ANDOVER, Mass. — Richard Trezza, OFM, the Province’s spiritual assistant to the Secular Franciscan Order (SFO), encouraged Secular Franciscans during a June regional SFO retreat here, described by participants as an incredible experience.
The gathering, “Profession in the SFO and a Sense of Belonging,” urged the more than 100 attendees to see themselves not as a lesser fraternity, or as “volunteer friars,” but as those in a “privileged place.”
Richard opened the June 19 to 21 retreat by telling Secular Franciscans, “You will not think the same way about your profession in the SFO after this weekend.”
He drew on themes conveyed last November in Hungary, when Br. Felice Cangelosi, OFM Cap., spoke at the SFO General Chapter on “Profession in the SFO: Gift and Commitment.”
The June issue of Pax et Bonum, the newsletter of the St. Francis Fraternity, SFO, reported: “Fr. Trezza reminded us that our profession creates a spiritual bond to our brothers and sisters in fraternity that cannot be broken. It was an incredible experience.”
Two New Fraternities
Richard has also been involved with the launch of two more SFO fraternities, one in Aiken, S.C., bonded to Holy Name Province, and one in Yonkers, N.Y., bonded to the Immaculate Conception Province, of which Richard is spiritual assistant.
On May 2, the new South Carolina fraternity was bonded to HNP. The diocesan parochial vicar in the parish where the fraternity meets will be spiritual assistant, according to Richard. Paul Williams, OFM, attended the launch for Richard.
Another emerging fraternity is ready for canonical establishment in Yonkers, N.Y., part of the SFO region that Richard assists. The group will be bonded to the Immaculate Conception Province and includes members from the Bronx, Westchester and Putnam counties and Southern Connecticut. Its spiritual assistant is Fr. Glen Sodano of the Capuchins of the Reform, and the group is sponsored by Little Portion Fraternity in Yonkers. The group, according to Richard, is active in peace and justice issues.
As spiritual assistant to several SFO regions, Richard often travels from Sacred Heart Friary in East Rutherford, N.J., to visit SFO groups. In April, he visited St. Anne’s Fraternity in Fair Lawn, N.J., an SFO fraternity established by Holy Name Province. While HNP friars no longer minister there, Richard remains responsible for the parish’s 20 Secular Franciscans.
“They have been without a friar spiritual assistant since the friars left,” said Richard. “When there is no spiritual assistant, the less vibrant fraternities begin to break down. I agreed to assist to get them back on track.”
Profession of New Secular Franciscans
In April, Richard visited a Long Island fraternity in Oceanside, N.Y. He visits a few times a year, usually for Mass during Advent and Lent.
“I was able to witness the profession of three people on April 14,” he said. “This is a good sign of life and a high point in the life of any fraternity. The level of good formation is quite high in this fraternity, and I was happy to be of assistance to them that evening.”
On April 25, Richard was the canonical witness for the Elective Chapter of St. Elizabeth of Hungary Region, which comprises Vermont, Maine, New Hampshire and northern Massachusetts. Richard is the spiritual assistant for this region.
“Unfortunately, I am the only friar on the regional council, although there are fraternities bonded to St. Mary’s Capuchin Province. Most of the leadership was re-elected. This is a hard-working region broken up into districts that are very active in different apostolates.”
During the same weekend, Richard returned to New Jersey, where the Our Lady of the Angels Region held its convivenza, or regional gathering, at St. Bonaventure Church in Paterson.
“Daniel Grigassy, OFM, Christian Camadella, OFM, and Christopher VanHaight, OFM, all took part in the convivenza. Fr. Damian Colichio, a former Capuchin, now chaplain to Felician College in Lodi, N.J., spoke on the Franciscan charism on the anniversary of the Franciscan Rule.
On May 24, Richard presided at the profession of three members in a fraternity bonded to the Province in Merrick, N.Y. Since there are no friars based on Long Island, Richard is learning how best to serve this community. “I have to be creative in providing assistance to this group by visits every now and then,” he said.
This summer, Richard is travelling to SFO services and gatherings in a variety of locations. Currently, he is in Portugal, serving as chaplain to a group of graduate students from Fordham University.
— Wendy Healy, a Connecticut-based freelance writer, is a frequent contributor to HNP Today.