Solemn Professions Then and Now

by Brian Jordan, OFM HNPNow

Brian Jordan, OFM

Greetings Dear Brothers!

To coincide with the final Solemn Profession Ceremony for Holy Name Province on August 26 at 31st Street, I would like to share a brief reflection on those who first took solemn vows and those who last took solemn vows.

For purposes of background context…

The primacy of the Order of Friars Minor “lesser brothers” is to live the Gospel life according to our founder, Francis of Assisi. After a careful period of discernment within formation, friars are called to take vows of poverty, chastity and obedience. These promises are meant to be liberating, not restrictive – although they certainly involve fraternal living within certain boundaries.

Holy Name Province officially began on January 3, 1901. We did not have a fully structured formation program at that time. Franciscan friars entered Holy Name Province from other provinces, such as Fulda in Germany and Ireland. The beginnings of HNP were strongly composed of German friars and a growing number of Irish friars. The clear majority already took solemn vows and many were already ordained to the priesthood before joining Holy Name Province.

The first two friars who took solemn vows for HNP after January 3, 1901 were Sylvester Schmidt, OFM, on January 27, 1901, and Raymond Walsh, OFM, on October 4, 1901. Both were received through the hands of the first HNP provincial, Edward Blecke, OFM. Sylvester was born in Brackwede, Germany. Raymond was born in Boston, Massachusetts, of Irish-born parents.

Whereas, the last two friars professing solemn vows for HNP (on August 26, 2023) are Luis Rosado, OFM, and Jason Damon, OFM – both through the hands of the last HNP provincial, Kevin Mullen, OFM. Luis represents the growing number of Latinos joining HNP within recent decades. Jason represents the Franciscan penchant for the underdog – a long-suffering Buffalo Bills fan waiting for a Super Bowl victory! Go Bills! LOL!

I would like to stress that cultural diversity was the beginning of Holy Name Province through Germany and Ireland. Cultural diversity continues with the closing of our Province with the inclusion of the Caribbean Custody of our friars joining us from Puerto Rico and Cuba. During our 122-year existence of HNP, we evolved by welcoming brothers from all walks of life.

A Case Study:
Solemn Professions for HNP, 1973-2023

Between 1973 and 2023, 287 friars took solemn vows for Holy Name Province. A substantial number of these friars were not formed in traditional HNP formation programs. They either transferred from other U.S. provinces or were born in another country where we had HNP foreign missions.

For example, in 1973, there were five solemn professions for Holy Name Province. Two were transfers from the Immaculate Conception Province: Kevin Tortorelli, OFM, and Eric Carpine, OFM. The other three were from our Japanese custody, but were then considered members of HNP: Francis Sekiguchi, OFM, Michael Urano, OFM, and Joseph Sato, OFM. We also had custodies in Brazil and Bolivia whose solemnly professed were counted among HNP members.

It was only later on that these three custodies became their own autonomous provinces. Why no traditional HNP solemn professions in 1973? David Schlatter, OFM, our noteworthy jubilarian, explains that earlier in the 1970s, there was a pivotal transition in formation when the novitiate was moved from Lafayette, New Jersey, to Brookline, Massachusetts.

Admittedly, I had initial concerns about the US-6 realigning into one province. However, after conducting research for this article, and for the previous article I wrote about HNP ordinations, I fully support one province of Our Lady of Guadalupe! Why? Two glaring statistical realities:

The first, there have been 287 HNP solemn professions between 1973 and 2023. However, 217 solemn professions occurred during the first 25 years, from 1973 to 1998. An average of over eight per year. Whereas, only 70 solemn professions occurred in the last 25 years between 1999 and the present. An average of barely three per year. Our vocations have gradually declined since the late 1990s.

Second, of all the 287 friars who took solemn vows between 1973 and 2023, only 175 are living friars. The rest have either separated from the Order or are deceased. May they be at peace, whether on earth or in the next life.

To sum up, since 1901, friars from all walks of life joined and served in Holy Name Province. Wisdom has guided us towards one Our Lady of Guadalupe Province! As our recently deceased former Provincial, John Felice, once said: “In the end, all we have is each other and God!”

Blessings on our new Province!