Student Friars Reflect on Summer Assignments

Rebecca Doel Friar News

Each year, HNP’s student friars prayerfully discern at which Province ministry to spend their summer assignment. For them, June through August is a time to experience friar life and to grow deeper in their relationships with God. Three student friars share what they learned this summer — two based at parishes and one at an urban ministry to the poor.

“Smile, Jesus is at the Door”
By Jeffery Jordan, OFM, at St. Francis Inn, Philadelphia

As I was discerning my summer ministry site for 2010, I immediately felt drawn to St. Francis Inn in Philadelphia. Having volunteered there once a week as a novice, I wanted the full experience of this unique ministry — to live and minister at the inn for an extended period of time and to discern more clearly how God is calling me to minister as a Franciscan friar. I was not disappointed.

Upon reflecting on my experiences at the inn, two pillars come to mind: the nature of the ministry itself and the community. As my stay progressed through the summer, I came to a deeper understanding of how these aspects of Franciscan life support, nourish and complement each other.

The ministry is diverse in providing services to the guests of the inn — from hot, delicious meals to clothing from St. Benedict’s Thrift Shop. Regardless of the service, however, the focus is on the guests, who are treated with the utmost dignity and respect — seated and served as if they were dining in a first class restaurant. In so doing, we show guests how special they are and that they are loved as children of God. The smiles and words of thanks speak for themselves. I saw a glimmer of hope and happiness in their eyes, a glimmer that is often overshadowed by the difficult circumstances of their lives.

The unique community at St. Francis Inn strengthens service to the guests. The friars who serve here are joined by religious sisters from three communities and lay ministers who have dedicated decades to the vision of the inn. The community derives its strength and nourishment from daily Eucharistic celebrations and prayer, and all decisions are made as a group. It reminded me of the early Christian community described in Acts of the Apostles. It is truly one to be imitated and held up as a standard for collaborative ministry.

Words alone cannot truly do justice to St. Francis Inn. This ministry needs to be experienced. One must see the smiles, the gratitude, the brokenness, the hope and the love in order to truly see the face of Jesus. The sign at the entry of the inn says, “Smile, Jesus is at the door.” After this summer, I am convinced Jesus is at the door waiting to smile back!

“Utilizing My Talents for God’s Work”
By Michael Reyes, OFM, at St. Bonaventure Church, Allegany, N.Y.

A mentor once told me, “Your talent is God’s gift to you. What you do with it is your gift to God.” I remembered these words as I discerned where to go for my first summer internship.

While I wanted to experience parish ministry, I also hoped for an opportunity to explore the artistic talent I had rediscovered during my novitiate year. And so, two days after professing my vows, I found myself driving through a picturesque landscape of light blue fog sitting on dark green mountain tops and splendid farmlands accentuated with weathered barns and golden hay rolls. For a moment, I thought I was traveling through the landscape paintings of the 19th century artists Albert Bierstadt and Thomas Cole, but I was actually on my way to St. Bonaventure Parish in Allegany, N.Y.

St. Bonaventure is a vibrant community filled with many outreach programs. Moreover, it is situated in a place blessed with vast natural beauty that is conducive in stirring creativity in an artistic mind.

This summer, I assisted Richard Husted, OFM, his staff and volunteers with many of their diverse parish activities and projects including “The Bridge,” the centerpiece of the parish’s outreach program, as well as the parish’s youth group and summer religious education program. I shared reflections during weekday Masses and led a communion service every Friday. Also, every week I visited the sick at Olean General Hospital, bringing them Communion. My experiences introduced me to the many joys and challenges of parish ministry.

When I had an evening free, I spent it at the St. Bonaventure University friary, working with Robert Lentz, OFM, in his studio. In the past, I had worked with watercolors and oils, painting for relaxation. With Robert, I learned how to use my talent as a tool for evangelization; in some ways, I feel like a wild river that is being channeled between the walls of a narrow canyon. I painted an icon of the face of Christ, which is the first piece Robert assigns to all his students. On the side, I am working on a beautiful crucifix, after the style of Italian painter Cenni di Pepo Cimabue’s famous work.

My summer at Allegany helped me recognize that there are many ways to evangelize. As a friar, I long to help people realize how much God loves them. As I continue with my formation, I must discern how God wants me to do this. Recognizing, cultivating and utilizing what talents God has given me are important steps in this process.

“My Ministry at the House of Bread”
By Edgardo Zea-Laura, OFM, at St. Patrick-St. Anthony Parish, Hartford, Conn.

summer1This summer, I served at The House of Bread and in the parish of St. Patrick-St. Anthony, both in downtown Hartford.

According to its website, The House of Bread, founded in 1980 by two Sisters of St. Joseph, provides “food pantries, shelters, temporary and permanent housing, support programs and love to the Greater Hartford area. Under the guidance of Sr. Maureen Faenza and Sr. Theresa Fonti, The House of Bread continues its mission to reach out to every person in need.”

The organization emphasizes simplicity, dignity and respect as the characteristics of its services to the hungry, homeless and needy population of Hartford.

The House of Bread was a good experience this summer because I helped people in a variety of ways, while also working with the community of St. Patrick-St. Anthony Parish.

I enjoyed working with my supervisor and pastor of St. Patrick-St. Anthony, Thomas Gallagher, OFM, because he is a good friar that I felt comfortable asking any questions that came up during the internship. We met and talked if I had any challenges or if I needed something in my ministry.

I also appreciated being a part of the community at The House of Bread. There, I always had the help of Andrew Giardino, OFM, and John Leonard, OFM.

— Compiled by Rebecca Doel

Editor’s note: More information about the lives of student friars will appear in the fall 2010 issue of Be A Franciscan, the newsletter of the Province’s Franciscan Vocation Ministry.