In the latest video installment of the Aging with Grace series, Sebastian Tobin, OFM, says everyone should have a hobby that gives them “something to do when they retire.” But what happens when your hobby has been your life’s work and ministry for the past 49 years? Then, says Sebastian, you just keep on working.
In the video, we learn that Sebastian – well-known in the Province as the “full-time sandal-maker” for nearly five decades – is still active in his ministry as a leather artisan at St. Anthony Shrine in Boston, Massachusetts, where, despite living in retirement, he can be found at the workbench of the often cluttered leather shop, handcrafting sandals, belts and other leather goods for the friar community and others.
“I am very happy here [at the Shrine]. Life is good. I am the third-oldest in the community. I like the [fraternal life]. We all get along and we help each other. And you don’t need a car; you can get out and walk,” said Sebastian, who prior to his artisanry in leather goods, served in a number of ministries that included sacristan, porter, and front-desk and switchboard operator at Holy Name College in Washington, D.C., and at parishes in New York City and Denver, Colorado.
Sebastian, a professed friar for 60 years, says in the video that he started out as a self-taught sandal-maker and leather craftsman, but that the Province gave him permission to attend the Emily Griffith Opportunity School, a vocation education institution in downtown Denver, when he was assigned to St. Elizabeth Parish.
“I’ve been doing this for 49 years, making leather belts, wallets, shoulder bags, sandals and key chains. I am still happy doing it,” says Sebastian in the March 2023 release https://youtu.be/to-nmQPztec of the monthly video series, A Moment With… Aging with Grace, produced by HNP’s Sick, Aged and Retired Directorate.
The series highlights elder friars in 2-to-5-minute videos sharing their wisdom and personal stories and experiences about Franciscan life, vocation, ministry, and retirement. Matthew Pravetz, OFM, is chair of the SAR Directorate, Joe Juracek, OFM, is the series videographer, and Kevin McGoff, OFM, is the editor.
When asked during the video interview what the next phase of his life might look like, Sebastian responded without hesitation. “I want to do leather work as long as I [am able to]. And now that we are becoming one province (Holy Name and the other US-6 provinces will become a single national U.S. province this October), I would like to find [a friar] from one of the other provinces who would like to do this type of work and [continue it under the new province],” he said, adding, “For a brother who is not into education or computers, this is great work!”
He pointed out that it’s a well-stocked professional shop – and for someone who wants to learn, he makes it clear in the video that he would be willing to teach them and pass down his skills and knowledge.
As far as advice for friars who are thinking about retirement, Sebastian had this to say: “Everybody should have a hobby. To see people just sitting around looking at television all day, that doesn’t work for me. Maybe it does for others, but not for me. They can make [things], and then we can sell it [to bring] a little money into the community. I want to work until I can’t work anymore. And then I will probably be so old, they’ll put me in a nursing home,” he says with a laugh. “But that’s the way I want to go [out] – working.”