NEW YORK — Holy Name’s Vocation Director has had a busy few months both hosting events for potential friars as well as visiting friars up and down the East Coast. Brian Smail, OFM, has also taken time to strengthen his knowledge.
Since taking the position late last year, Brian has embraced his new ministry, spending time assessing his role as well as the needs of the Province. With the director on the road two to three times a month to interview candidates and hosting two to three weekend events a month, the office is always busy.
His first task was to review the programs that were already in place, said Brian, adding, “I wanted to follow through with the 2008 weekends and then look at adding new programs.”
Vocation Every Friar’s Responsibility
Brian firmly believes that, as Provincial Minister John O’Connor, OFM, says, promoting vocations is the job of all friars. Brian said he is grateful to friars who have already passed along names of potential candidates and to men who have expressed interest in the Franciscan life.
Many friars have offered not only support to Brian in his vocation goals but also assistance.
“So many friars have offered me their support and assistance,” said Brian, from his office on a recent spring afternoon, a rare occasion that he was not travelling. “I find that very encouraging to my work. It helps me to see that vocation promotion is a collective effort. “We’re all in this together.”
The collaboration seems to be working. “Two guys are applying to the Province this week,” he said. A few others are “in the pipeline.”
He said that this year’s class is expected to have three men in formation. “Last year, we had two, so we are up 33.3 percent,” he said with a chuckle. The Province will welcome new men to its postulant program at an affiliation ceremony this summer.
But Brian knows that it is no laughing matter that the number of men entering the Order is down, and it’s becoming increasingly difficult to staff Province ministries.
To respond to the need for new friars, since November, the Vocation Ministry has hosted nine weekend events, including Hospitality Weekends, Franciscan Experience Weekends, Discernment Weekends, and college visits.
The office has also scheduled individual visits with candidates on the East Coast. “In March alone, I travelled to Florida, St. Bonaventure University, and Holy Name College in Maryland in addition to visiting the friars in Peru,” said Brian. “I’m getting out there as much as possible.”
Weekend structured events have taken place at Siena College near Albany, SBU, Holy Name College, the University of Georgia, Mt. Ireneaus in Western New York State, the New Jersey Shore, and in Boston. Franciscan Experience Weekends have been held at Holy Cross Parish in the Bronx.
The next event is a discernment weekend at Mt. Ireneaus, the weekend of April 26.
Most Candidates Know the Franciscans
Unstructured “hospitality” weekends offer candidates the chance to speak with friars one-on-one, to share meals, as well as pray and celebrate the Eucharist together. This casual time is important, said Brian, since experience has proven that most candidates are men who know the friar community and already have built relationships with individual friars.
Because the Vocation Office calendar follows the academic calendars of the Province’s colleges, Brian’s programs for the next school year are now being developed.
Among the events scheduled for the next school year is a discernment retreat at a new location in North Carolina, St. Francis Springs Retreat Center.
Brian recommends to friars that they continue to “be aware of men in your ministry who you might like to invite to become a friar,” said Brian. “We’re not asking friars to pound the pavement, but in the course of your daily ministry, to be aware and willing to invite them and say, ‘Hey, have you ever thought of being a friar?’ ”
To help attract interest in the Province, the Vocation Ministry has a new look for its Web site www.vocation.org, making it more interactive and appealing to younger men. Brian plans to add more interactive features, including videos of men in the ministry, under a Meet the Friars button.
As it has done for years, the Ministry also communicates to men considering joining religious life through its quarterly publication Insight and Wisdom. The next issue will be distributed in June.
Questions and suggestions about the site and about the Vocation Ministry can be directed to Brian via email@example.com, or by phone 800-793-7649.
—Wendy Healy, a freelance writer, is an occasional contributor to HNP Today.