With the start of the new U.S. Franciscan Province of Our Lady of Guadalupe just over the horizon, Lawrence Hayes, OFM, Provincial Minister-elect, thought it would be well-timed to recap the current status of initial formation in the US-6 provinces that are involved in the R&R unification process.
Lawrence, Provincial Vicar of Holy Name Province, proceeded with this exercise by pulling together data from across the country – for example, the number of postulants and simply professed friars, and even brothers completing their theology degrees – to provide an accurate picture of where things stand with initial formation.
“On the one hand, the numbers suggest that we have a future: good men are still attracted to throwing their lot in with our brotherhood and to living the Gospel in the footsteps of Jesus, Francis and Clare,” said Larry. “On the other hand, in general, the number of those entering initial formation is on a decline, suggesting that we need to ask ourselves what we can do to make our Franciscan witness more visible and compelling to the younger generations.”
Some of the numbers that Larry alluded to include the following:
- This month, seven men entered the interprovincial postulancy program at Holy Name College in Silver Spring, Maryland. Three of the postulants are from Holy Name Province (Christian Gonzalez, Luke Cumby, and Jimmy Beh), one is from Assumption Blessed Virgin Mary Province (Ryan Crain), one is from the Southwest Franciscan Province of Our Lady of Guadalupe Province (Jesús Romero), and two are from Sacred Heart Province (Thomas Pack and Samuel Allen).
- Four men are currently in the interprovincial novitiate in Old Mission Santa Barbara, California. Two are from Holy Name (Ricardo Ferrer and Jason Peterson), one is from Assumption (Richard Gaunt), and one is from Sacred Heart (Day Rey).
- Following novitiate, Larry noted, the friars spend a year of immersion ministry with the poor in a setting where they are challenged to live in minority in a concrete alternative culture with a fraternity of solemnly professed friars. Two friars (Tyler Harris and Richard Madere), both from Assumption Province, will be experiencing this immersion ministry for one year in the “Brothers Walking Together” program in Negril, Jamaica.
- From Brothers Walking Together, it’s on to a temporary professed community in the United States. This year, at the interprovincial post-novitiate at St. Joseph’s Friary in Hyde Park, Chicago, Illinois, there will be 16 simply professed friars. Seven are from Holy Name (Edgar Alberto, Daniel Cruz, Tyler Grudi, Kevin Hamzik, James Kernan, Carlos Portillo, and Domingo Martinez). Three are from St. John the Baptist Province (Philip McCarter, Brian Menezes and Joshua Richter), and one is from the Brazil province (Dalton Machado). Five brothers will be living their internship year – three from Holy Name (John Neuffer, Richard Phillip, and Steven Young), and two from St. John the Baptist (Raphael Ozoude and Matthew Ryan).
- At St. Vincent’s Friary in San Diego, California, there are four simply-professed friars from St. Barbara Province (Joan Pérez Lombrera, Juan Luís Guerrero, Nathaniel (Bruce) Tran, and Adolfo Mercado).
- Finally, while residing with the Conventual friars, two brothers will be completing their theology degrees at Oblate School of Theology, San Antonio, Texas (Noé Alfaro, of Our Lady of Guadalupe Southwest, and Luís Rosado, of Holy Name).
All told, the new Our Lady of Guadalupe Province will begin with nearly 35 men in initial formation.
Albeit a greater commitment to vocation ministry must be central to the new province’s efforts in the years ahead, but to continue this momentum and increase these numbers with more young discerners, Larry believes “the best attractor to Franciscan life is the joyful, passionate, credible and compassionate friars who authentically live the values of St. Francis and St. Clare” by being available to others and responsive to critical issues of our times, especially those of concern to our younger generations.
“I believe the research suggests that fraternal life, service to the poor, and varied ministerial opportunities help to make our Franciscan way of life an attractive possibility,” the Provincial Minister-elect added.
The Secretariat for Formation and Studies is currently discussing a proposal for a focused “Franciscan Study Year” that would be implemented immediately following the 12 months of Brothers Walking Together. If approved, says Larry, this study year would provide our brothers with the opportunity for a deeper grounding in our Franciscan tradition.
“It would be designed to strengthen their identity as Friars Minor. The program would be developed with Franciscan experts to assure ‘transformational learning’ that would result in our men personally appropriating and articulating how the Franciscan charism will mold and shape their lives of contemplation, fraternity and mission,” explained Larry.
The Secretariat for Formation and Studies is also evaluating the recommendation of a study team for what might be the best school of theology for the province’s friars. Three theologates were evaluated: Catholic Theological Union (Chicago), Franciscan School of Theology (San Diego), and Oblate School of Theology (San Antonio).
Larry reported that a recent discernment process to identify new formators has resulted in the following friar teams of initial formation:
Postulancy: Gino Correa, OFM (director), James Vacco, OFM, Henry Fulmer, OFM, and José Luís Peralta-Andrade (who will begin with the 2024-25 year).
Novitiate: Freddy Rodríguez, OFM, Gene Pistacchio, OFM, Luís Aponte-Merced, OFM, and George Camacho, OFM. (A new director will be appointed to succeed Erick López, OFM, who will be departing the team to serve on the Provincial Council of the new OLG Province.)
Brothers Walking Together: Michael Johnson, OFM.
Post-Novitiate, Chicago: Michael Ward, OFM (director), Doug Collins, OFM, William Minkel, OFM, and William Farris, OFM (guardian, joining the team in Spring 2024).
Post Novitiate, San Diego: Joseph Rozansky, OFM (director), and John Gutiérrez, OFM.
“We all have a part to play in promoting vocations – principally by our full, conscious and active participation in our contemplative fraternities in mission. In addition, it never hurts to ask individuals who seem to be potential future friars – ‘Did you ever consider Franciscan life?’ Please keep our men in initial formation, and their formation teams, and men discerning Franciscan vocation in your prayers!” said Larry.