NEW YORK — Stephen DeWitt, OFM, and Daniel Horan, OFM, professed their final vows as Franciscans on Aug. 27 at St. Francis of Assisi Church in Manhattan, despite the pending arrival of Hurricane Irene late that day. A week later, on Sept. 3, they were ordained deacons on a day with quite the opposite conditions — pleasant weather.
“The spirit of the people attending the profession was very upbeat despite the threat of the approaching hurricane,” said Provincial Minister John O’Connor, OFM.
Stephen and Daniel, both graduates of St. Bonaventure University in Western New York, came to New York City from Maryland where they are living while completing their master’s in divinity degrees at Washington Theological Union. They arrived just before transportation in and around New York City was shut down because of the storm.
The Aug. 27 solemn profession Mass began with a bit of levity. The Provincial Minister reminded Steve and Dan of the saying, “That it is good luck if it rains on your wedding day, so it must mean that Dan and Steve will have incredible good luck as a hurricane will happen on their profession day.”
John said that the small crowd, reduced because many guests were not able to travel, did not dampen the joy and enthusiasm. “I was very grateful for the fact that rougly 60 friars attended, considering that most forms of transportation in the city were suspended.”
Because some were not able to travel to New York, changes to the program were made and others substituted for people who couldn’t get there.
Dan’s brother Sean Horan presented the first reading in place of Andrew Kneller, a postulant classmate of Dan and Steve. In addition to Dominic Monti, OFM, the Province’s secretary for formation and studies, and Thomas Conway, OFM, HNP director of post-novitiate formation, Andrew Reitz, OFM, pastor of St. Francis of Assisi Parish, and Fr. Michael Perry, OFM, General Vicar of the Order of Friars Minor, were also vested and gave communion. Bishop Capistran Heim, OFM, also sat in the sanctuary. “Otherwise, everything went according to plan,” said Timothy Shreenan, OFM, who with Christopher Coccia, OFM, served as a master of ceremony.
Making it Official
In his homily, John challenged Steve and Dan to reflect on what their lives mean and what messages their words and actions communicate to others.
“I reminded them that as Franciscans we are called to be messengers of the Gospel, to be, as our General Minister has reminded us, messengers of peace and reconciliation, to enter into dialog with others,” said John. “I explained that this is a real challenge, for we live in a world where there is too often a lack of dialog, a lack of civil discourse, a world where people will, at times, resort to labeling or attacking other persons when they disagree with them on the issues. I told them that living the Gospel values is the more difficult road to travel and it can involve both pain and gain, but it is indeed the road Christ calls us to, and the road our Father Francis followed.”
Vocation director Brian Smail, OFM, said: “When friars like Dan and Steve make their final profession, they are saying ‘Yes’ to a permanent commitment to our way of life. To men who are either looking at our way of life (like the postulants) or in formation like our student friars, taking final vows means, ‘Yes,’ I believe in this Franciscan life, I believe it is a life worth living. I wish to devote my entire life to this mission to heal wounds, unite what has fallen apart, and to bring back those who have lost their way. It is a witness to years of preparation and perseverance. I think witnessing this event must be tremendously encouraging to the postulants and student friars.”
“Dan and Steve were very excited and pleased, and the prolonged standing ovation that they received was a tribute to how highly respected they are in the Province,” John said. “I thank the friars who helped nurture their vocations.”
After ordination next spring, Dan hopes to pursue graduate studies and eventually teach. Steve will likely use his Spanish skills to minister in a mission or in a U.S. Hispanic ministry.
Steve, 29, a native of Buffalo, N.Y., graduated from St. Bonaventure in 2004 with a bachelor’s degree in history and theology and studied for a year at the University of Dayton in Ohio. An alumnus of Canisius High School in Buffalo, N.Y., DeWitt completed an internship at St. Anne’s Parish in Lima, Peru, last spring.
“What attracted me to the friars was my experience of community, both in my interactions with friars at St. Bonaventure as part of a vocation group there and my experience as a summer intern at Mt. Irenaeus Franciscan Mountain Retreat,” Steve said.
Dan, 27, who grew up in Utica, N.Y., earned a bachelor’s degree in theology from St. Bonaventure in 2005 and a master’s degree in systematic theology from the WTU in 2010. As part of his Franciscan formation, Dan served an internship at Siena College, Loudonville, N.Y., teaching in the religious studies department.
“I have felt for several years now that this was what God was calling me to live and my response was affirmative. What this occasion means to me is a very special time dedicated to recognizing and celebrating that vocation with my brother friars, family and friends. It is a time to celebrate God’s gift of religious life and the many blessings that comes with that.”
In the solemn profession program, Dan and Steve thanked their families and friars. “We wish to thank our brother friars of Holy Name Province. The Order of Friars Minor is a way of life and you have welcomed us with open arms into this fraternity to which we now give our lives. Without your friendship, wisdom, support, and prayers we would not be here before you professing our life to this shared venture we call Franciscan life. We both look forward to many years of fraternity and ministry with all of you.”
Dan and Steve were ordained deacons at the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception on Sept. 4. The Most Rev. Martin Holley, auxiliary bishop of Washington, D.C., celebrated the Mass, which was also attended by John O’Connor. Both Dan and Steve expect to be ordained to the priesthood in May 2012.
— Jocelyn Thomas is director of communications for Holy Name Province.