SANTA BARBARA, Calif. — On Monday, July 16 – a typically balmy Santa Barbara morning – 14 new novices representing all six of the U.S. provinces involved in the R&R (Revitalization and Restructuring) Process were received into the Order of Friars Minor. One of the group, Bernard Keele of Our Lady of Guadalupe Province, received the Rite of Probation initiating his transfer from the Benedictines to the Franciscans. In addition, two men from Christ the King Province in western Canada were not present – they are awaiting their U.S. visas before they can join their U.S. confreres in the program.
“We’re not at St. Peter’s in Rome,” began Br. Jeff Macnab, OFM, the novice master, as he welcomed the diverse group of new friars — almost all of who had just completed their postulancy year at Holy Name College in Silver Spring, Md., before moving to the interprovincial novitiate at Old Mission Santa Barbara. “We’re very relaxed here,” he continued as he looked around the intimate group of new and “old” novices, provincial ministers, formation team members, and others gathered in the friars’ chapel. “This is a family celebration—a family gathering.”
The sense of family was reinforced in the remarks given by Provincial Minister Fr. Jim Gannon, OFM, of Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary Province. Following the proclamation of the Prologue of the Gospel of St. John (1:1-10), Fr. Jim mentioned that it reminded him of not one, but three separate generations of baptisms witnessed in his native Philadelphia. He began by mentioning the parish priest of his own childhood who, typically, immediately following the baptismal rite, would carry the infant in his arms from the rear of the church. The priest would then “present” the infant by placing it on the main altar, while he recited the Prologue, formerly known as the “last Gospel.” Fr. Jim shared that this same custom has been treasured in his own family for three generations.
Fr. Jim challenged the incoming novitiate class members to work to understand more deeply the real meaning of the Prologue — “words full of grace and truth; grace upon grace, love upon love” and to apply its message to their own lives. “The Prologue of the Gospel of John is one of the most glorious foundational statements about Jesus Christ. Yet, we often skip over (it). John’s story reveals two most fundamental affirmations about Jesus: Jesus is the presence of God’s own life and that Jesus makes this life of God available to every human being.”
“For Francis of Assisi,” he continued, “the Word became the core foundation of his renewed, revitalized life. The Word turned Francis of Assisi upside down and inside out. I firmly believe that no individual renewal or revitalization, no global renewal or revitalization of the Order of Friars Minor, and no national renewal or revitalization of the Franciscans in the United States will be successful unless we are committed to renewing our love for living the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
“Brothers, you are the next generation,” he concluded. “As you enter your novitiate year, enter deeply into the implication of the Prologue of John’s Gospel. Enter deeply into the implications of the Incarnation, the Word made Flesh upon your life as a Friar Minor.”
During the reception of the new novices, each man was called by name and, along with two solemnly professed friars as witnesses, signed the Book of Reception. Bernard Keele (OLG) was welcomed separately into “a time of probation” with the friars. Also in attendance were representatives of each of the six participating provinces, including Provincial Ministers Fr. David Gaa, OFM, (St. Barbara Province), Fr. Jim Gannon, OFM, Fr. Jack Clark Robinson, OFM, (OLG), and Fr. Mark Soehner, OFM, (St. John the Baptist Province), as well as Fr. Ralph Parthie, OFM, (Sacred Heart). Vocation director Basil Valente, OFM, represented Holy Name Province.
Afterward, Fr. David presented each new novice with a journal of his own “to write and express your journey. Be attentive to the workings of the Spirit and (even) the days you resist the challenge,” he urged them.
The service concluded with blessings of and by this year’s interprovincial novitiate team, consisting of Jeff, Michael Blastic, OFM, Fr. Michael Jennrich, OFM, (SH), and Sr. Susan Rosenbach, SSSF.
The new novices are Andrew Aldrich (ABVM); Ian Grant, Loren Moreno, John Neuffer, Richard Phillip, Carlos Portillo, and Steven Young (HNP); Nhan Ton (SH); Andrew Dinegar, Salvador Mejia, and Joshua Tagoylo (SB); Raphael Ozoude and Matthew Ryan (SJB); and Bernard Keele (OLG), formerly of the Benedictine order. Still to arrive are Adrian Macor and Theodore Splinter of the Province of Christ the King (western Canada).
— Fr. Charles is director of communications for St. Barbara Province, which is headquartered in Oakland, Calif.