BOSTON – St. Anthony Shrine hosted a discernment retreat this month, one of an assortment of vocation events held this year to welcome men who have an interest in Franciscan life. Five men – from Massachusetts, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania – spent the weekend of Dec. 1 at the church on Arch Street learning about the friars and their ministries.
“The vocation ministry team members are grateful to regional vocation directors Hugh Hines, OFM, Michael Johnson, OFM, and Tony LoGalbo, OFM, and to all the friars at St. Anthony Shrine for hosting a discernment retreat during the first week of Advent,” said Basil Valente, OFM, vocation director. “The three-day retreat celebrated “Franciscan vocations and Franciscan discernment in the 21st century,” he said, and concluded the Province’s vocation retreat schedule for fall 2017.
“Just as God guided St. Joseph with faith, hope and charity to become the humble guardian of Jesus,” he added, “the friars at St. Anthony Shrine guided five young men when they gathered in Boston to consider the important question: Is God Calling Me to Become a Franciscan Friar of Holy Name Province?”
Value of Retreat – for Friars and Attendees
During the retreat, participants shared “their hopes and dreams for their future with the friars just as the friars shared with them their life experiences of living the life of a Friar Minor,” said Daniel Murray, OFM. “They prayed with us, ate with us and recreated with us. In a true sense, they joined our community for the weekend. What a blessing it was.”
The retreat included meals, prayer, conversation and presentations by friars stationed at St. Anthony Shrine. Joseph Quinn, OFM, as well as Damian Park, OFM, described their Franciscan journeys and Frank Sevola, OFM, described the role of the guardian – a job he has held at several friaries and a job title that is unique to Franciscans.
“It always gives us hope and joy to know that young men still believe Franciscan life and ministry is a viable way of serving God and his people,” said Dan.
“St. Francis was fond of saying: “Let us begin again, for up ‘til now we have done nothing,” Dan pointed out. “These men represent a new beginning and a real hope for the Franciscan way of life. Whether God continues to lead them in the direction of Franciscan life or whether they choose another way rests in God’s hand and theirs. Only the future will tell.
“One thing for sure – we friars have been doubly blessed by their presence, their openness, and their optimism. I thank them for their gifts of goodness and I ask you to pray for them as they discern God’s call in their lives.
Photos and several of the talks by friars will be available on the Be a Franciscan Facebook page before Christmas. They include the reflections by Frank and by Tony who pointed out the importance of conversion, mission and living the Gospel message as they relate to one’s discernment to Franciscan life. Tony began his reflection by speaking of St. Francis of Assisi’s idea to put an essential consideration at the beginning of his Rule or Way of Life: “The Rule of the Friars Minor is to live the Gospel of Jesus Christ.” And, Tony continued, by suggesting that God gives what is necessary for the person to accomplish the task of discernment.
The Shrine’s regional vocation directors are part of a group of 25 friars who do vocation work at the local level. They create events that inform visitors about friar life. Some are as casual as including guests to meals, while others, such as weekend retreats, are more formal.
In Boston, Tony said, “We are doing what other ministries are doing – hosting men who seem like they are interested in Franciscan life. We also make vocation information available at the Shrine’s front desk for passers-by who stop by in the busy Downtown Crossing neighborhood.”
The Shrine has a history of hospitality, Tony said. “It’s one of the things the Shrine is known for,” he said. “Some of the young men have already participated in our ministries which makes them familiar with the Shrine and with the friars, and more apt to be interested in thinking about a vocation.”
Basil said that at the Shrine, friars often invite men to participate in programs, to eat meals with the friars and also to think about becoming a friar.
The three friars frequently invite men to programs at the shrine, said Basil, adding that each of the Shrine’s three regional vocation directors approaches the initiative differently. “They are doing vocation ministry with the same drive as they approach their main ministries,” said Basil, who has served as HNP vocation director for three years.
As friars are encouraged to do at all ministry sites, Basil said that the friars in Boston often approach men directly and ask, “have you ever thought about becoming a friar?
Enhanced Local Vocation Work
The events can be as casual as meals and as formal as weekend retreats, he said.
Basil said friars around the Province are taking a deeper interest in vocation work – something that is vital to vocation success. The Province’s 2014 Plan for Formation states, “The responsibility for encouraging and supporting new vocations belongs to all the fraternities and all the individual friars.”
Ministry sites that have been active with vocation work include the two province-sponsored colleges — Siena and St. Bonaventure — St. Francis of Assisi Parish-Friary in New York City and the friars in Florida – in Orlando, Tampa and St. Petersburg.
Over the past several years, organic discernment communities have emerged around the Province. These groups encourage men to visit friaries on an informal basis, partaking in prayer and meals.
As vocation energy around the Province has increased, Basil gives credit to Ben Simpson, the administrator in the Province’s Vocation office.
“His involvement is inspired,” said Basil. “Ben is rooted in the Franciscan mission and that comes across to men who contact our office.”
As this calendar year comes to a close and the HNP Vocation Office finalizes plans for 2018 programs, Basil said: “Our prayer is that the Holy Spirit will guide each of the men in discernment with insight and wisdom to joyfully answer God’s call.”
Upcoming vocation events will be posted on the Vocation Ministry’s Be A Franciscan.org website
— Jocelyn Thomas is director of communications for Holy Name Province.
- “Collaboration Grows Among ESC Vocation Directors” – Sept 27, 2017, HNP Today
- “Brokenness’ Celebrated at Florida Retreat” – Feb. 1, 2017, HNP today
- “General Minister Encourages Creation of Organic Discernment Communities” – Sept. 2, 2015, HNP Today