Thirteen Received as Franciscan Novices

Jocelyn Thomas In the Headlines

BURLINGTON, Wis. — At a ceremony earlier this month, 13 postulants from nine entities of the Order of Friars Minor were received into the Franciscan Interprovincial Novitiate by their provincial ministers. Among them was Abraham Joseph, OFM, who was received by Dominic Monti, OFM, Provincial Vicar and secretary of formation, as delegate of Provincial Minister John O’Connor, OFM. The ceremony took place on Aug. 15, the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

The new novices received much support on the day of their reception, said vocation director Brian Smail, OFM. “Besides their provincial ministers, other friars from most of the provinces were in attendance at the liturgy to welcome the novices to the novitiate. Immediately after, there was a festive reception and dinner.”

A Fraternal Welcome
The ceremony included a reading from the Treatise on the Miracle of St. Francis, the commissioning of the novitiate team, and the canticle of Mary, as well as intercessions and hymns. During the formal reception, the provincial ministers and delegates asked the postulants what their intentions were and the postulants replied, asking “to be admitted to your way of life, that we may be tested and learn how to take on our shoulders the yoke of the Lord in love and joy.”

After the provincial leaders welcomed the postulants as novices, each new member was called to sign the Book of Life. Dominic brought with him from New York City the book that all Holy Name Province novices have signed since 1951.

“At the sign of peace, during the liturgy, all of the friars present went around and gave each new novice a ‘fraternal embrace’ of welcome and support,” said Brian. “Right after, the novices embraced each other, and it was clearly an emotional time for them, as if they were saying to one another ‘you are my brother, we are in this together.’”

A significant element of the ceremony was the washing of the feet of the new novices by the team members, said Scott Brookbank, OFM, a member of the leadership team since 2012. This was done after the reading of the Gospel passage about Jesus washing the feet at the Last Supper, he said.

“The ‘washing of the feet’ is a very moving part of the reception liturgy,” Brian said. “It is a gesture that models ‘a life of service to others.’ In his homily, novice director Fr. Ralph Parthie, OFM, reminded the novices that ‘this life of service is the life you are preparing for as a friar minor.'”

Before this phase of the ceremony, the following prayer was read:

Brother novices,
your life in the Order of Friars Minor begins today.
This year of Novitiate is an intense time of initiation
into the charism, the traditions and the mission of our Franciscan fraternity.
It is a time of conversion and ongoing discernment.
And, finally, it is a time of experiencing concretely
fraternal life and service.
Jesus, at his Last Supper, washed the feet of his disciples
in order to give them an example.
Our seraphic father St. Francis had this very Gospel passage proclaimed
as he lay dying just outside of the Portiuncula,
As the novitiate team follows the example of the Lord Jesus
and washes your feet, know that you, too,
will be called upon to care for and serve one another.

New Communal Life
Abraham, 38, is a native of Haiti. He came to the U.S. in 2005 and earned a bachelor’s degree in accounting from Monroe College in the Bronx. Prior to entering the Franciscan formation program, Abraham worked as an accountant for the September 11th Families’ Association in Manhattan. He became acquainted with the friars at St. Francis of Assisi Church on West 31st Street in Manhattan, where he served as a Eucharistic minister.

He, like the other novices who are now participating in orientation, spent most of this summer at St. Bonaventure University in Western New York. “The summer experience provided more reasons to love the Franciscan Family,” said Abraham in a July 31 newsletter report titled “Postulants Finish Summer at Franciscan Institute.”

The other novices included Br. James Seiffert, OFM, of St. Barbara Province; Br. Vince Dranginis, OFM, and Br. Max Klug, OFM, of Assumption BVM Province; Br. Chris Fitzpatrick, OFM, of Holy Spirit Province (Australia); Br. Peter Lin, OFM, of St. Anthony of Padua Custody (Singapore); Br. Luis Hernandez, OFM, and Br. Robert Torres, OFM, of Immaculate Conception Province; Br. Noel Bustillos, OFM, of Our Lady of Guadalupe Province; Br. Harry Milling, OFM, and Br. Jonathan Piette, OFM, of Sacred Heart Province; and Br. Ramon Castellon, OFM, and Br. Zach Bischler, OFM, of St. John the Baptist Province.

This year, three new entities joined the Franciscan Interprovincial Novitiate, as men from St. Barbara Province, based in Oakland, Calif., as well as the provinces of Australia and Singapore were received. “The community is now more diverse than ever,” said Brian.

Abraham and the other 2013-14 novices will receive Franciscan habits at a service later this year. On Aug. 26, the novices began a guided retreat, that included not only an outdoor meditation and conversations with the leadership team members but a visit from General Minister Fr. Michael Perry, OFM.

Photos of the novice reception and the retreat, as well as other events, can be found on the Facebook page of the Franciscan Interprovincial Novitiate.

— Jocelyn Thomas is director of communications for Holy Name Province.