Franciscan Discerners Say ‘Yes,’ Begin Next Step of Vocation Journey with Order of Friars Minor

Franciscan Discerners Say ‘Yes,’ Begin Next Step of Vocation Journey with Order of Friars Minor

(L.-R.) Jason Peterson, Matthew Junker, Chad Butcher, Richard Gaunt, Daniel Mercado and Ricky Ferrer were welcomed into the interprovincial postulancy program of the Order of Friars Minor – the next step in their Franciscan vocation journey.

A half-dozen Franciscan discerners from three countries, five states, and diverse backgrounds and experiences said “yes” to begin the next step of their vocation journey. The group of men was welcomed last month to the interprovincial postulancy program of the Order of Friars Minor, which marks the beginning of their Franciscan formation. They will engage for the next 12 months in theology, liturgical, and Franciscan spiritual classes at Holy Name College in Silver Spring, Maryland, and will serve in Franciscan outreach programs for the poor, food-insecure, homeless, and migrants at nearby St. Camillus Parish and other area ministries.

After arriving on Aug. 10, the postulants spent an orientation period that consisted of inspiring visits and tours of extraordinary historic buildings and OFM ministry sites in and around the Washington, D.C., area – including the Smithsonian, United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, U.S. Capitol, Franciscan Monastery of the Holy Land, and Basilica of the Immaculate Conception. There was also a trip to New York City for a brother’s Mass of solemn profession at the 130-year-old Church of St. Francis of Assisi on West 31st Street.

The discerners who said “yes” to Franciscan vocation spent an orientation period that included inspiring visits and tours of historic buildings and OFM ministry sites, among them a trip to New York City where they got a front-row seat at a friar’s Mass of solemn profession at the 130-year-old Church of St. Francis of Assisi on West 31st Street.

Among the six who entered this year’s postulancy program are Chad Butcher, a Knoxville, Tennessee, native who once had a six-figure income working with entertainer Dolly Parton; Ricardo (Ricky) Ferrer, a migrant from Cebu, Philippines, who was a facilities/special-projects manager for a parish in San Jose, California; Richard Gaunt, a native of State College, Pennsylvania, who was a legal assistant in the immigration services program of Catholic Charities in Austin, Texas; Matthew Junker of San Diego, a graduate of the University of California Berkeley School of Law, who left behind a successful legal practice championing workers’ rights; Daniel Mercado, from Chicago’s North Side, who was a project manager in the automotive and hospitality industries, and Jason Peterson – born in Russia and raised in Florida after being adopted at 11-months-old – who was a cast member at Walt Disney World in Orlando.

Different Backgrounds, One Desire: Be a Franciscan

“These men come to us with unique gifts and distinct backgrounds, talents and inspired spiritual lives. It is a treasure and pure gift to journey with these men on their pilgrimage to the Franciscans. It is very humbling,” said Basil Valente, OFM, director of the National Vocation Office of the US-6.

“Their paths to discernment may have been different, but just as the friars of the US-6 will be united in October 2023 as a single entity, these postulants are already united in their desire to serve the people of God as Franciscan friars in the spirit of St. Francis,” added Basil, who also serves the regional vocation director for the eastern region of the country, and who has served as vocation director of Holy Name Province since 2014.

A welcome card designed by Jorge Martins, office manager of the national vocation office, that was sent to the discerners when they were accepted into the postulancy program of the Order of Friars Minor.

More than 100 men are currently engaged in active vocation discernment with the US-6 provinces, each of whose formation programs have been integrated under the umbrella of single postulancy, novitiate and post-novitiate programs.

Of the six newly-welcomed postulants, Ricky and Jason have entered through Holy Name Province; Matthew through St. Barbara Province; Daniel through Sacred Heart Province; Richard through Assumption Blessed Virgin Mary Province, and Chad through St. John the Baptist Province. The men have been accompanied throughout their discernment journey by vocation directors and other friars from around the country.

“We are often the Order’s first contact with inquirers, guiding and walking with men discerning God’s call. I am humbled by their sincerity and desire to follow Christ in a more radical way as friars minor,” said Gregory Plata, OFM, who serves as the regional vocation director for the central region of the country, and who has been vocation director of Assumption BVM Province since 2018.

(L.-R.) Basil Valente, OFM, director of the US-6 national vocation office, and regional vocation director of the Eastern region; Gregory Plata, OFM, regional vocation director of the Central region; and Sebastian Sandoval, OFM, regional vocation director of the Western region.

“As vocation directors, we try to encourage inquirers to see their goodness and potential in serving the Lord. As we shift to a new province covering the entire U.S. and Puerto Rico, it is my hope that we can inspire more men to join us in our existing and evolving new ministries that address the needs of the Church,” added Gregory, who noted that being on the road, meeting and interacting with discerners, and building relationships that foster and nurture vocations, is an important part of this ministry.

“In vocation ministry, I always tell discerning men – let us walk together and explore what God can offer you! As Franciscans, we are brothers to one another. As vocation directors, we are brothers to the men considering Franciscan life, being there to help them navigate their way through the process and helping them hear clearly God’s call,” said Erasmo Romero, OFM, vocation director of Our Lady of Guadalupe Province.

Who Needs Posters!

There are never too many cooks in a Franciscan kitchen, as Ronald Gliatta, OFM, invited discerners to help prepare Sunday dinner for the friar community and visiting discerners at an organic weekend gathering last March at Sacred Heart Church in Tampa, Florida.

Thomas Smith, OFM, vocation director of Sacred Heart Province since 2012, says that providing inquirers with the opportunity to meet friars plays an important role in the discernment journey. “We invite them for prayer and dinner and sometimes for weekend visits. They tell us that hearing stories and experiences of discernment, formation and ministry from friars firsthand is very helpful in their own decision,” said Thom, a solemnly-professed friar for 44 years who lives at Holy Evangelist Friary in Chicago, which serves as a house of hospitality for inquirers.

“Living in fraternity, proclaiming the Gospel, serving the marginalized, and preserving the dignity and worth of all human beings – that’s the essence of Franciscan life and ministry. I talk about these values at discernment dinners and organic community gatherings (formerly called ‘come-and-see’ weekends), when discerners also have the opportunity to experience our ministries,” said Sebastian Sandoval, OFM, who serves as the regional vocation director for the western region of the country, and who has been vocation director of St. Barbara Province since 2019.

As a former vocation director once said (to no friar in particular, but to every Franciscan friar), “I don’t need to print thousands of [vocation] posters. You are the living posters!”

“Sometimes we fall into the trap that it’s the vocation director’s job, but I think it is very important for friars to realize that we are all vocation directors,” said Sebastian, who made his first profession in 1999 and was ordained in 2012, and who served as an associate pastor at a parish in Los Angeles prior to his work in vocation ministry.

Franciscan discerners, joined by Matt Ryan, OFM, listen to a presentation at a discernment weekend.

Gregory, a professed friar since 1981 and ordained for 37 years, agreed that all Franciscan friars have a responsibility to vocation ministry. “Every brother has a unique story to tell, as well as a sacred mission that began when they said ‘yes’ to our Lord by their profession. If we really love our life as friars, then it should only be natural to want to share that passion with others by inviting them to where we minister, live and pray,” said Gregory, who served as pastor for 16 years in Mississippi before becoming vocation director, and who is moving to Holy Angels Cathedral in Gary, Indiana, home to a multicultural and enthusiastic fraternity that will host organic community gatherings with inquirers.

Did You Hear About the Atheist, Agnostic, and Methodist? They’re Catholics Now.

Discerners meet and discover friars at various points in their life, some while in high school or college, others through outreach ministries or chance encounters. But one thing many discerners have in common is their experience of profound conversion that pushes them to seek greater meaning in their lives. This couldn’t be truer than for all of the men who entered the postulancy program last month, including three whose discernment was sparked by their conversion to Catholicism.

Raised a Missionary Baptist on his family’s third-generation, 350-acre livestock and produce farm, Chad Butcher, a self-proclaimed agnostic by his mid-20s, experienced what turned out to be a life-changing event when he accepted a friend’s invitation to Sunday Mass.

As he describes: “Something happened, an internal conversion that I can’t explain, the desire to learn more, know more” – which led him to RCIA classes and a conversion to Catholicism in 2010. When the call to discernment got stronger, he walked away from six-figure-income employment with Dolly Parton in her reading advocacy program, and moved back home to work as a 9-1-1 dispatcher while sorting out “the feeling inside that I wanted to do more, but not as a layperson.”

Matthew Junker, another convert to Catholicism, was born and raised in San Diego, California, to a family whose parents weren’t religious, but sent their children to Catholic school for a better education. Finding instruction in faith “cold and authoritarian,” by 8th grade he became an atheist. While at the University of California San Diego, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in history and ethnic studies, his encounters with intellectual religious thinkers slowly opened him to spiritual practices and regular Mass attendance.

(L.-R.) Jason Peterson, Richard Gaunt and Matthew Junker enjoy the stories of Franciscan ministry and experiences being shared by Michael Duffy, OFM (far right, blue shirt).

In 2015, at age 25, Matthew enrolled in RCIA and began reading about St. Francis’ life and followers. Volunteer work in eastern Kentucky and time with diocesan seminarians deepened his curiosity about religious vocation – which, at the time, wasn’t an option since he was a recent convert. Instead, he went to law school at UC Berkeley – and after working as a law clerk for a federal judge in West Virginia for a year, he started a practice focused on workers’ rights.

“I had a strong desire to work with those on the margins – and going to law school helped me develop a skill set that allows me to do that. I think about the possibility of practicing law as a religious in service to the poor, disabled, immigrants, and those who are discriminated against,” said Matthew.

Richard Gaunt was raised in a United Methodist household – and although very involved in the church through his teenage years, he drifted from faith as a young adult. At New York’s Ithaca College, where he received a bachelor’s degree in environmental studies with a minor in religious studies, he became more interested in politics and activism.

“Eventually, I found myself feeling deeply disillusioned and empty. This cleared space to really open up to God’s grace – not needing to ‘figure it out,’ but rather, letting God work in me and through me,” explained Richard. “Coming into the Church is a powerful experience of grace. I began to sense that I wasn’t going to be able to just go on with life unchanged, but rather that I needed to conform my life to the Gospel in a more radical way, which is what opened up the process of discernment for me.”

What Do You Most Need to Do? What Does the World Need Most to Have Done?

Whether converts, or born into the Catholic faith, all discerners experience an awakening that is then encouraged and nurtured by vocation directors, initially through phone conversations and (during the pandemic) virtual meetings. They receive books about St. Francis and vocation information about the Order, and as their discernment journey progresses, they are invited to visit friaries for prayer and dinner, and to experience and participate in Franciscan outreach ministries.

Jorge Martins, office manager of the National Vocation Office

Jorge Martins, office manager of the National Vocation Office, plays an instrumental role in distributing information to discerners in an effective, expeditious, and creative way.

“At a recent meeting of national vocation directors, we all sung Jorge’s praises for his effective and successful work and ministry throughout the country,” said Basil, who added that Jorge’s talents as a graphic designer, even-tempered personality, and ability to multitask and work with many constituency groups is a great asset to the National Vocation Office.

No matter when or where the spark is lit, the common thread of Franciscans is underscored in the centerpiece of their values – recognition of the dignity and worth of all persons, and service to the poor and marginalized.

“C. Frederick Buechner, a renowned inspirational theologian and poet, characterized vocation in this way: ‘The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.’ For someone who did not have a Catholic upbringing, Frederick (who died last month at age 96) reflected quite remarkably on the Franciscan charism and our work with the poor and marginalized,” said Basil.

“The work to which God calls discerners is the kind of work: A) that you need most to do, and B) that the world needs most to have done. The question for all discerners and friars is, ‘What do you most need to do, and what does the world need most to have done?” added Basil.

Jason Peterson (left) and Richard Gaunt experienced the front lines of Franciscan outreach ministry during the discernment process, preparing meals for guests at St. Francis Inn in Philadelphia.

Thom, whose friar life has traversed three states (Michigan, Ohio and Missouri) and has included pastoral ministry, teacher, librarian, campus minister, and director of a national shrine, said he has found that inquirers are attracted to the Franciscans because of “our love and ministry to the poor, marginalized, and those most in need.”

Sebastian said fraternity is another significant draw to the Order. “Inquirers are interested in our community and prayer life, and, of course, the different ways that we minister to the marginalized,” said the vocation director, who lives at Assumption Friary in Los Angeles, California.

The postulant class of 2022 couldn’t agree more.

Outside the Walls

“The most appealing thing about Franciscan life is that the friars are called to be where the people are,” said Jason Peterson, whose introduction to the Franciscans was a Capuchin friar who helped with Sunday Mass at his local parish. “My Franciscan heart drew me to the OFMs. I spent a lot of time with friars who were instrumental in helping and guiding me during my discernment process,” added Jason, who, being in the Orlando area, often visited HNP’s nearby regional vocation directors, including Kevin Tortorelli, OFM, at the St. Anthony Friary in St. Petersburg, and Henry Fulmer, OFM, at Sacred Heart Parish in Tampa.

Daniel Mercado cleaning up outside St. Francis Inn in Philadelphia, where he spent one year of service as a member of the Franciscan Volunteer Ministry.

In Chad’s case, he was ready to say “yes” after a weekend visit with friars at St. Anthony Friary in Cincinnati. “What attracts me to the Franciscans is how they preach outside the walls. They meet the people and put their faith into action. Working on my family’s farm helped me value all of God’s creation, so the opportunity to work with people of all walks was a tipping point for me.”

“Being introduced to the breadth of Franciscan ministries and diverse professions of friars during [discernment] weekends made me realize I could thrive in the Order. I also love the idea of being part of a close fraternity that is wholly dedicated to building the kingdom of God and serving the most marginalized,” said Matthew, adding, “I felt an immediate connection and [realized] this was a community I would feel at home in.”

Matthew Junker sweeping the street outside St. Francis Inn.

Inside the Soup Kitchen

For Daniel Mercado, the most appealing aspect of Franciscan life is community and brotherly love. “Once I started interacting with various Franciscan communities, I saw how the friars completed each other, rather than competed with each other. They were unique and transparent with their ideas, opinions and personalities. Divine honesty! It was wonderful to hear friars sharing their own stories and experiences,” said Daniel, whose initial contact with Thom was followed by Zoom meetings with friars, including Fred Dilger, OFM, and Aaron Richardson, OFM, whose passion for their work at St. Francis Inn in Philadelphia influenced Daniel’s decision to serve at the iconic Franciscan soup kitchen for one year under the Franciscan Volunteer Ministry before entering the postulancy program.

“FVM gave me a chance to minister in a Franciscan way at a ministry that captures the spirit of St. Francis. I loved serving and spending time in community with the brothers. The first thought I had when I awoke each morning – I really want to be a Franciscan! Serving the marginalized also taught me to be vulnerable with the most vulnerable of society. They need to be loved and understood, not rejected and judged,” said Daniel, who noted that a series of events in 2019 – World Youth Day in Panama, the National Catholic Youth Conference, and a night of Eucharistic praise and worship with a group of friends – kicked his discernment journey into overdrive.

Fred Dilger, OFM (left), shares his experiences of outreach ministry at St. Francis Inn with Jason Peterson (2nd right) and Richard Gaunt (far right).

Richard, who scrapped plans for a master’s degree in community and regional planning when he instead decided to pursue “the tug to discern” a different calling, said he is drawn to the Franciscan way of life that is “out in the world bringing God’s presence to others – but also rooted in deep spirituality, prayer life, and community. I also like that the [Order] encourages friars to develop and use their talents and hobbies,” added Richard, who is hoping to bring his passion for music and photography to ministry life.

A Voice Calling from the Desert (it was really the church parking lot)

The postulants are grateful to their vocation directors and other friars for maintaining the line of communication, and for the many fraternal events, ministerial opportunities, and even the impromptu encounters, that helped in their decision to say “yes” to Franciscan vocation.

Jeffery Jordan, OFM, an HNP regional vocation director in Boston, with Ricky Ferrer at the Franciscan discernment weekend in September 2021 at St. Anthony Shrine in Boston.

“[During discernment], the friars treated me like a brother. I was drawn to the Franciscans by the joy of brotherhood and the ability to minister and collaborate with those they serve – to smell like the sheep and, at the same time, be the sheep,” said Ricky Ferrer, who credits William McConville, OFM – whom he met after a Mass at St. Francis of Assisi Church in Raleigh, North Carolina – for awakening the spirit that lay dormant since migrating with his family from the Philippines.

“The moment Fr. Bill laid hands and recited the prayer of absolution [after confession], I felt the warmness of God’s love and presence in my life. That moment reignited the fire,” Ricky said of the calling that lingered for much of his life, but which he admits he often ignored – “even ran away from.” It was a voice literally calling out, not from the desert, but from across the church parking lot – that of Stephen Kluge, OFM, asking, “Are you discerning?” It was a question and an encounter that Ricky said couldn’t have been a coincidence – and one that he could no longer ignore.

After sharing that he had moved to Raleigh temporarily to help care for his grandfather and an uncle, both in failing health, Ricky – who, like Daniel, spent one year in service as a volunteer minister at St. Francis Inn – recalled Stephen’s reaction: “He said, ‘You have Franciscan blood in you!’ I kept replaying those words in my head on the entire plane ride back to San Jose.”

Prayers Answered

Jason Peterson presents a scripture reading at a discernment retreat in Tampa/St. Petersburg, Florida.

For Jason, he never thought of any other job as a lifetime career. “I have always felt a calling to religious life – that I would one day be serving God’s people in a special way,” he said. “I think back to the Capuchin friar who showed me what it meant for a Franciscan to live the three vows in his daily life – poverty, to live simply; chastity, to love everyone with your whole heart, and obedience, to do what is asked of you with total reverence for the building of God’s kingdom.”

Jason continued, “I am grateful for meeting the friars in St. Petersburg and Tampa, and for the time they so generously spent with me in my discernment. They validated my desire to serve all of God’s people, but especially the poor. Br. Basil was absolutely supportive of my openness to being a friar and my calling to serve the people. When he informed me that I was accepted to the postulancy, it was a very emotional moment. It was something that I prayed about my whole life, and it was finally happening.”

Richard called his vocation director an amazing guide. “I loved getting to know Fr. Greg. He has always been kind, compassionate, and encouraging, and I am so grateful for his help in this process! The OFM friars were the first to have a virtual discernment event (when everything was on COVID lockdown at the time), which gave me a good first introduction,” he said.

Matt Ryan, OFM, (left) a formation student with St. John the Baptist Province, and other friars helped Jason Peterson celebrate his birthday at a discernment weekend in Florida.

Daniel, who credits his church youth group for developing his faith – which led to service as a youth minister, catechist, usher, and other positions – said Thom and other vocation friars kept him engaged with Franciscan events throughout the process.

“I want to especially thank HNP’s team of eastern regional vocation directors – those serving in New England, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Georgia, North and South Carolina, and Florida – for their patient and important work that has been so vital to the success of vocations and particularly to this group of discerners who responded ‘yes’ to the Franciscans,” said Basil.

How Are Those Guys Doing?

Franciscan discerners share their stories with Zachary Elliott, OFM (far left) and Michael Jones, OFM (2nd left).

Discernment is not only a time for inquirers to contemplate religious vocation, but also a time for vocation directors to examine their ministry – reflect on whether they are being a positive influence and demonstrating their joy and commitment as friars minor.

Basil recalls the words of a former minister general of the Order – who always told friars in vocation ministry to “be sure to tell our Franciscan discerners that we are not holy people! Rather, tell them that we are good, broken men trying to grow in God’s holiness.”

Friars accompany Franciscan discerners on every step of their journey.

When he first became involved in vocation ministry, Thom recalled seeking advice from a handful of brothers who had previously served. Their responses ranged from, “Be honest,” “Remember, you’re walking with them, not leading them,” and “Keep a sense of humor, pray often.” But the one that still stands out for Thom: “Even though your name is on the door, always remember that all friars are part of our vocation office and ministry.”

There is no better example than two friars who both recently celebrated 70 years of profession, according to Thom. “Seventy years and still in ministry. They are generous with their time spent with inquirers – and it’s not one day and forget. They’ll ask months later, even a year later, how ‘those visitors’ are doing, and they pray every day for them. That’s the spirit of vocation ministry,” he said.

Added Sebastian, “There would be no Order without vocations. Vocation ministry is the beginning of all other ministries.”

If God is calling you, or someone you know, to be a Franciscan, contact us via our website,, follow #USFranciscans on social media, or contact Jorge at the National Vocation Office, at 800-677-7788, ext. 345.

— Stephen Mangione is a freelance writer for Holy Name Province.

General Chapter 2021

General Chapter 2021

From 3 to 18 July 2021, the General Chapter of the Order of Friars Minor will be held in Rome, with the theme of Renewing Our Vision, Embracing Our Future.

The 118 Capitulars who are expected at this celebration of our worldwide brotherhood will gather at the Capuchin International College of St Lawrence of Brindisi, which is located around halfway between Leonardo Da Vinci Airport in Fiumicino, and the historical centre of Rome.

This upcoming historic 15-day General Chapter in Rome promises to be a special one in more ways than one. In the present uncertain times in our world, we Friars Minor give thanks for the gift of Faith and Fraternity that are certain, for experiences of Goodness and Beauty that are all around, and for Hope that springs eternal in the human heart. Let us pray for our Capitulars and our entire Order, that we may respond joyfully to the exhortation of the Epistle to the Ephesians, “Arise…and Christ will give you Light” (Ep. 5:14).

For all General Chapter 2021 information, visit:

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Vatican News: Cardinal Tagle, Minister General celebrate Laudato Si’ week from General Curia

Vatican News: Cardinal Tagle, Minister General celebrate Laudato Si’ week from General Curia

Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle, Fr. Augusto Zampini and Fr. Michael Perry gathered for the prayer meeting organized in Rome by the Global Catholic Climate Movement to mark the Laudato Si’ week celebrations. The meeting took place simultaneously in Assisi with Bishop Domenico Sorrentino and via web, entrusting the mandate to spread the Gospel of Creation and care for our common home to Laudato Si’ animators, young people, pastoral workers and faithful in general.

“In the mission of the Church every baptized person has received a gift from the Holy Spirit that must be developed by participating in the mission itself”, and as regards Laudato Si’, this “is the care for our common home.” The words of Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle, prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, on Sunday in speaking to Vatican News on the missionary mandate entrusted to Laudato Si’ animators of the Global Catholic Climate Movement, pastoral workers, young people and all people of good will. Pope Francis had announced this a few hours earlier at the Regina Coeli, when he spoke of the “mandate to spread the Gospel of Creation and to care for our common home.”

The prayer meeting

Monday marks the sixth anniversary of Pope Francis’ encyclical on caring for our common home, published on May 24, 2015. During Laudato Si’ Week, a time marking the conclusion of the special Year called by the Pope as a way to reflect on and put into practice points in the document. Cardinal Tagle led the prayer meeting at the General Curia of the Friars Minor in Rome on Pentecost Sunday, the time we celebrate the descent of the Holy Spirit inaugurating the Church’s mission.

Rome, Assisi and the five continents

The celebration, followed via web throughout the world, began with remarks by Bishop Domenico Sorrentino of Assisi in a video link-up with the Shrine of Saint Dominic in the Umbrian town. He explained that this is the place where Saint Francis “began to build his house”, opening his heart and responding to the Lord’s call to “mission, action, taking initiative”. He said today “you are the missionaries: go and repair our common home”, addressing the animators present and those watching from the five continents. Executive Director of the Global Catholic Climate Movement, Tomás Insua, coordinated the event

A proclamation for all time

In his remarks, Cardinal Tagle noted that at Pentecost “we know that the Risen Christ continues to be with us”. The Archbishop Emeritus of Manila spoke inviting all to “be witnesses of His truth to the world”, even and especially at this time of crisis due to the pandemic. To experience Christ, he continued, “is to know that Jesus accompanies us”, as He did with his disciples. Mission, he added is a “lifelong call”, a “proclamation for all time”, and means to “accompany others”.

A Church always reaching out

Father Augusto Zampini, adjunct secretary of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development and a member of the Vatican Covid-19 Commission echoed Cardinal Tagle by saying “the Gospel of Creation is linked to a Church that is reaching out…that takes care of our common home and others in every part of the planet. This is the beauty of the missionary dimension: to bring the Gospel message and Laudato Si’ on caring for our common home and others, to every part of the world”, in every sector of society, recalling also how the Pope calls for “a profound change in the economy, which is ill because it causes inequalities, social diseases, conflicts and damage to creation” Father Zampini added.

A beacon of light

The “yes” to the missionary mandate came from animators from Rio de Janerio, Nairobi, Washington, Rome and Assisi, an acceptance of responsibility to “hear the cry of the Earth and of the poor”, the unfortunate victims of suffering and deprivation in India as well as in Brazil, whom Father Michael Perry, Minister General of the Order of Friars Minor, recalled in his talk: “they are people who really carry the Cross” and to whom “we must give an opportunity”, with a view towards fraternity and the missionary mandate. The final commitment taken is to express everywhere “kindness, love and humility” in order to be, as Cardinal Tagle underscored when lighting a candle together with the participants, “a beacon of light in the life of the Church and the world”.

Text: Giada Aquilino |

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All were filled with the Holy Spirit | Letter from the Minister General to the whole Order on the Solemnity of Pentecost 2021

All were filled with the Holy Spirit | Letter from the Minister General to the whole Order on the Solemnity of Pentecost 2021

 Letter from the Minister General to the whole Order on the Solemnity of Pentecost 2021


All were filled with the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:1-12)

Dear Brothers,

May the Lord give you peace!

Tradition has always dictated that the General Chapter of the Order coincide with the Feast of Pentecost, in accordance with the wish expressed by St. Francis himself in texts such as the Earlier Rule (cf. ER 18, 2), and reiterated in the Later Rule: “When he [the General Minister] dies, let the election of his successor be made by the provincial ministers and custodians in the Chapter of Pentecost, at which all the provincial ministers are bound to assemble in whatever place the general minister may have designated.” (LR 8, 2) This year, for reasons that we all know too well, we have been forced to postpone this important event to the month of July, hoping that government regulations and requirements will allow it to take place then.

Dear brothers, I would not like to miss the opportunity to address you all on the Solemnity of Pentecost, to share with you what this liturgical celebration inspires in my heart. At the same time, I want to hand over to the Lord, and to all of you, the many blessings that I have experienced during my years of service as Minister General of the Order of Friars Minor (Cf. ER 17, 17-18). I would like this restitution to be expressed through my profound and heartfelt gratitude to the entire Order, to the Poor Clares and Conceptionists, and to the wider Franciscan Family, for the ways in which you have helped me to see how the gift of fraternity is a powerful and effective means of listening to the voice of God and fulfilling what is asked of us with fidelity, perseverance, and love.

The profound relationship that the Poverello of Assisi cultivated with the person of the Holy Spirit is deeply inspiring. This can be seen from the frequency with which the third person of the Holy Trinity is mentioned both in the Saint’s writings and in the hagiographical sources. (Cf. ER 17,14; LR 10, 8-10; 2LtF 10,48; LM 9,3, etc.). Francis felt the outpouring and the presence of the Spirit so closely that he attributed the guidance and direction of the Order to the Holy Spirit, calling the Spirit the Minister of the Order. As Thomas of Celano tells us: “’With God,’ [Francis] would say, ‘there is no partiality, and the Holy Spirit, the general minister of the religion, rests equally upon the poor and simple.’ He really wanted to put these words in the Rule, but the papal seal already given to the rule precluded it.” (2C 145).

I am particularly struck by this observation of the biographer because, in a certain sense, it provides a revealing link to the scene described in the Acts of the Apostles which is one of the prescribed texts for the Solemnity of Pentecost: “Then there appeared to them tongues as of fire, which parted and came to rest on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit.” (cf. Acts 2:2) The word “all“, which appears six times, is key to our appreciation of the author’s intention to indicate an all-embracing experience: all of the house (v.2); all were filled with the Holy Spirit (v.4); all the nations (v.5); all those who are not Galileans (v.7); we heard them all speak (v.11); they were all amazed (v.12). Moreover, the word “each” is repeated three times, confirming this powerful idea of inclusion and the desire for the widest possible participation in the experience of the Spirit. Francis, on his part, considers the outpouring of the Spirit a blessing for all because… “with God there is no partiality.” (2 Cel 145)

I would like to consider this idea further because during my time of service as Minister General I have been able to see that we must continue to work tirelessly to combat what Pope Francis in his encyclical Laudato Si’ calls the throwaway culture.  This is directly connected with another theme expressed by the phrase ‘the globalization of indifference’ (cf. Message of the Holy Father Francis for the Celebration of the 49th World Day of Peace, January 1st, 2016). These phenomena arise from and promote racism, xenophobia, and the emergence of populist figures who proclaim that these are messianic times when society as it ‘should be’ can be established. Such a way of thinking worries me deeply, because it slowly enters in and begins to take over, like weeds among the wheat (cf. Mt 13:24-52). It dramatically fragments not only the political environment of our countries but threatens the integrity of our societies and families. It even comes knocking on the doors of some of our local fraternities.

The passage from the Acts of the Apostles that narrates the extraordinary action of the Spirit clearly sheds light on this reality because the event takes place in circumstances that are extraordinarily varied — full of diversity, differences, nuances, and ways of being that do not admit of uniformity. It is a situation characterized by pluralism, variety, and movement (a noise like a strong driving wind, v. 2). Nothing is still, everything is in motion, something is happening, someone is coming. All those filled with the Holy Spirit began to express …. what the Spirit was giving them (cf. v. 4).

The Pentecost event, in addition to suggesting the characteristic scenario of Old Testament theophanies, is also linked to other moments in which an important person is assisted in a special way by the Spirit (e.g., John the Baptist, Lk 1:15; Elizabeth, Lk 1:41; Zechariah Lk 1:67; Peter, Acts 4:8; Saul, Acts 9:17, 13:9). However, the fullness of the Spirit that the Apostles experience in Acts 2:4 is characterized by a remarkable feature. Pentecost marks the beginning of the time of the Church, a new way that had already been proclaimed by Jesus, in which he would be present among his followers every day until the end of the world (cf. Mt 28:16-20). The action performed by the Holy Spirit, that is, the tongues of fire that “divided” and “rested” on each one, immediately makes us think of the “charismatic” gift that the Apostles received to carry out their preaching and mission. Fire, the symbol par excellence of the divine presence, indicates God’s desire to envelop — almost to invade — the entire community present, succeeding in driving out every shadow of fear and giving an inner strength capable of transforming the hearts of those present, thus creating authentic communion.

Pope Francis says: “When we are healthy and comfortable, we forget about others (something God the Father never does): we are unconcerned with their problems, their sufferings and the injustices they endure… Our heart grows cold. As long as I am relatively healthy and comfortable, I don’t think about those less well off.” (Ibid. Message for 49th World Day of Peace). Following the horrific murder of George Floyd in Minnesota, USA on May 20th, 2020, a wave of reaction came to prominence in many parts of the world. It led to public protests stretching from Minneapolis (USA) to Manaus (Brazil), from New York to Johannesburg, from Paris to Jakarta. Unfortunately, we have to recognise that systematic racism, classism, the caste system, and other kinds of exclusion are also present in our Order and Church.

I have been able to read some testimonies that have been sent to me by friars in which they speak about their experiences of racism or exclusion within society and within the Order itself. They recount moments of intense humiliation, a sense of betrayal, and a deep rupture in the fabric of fraternal communion. The stories told by our brothers also reveal the reality that too many of us are willing to turn a blind eye to situations of direct or indirect violations of human dignity. The Feast of Pentecost that we celebrate today challenges us with radical demands. It calls us to “wake up” to the realities around and within us, to be more aware of those structures and events that express attitudes directly contrary to our human, Christian, and Franciscan vocation. The Spirit urges us to undergo a radical conversion of mind, heart, and action (cf. Eph 4:23-32) and to embrace God’s vision for all of humanity and the created universe. Pentecost reminds us that all are welcome, all are respected, all are invited to offer their unique and distinct contributions, all share the same dignity and destiny. The gift of the Spirit is “a blessing to all because… with God there is no partiality!”

I believe, my dear brothers, that celebrating Pentecost should encourage us to have experiences that shake the foundations of our security and drive away any internal fears we may have about always reaching out to others. Pentecost should help open our eyes (cf. Lk 24: 13-35) to appreciate the richness of diversity, to delight in the wonderful variety of forms, colours, ways, mentalities, approaches, opinions, and perspectives. If we are still afraid of stepping out of our comfort zones, or of creating spaces where we can participate in different ways of seeing, of appreciating, and of judging, then now is the time to be open to “the Spirit of the Lord and Its holy activity” (cf. LR 10, 8).

Let us continue to pray for our forthcoming General Chapter, that the Spirit of the Lord, the true Minister General of the Order, may grant us a time of grace and inspiration for the good of the Order, the Church, and the world that we inhabit.

Happy Feast of Pentecost!

Br. Michael A. Perry, OFM
Minister General and Servant


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Prot. 110456
Artwork: Giotto, Pentecost, Scrovegni Chapel, Padua, Italy

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