NEW YORK — The Province’s name and mission will soon be more recognizable to the public, thanks to a Franciscan vocation advertisement appearing on New York City subways for the next month.
The Vocation Office has bought space on subway trains to run 1,000 colorful ads targeting New York City’s commuters. The ad asks men to consider a career change. Its text says, “Day Shift, Night Shift: How About a Life Shift?” (To see the full ad, click on photo at right.)
The ads will appear from Dec. 22 through Jan. 22 on all lines of the subway system in both English and Spanish, according to Brian Smail, OFM, vocation director, whose Vocation Committee conceived of the ad theme.
During the ad’s development, Brian asked several “creative friars for ideas regarding a catchy tag line.”
“The suggestions of David Convertino, OFM, and William Beaudin, OFM, were both excellent,” Brian said, “and were combined to form the line that was chosen. The layout of the ad was developed by designer Octavio Duran, OFM, in consultation with Brian and his assistant Carolyn Croke. Members of the Vocation Committee, including advertising and public relations specialist Joan Licursi, were consulted for feedback during the project’s development.”
Provincial Minister John O’Connor, OFM, came up with the idea of advertising in the subways, according to Brian, who said: “He originally proposed advertising on the highly-trafficked stairs leading out of New York’s busy Pennsylvania Station, near HNP offices. But when the cost was prohibitive, Brian considered the more affordable on-train advertising.”
“This type of publicity is something entirely new for us, so it will be interesting to see its impact,” said Brian. “It is targeted towards younger working men. I tend to think it will be effective not only because of the massive audience of subway riders, but also because it is a very attractive and catchy ad.”
Reaching the Public
In the ad, the Province asks if men are interested in a life shift. The colorful photos show friars at work in ministry and Mass, inviting viewers to call a toll-free number, or to visit www.BeAFranciscan.org, a dedicated Web site to vocation recruitment. There, visitors will see animated graphics similar to the ad and be provided with a direct link to the “Join Us” page on the HNP Web site. The section of the site asks, “Are you being called to be a Franciscan?” and explains how the Province serves in colleges, urban ministry centers, parishes, social ministries, and in overseas missions. The “Join Us section also provides news of the vocation ministry, interviews with student friars, and an invitation to contact Brian.
The new BeAFrancisan site will be live the week of Dec. 22.
It is hoped that, through these ads, more men might sign up to attend the Province’s vocation weekends. The most recent weekend, held Dec. 5 to 7 in Boston, attracted more attendees than most recent weekends have, according to Brian.
“I’m pleased to report that three of the men expressed interest in learning more about Franciscan life,” he said. “They will be returning to Boston next month for the FEW.”
The Franciscan Experience Weekend (FEW) is for men who have been in touch with HNP’s Vocation Office. It results in approved candidates being offered to begin a formal application to enter the Province as postulants, acording to Brian.
Other upcoming vocation events include two Come & See Weekends this winter — Feb. 13 to 15 in Silver Spring, Md., and Feb. 20 to 22 in New York City. The weekends include hospitality, prayer, discernment and fraternity.
The FEW weekend is an opportunity for guests to discuss their calling with the vocation director and the friars, said Brian’s assistant, who has been with the Vocation Office since last December. Participants talk with men in their first year of discernment to learn about Holy Name’s initial formation program and ministries.
Other Vocation Initiatives
The Vocation Committee has initiated several other projects to increase applicants to Holy Name Province. As outlined in the recently-developed Vocations Strategic Plan, the team is (1) planning and holding focus groups in six sites (schools, parishes and ministries); (2) training friars to be active partners in vocations efforts; and (3) clarifying the image of HNP Franciscans (describing what is unique and valuable about the friars).
The Vocation Committee, which holds most of its meetings by conference call, is chaired by Francis Di Spigno, OFM, the Province’s director of post-novitiate formation.
The Web site of the Vocation Office is also offering new features. By Christmas weekend, not only will much of the information on the site will be available in Spanish but video interviews with four student friars will be shown on the site.
The office is also developing a new vocation DVD, which will be distributed in mid 2009, Brian said, adding that interviews with student friars at Holy Name College in Silver Spring, Md., have been completed.
The Vocation Committee is also working hard to develop the Strategic Plan for Vocations, as mandated by the Chapter, according to Brian. “Right now, we are setting up focus groups at some of our ministry sites. These focus groups will gather feedback from our lay partners on their views of the current state of vocations in the Church, and what they feel needs to be done. More importantly, how they can help us build a culture of vocations in our ministry sites. Until now, we have not involved our lay partners in the whole vocations issue, and we believe their input would be very valuable.”
Information about vocations with Holy Name Province can be obtained by calling Brian at 800-677-7788.
Editor’s note: An article titled “Churches Welcome Quirky Approaches to Spread their Message” appeared in the Dec. 17 New York Times.