WILMINGTON, Del. — The Ratio (program) for Formation devised by the Order states that “postulancy is a necessary stage for an adequate preparation for the novitiate during which the postulant confirms his determination to convert himself through a progressive passing from a secular life to the Franciscan form of life (RFF 179).” It is further described as a time for: human growth, deepening of baptismal commitment and gradually getting to experience and to know Franciscan life in the local and provincial fraternity. Exactly how those things are attained is left to the individual Provinces and formators.
Holy Name Province has a long history of practically, creatively and progressively achieving these goals. Many of the initiatives placed into our formation program back in the renewal days of the 1970s are still valid and utilized today. Our “orientation” period encompasses the entire first month of postulancy. The postulant is confronted with so many new things (including home, room, prayer schedule, spiritual directors, the breviary, formation directors, ministry, daily routine, community life, and classmates) and a very (if not radically different) lifestyle that it just takes time to make even the initial adjustment.
Their first task is to “slow down,” to relax and “smell the roses,” which is not easy for young men in the 21st century who are still anxious about the choice they have made. We begin by asking them to use their free time for prayer and reflection and to begin journaling as an aid to prayer and reflection. They are introduced to the mechanics of the breviary, our house schedule and aspects of communal life.
Their first formal workshops began this year with Gary Maciag, OFM, presenting on the “Theology of the Word and Proclamation.” Gabriel Scarfia, OFM, was next to present on “Basic Catholic Theology as Presented in the Documents of Vatican II.” James Scullion, OFM, then presented on “Praying the Psalms.”
In between, the postulants also participated in a workshop sponsored by the Religious Formation Conference on “Prayer and Prayer Types.” Sr. Mercedes McCann, RMS, a clinical psychologist, meets with the postulants monthly to help them to “integrate,” or make sense of the experiences and input they receive. Their first session with her was on “Transitions” and how to manage them.
The postulants have also been given copies of Francis of Assisi; Early Documents and have begun their study of the early Franciscan texts beginning with the Prima Vita of Thomas of Celano.
The postulants are also progressively introduced into life at St. Paul’s Friary, where they are living. House jobs are assigned after the first few weeks. They soon will take leadership at daily prayers and after a Community Day of Reflection in late September at the Margate, N.J., friary, they take full part in the weekly community meeting.
Besides their experience of the local fraternity, we have an ongoing agenda of visiting other fraternities. We made our way through Hurricane Irene to New York City to be present at the solemn profession ceremony of Stephen DeWitt, OFM, and Daniel Horan, OFM. We also spent afternoons with the friar communities of Philadelphia and Camden, N.J., to hear of their life and work. Visits to many other communities are being planned.
Last but not least, we have visited our local attractions — Longwood Gardens, the Wilmington Riverfront, and Woodside Creamery (a local farm that produces its own ice cream) and a fraternal gathering of the “Lower Delaware Valley Friars” from Camden, Philadelphia, and Wilmington.
The photos behind the one above show the postulants with Michael Duffy, OFM, of Philadelphia’s St. Francis Inn, and with Jud Weiksnar, OFM, of Camden.
— Fr. Ron is Holy Name Province’s director of postulants.