BURLINGTON, Wis. – On Aug. 2, nine men from five Franciscan provinces from around the world professed first vows in the novitiate chapel at St. Francis Friary.
As friars, friends, and sisters from around the country gathered for this wonderful occasion, the tone of the day was set from the first reading. The first line of Isaiah 61:1-3 read, “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me.” The novitiate year – the second year of formation, or training, for friars – is one that was described by many throughout the ceremony as “a personal journey about faith and learning who you are.” The journey can be overwhelming at times, but with the help of God’s presence, it can also be a gift and a way to learn how to better serve him in everyday life.
Director of novices Br. Jeff Macnab, OFM, of St. Barbara Province, stated, “The work we have done this year is the start of a story. Today may mark the end of a wonderful chapter, but you are far from the end of the book. Going forward, share your story and grow from your experiences, but don’t forget this chapter you’ve built together, for it will be what you build upon.”
During the ceremony, five friar-leaders received vows from Brothers James Bernard, OFM, Nicholas Carbuto, OFM, Steven Kuehn, OFM, and Adolfo Navarro-Blanco, OFM, of Holy Name Province; Thomas Marchetti, OFM, of Assumption BVM Province; Bradley Tuel, OFM, of St. Barbara Province; Kestas Watson, OFM, of Immaculate Conception Custody of Great Britain; John Paul Carroll, OFM, of the Province of Ireland; and Mathieu Gabriel Lacerte, OFM, of St. Joseph Province, Quebec. After every brother knelt and professed their three vows for the next year, he received a knotted cord as a symbol of their promise and signed the Book of Life.
“When we first gathered, I started a metronome for you all and we talked about finding each of our rhythms. While difficult, we each found it and eventually all became synced together in the journey toward today,” said Br. Jeff.
One of the most moving parts of the day was when the newly professed brothers offered up intentions for those present, for the sick and dying, and for spiritual guidance in their next journey as Franciscans.
The profession of simple vows is an important milestone in a Franciscan friar’s life. It marks the end of a year-long novitiate period for nine men who professed vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience. After each novice did so in front of their provincial ministers, he, in turn, received a cord with three knots symbolizing those vows.
Aug. 2 is a special day for Franciscans as it is the feast of the Portiuncula. The Chapel of St. Mary of the Angels – also known as The Portiuncula, meaning “little portion” – is the small chapel in the valley below Assisi. It became the birthplace of the Order of Friars Minor and also the Poor Clare nuns, as it was here where St. Clare entered into religious life. It would also be on the grounds of this chapel where St. Francis’s life on earth came to an end.
Included in the ceremony was a large “thank you” to the novitiate team of Br. Jeff of St. Barbara Province, Michael Blastic, OFM, and Fr. Kim Studwell, OFM, of Assumption BVM Province.
Following the Rite of Profession, those in attendance congratulated Brothers Thomas, James, Nicholas, Adolfo, Stephen, Bradley, Kestas, John Paul, and Mathieu with warm wishes and fraternal embraces of joy and congratulations. It was followed by a celebratory luncheon in the dining room.
Present at the ceremony were friars from Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Holy Name, St. Barbara, Immaculate Conception, St. Joseph, and Ireland provinces.
The nine novices will now enjoy a short stint of vacation before continuing work in their next provincial assignments. The 2017-18 novices will be received at the new novitiate site in Old Mission Santa Barbara in Santa Barbara, Calif., on Aug. 21. The move will allow for greater collaboration with the novitiates of the Capuchin and Conventual friars, who already have novitiates nearby.
— Andy Tretow is director of communications for Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary Province.