NEW YORK – John Aherne, OFM, George Camacho, OFM, and Edgardo Jara, OFM – three men who have studied through prayer, ministry, and classes to be friars – professed their final vows as Franciscans on Aug. 27 at a Mass attended by friars and friends from around the Province. St Francis of Assisi Church on West 31st Street radiated joy and energy as the three vowed to follow the rule of St. Francis for the rest of their lives. An illustration on the cover of the Mass program – The Cord by the late David Haack, OFM – symbolized with three knots the vows they promised to keep – poverty, chastity and obedience.
“The solemn profession ceremony was a moving and prayerful experience,” said George. “The beautiful liturgy, along with the support and presence of the friars, family, and friends served as a reminder of God’s hand at work throughout this journey. I feel grateful and blessed.”
Edgardo also commented on the beauty of the celebration, saying “We had many brothers who came to our ceremony, many from long distances. People also came from places where I have served. I felt loved. My family from Costa Rica was here, as well as many friends from Saint Camillus Parish and OFM Conventuals who I know well.
“We were celebrating as family, everyone was happy,” he continued. “It was not only John, George and I celebrating. It was a moment where we celebrated each other. I just have to thank God a lot. I am happy to be a friar. It was one of the happiest moments of my life. I have been very blessed.”
Provincial Minister Kevin Mullen, OFM, who celebrated the 11 a.m. Mass, said the view he had from the sanctuary, “looking into the congregation, presented a marvelous sight. There was great diversity of all sorts in the congregation and an unusually large number of friars. In fact, many friars told me that they could not recall a larger number of the brothers gathered for a Provincial celebration. The church was filled with joy and the celebration radiated hope for all of us.”
‘The Lord Gave Us Brothers’
In his homily, Kevin emphasized the importance of joy and of brothers.
“As you look around our great city, you notice that you encounter two types of people – the natives and visitors. Natives walk with purpose, quickly and with eyes focused straight ahead. Visitors walk our streets and look with wonder and seem to have a joyful expression.”
“Visitors remind us of the specialness of this city, in contrast to natives who seem to take things for granted,” he said. “We gather today not as visitors, but with the wonder of visitors.”
“Our brothers are special,” Kevin continued. “The Lord gives us brothers of many in all shapes and sizes and of many backgrounds. The simple line attributed to St. Francis, ‘the Lord gave me brothers’ shows us what this life is all about.”
Kevin thanked Andrew Reitz, OFM, pastor of St Francis of Assisi Parish, and the music ministers and all who contributed to the beauty of the liturgy.
Following tradition, the Mass was collaborative. Lawrence Hayes, OFM, secretary for formation and studies, and Joseph Rozansky, OFM, the Province’s director of post-novitiate formation, concelebrated the liturgy that included readings in English and in Spanish. Others involved in the liturgy were student friars as well as people connected to the friars in various ways. The lectors were Sandra Perez and Sr. Patricia Parachini, SNJM. The mothers of John, George and Edgardo served as gift bearers.
“In thinking about all who contributed to the beauty of the liturgy, I want to express my thanks and that of all the friars to our brothers who served as part of the formation program while our three brothers were in initial formation,” Kevin said later. “The formators did an outstanding job of accompanying these men in this critical phase of their Franciscan journey.”
Ronald Pecci, OFM, who served as postulant director for these friars, said “I felt great joy, excitement and satisfaction attending the profession ceremony. It is comforting to know we have men like these three entering our community.”
“It was a privilege to have worked with these three men and to see them adapt their considerable talents and grace to Franciscan life and ministry,” he added. “Each of them was a man of considerable achievement before they entered religious life. I consider accompanying them to have been a blessing in my life. They have already contributed much to the Church and our community and I am sure that they will continue to do so.”
The newly-professed will be living in various locations – Illinois, Maryland, and New York State – where they will be studying and working. This summer, they spent four weeks together, participating in a retreat in Italy, getting to experience their Franciscan heritage at significant Franciscan sites.
John, a native of New York City, will be living in Chicago, working toward a master of divinity degree at Catholic Theological Union. Before joining the Province in 2010, he earned a bachelor’s degree in English from New York University and worked at several publishing companies. A certified Irish dance teacher, he also ran a small dancing school prior to entering the Franciscan Order.
He professed his first vows as a Franciscan in 2012 and, this June, John completed a yearlong internship at St. Anthony Shrine in Boston, where he took part in a wide variety of ministries, including directing a young adult program. John got to know the friars by attending daily Mass and serving as a lector and Eucharistic minister at St. Francis of Assisi Church in New York City. He said he entered the Province’s training program to “use all my gifts and bring everything to the table to be of as much service to God and to others as possible.”
George, who also grew up in New York City, is stationed at Siena College, outside Albany. N.Y., where he was recently named assistant director of the college’s Damietta Cross-Cultural Center. George served a yearlong internship at Siena last year.
He joined the Province in 2009 after having worked for a television station. He holds a bachelor’s degree in communication studies from NYU and a master’s degree in pastoral and spiritual care from Loyola University, Columbia, Md. He professed his first vows in 2011. While there, he assisted in the chaplain’s office, the Franciscan Center for Service and Advocacy. As a volunteer at his home parish, George led retreats to help teenagers develop effective communication skills with their parents.
Edgardo, a native of Costa Rica, is stationed at St. Camillus Parish, where he completed a yearlong internship. He holds a degree in philosophy and humanities from Costa Rica Catholic University and a master of divinity degree from the Franciscan School of Theology in Oceanside, Calif. He professed his first vows as a Franciscan in 2013. Edgardo, who is working toward ordination to the priesthood in 2017, was ordained as a temporary deacon on Aug. 28, in Wilmington, Del.
Before entering religious life in 2010, Edgardo – known as Lalo – worked in a bank and as a high school teacher. He had also spent several years as part of a Franciscan province in Mexico. Edgardo came to know the friars of Holy Name Province while attending an interprovincial workshop.
In a recent article published by St. Camillus Parish, Edgardo wrote about having thought about religious life since he was a youth.
“When I was a child, I started wondering how I could serve the Lord,” he said. “My mother says that I used to play ‘celebrating Mass’ and that I started street processions by rounding up my friends, While I don’t remember much about those events I do recall that one day, while watching the movie ‘The Miracle of Marcelino,’ a Mexican movie with Franciscan friars in it, my mother asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. Hastily, I replied that I wanted to be a priest.”
The Next ‘Yes’ to God
Saturday’s profession caused the friars to reflect.
“My initial interest in pursuing religious life was actually a desire to participate in the formation program,” said George. “I sought the opportunity to prayerfully assess my life and to discern a way to live with greater integrity. For some reason, I found Francis of Assisi to be a source of inspiration, specifically the risk he took to restructure his life in a way that was more genuine. I thought that my journey could begin there. Now, my life continues with a deeper commitment to my Catholic faith and gospel values. Nevertheless, the future remains in God’s hands.”
John said, “When I first began discerning if God was calling me to become a friar, the idea of living in community was the least appealing aspect of Franciscan life. Service to God, the Church, the poor – all of that was fine. Living in community sounded awful, and I nearly packed my bags when it was explained that it was one of the defining characteristics of being a friar. Six years later, I can say that living in fraternity is one of the things I love most about being a friar. It’s not always easy, and sometimes it drives me crazy, but I have seen God’s love and grace and charity and mercy and forgiveness more during my daily life with the brothers than anywhere else. For that, I am truly grateful.”
Professing final vows, for John, meant “just saying the next ‘yes’ – to who God is calling me to be. I remember some excellent advice that Vocation Director Brian Smail, OFM, gave me when I started the formation process. He suggested that I just keep walking along this path in faith one step at a time, knowing that I could opt out of formation at any point along the way. His wise words helped me stay grounded, in the moment, and to take things as they came. As a result, this milestone seems like just the next step, the next gift that God is sending my way.”
He expressed gratitude to the friars for their “brotherhood and support.”
“Thank you for making our Franciscan parishes and ministry sites places of warmth and welcome and joy,” John said. “I first came to know the friars through St. Francis of Assisi Church in NYC, and if it weren’t for the wonderful people there who welcomed me so thoroughly and inspired me by their presence, I wouldn’t be where I am today.”
— Jocelyn Thomas is director of communications for Holy Name Province. Additional photos of the 2016 solemn profession taken by Octavio Duran, OFM, can be found on the Facebook page of St. Anthony’s Guild.
- “Walking in the Footsteps of St. Clare” by John Aherne – Aug. 10, 2016, HNP Today
- “Reflection: Mission in South Africa” by George Camacho – July 31, 2015, HNP Today
- “Formation Update: A Blessed Time on the West Coast” by Edgardo Jara – May 11, 2015, HNP Today
- “Three Friars Profess Final Vows as Franciscans” – Aug. 25, 2014, HNP Today