These organic discernment communities have received support from General Minister Fr. Michael Perry, OFM, who spoke about their timelessness and their importance in today’s world.
“I think the notion of organic is probably a very good metaphor for what Franciscan life is all about,” said Fr. Michael in a recent interview with vocation director Basil Valente, OFM. “It’s about entering into the very depths of the earth, of human experience. I would encourage Holy Name Province and other provinces to pursue this organic approach to make sure that our communities — no matter where they are, no matter who is living there — are communities of welcome.”
Opening the Doors, Welcoming All
The organic discernment communities have emerged throughout the Province, at places including at St. Bonaventure University and Siena College, as well as at ministries in Philadelphia, New York City, Pompton Lakes, N.J., and Silver Spring, Md.
“With the servant leadership example of Pope Francis and the tremendous witness from the Holy Name Province friars, our discerners and applicants are once again experiencing the freedom that comes from an opportunity to choose religious life with the Franciscans over a society that is increasingly secular and experiencing the emptiness of a world without God,” said Basil. “The strongest influence on vocations proves to be personal connections with religious communities and the support of family and friends.”
The General Minister stressed that all friars should be involved in vocations, not only those working with the vocation office.
“Each friar in the community needs to assume co-responsibility for sharing their lives with these men, in one degree or another, by welcoming them and helping them, letting them know that we’re all on this journey together,” said Fr. Michael, who was re-elected General Minister in May.
He explained that St. Francis chose the words “fratres minores” or “friars minor” because “we are lesser ones. Because of that, we can welcome anyone, because we expect others to bring us blessings. It’s not that we expect to give them blessings. It’s through the hospitality, through welcoming others into our lives, that people will be a blessing for us.”
Provincial Minister Kevin Mullen, OFM, agreed.
“Every friar is responsible for helping men in discernment,” he said. “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. To really discern, you have to be in the midst of it for a period of time.
“There are people discerning wherever we friars are,” he added. “Open the doors and invite them in.”
Called by God, Invited by Francis
Capitalizing on the momentum of the organic discernment communities, the HNP Vocation Office has announced that it will launch a new program focused on engaging parishioners, college students and potential candidates in the discernment process.
“Building on the visit and anticipated inspiration of Pope Francis’s visit, ‘Called by God; Invited by Francis’ will educate candidates about the qualities of a good friar and invite people to suggest the names of potential candidates to regional vocation directors,” said Basil. “‘Called by God; Invited by Francis’ will help teach Catholics about religious life as Franciscan friars during the fall, and then invite them to recognize those in their ministries who think they might be called to be Franciscan friars.”
He continued, “These potential candidates will then be invited to retreat weekends organized by Holy Name Province, to help deepen their understanding of the Franciscans and their vocational calling by God.”
If candidates are looking for a ‘perfect’ or ‘holy’ community, Fr. Michael gently encourages them to look elsewhere.
“We are broken humanity,” he said. “If anyone thinking about coming to us wants perfection and holiness from the start, I suggest they go elsewhere, because they’re not going to find it with us. They will grow with us into discovering the path toward holiness, toward fullness, and toward what I would call a reconciled existence — reconciled with ourselves, with God and with others.”
Franciscan life should be lived with great joy, added Fr. Michael.
“In ‘Evengelii Gaudium (The Joy of the Gospel),’ Pope Francis tells us that if we are truly believers in Jesus Christ, we should be filled with joy,” Fr. Michael said. “So I say, let the brothers be filled with joy! If people find a miserable group of men living together miserably, no one is going to want to stay.”
He continued, “We need to help each other as brothers, in our fraternal and spiritual lives, to discover the joy of the Gospel, as Pope Francis says. We are not about mission, we are God’s mission. We are called to live together and by living together, we are called to change radically the conditions for human life, human existence and creation.”
More information about Holy Name Province’s vocation ministry can be found at BeAFranciscan.org.
— Maria Hayes is communications coordinator for Holy Name Province.
- “Vocation Weekend Connects Candidates with Grieving Parents” — March 31, 2015, HNP Today
- “St. Bonaventure University to Offer Residential Discernment Community” — Nov. 19, 2014, HNP Today
- “‘Trailblazers’ Host Vocation Weekend in Florida” — March 4, 2015, HNP Today