July 15 is the feast of St. Bonaventure, a saint close to the hearts of friars and the namesake of the Franciscan university in Western New York. Here, a cantor at St. Francis of Assisi in Manhattan and 2000 graduate of SBU, shares his thoughts on the saint and on the positive influence the Franciscans have had on him.
NEW YORK — St. Bonaventure has been deceased for more than 700 years, and yet, for me, a 32-year-old man in 2010, his Franciscan spirit is still amazingly alive and well.
While applying to colleges almost 15 years ago, St. Bonaventure University was dead last on my list of potential undergraduate schools. It wasn’t until stepping foot on the campus in Allegany, N.Y., that I realized that Bona’s was absolutely where I belonged. The Franciscan charism of staff, faculty and students convinced me, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that there was no other place for me to spend my undergrad years.
During my time at SBU, I was fortunate to get to know friars and Franciscan sisters as teachers, mentors and lifelong friends. They afforded unexpected opportunities to serve in ministry, take leadership roles and model my faith in many ways.
In 2000, I transitioned into post-college real life with the friar community in Providence, R.I. Again, the friendships I forged and the community I served strengthened the connection to my own spirituality and my own unique vocation in lay ministry. I recall with great fondness the abundant laughter, the shared meals, the satisfaction we felt from the hard work we did.
When I moved to New York City in 2006, it was the Franciscan community at St. Francis of Assisi Church on 31st Street that welcomed me back into city life. I was given the opportunity to use my gift of music to enable others to pray more actively and worship more fully. The hospitality shown from the 31st Street friars made me feel so at home. They truly embody the idea of lay partners-in-ministry, valuing the contributions of the entire Body of Christ.
I have a profound connection to the spirit of saints Francis and Bonaventure deep in my being. I am often reminded of my visit to the small village of Bagnoregio, Bonaventure’s hometown, and the moment of inexplicable transcendence I felt standing high atop that hill.
Words cannot express my gratitude to the friars of Holy Name Province for the innumerable and immeasurable gifts they have given to me. With the friars, I feel there is a bond that, now forged, cannot be broken. I am fortunate to be counted as a member of the Franciscan family, and my prayer is that I may reflect the same Franciscan spirit that continues to transform me by who I am and how I serve in the world.
— Michael supervises kindergarten through eighth grade math and science in Brooklyn, teaches graduate education at Mercy College in Manhattan, and is a doctoral candidate in education at Seton Hall University in South Orange, N.J. He is pictured in the photo behind with Provincial Secretary Michael Harlan, OFM.
Editor’s note: Friars Thomas Hartle, OFM, of Boston, and Kevin Tortorelli, OFM, of New York, also submitted thoughts on the Church doctor and his birthplace, Bagnoregio.