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On Religious Brothers Day, Eight Friars Share Gratitude

Around the world, religious communities are celebrating religious brothers. May 1 – the feast of St. Joseph the Worker – is the second annual Religious Brothers Day, a time to recognize the gifts and contributions of these dedicated men.  The feast day was established in 1955 by Pope Pius XII to extend the relationship between Joseph and the cause of workers in both Catholic faith and devotion.

Recently, eight members of Holy Name Province reflected on what being a brother means to them. Their descriptions contain themes including privilege, relationship, simplicity, and following God’s call.

Paul Bourque, OFM, of St. Anthony Shrine, Boston
Professed his first vows in 1968
“Brother” is a relationship word. Often the role of brother overlaps between religious community and family ties. To me, a brother is someone you can laugh with easily. A brother is someone who will defend you, someone who will remind you of embarrassing things you did years ago. A brother is someone who always goes out of his way for you. A brother is someone wonderful.

Thomas Donovan, OFM, of St. Anthony Shrine, Boston
Professed his first vows in 1970
As I reflect on my personal call to religious brotherhood in the Franciscan Order, I first see myself as called by God to serve as a Franciscan friar and as “brother” in both community life and ministry. I believe my gift reflects my privilege to serve as sacristan in helping with the liturgical life of the Church. Ministering along with the celebrants, I become part of the various liturgical rituals, working with dedicated lay men and women who also chose to serve. Brothers are called to serve the Church using their many gifts for people.

Robert Frazzetta, OFM, of St. Anthony Friary, Butler, N.J.
Professed his first vows in 1977
It is a privilege to identify myself as a Franciscan brother since the essence of a brother is to be on equal footing with fellow pilgrims on the walk toward the kingdom. Since my religious profession in 1977, I have tried to develop a prayerful sense of empathy for those who seem forgotten, since even within Church circles brothers are a unique and sometimes unknown breed of characters. There is a mystique surrounding the religious brotherhood, just as there is a mysterious cloud surrounding people who choose to walk to the beat of a different drum. As a brother, I have considered it an honor to identify with them. Having been in the teaching ministry for many years, I was happy to have the opportunity to witness to young people the possibility of another way of expressing a religious vocation that is neither ordained nor monastic. Being introduced as a religious brother has often, in my experience, sparked people’s curiosity leading to conversations of great depth about prayer and the reality of God, as well as ecumenism, since I’ve been asked numerous times if I am a Roman Catholic. But being a brother has not only been about mission or ministry; early on in my religious life, I really thought that non-stop work was all that was expected for one to be a faithful religious. Through the years, prayer has led me to realize that daily times set aside for silence are absolutely essential, not only for us who are members of religious orders, but for all who are on the quest for the living God.

Henry Fulmer, OFM, of St. Francis of Assisi Parish-Friary, Triangle, Va.
Professed first vows in 1988
One of the greatest privileges of being a Franciscan brother is the idea that we are all striving to serve God in different ways, by our living and praying together with a common vision and purpose. Although, I may not be a priest, I don’t see myself any different than my fellow brothers who are, nor do my fellow brothers see me that way. I see the habit as a sign of our common life and commitment to each other as Franciscans. The habit has no markings or trappings that distinguish us as brothers or priests – just men living out the Gospel call of serving those on the periphery. The duties that I perform at St. Francis of Assisi Parish are mainly just that, and I also help with outreach at St. Francis House and with the processing of annulments within the Diocese of Arlington.

Richard James, OFM, of St. Anthony Shrine, Boston
Professed first vows in 1963
Religious brothers dedicate their lives to the honor and glory of the Church in helping others to better understand the Church’s teaching. I have great devotion to the Holy Rosary, reciting the Liturgy of the Hours and making personal prayer for others.

 

Tony LoGalbo, OFM, of St. Anthony Shrine, Boston
Professed his first vows in 1967
I became a brother to live like Jesus “as the firstborn of many brothers” (Romans 8:29). For me, one of the most unique aspects of being a Franciscan brother is its simplicity. It means being able to take Jesus at his word, that this person, Jesus, can make a difference in our lives. It is a hope that the way we friars touch people – those served by us and those who work with us – engenders hope and a positive spirit.

John Maganzini, OFM, of St. Anthony Shrine, Boston
Professed his first vows in 1981
I see my vocation as a call to a vowed life, lived in community, in the charism of Saints Francis and Clare of Assisi, of service to the “brothers” I am called to pray and live with, in service to God’s people using my gifts and talents, with the privilege of serving alongside dedicated priests, brothers, sisters, and laywomen and men who also hear the call to “rebuild my church.”

Paul O’Keeffe, OFM, of St. Anthony Shrine, Boston
Professed his first vows in 2006
A lot of people ask me, “Why aren’t you a priest?” For me, it comes down to the call from the Lord who knows what will make each person happy and where their talents can best serve the community and the people of God. I love my community, and I love my calling to be a brother. True happiness is following God’s call.

Editor’s note: information about the Province’s formation, or training program, can be found on BeAFranciscan.org.

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