Summer Assignments Provide Varied Experiences for Student Friars

Rebecca Doel Friar News

Each year, friars in initial formation prayerfully discern a Province ministry at which to spend the summer. From June through August, four of these student friars served in Maryland, Massachusetts, New York and Virginia.

Now immersed back in their studies, Ross Chamberland, OFM, Gerald Hopeck, OFM, Jeffery Jordan, OFM, and Michael Reyes, OFM, share thoughts from their summer experiences.

The Assistant Principal
“When I began my summer internship, I was not really sure what I would be doing,” said Gerald, 36. While attending a development meeting for St. Francis International School in Silver Spring, Md., he was informed the school was in a difficult situation.

“The principal invited me to his office and explained the problem to me, and I offered my assistance because of my prior experience with Catholic education.” Shortly thereafter, Gerald was asked to act as interim assistant principal while participating on the search committee.

“While filling in for the position, something was happening to me that I could not ignore,” he said. “I felt the Holy Spirit calling me to this ministry.” He was hired in July.

“I thought I would never work in education again, but I could not ignore the events that were happening in my life and the joy I was experiencing as a result,” Gerald said. “I have begun a ministry as a Franciscan friar that motivates and inspires me every day.”

He noted: “My summer internship has not only helped me to obtain a ministry, it has strengthened my identity as a Franciscan brother, remembering that I am a child of God who has been called to walk in the world as Francis did.”

The Jack-of-All-Trades
“Spending my summer internship at St. Anthony Shrine in Boston was like coming home to me,” said Michael, 36, who spent his postulant year at the shrine. “I consider this place as my very first Franciscan home.”

Over the course of three months, under the supervision of then-director David Convertino, OFM, Michael worked at the Franciscan Food Center during distribution, provided assistance to students at the shrine’s computer lab, coordinated and facilitated programs for the Seniors at Arch Street, assisted in the development office, helped in the sacristy, welcomed visitors to weekend Masses and preached at some weekday Masses.

“It was a summer filled with learning, appreciation and growth,” Michael noted. “Learning new things to expand my capacities with regards to effectively ministering to the people at the shrine, appreciation of my gifts and talents that I am able to share and contribute to the various ministries of the shrine, and deeper growth and understanding with regards to my vocation as a Franciscan friar.”

Michael said one of his most memorable experiences from the summer was facilitating a two-part presentation on iconography for the Seniors at Arch Street. In part one, Michael presented about the spirituality of icons. Part two was “a hands-on presentation in which I guided more than 35 seniors in creating their own St. Francis icons,” he said. “It was a prayerful and joyful experience. I was very impressed by the artistic and creative talents demonstrated by the seniors.” He added: “It always brings me great joy to effectively use the creative power of art in ministry.”

The French Student
Though based at Holy Name Friary in New York City, Ross’ summer assignment was foreign language immersion.

“While living at the friary, I spent several hours each day, Monday through Friday, enrolled in French immersion classes at the French Institute on E. 60th Street.” Ross, who is of French descent, described the program as “intense and very professional.” He added: “I have grown up around the language and cherish claiming it as part of my own identity.”

Ross, 30, said he hopes to work closely with the growing French-speaking communities in some of the parishes throughout the Province — one of which is Holy Name of Jesus Church on New York City’s Upper West Side.

Ross said he was most grateful for the fraternity he experienced at Holy Name Friary. “They are a special community that welcomed, supported, encouraged and celebrated with me. The fraternal life and support I experienced strengthened my Franciscan vocation and lifted my spirits every day.” He joked: “We prayed well and played well together.”

The Youth Leader
Though he was only able to spend six weeks at St. Francis of Assisi Church in Triangle, Va., Jeffery, 36, said his summer assignment left him feeling “reaffirmed of God’s call to work with people as a Franciscan.”

Jeffery’s internship exposed him to a variety of ministries that focused on the youth of the parish.

Before departing for the Franciscan Studium — a collaborative effort sponsored by the St. Barbara Province that provides philosophy through a Franciscan lens — Jeffery preached in English and Spanish at Sunday Masses, worked at the parish’s Francis House, attended parish meetings, and helped at Vacation Bible School.

summer-r“At the Franciscan Studium,” Jeffery said, “I took two classes: one on ancient philosophy and the other on the philosophy of creation. The program not only provided classes I needed, but it was a wonderful time of Franciscan fraternity, of getting to know men in formation from the other OFM provinces.” Michael and Gerald also participated in the philosophy program at Old Mission San Louis Rey in Oceanside, Calif.

His most memorable summer experience was a Catholic HEART Workcamp trip to Bluffton, S.C., with youth from the Triangle parish. There, they worked with the United Way to assist the poor and elderly with home repairs.

“It was full of laughs and joy,” he said. “Seeing young adults so serious about their faith, getting involved, and helping to bring the light of Christ to depressed communities was edifying. I felt blessed to be a part of it.”

— Rebecca Doel is Holy Name Province’s communications coordinator.