By Stephen Mangione

Are you (or is someone you know) being called to be a Franciscan friar? A new network of more than 70 friars across the United States is here to welcome you and answer your questions about friar life.

Our local vocation directors (LVDs) – who live everywhere from California to New Mexico to Ohio to Massachusetts – are excited to support men inquiring about a Franciscan vocation, especially during National Vocation Awareness Week (November 6 to 12). These friars represent diverse cultures and have a wide range of lived ministries and experiences to share.

It’s one thing to read about Franciscan ministry, but it’s another thing to serve meals to the homeless at a soup kitchen alongside a friar, assist with ministry to migrants, or pray and have dinner with the friars. Our local vocation directors hold organic community gatherings for inquirers, inviting men to join a local friar community in their area as a way to experience Franciscan life, fraternity and ministry.

If you or someone you know is interested in being connected with a local vocation director, we invite you to contact our National Vocation Office by filling out this form or calling 800-677-7788, ext. 345.

This new network of friars dedicated to vocation ministry is one of the fruits born of the process to create one new province of more than 700 friars. Although the new OFM province won’t be established until October 2023, friars across the country have already begun collaborating through the National Vocation Office to share their experiences and wisdom with inquirers on their discernment journey.

A Nationwide Support System for Men in Discernment

The local vocation directors “offer this in our Franciscan way of life – it’s who we are, being open to everyone in the world,” said Rommel Perez, OFM, of Joliet, Illinois. “I am excited to be part of this process because we are no longer individual provinces – and therefore, it is important for all friars to be engaged in vocation and to open the door to new vocations for the new province.”

Kevin Tortorelli, OFM, emphasized the support that men will receive from local vocation directors. “I’ve been a strong believer that vocation work is where it all begins. We acknowledge that the Lord is working His own harvest, and when he leads people in our direction, as friars we have to be there for them. There can’t be silence on the other end,” said Kevin, who lives in St. Petersburg, Florida. “The person should have a sense that you’re invested in him. You want to build momentum, put some wind in their sails, provide encouragement, and learn to listen while respecting their freedom to choose. Meet them and move things along. I always say a short prayer – ‘Lord, let me listen and encourage, but don’t let me get in your way.’”

Vocation directors help a person listen to what the Lord is calling them to do, according to Roger Lopez, OFM, of Cincinnati, Ohio. “My role as a friar is to witness to the love and joy of our fraternity, and to invite people to our Franciscan life. As a vocation director, I can provide opportunities that invite men to Franciscan life in an intentional way,” added Roger, who is in the midst of forming a vocation discerning group designed to assist men and women, whether they are seeking marriage or religious life.

Our local vocation directors are supported by the National Vocation Office, which is headquartered in New York City. Vocation Director Basil Valente, OFM, works with Gregory Plata, OFM (Regional Vocation Director for the Central region of the United States) and Sebastian Sandoval, OFM (Regional Vocation Director for the Western region of the United States) to support men in discernment across the country. They are assisted by Mr. Jorge Martins, the national vocation office manager.

“Men in discernment are seeking a more authentic life of service to the poor, and that they want to serve in a welcoming community of brothers. Our Franciscan fraternity and charism offer both,” said Gregory. “It’s up to us as friars to provide as much opportunity to help discerners determine whether Franciscan life is for them.”

Sebastian agrees. “Living in fraternity, proclaiming the Gospel, and preserving the dignity and worth of all human beings – especially the poor, refugees, and others living on the margins – that’s the essence of Franciscan life and ministry. It’s what I talk about at discernment dinners and organic community gatherings for discerners.”

One of the foundations of Franciscan life is community, and the vocation directors make it a point to welcome men from the very beginning of their discernment process. “Vocation ministry is a ministry of inclusivity and an interdependency on one another ­– respecting, supporting and appreciating what each brings to the table, and recognizing that each region of the country has distinct realities, cultures and needs.” Basil said, adding “These wonderful opportunities to experience friar life and fraternity in organic environments – and to spend a week or a weekend in ministry serving the homeless and refugees – may plant a seed and then cultivate it to see where the Spirit takes you.”

Join an Organic Discernment Community Near You!

Are you interested in learning more about life as a Franciscan? Connect with us today to learn about organic discernment communities in your area! There are events happening across the country – from gatherings of young adults on college campuses where friars are present to prayer, dinner and conversation at places such as the Church of the Transfiguration in Southfield, Michigan, where Jeffrey Scheeler, OFM, is pastor.

“Organic gatherings are something the whole friar community at Transfiguration Church likes to do periodically,” said Jeff. “After three men attended our Transitus celebration last month, we invited them for dinner the next night on the feast of St. Francis.”

For the latest information on vocation events near you, or to connect with a local vocation director, we invite you to contact our National Vocation Office by filling out this form or calling 800-677-7788, ext. 345.

— Stephen Mangione is the marketing and content strategist for Holy Name Province.

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