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New Franciscan Interprovincial Novitiate Site Chosen

In February 2010, Holy Name Province announced it would participate in a joint novitiate in Cedar Lake, Ind. Following of a call from the Order’s General Minister to engage in more collaborative ministries, leaders from several English-speaking provinces gathered last month to discuss plans for the future. Below is a report of the results of that meeting by Dominic Monti, OFM, chair of the English-speaking secretaries of formation and studies.

An historic step was taken on Nov. 29 by five of the seven provinces of the United States, along with the Christ the King Province of Western Canada, when they committed themselves to create a new interprovincial novitiate for North America.

The provincial ministers participating in this meeting were Fr. Gino Correa, OFM, of Our Lady of Guadalupe based in Albuquerque, N.M.; Fr. Leslie Hoppe, OFM, of Assumption BVM in Franklin, Wis.; John O’Connor, OFM, of Holy Name; Fr. Jeffrey Scheeler, OFM, of St. John the Baptist in Cincinnati; Fr. William Spencer, OFM, of Sacred Heart in St. Louis; and Fr. Dennis Vavrek, OFM, of Christ the King.

This new endeavor builds on the foundation of the current interprovincial novitiate program conducted by Assumption, Sacred Heart and St. John the Baptist provinces at San Damiano Friary, Cedar Lake, Ind., since 1993. The expanded configuration will also include Christ the King, Holy Name and Our Lady of Guadalupe provinces, which sent their novices to Cedar Lake this year.

Collaboration
San Damiano Friary being too small to accommodate the anticipated number of novices entering next year from these six entities led the secretaries of formation and studies to propose that the provinces deepen their collaboration in a new venture.

The new provincial administration of the Immaculate Conception Province, based in New York, is also considering joining the new venture. Although St. Barbara Province, based in Oakland, Calif., has been participating in the discussions, it will continue its own novitiate program for at least two more years.

The provincial ministers accepted the recommendations of the formation secretaries of the respective provinces. The first of these recommendations was to adopt a ratio formationis (goals and objectives for the novitiate), drawn up by a team composed of Br. Regan Chapman, OFM (SJB), Fr. Ralph Parthie, OFM (SH), and Ronald Pecci, OFM (HN), directors of the three U.S. novitiate programs existing in 2009. This ratio, which will be used in the new interprovincial novitiate and in St. Barbara Province, demands that the postulant directors of the various provinces work together to develop similar policies to assure a common background for candidates entering the novitiate, Ron said.

Location and Benefits
The provincial ministers also agreed that the new Franciscan interprovincial novitiate would be located at St. Francis Friary (shown above), in Burlington, Wis., about 30 miles southwest of Milwaukee. The current interprovincial novitiate formation team at Cedar Lake has agreed to stay on for at least one more year. They have experience in dealing with interprovincial collaboration in formation, and their presence will make for a smooth transition and help ensure the success of the expanded novitiate. However, each of the participating entities in the new endeavor will propose one or two friars as possible candidates for a new formation team. These friars will take part in a discernment process in May 2011, which will identify the new team that will take over in summer 2012.

The new novitiate is projected to open Aug. 15, 2011, a later date chosen to allow time to move the program from Cedar Lake. The secretaries of formation recommended the Burlington friary due to its location in the middle of the country, as well as the fact that it is readily accessible and in proximity to a large Catholic population, assuring potential ministerial sites and spiritual directors.

St. Francis Friary has a history in Assumption Province parallel to Holy Name’s St. Francis Friary in Rye Beach, N.H. Originally a house of studies for friars in formation, it later became a retreat house until forced to close in August 2005. It housed survivors from Hurricane Katrina for several months in fall 2005.

A year later, it served as the temporary novitiate for the U.S. Capuchin provinces, when their facility proved too small for a very large class. After the Capuchins left, the friary was shuttered again. With the arrival of the novices next August, St. Francis Friary will again be home to young men discerning their vocation to the Franciscan life.

— Fr. Dominic, Provincial Vicar of Holy Name Province since 2005, is based in New York City.