Seasonal Reflections: Life Transitions

HNP Communications Features

The arrival of spring this week brings a feeling of new life and new energy. For the friars of Holy Name Province, this season means transitions for those who have been assigned new roles.

In this reflection, two friars share their thoughts about change. They range from sadness and anxiety to curiosity and joyful anticipation. Both friars are beginning roles as new pastors on July 1; coincidentally, one is moving to the parish that the other friar is leaving.

Steven Patti, OFM
Immaculate Conception Parish, Durham, N.C.
I remember, in one of my early assignments as a friar, a friar in the parish I was in being asked to take on a new assignment, one that he was not seeking out, one that caught him somewhat off guard. I could see that the phone call that he received, and the request that he please consider this new assignment, left him off balance for a time as he considered where he was, where he wanted to go, and where he was now being asked to go. What do we do when our plans are interrupted? I could also see that he was pleased to have been asked to take on this assignment. Someone, he could see, had recognized his accomplishments, seen that he was the right man for the job, and who of us does not like to be recognized in that way?

He spent some time in discernment. I think he knew early on that he would take the position, but I could see that it was not easy for him, that it meant letting go of other plans that he had. He eventually made his decision, and said yes to the new assignment. And I remember that he said to me one day as we talked in the hallway outside of his office, “I couldn’t pray the Annunciation if I didn’t say yes to this.”

It was an early insight for me into who we are as friars. How does the Word intersect with our lives, and how do we respond to that Word? Not some abstract Word, but a Word that comes over the telephone on some Tuesday afternoon when we have other things on our mind, a Word that finds us as we are and asks us to do some new or different thing, asks us to respond with faith, with trust.

My own transition is coming up soon as I prepare to leave Durham, N.C., for a new assignment in Providence R.I. This change in no way caught me off guard, as it did that friar several years ago, but still, as I prepare to leave here after eight years, the Word comes through to me and speaks to me of movement and change, “Let us go on to nearby villages so that I may preach there also,” says Jesus to his disciples (Mk 1:38).

There is something about movement, about change, about going to someplace new, that is completely unsettling. Doesn’t it seem easier to stay put? But there is something exciting and promising, something mysterious, something both known and unknown, about what the new place holds. Isn’t this what “call” means — listening closely within our lives to the ways in which God speaks to us, asks us to respond, guides us along the way?

I think of that friar and the unexpected phone call he received, his discernment at what it might mean for him, his response rooted in God’s story of grace meeting our humanity. Denise Levertov, in her poem “Annunciation,” writes “Aren’t there annunciations of one sort or another in most lives?” We pray that we might hear them.

Frank Sevola, OFM
Church of St. Mary on Broadway, Providence, R.I.
The eminent ancient Greek philosopher Heraclitus once said, “Nothing endures but change.” That is certainly true in the life of a Franciscan friar. When we kneel before our Provincial Minister and vow poverty, chastity and obedience, we know that we are giving our life over to God, the Church and our Province.

As I reflect on my own upcoming change in ministry, I feel excited, sad, relieved, anxious, hopeful — just to name a few emotions on an inexhaustible list. During my nine years in Providence, I have witnessed a great deal of change in the ministry here. We opened a new food and wellness center and sold the downtown building that housed the friary, chapel, offices, and for a time, the novitiate. We took over an old, dying city parish and turned it into the fastest growing parish in the diocese. The changes were scary, but in the end the decisions were right and resulted in a fresh, vibrant Franciscan ministry in Providence.

When I think of my upcoming change, my vision of transforming Providence over nine years gives me a sense of satisfaction and hope that change provides good and life-giving opportunities. Right now, my challenge is leaving the familiar, letting go of my accomplishments, and giving myself over to trust in God. The one lesson I’ve learned in the last nine years is that change brings not only challenge and promise, but ultimately self-fulfillment.

As a friar, I know that change is always going to happen, so I take some comfort in Heraclitus’ words, change endures. Our itinerant life demands that we embrace change and allow ourselves to move on and accept new adventures for the good of the Province, the Church and the Kingdom. Knowing that none of what I have accomplished in Providence is really my own is comforting. Knowing that other friars will follow me and make it even better is gratifying. Carrying on the great work of the friars who have preceded me in ministry is awesome. So, I face my new ministry with joyful anticipation.

As we approached the Province’s Chapter in January, I really had no idea what I would be asked to do. I had served nine years in Providence and the time for me to move on was at hand. In a conversation with a friar just before Christmas, I remarked that I wish I knew where I was going to celebrate Christmas next year. He said, “Well, at least you know it will be somewhere in Holy Name Province!” What more could I ask for?

— The HNP Communications Office welcomes contributions of seasonal reflections for HNP Today. Friars and partners-in-ministry who have topic ideas and/or an interest in writing should contact Jocelyn Thomas, communications director, at 646-473-0265 ext. 321.