SANTA BARBARA-—On Monday, July 16, 2018—a typically balmy Santa Barbara morning—14 new novices were received into the Franciscan Order. One of the group, Friar Bernard Keele OFM, received the Rite of Probation initiating his transfer from the Benedictines to the Franciscans. In addition, two men from Canada are awaiting their US visas before they can join their US confreres in the program. After they arrive, this year’s novitiate class will consist of 16 novices.
“We’re not at St. Peter’s in Rome, “ began Novice Master Jeff Macnab OFM as he welcomed the diverse group of new friars—almost all of whom had just completed their postulancy year in Silver Spring, Maryland, before moving to the interprovincial novitiate location at Old Mission Santa Barbara. “We’re very relaxed here,” he continued as he looked around the group of the newly received novices, the last class of novices who will make their first vows on August 6, ministers provincial, formation team members, and others gathered in the Friars Chapel: “This is a family celebration—a family gathering.”
The sense of family was reinforced in the remarks given by Provincial Minister Jim Gannon OFM, of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary province. Following the proclamation of the Prologue of the Gospel of St. John (1:1-10), Friar Jim mentioned that it reminded him of not one, but three separate generations of baptisms witnessed in his native Philadelphia. He began by mentioning the parish priest where he grew up, immediately following the baptismal rite, would typically carry the infant in his arms from the rear of the church. The priest would then “present” the infant by placing it on the main altar, while he recited the Prologue, formerly known as the “last Gospel”. Jim shared that this same custom has been treasured in his own family for three generations now.
Jim challenged the incoming novitiate class members to work to understand more deeply the real meaning of the Prologue—“words full of grace and truth; grace upon grace, love upon love” and to apply its message to their own lives. “The Prologue of the Gospel of John is one of the most glorious foundational statements about Jesus Christ. Yet, we often skip over it. John’s story reveals two most fundamental affirmations about Jesus: Jesus is the presence of God’s own life and that Jesus makes this life of God available to every human being.”
“For Francis of Assisi,” he continued, “ the Word became the core foundation of his renewed, revitalized life. The Word turned Francis of Assisi upside down and inside out. I firmly believe that no individual renewal or revitalization, no global renewal or revitalization of the Order of Friars Minor– no national renewal or revitalization of the Franciscans in the United States will be successful unless we are committed to renewing our love for living the Gospel of Jesus Christ.”
“Brothers, you are the next generation,” he concluded. “As you enter your novitiate year, enter deeply into the implication of the Prologue of John’s Gospel. Enter deeply into the implications of the Incarnation, the Word made Flesh upon your life as a Friar Minor.”
During the actual reception of the new novices, each man was called by name and, along with two solemnly professed friars as witnesses, signed the Book of Reception. Novice Bernard Keele OFM was welcome separately into “a time of probation” with the friars. Also in attendance were provincial ministers Friars Jim Gannon OFM, Jack Clark Robinson OFM, Ralph Parthie OFM, David Gaa OFM, and Mark Soehner OFM. Friar Basil Valiente OFM represented the Most Holy Name of Jesus Province.
Afterward, Provincial Minister David Gaa OFM, presented each new novice with a journal of his own “to write and express your journey.” “…Be attentive to the workings of the Spirit and (even) the days you resist the challenge,” he urged them.
The service concluded with blessings of and by this year’s interprovincial novitiate team, consisting of Friars Jeff Macnab OFM, Michael Blastic OFM, and Michael Jennrich OFM, as well as Sister Susan Rosenbach SSSF.
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