Franciscans are committed to the people of God in the United States. United in a single province will provide a better organized structure of how we could bring our ministries to people in new ways. I believe the Holy Spirit and charism of St. Francis is with us as we draw nearer to October.

Walter Liss, OFM
Holy Name Province
Departing formation work at Holy Name College, Silver Spring, Maryland, and moving to the West Coast to pursue studies

Be Creative, Do Things Differently

I am feeling very optimistic and excited about the unification of the US-6 provinces. The way I describe my own situation, I have been living in the new province for the past six year – working interprovincially since 2017 with the postulancy program at Holy Name College. I would hope that the unification of the provinces enables us to be a little more innovative and responsive to the needs of others. By virtue of establishing this new entity, we don’t have to keep doing things the same way. We can be creative and do things differently. It’s a process that will be challenging. Even though we are becoming a single province, we are getting smaller, not bigger. We need to make this an opportunity to go into areas and meet needs that are not currently being met.

Charlie Martinez, OFM
Southwest Franciscan Province of Our Lady of Guadalupe
Pastor, St. Peter Parish, Roswell, New Mexico
Heads Presbyteral Council for Diocese of Las Cruces

Hope for Profound Renewal

This opens up a brand-new world for fraternity. We had two young friars in formation from Chicago living with us in Roswell and Albuquerque. It was such a wonderful experience – the energy and enthusiasm they brought, their hopes for the future, was contagious. My hope is that the renewal that has been envisioned will take root so that we could all be marching in the same direction as friars in the U.S. I have been involved in this process from the beginning – and now with a culmination of the thoughts, ideas and possibilities we talked about – it’s here! I hope there is profound renewal. Of course, there is some apprehension of the unknown and what the future will bring. That is part of life. I compare it to a young married couple who are overcome with excitement, but at the same time nervousness about what the future holds. We will go through that same excitement and apprehension. But if we have solid fraternities, we will have solid ministries. If we are witness wherever we are ministering, whether at parishes, or hospitals, and everywhere else – if we are grounded well in fraternity, then ministry will fall into place.

Ralph Parthie, OFM
Sacred Heart Province
Director of Friar Life
St. Anthony Friary, St. Louis, Missouri

Prayer and Conversation

I have worked in interprovincial formation for many years and I am very excited about bringing together younger friars from around the country and giving them the opportunity to work more closely together. I trust the young people with our future. I hope to see younger folks in charge and making decisions not that far down the road. I like the idea that as one coast-to-coast province, by virtue of uniting we are becoming more diverse because each province brings their own amalgamation of cultural diversity. As the guardian of the house, I especially appreciate the structure and support that the guardians are getting to help them through the daily grind and give them more time for prayer with the community. While I am grateful for everything that everyone is doing, I would like to see the corporate and administrative focus centered more on mission before decisions are made on ministry and fraternal life. I am a little concerned that choices are being made based on what’s efficient, contemporary and easier – and what we are already doing. Conversations that focus on who we want to be – and more community prayer that brings discernment – will lead to decisions on how we live and minister. We will find what’s really important to us through prayer and conversation. Francis calls us to be poor and to live among the poor, and in doing so, that’s how we serve the poor. This, along with prayer, will get us to where we need to be.

Matthew Pravetz, OFM
Holy Name Province
Pastor, St. Anthony of Padua, Butler, New Jersey
Chair of Sick, Aged, and Retirement Directorate
Spiritual Assistant for Secular Franciscan Fraternity, Butler

Turn, Turn, Turn…

For me, life has been like a good book, the pages of which I turn, turn, turn. The next big page-turner will be in October when we Franciscans will be invigorated with new people to meet, old stories to hear, plans to be made, and roadmaps to be unfolded. Having recently joined the fraternity in Butler has been a tease for the near future. This retirement community wakes up to each day as a new adventure. My appointment earlier this month as pastor of the adjoining parish has been made seamless because of fraternal support from young friar interns, as well as friars from other US-6 provinces who have joined our community – a microcosm of what is to come and one in which I look forward. Young Pete Seeger had it right, “To everything turn, turn, turn… and a time to every purpose under Heaven.”

Christopher VanHaight, OFM
Holy Name Province
Guardian, St. Anthony Friary, Butler, New Jersey, and for OFMs at St. Lawrence Friary, Beacon, New York

Let’s Keep Fraternal Gatherings Alive

A big plus, and maybe one of the most important factors, is fraternity – the chance to meet, interact and live with new brothers. One of the hallmarks of Holy Name Province has been the way it always brings the brothers together. This weekend, we will be piling into a van and driving to 31st Street for the solemn profession of two brothers. Attending these events have been important to fraternity. I am not sure how that works when you now have these events taking place across the country. I am hopeful that our new leadership will find ways to create opportunities of bringing the brothers together, helping us to maintain and create new connectedness. There is excitement for many over the prospect of being able to serve in a ministry that may not have been available in their legacy province – for example, someone in the Northeast who has interest in serving Native American communities will now have that opportunity. It is exciting to be part of this new entity, with all of its promise and new realities, from the ground up.