Vocation Event Attracts Visitors to Wilmington, Philadelphia

Jocelyn Thomas Friar News


David Hyman, Kirk Gaddy, a parishioner from St. Camillus Church,  and Neil O’Connell with the candidates at the retreat. (Photo courtesy of Basil)

NEW YORK — Men interested in Franciscan life gathered last week in Wilmington, Del., for an impressive and enlivening Come and See Weekend. The guests participated in two days of prayer, discussions, meals and tours organized by the HNP African Ancestry Committee that introduced them to Franciscan life and to the work done by the friars.

Participants in the Feb. 12 to 14 event, whose theme was “Black Catholic Men Open to Religious Life,” stayed at St. Paul Friary in Wilmington, where the friars have been stationed for more than 25 years.

“It was an energetic, profound and awe-inspiring weekend,” said Basil Valente, OFM, vocation director. “The participants were introduced to Franciscan prayer, contemplation, ministry, provincial ministries and community living.”

“The discussions by our guests, all of whom were young — under 25 years of age — were insightful,” Basil continued. “The depth of their conversations enlivened my own faith experience. I was impressed by these men who want to live a consecrated life in an era when it is difficult to do so.”

The guests learned about the vocation weekend from friars at three ministries: St. Camillus Parish in Silver Spring, Md., the Catholic Center at University of Georgia in Athens, and Furman University in Greenville, S.C.

“The weekend was a rich experience for, I believe, all of us — the interested men and the friars who took the time to attend and lend credence to it,” said David Hyman, OFM, chair of the African Ancestry Committee. “Encouraging vocations in the black community is one of the three objectives in the mission statement of the committee. We are grateful to the friars at St. Camillus Parish and those in the South who invited some very serious young men who are indeed ‘open’ to what we have to share.”

Abraham Joseph shares his faith story

Abraham Joseph shares his experiences as a student friar with the group. (Photo courtesy of Basil)

Simplicity and Service
“I believe it was Pope Paul VI who, when he visited Africa, told his congregation, ‘Give the Church your unique gift of blackness,’” said David. “I like to think we were in step with that invitation in inviting men to brotherhood in our fraternity. May the Holy Spirit continue to guide the young men who were with us in Wilmington.”

The retreat included talks on a variety of topics. Basil spoke about “Discerning a Call to be a Franciscan,” Abraham Joseph, OFM, a native of Haiti, spoke about “My Experience as a Student Friar,” and Paul Williams, OFM, pastor of St. Joseph Parish in Wilmington, spoke about “Men of Color in Ministry of Holy Name Province.” Kirk Gaddy, a St. Camillus parishioner and a member of the HNP African Ancestry Committee, facilitated a listening session.

On Saturday, the visitors traveled north to Philadelphia to see the activities of St. Francis Inn soup kitchen. Michael Duffy, OFM, gave a presentation about “Service with the Poor.” The guests seemed moved by the volume of work done by the team at the Inn, Basil said.

At the friary later that day, each guest was given a Tau cross from Assisi that was blessed at the gathering by each friar. “Since St. Francis preached simplicity and humility, the simple design of the Tau cross calls attention to Francis’ connection to the crucified Jesus,” said Basil.


Christopher Posch, with guitar, and one of the inquirers. (Photo courtesy of Basil)

Diverse Province, Varied Weekend Themes
Events like last weekend’s — held during Black History Month — celebrate the richness of specific cultures.

“Though our goal is to emphasize to inquirers that the Province is diverse in its makeup and we generally offer vocational events that welcome men of all cultural backgrounds, gatherings like the one for African-American men serve as a comfortable setting to give an introduction to Franciscan life,” said Basil.

Through the years, the HNP Vocation Ministry has offered to men interested in Franciscan life events with a variety of themes. Last fall, a weekend in Boston offered visitors an opportunity to see the many ministries of St. Anthony Shrine on Arch Street and a one-day event in New York City welcomed men from Asian backgrounds. Last February, the Province hosted a gathering in St. Petersburg, Fla., with the Province’s “trailblazers,” those friars who are now retired.

This weekend, the Province’s vocation team is holding a Come and See/Discernment Retreat at St. Anthony Friary in St. Petersburg and Sacred Heart Parish in Tampa, Fla. In March, a vocation awareness weekend is being held at St. Bonaventure Church in Paterson, N.J.

Information about Holy Name Province’s vocation events and formation opportunities can be found on BeAFranciscan.org.

Jocelyn Thomas is director of communications for Holy Name Province.

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