BURLINGTON, Wis. — On a sunny, summery Tuesday, Aug. 2, the Feast of the Portiuncula, seven novices made their first profession of vows at the Franciscan Interprovincial Novitiate, thus ending their novitiate year. Among the seven novices were three from Holy Name Province: Eufemio Dimas, OFM, Aaron Richardson, OFM, and Angel Vázquez, OFM. The other brothers were Donald Francis McGeragle, OFM, of Christ the King Province, Canada, John Boissy of St. John the Baptist, and Salvador Baca, OFM, and Henri Djojo, OFM, both of St. Barbara Province.
The novitiate chapel was filled with friars from around the country — from California, Chicago, New York and numerous places in-between. Ron Pecci, OFM, and Ross Chamberland, OFM, from Holy Name Province were on hand to pray with departing novices and to celebrate the milestone in their religious lives. Also in attendance from Rome was Br. Cesare Vaiani, OFM, General Secretary for Formation and Studies, who had recently attended the U.S. SPUTY (Solemnly Professed Under Ten Years) gathering in Colorado Springs.
The prayer service was focused on the theme of taking up one’s cross. Included in the readings was the fifth Admonition of St. Francis which concludes: “…even if you were more handsome and richer than everyone else, and even if you worked miracles so that you put demons to flight: all these things are contrary to you; nothing belongs to you; you can boast in none of these things. But, we can boast in our weaknesses and in carrying each day the holy cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Before professing their vows, the seven friars resolved to unite themselves more closely to God by the new bond of religious profession, to live in chastity for the sake of the kingdom of heaven; to embrace voluntary poverty and to offer the sacrifice of obedience. Provincial Ministers Fr. Robert Mokry, OFM, of Christ the King Province, and Fr. Jeffery Scheeler, OFM, of St. John the Baptist, and I received the vows.
Eufemio shared how his time in the novitiate had been “a year of transformation” for him. He wrote: “When I moved from Silver Spring, Md., to Wisconsin it was not an easy transition in my life. In the beginning of the novitiate I did not have too many expectations: to still grow as a human person and as a religious man, and to be trained for the ‘day after’ as a Franciscan friar of the 21st century. During this past year, I did not expect the many questions that appeared along the way: Would I be able to adapt? Could I adapt to U.S. culture and understand the language?
“Believe it or not, winter started for me at the beginning of October when our mother nature taught me that everything seemed to be dying. The leaves fell from the trees and everything appeared to be dead. And I started dying — letting many things go in order to be free to embrace new life. It was not that simple, but I thank God for the many people whom I call guardian angels (OFM friars and friends) who were part of my journey. Honestly, I do not know if I could have made it without their support and prayers. A friend of mine, a Poor Clare nun, saw me fighting with all my struggles during the year and told me: ‘The novitiate year is a year of transfiguration.’
“This year has been an encounter with God, with the God whom we all have inside us. Every day for me was an opportunity to look at myself, face my strengths, my weaknesses and accept who I am, where I came from, and to be transfigured by the Lord. I think this is what my friend was talking about. This has been a time of experiencing God on a daily basis and the opportunity to deepen my relation with God.”
Aaron described the profession as a privilege.
“The morning and day before taking vows and departing from the novitiate was unexpectedly bittersweet,” he said. “I am happy to be moving forward in the formation program and in my own journey of conversion and have been looking forward to this milestone. But I am sure that there are many people that I will be missing.
“Before the rite of profession, I sat out in our vast and green front yard and felt very peaceful,” he added. “I know that one of the things I leave the novitiate with is an increased faith and trust in God’s presence to me in all circumstances. I’m sure the future will hold many challenges for me, but I’m feeling confident in myself, and more importantly, in our Creator. I am grateful to the friars who were there to witness our profession, and to all those who have supported us with prayers throughout the year. Those prayers have been a real source of strength for me. Finally, I was very grateful to see six of my brothers profess vows along with me. It was a privilege and a blessing.”
— Fr. Lawrence is Provincial Vicar and HNP secretary for formation and studies. He professed his first vows in 1984.
- “Novitiate Life for a ‘City Boy’” by Angel Vazquez —Jan. 27, 2016, HNP Today
- “Reflection: Feast of the Porziuncula” by Thomas Hartle, OFM – July 27, 2016, HNP Today
- “Post-novitiate Formation Program Relocating to Midwest” – Sept. 17, 2015, HNP Today
- “Three Holy Name Friars Profess First Vows” – Aug. 5, 2015, HNP Today