NEW YORK — Holy Name Province’s “Life Shift” ads — which appeared in December on New York subway cars — are continuing to draw national media attention, most recently from CNN and the New York Post.
The CNN report “Friars’ underground marketing” by Alina Cho aired Feb. 27 on “American Morning,” broadcast nationally, and included interviews with Provincial Minister John O’Connor, OFM, vocation director Brian Smail, OFM, and a man who asked about becoming a Franciscan after seeing the ad.
Brian, filmed on one of the trains showing the colorful “Life Shift” billboard, told the reporter, “There’s a lot of self-reflection going on in our society. People have seen there are limits to the system.”
When Cho asked if advertising on New York subways is a little out of character for the Franciscans, Brian responded, “You have to be creative. You have to go where the people are.”
John provided information about the Province. He said, “Some people call and say, ‘What does it pay? What’s the salary?’ and others say, ‘How do I sign up?’ Then, we have to explain to them, ‘It’s a little bit more complicated than that.’”
George Camacho, 29, who works in Manhattan and lives in Queens, told CNN he had been considering a vocation with the Franciscans since fall 2008, but seeing the ad triggered him into action. He attended the Feb. 21 Come and See Weekend at St. Francis Friary on West 31st Street.
There, he learned about the friars, “They’re not super-quiet or super-formal or incredibly serious,” he said in the CNN interview. “They’re so outgoing. They make jokes. They enjoy their life.”
The piece also included footage of Ash Wednesday services at St. Francis of Assisi Church on West 31st Street.
CNN’s Spanish affiliate, CNN en Espanol, ran a piece on Feb. 26 featuring Camacho and Octavio Duran, OFM, who designed the ad. Shots of Jerome Massimino, OFM, pastor of St. Francis of Assisi Church, saying Mass are shown as well as parts of the Province’s Web site. The piece, with reporter Cenia Beltre, is titled “Bienvenidos al tren.”
In the Sunday Paper
A cover story in the March 1 New York Post, with the sub-headline, “Hard times boost ranks in poverty-vow order,” described the success of the ad. The main headline, in typical New York Post style, read, “You’re Friar’d.”
“Given what has happened with the economy, I think it has led to a lot of self-reflection among people about what is important in life,” Brian said.
The Post story said, “Forty-five New Yorkers who have lost their faith in the flailing economy want to put their trust in God — and are responding to subway ads to become friars through a Midtown-based Franciscan community.”
The story included three photos — one of Brian and Camacho and two of Michael Reyes, 33, who worked as a senior programming analyst just a block from the friars’ Manhattan church and friary before joining the Province’s postulant program last summer.
— Rebecca Doel is coordinator of communications for Holy Name Province.