BOSTON — The friars at St. Anthony Shrine welcomed six men into their community earlier this month for the Province’s first combination Come and See/Discernment Vocation Weekend.
The event, organized by Holy Name Province’s Vocations Office, gave the candidates, men considering Franciscan life, an opportunity to get to know the Franciscan friars on deeper spiritual and fraternal levels, and to receive support in continuing the discernment process.
The weekend began Friday, Dec. 5, with evening prayer and a welcome given by Gene Pistacchio, OFM, and vocation director Basil Valente, OFM. Basil’s words of welcome highlighted an understanding of the word “vocation,” developed by contemporary novelist and theologian Frederick Buechner, who said: “The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.”
After prayer, a social gathering and dinner, associate vocation director Gonzalo Torres-Acosta, OFM, began introductions, uniting the visitors and the Franciscan community of Arch Street. Gene gave a presentation titled: “What Does It Mean to Be a Franciscan Friar Today?” before inviting questions from the candidates. The evening concluded with time for a fraternal gathering.
On Saturday, the community members took part in morning prayer, followed by another engaging sharing of a friar’s journey, given by Paul O’Keeffe, OFM, HNP’s mission promoter. Additionally, two Shrine staff members — Julie Ogden, director of human services, and Jackie Stewart, director of evangelization — presented the candidates with a discussion about the Shrine’s myriad ministries. After the presentations, Julie invited the candidates to become involved with the ministry programs that were already in progress that day.
Sharing Franciscan Joy
Several candidates were particularly inspired by the Shrine’s variety of ministries.
“I am impressed by the multitudinous ministries that the friars work in,” one candidate commented. “These ministries warm the world with God’s love, restore dignity to God’s children and call people to a newness of life.”
“I am encouraged by the friars’ stories of their own faith journeys,” he added. “I am encouraged by the sense of joy that I witnessed extant among the brothers. I am encouraged by the way they stand up to our society for the lost and often hopeless. I am challenged to continue to listen to, and for, God’s voice in my life. I’m challenged to listen, with ears of my heart, to God’s invitation. I am challenged by the friars’ examples, to respond with faith, hope and trust in God.”
After the presentation, lunch and a vocation discussion followed. Richard Flaherty, OFM, and John Maganzini, OFM, shared with the candidates inspiring stories of their Franciscan journeys.
“St. Francis left us a rich legacy, and among that legacy is the ideal of Franciscan joy,” said John. “For me, the Come and See/Discernment Weekend was a wonderful experience of Franciscan joy, realized in the welcome of the six men who joined us, in the prayer experiences, in the sharings during the various sessions, and in the fraternal gatherings, meals and recreation.”
Following the discussion, the visitors were given the opportunity to meet with an individual friar to continue the discussion about Franciscan life and discernment. Richard, Gene and Basil, as well as Christopher Coccia, OFM, and Ronald Stark, OFM, took part in these sessions.
“It was such a delight getting to know all of the friars,” said one vocation candidate. “I loved witnessing their diverse, bright shining personalities. They have such a blessed community.”
The candidates were given free time for the rest of the evening. On Sunday, they were invited to Mass at the Shrine, followed by brunch and individual meetings with Basil before they departed.
“This was one of the best vocation weekends I have experienced,” Gene remarked. “We are blessed to have had six wonderful men inquire about our Franciscan way of life. They are easy to be with, and they demonstrated a sensitivity to a compassionate presence known among the friars of HNP. These are caring, spiritual and professional men who deeply hunger for more meaning in their lives and work. I hope they will continue to nurture that hunger and discover that they belong with us! May God give them peace as they continue their discernment.”
Friars’ Support Brings Success
Both Basil and Gonzalo were heartened by the responses of the candidates and the friars who participated in the retreat.
“We were really blessed this weekend,” said Gonzalo. “These six candidates, including one who participated in our Latino Vocational Retreat in September, were excellent men, full of faith and energy. Thank you to our friars at St. Anthony Shrine for their great Franciscan hospitality and sense of humor. Our candidates, as well as Basil and I, felt at home. Once again, I was impressed by the diversity of our call to serve the people of God. What a wonderful ministry the Shrine does.”
As Basil reflected on the weekend, including the discussions and comments from both the friars and the candidates, he noted the retreat experience “underscored the treasure of brotherhood that we have in Holy Name Province.”
“It’s a gift that we freely work together, as a collective province, to promote vocations to the consecrated life,” said Basil. “Truly, we delight at being who we say we are.”
One candidate left the weekend feeling hopeful and animated by the Franciscan charism he witnessed.
“This weekend was a unique opportunity to learn more about the consecrated life of prayer, service and compassion led by the HNP Franciscan friars and the life-giving ministries they provide to their communities,” he noted. “When the weekend ended, I left feeling energized and inspired by the experience.”
Information about upcoming vocation events, including a program on Jan. 12, is available on BeAFranciscan.org.
— Maria Hayes is communications coordinator for Holy Name Province.