ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Seven men interested in becoming Franciscan friars spent the weekend learning from some of Holy Name Province’s trailblazers, members of the retirement community of St. Anthony Friary.
The friars from Tampa and St. Petersburg welcomed the guests for the first “Come and See/Discernment Weekend Retreat” to be held at the St. Petersburg residence. Organized by the HNP Vocation Office and regional vocation directors Frank Critch, OFM, and Paul Santoro, OFM, the Feb. 20 to 22 retreat gave the participants a deeper appreciation for the Province and the men who have shaped it.
The candidates for the Province’s formation, or training, program were grateful to the friars who shared their experiences with them, and said they found the friars’ enthusiasm for their ministries affirming.
“This weekend, we learned that the phrase ‘retired friar’ is a misnomer,” said James Bernard, who has been accepted to the postulancy class of 2015. “Even now, when some retired men might be spending their time on the golf course or on the beach with a piña colada, the retired friars at St. Anthony’s continue to live out their vocation with joy and continued ministerial involvement.
“Spending time with these great men and hearing them recount the Province’s rich history, their vibrant lives in ministry and their dedication to bringing God’s love to all people was awe inspiring,” he added.
‘What Does It Mean to Be a Friar?’
The retreat began with “a powerful and moving welcome and introduction by guardian Joseph Hertel, OFM,” said Basil Valente, OFM, director of vocations, who traveled from New York City to be present at the event. “Joe introduced the many men of Holy Name Province who are profoundly responsible for shaping the Province and, ultimately, the Order of Friars Minor. He highlighted the accomplishments and the ministries of the men who paved the way in pastoral work, higher education, retreat, mission and campus ministry, hospital and military chaplaincy, and Provincial administration and communications, among many others.”
Throughout the weekend, the candidates listened to three keynote talks, participated in roundtable discussions, and shared prayer, meals and free time with the friars.
The first talk, “What Does It Mean to Be a Friar Today?” was led by Casey Cole, OFM, of Silver Spring, Md., and Paul Santoro, OFM, of Tampa, Fla.
“There is simply no blueprint for who and what a friar should be,” Casey reflected on his blog Breaking in the Habit. “Even though there are specific aspects of our charism that guide us and we spent some time sharing our experience of each, the fact of the matter is that there is no ‘correct’ way to live them out.
“As the other friars began to chime in with their own diverse experiences, hopes and visions, we found ourselves building a beautiful mosaic right before our eyes,” Casey continued. “Though varied and seemingly fragmented as individuals, together we made something coherent and full of tremendous meaning.”
The weekend’s second session, “My Journey with the Franciscans,” was led by Jerome Massimino, OFM, and Kevin Mackin, OFM. Each talked about the ways they have served God’s people — Jerome in pastoral ministry and Kevin in academia.
The final talk, “Ministry with the Franciscans of Holy Name Province,” was led by Francis Soucy, OFM. He shared his experience working with aged and infirm friars for more than 20 years at the Province’s skilled nursing facility in Ringwood, N.J.
“It was a powerful talk about how we are fraternity until the end,” Casey said. “One might not expect a talk such as this on a discernment retreat, but I can’t tell you how important a similar experience was for me when I was discerning, to know that I would be loved and cared for, even in my old age.”
The Power of the Franciscan Charism
At the end of the weekend, the candidates had a new perspective on what it means to be a Franciscan friar — from first vows onward.
“It was good to have this discernment weekend at St. Anthony Friary because we got a chance to hear lifelong journeys,” said candidate Ken Grassell. “The Franciscan charism of love, hospitality and service really poured out all weekend. By seeing firsthand the authentic love the brothers had for each other and their community, it made my decision to become a friar of Holy Name Province easy. I am looking forward to continuing the application process.”
According to Guy Morgan, OFM, the friary’s visitors invigorated and brought joy to the men living there.
“I feel we enjoyed and learned more about the future of HNP than the men who came to the friary,” he said. “The quality and knowledge of these men [candidates] and their spirituality speaks well for the future of the Province.”
Basil expressed his deep gratitude to the friars who helped organize and participate in the weekend.
“Many thanks to all the men who gave keynote talks, shared their lives, celebrated Mass and introduced our candidates to the power of Jesus Christ in our Franciscan living,” Basil said. “Special thanks to Frank Critch and Paul Santoro, the regional vocation directors in Florida, administrative coordinator Ben Simpson, and to Joe Hertel and the friars in Florida for making us feel so welcomed and so blessed.”
— Maria Hayes is communications coordinator for Holy Name Province.
Editor’s note: Information about the Province’s upcoming vocation events can be found on the Be A Franciscan website.