Fourteen Men Begin Journey to Become Friars

Fourteen Men Begin Journey to Become Friars

SILVER SPRING, Md. – A group of men from diverse cultural, educational and employment backgrounds was welcomed into the 2019-20 postulancy program last month by provincial ministers, vocation directors, and friars.

The postulancy is the first step of Franciscan formation. It is a time when a man lives with friars and discerns whether he wishes to continue to the novitiate at the end of the year.

The 14 postulants, ages 22 to 45, were accepted into the program at an Aug. 22 ceremony held at the Holy Name College chapel here.​

The new class of Franciscan postulants with the friars who will serve as their formators, (l-r) Friars Charley Miller, Rommel Pérez, Walter Liss, and John Gutiérrez. (Photo courtesy of Carlos Portillo)

The postulants have “a wonderful diversity, “ according to Friar Charley Miller, OFM, a member of the postulancy leadership team. “They come from several Christian traditions, and a variety of cultural and educational backgrounds,” he said.

The provincial ministers bless the new postulants. (Photo courtesy of Carlos Portillo)

In his homily based on Jeremiah and Jesus’ encounter with Zacchaeus, Holy Name Provincial Minister Kevin Mullen, OFM, reminded the new postulants that their Franciscan call builds on their core vocation as baptized Christians.  He said that it “doesn’t separate us from other Christians, but calls us to stand with them and for them.”

Charley said that Kevin pointed out that the postulants’ future as friars would be quite different from what existed in the past and what currently exists, and that they would not be alone as builders of that future Church and Order.

After the ceremony, the new postulants each were asked to proclaim a single word that, for them, sums up the meaning of Francis.  Descriptions included “radical,” “peace,” “joyful,” “disciple,” “helper,” “universal,” “devoted,” “compassion” and “fraternity,” according to Charley.

Three of the newly-welcomed postulants led the music liturgy, and the celebration ended with 40 voices strongly and passionately singing “We Are Called.”

The 2019-20 postulants are:

Timothy Amburgey

Timothy Amburgey

Tim, 44, is from Lynchburg, Ohio. He attended Southern State Community College in Hillsboro, Ohio, and came to know the friars by seeing a yard sign inviting men to become friars at St. Anthony Shrine.

John Dement

John Dement

John, 39, is fromTulsa, Oklahoma, where he worked as a crane operator for a construction company. He found the friars by searching websites.

Kevin Hamzik

Kevin Hamzik

Kevin, 22, is from Broadview Heights, Ohio, and graduated from St. Bonaventure University.

Patrick McPhee

Patrick McPhee

Patrick, 38, is from Syracuse, New York. He did his undergraduate studies at NYU in New York City and attended graduate school in San Francisco. While living in New Mexico, he got to know the friars and their ministries, which led him to apply to be a friar.

Leo Phillips

Leo Phillips

Leo, 42, is from San Francisco, California.

William Compton

William Compton

William, 25, is fromTampa, Florida. He is graduate of Pepin Academy in Tampa and came to know the friars because the late Friar Rock Travnikar, OFM, was a friend of his family.

Tyler Grudi

Tyler Grudi

Tyler, 21, is from Hershey, Pennsylvania, and is a St. Bonaventure University graduate.

James Kernan

James Kernan

Jimmy, 21, is from Syracuse, New York, and is a St. Bonaventure University graduate.

Chukwuma Raphael Obadike

Chukwuma Raphael Obadike

Chukwuma, 23, is from New Jersey and studied at University of Port Harcourt. He served in the Franciscan Volunteer Minister in Durham, North Carolina.

Daniel Samsel

Daniel Samsel

Daniel, 26, is from Brecksville, Ohio and graduated from Walsh University, in Cleveland, Ohio. He met the friars: though browsing online.

Daniel Cruz

Daniel Cruz

Daniel, 28, is from Atlanta, Georgia, and is a graduate of the University of South Carolina.

Juan Luis Guerrero

Juan Luis Guerrero

Juan Luis, 39, is from Los  Angeles, California, where he graduated from Santa Barbara Community College. Juan Luis met the friars at the Anaheim Religious Education Congress in 2016.

Phillip McCarter

Phillip McCarter

Phillip, 28, is from Cincinnati, Ohio, and is graduate of Elder High School there. He connected with the friars through Vocations Placement Services.

Joan Perez

Joan Perez

Joan, 31, is from San Jose, California where he attended Evergreen College. He sas a parishioner at Our lady of Guadalupe Parish  in San Jose while Friar Javier Reyes, OFM, was pastor

In addition to Kevin, other provincial minister participants at the ceremony included Friar Jack Clark Robinson, OFM, of Our Lady of Guadalupe Province, Friar James Gannon, OFM, of Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary Province, and Friar Mark Soehner, OFM, of St. John the Baptist Province.

In addition to Charley, the postulant team comprises Friar John Gutiérrez, OFM, of St. Barbara Province; Friar Walter Liss, OFM, of Holy Name Province; and Friar Rommel Pérez, OFM, of Sacred Heart Province.

Earlier in August, 11 men were received into the Franciscan Novitiate, the phase of Franciscan formation that follows postulancy.

Four Hundred Franciscans Gather in Historic Meeting

Four Hundred Franciscans Gather in Historic Meeting

DENVER, Colo. — History was made this week as 400 Franciscan friars – from 25 states as well as Canada, Italy Jamaica, Mexico and the Philippines — gathered in unity and fraternity here. The first-of-its-kind meeting of friars from six U.S. provinces was a step toward the formation of one coast-to-coast entity.

Four hundred Franciscans friars met in Denver.

Revitalization of Franciscan life and ministry in America is the goal of a multi-year process of restructuring that began in May 2018, when friars voted to support the creation of a new province. It will comprise almost 1,000 priests and brothers who are part of the worldwide Order of Friars Minor, founded in 1209 by St. Francis of Assisi.

“We have much in common with our brothers around the country,” according to Fr. Jack Clark Robinson, OFM, provincial minster of Our Lady of Guadalupe Province.  “This meeting gave us a chance to get to know more about each other and strengthen the bonds that unite us.”

Eleven men were received as new novices at the chapter.

During the four-day meeting, 11 men from the six provinces were received as novices, beginning a yearlong program of education and religious training that puts them on the path to life as Franciscan friars.

The friars of the six provinces — Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary Province (based in Franklin, Wisc.), Holy Name Province (New York City), Our Lady of Guadalupe Province (Albuquerque, N.M.), Sacred Heart Province (St. Louis, Mo.), St. Barbara Province (Oakland, Calif.), and St. John the Baptist Province (Cincinnati, Ohio) — have been discussing the restructuring of their provinces since 2012.

Following the message of Christ and the example of their founder, St. Francis, they serve the poor and marginalized and work to further peace and care for creation in a variety of settings including parishes, schools, neighborhood outreach, retreat centers, and social justice ministries.

The July 29 to August 2 Denver meeting, called a “Chapter of Mats”, is one phase of a process of forming the new province, a process that also includes a review of canon and civil law. The new U.S. province is expected be officially formed once restructuring is approved by the Order’s leaders in Rome, possibly by late 2022 or early 2023.

Franciscan Friars to Gather in Denver

Franciscan Friars to Gather in Denver

DENVER — Four hundred Franciscan friars will gather here next week for a fraternal gathering.

The friars of the Order of Friars Minor (the Franciscans’ official name)  are currently celebrating a renewal of Franciscan spirit in the US and a restructuring of their provinces.

A province is the local governing structure of friars. Currently there are seven OFM provinces in the US. On May 30, 2018, the friars of six of these US provinces voted to move ahead with a process of revitalization and restructuring of Franciscan life in the US. (See our Frequently Asked Questions about this process to find out more about what this means.)

The meeting in Denver is called a “Chapter of Mats” after the practice of the early friars who brought sleeping mats to gatherings of friars.

Since the friars were received and formed into one of the seven existing US provinces, this meeting provides the friars with the opportunity to get to know friars from other provinces, discuss ministry matters, and hear the stories — many real and some mythical — of the other provinces.


There are almost 1,000 friars in the six provinces, but many are unable to attend the chapter because of age, illness, or ministry commitments.

Many friars who are not able to attend the Chapter of Mats in Denver say they will be there in spirit. When we asked them to share their hopes and wishes for the historic gathering, here’s what they had to say.

Jeremy Harrington, OFM:
“In God’s love something new is being born.  Give thanks and rejoice!”

Gerald Prusakowski, OFM:
“You have been and are in my daily prayers that everyone involved in the Renewal of the Provinces will experience deep faith and the courage to serve all those who are in need.”

Jim Van Vurst, OFM;
“We’ll be praying for you all and know the Spirit will be in your midst.”

John Ostdiek, OFM:
“I realize that many issues will be involved as we merge the six American provinces into one. But I also am confident that God’s help and the friars’ willingness to unite as one will support our hopes for success.”

Murray Bodo, OFM:
“When the poppies are in bloom on the plain below Assisi, they seem like the souls of the first brothers in chapter, waving up to Assisi.  May your Chapter of Mats in Denver be like a field of little flowers met on the darkling plain of our fractured and angry world.  And may you show forth a good and just way of living that, in the words of St. Bonaventure, “makes beautiful that which has been deformed.”

Joe Ricchini, OFM:
“I believe we should strive to root ourselves in Christ’s love for us and make that love fulfill  us, rather than wish that other friars appreciate us. And also preach and help people without aiming to win their admiration.  I am still learning to accomplish these goals.”

Thomas Frost, OFM:
“I pray the Friars come from the Chapter with The Spirit like those of the first Chapter of Mats.  May their Holy Enthusiasm touch us all and spread through the world.”

Dominic Lococo, OFM:
“Although I cannot attend the Chapter of Mats,  I do want to follow the gathering with my prayers and good wishes.  Hopefully good coverage of the event will return to us stay-at-home friars to spur us on to real heartfelt fraternity.

Justin Kwietniewski, OFM:
“My very best wishes for a blessed event of fraternity and prayer.”

Tom Speier, OFM
“Sorry to have to miss this once-in-a-lifetime experience due to medical issues.  My prayers are with you all for the Spirit’s guidance!”

Joe Chinnici, OFM:
“I am praying for the success of this historic gathering and wish everyone’s God’s blessing and peace for a fraternal and fruitful gathering.”

Mark Ligett, OFM:
“I am so excited about this gathering and wish I was able to attend!  My heart and prayers will be with all of the brothers gathering in Denver   This gathering will begin to make tangible what is already a reality: We all belong to one great brotherhood!”

Franklin Fong, OFM:
“I could not give better advice or prayers for the chapter than what was said by St. Francis centuries ago: ‘Brothers, let us begin again; for up to now, we have done nothing!’”

Charlie Smiech, OFM:
“Brothers, please be assured of my prayers and best wishes. I wish I could be with you, but I continue my recovery from eye surgery in Jerusalem. I will make sure my weekly Holy Hour will be for your intentions as the Holy Spirit continues to guide us into a new beginning.”

Dennet Jung, OFM:
“Brothers, I will be with you in my thoughts and prayers.  Make the Renew happen big!”

Ten Men Profess First Vows as Franciscan Friars

Ten Men Profess First Vows as Franciscan Friars

The assembled OFM, Capuchin, and Conventual Franciscan friars who came together for the first vows of the OFM novices in Old Mission Santa Barbara. (Photo courtesy of the author)

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. — Ten men professed their first vows as Franciscan Friars at Old Mission Santa Barbara here on July 2.

The vows ceremony was attended by a number of friars, including Capuchin and Conventual Franciscan friars and novices who journeyed from their nearby novitiates to witness the ceremony, along with members of the parish church at the Mission.

Friars from four U.S. provinces professed their vows to live St. Francis of Assisi’s Rule of the Order of Friars Minor. Those friars were:

Province of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary Provincial Minister James Gannon, OFM, received the vows of Andrew Aldrich, OFM, 28, from Mishawaka, Indiana. Friars Kevin Schroeder, OFM, and Gregory Plata, OFM, witnessed his vows. Assumption Province is based in Franklin, Wisconsin.

Provincial Vicar Larry Hayes receives the first vows of Friar Steven Young, OFM. (Photo courtesy of the author)

For Holy Name Province, based in New York City, Provincial Vicar Larry Hayes, OFM, accepted the vows of these new brothers:

  • Ian Grant, OFM, 35, from North Brunswick, New Jersey.
  • John Neufffer, OFM, 35, of Durham, North Carolina.
  • Richard Phillip, OFM, 42, from Camden, New Jersey.
  • Carlos Portillo, OFM, 34, of San Vicente, El Salvador.
  • Steven Young, OFM, 31, from Canton, Massachusetts.

Friars Walter Liss, OFM, a member of the postulancy formation team, and Hugh Macsherry, OFM, witnessed their vows.

Provincial Minister Mark Soehner, OFM, of the St. John the Baptist Province, of Cincinnati, Ohio, heard the vows of:

  • Matthew Ryan, OFM, 48, of Covington, Kentucky.
  • Raphael Ozoude, OFM, 24, from Lagos, Nigeria.

Friars Timothy Lamb, OFM, and Carl Langenderfer, OFM, witnessed the vows.

Finally, Friar David Gaa, OFM, provincial minister of the St. Barbara Province, based in Oakland, California, accepted the vows of these friars:

  • Andrew Dinegar, OFM, 53, from New York City.
  • Salvador Mejia, OFM, 49, of Acambaro, Mexico.

Friars Arturo Noyes, OFM, and Larry Gosselin, OFM, were the witnesses.

After each student friar made his vows, he was presented a new cord for his habit. Instead of the simple cord with no knots worn by the novices, the newly-professed friar was dressed with a cord that had the three knots representing the three vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience.

The ten men then signed the official register of their respective province. Also, signing were the provincial minister and the witnesses from the province.

The assembled friars offer congratulations on their new brothers. (Photo courtesy of the author)

After all ten had made their profession of vows, the new brothers received the congratulations of the provincial ministers, the novitiate formation team, and then from all the assembled friars, including the Conventual and Capuchin novices who had shared many novitiate experiences with the newly-professed.

Unlike the Order of Friars Minor, the Conventual and Capuchin novices do not make their first profession of vows together, but will instead each return to his home province to make his vows there.

Following the vows ceremony, a lively reception was held in the novitiate dining room for everyone attending.

The newly-professed friars will now journey to spend time in their home provinces before starting studies in the fall either at Catholic Theological Union in Chicago or at the Franciscan School of Theology at the University of San Diego.

The novitiate formation team, the provincials, and the newly professed friars. (Photo courtesy of the author)

The novitiate is the second step of Franciscan formation. During the first year of formation as a postulant, the man lives, prays, and ministers with friars, but — although associated with the order — he is not yet a friar. The second step is when a man is received as a novice. For a year-and-a-day, he studies the rule and constitutions he will vow to live, develops his spirituality and knowledge of the order. At the end of the novitiate year, the man vows to live in poverty, chastity, and obedience for one year. Since these vows expire after one year, they are referred to as “simple vows.”

At the end of each year, if both the man and the province are in agreement, the vows are renewed, again for a period of one year. After the normal four years in simple vows, again with everyone in agreement, the friar makes “solemn vows,” that is, he vows to live in poverty, chastity, and obedience for the remainder of his life.

#FriarFriday – Refugees vs. Migrants

#FriarFriday – Refugees vs. Migrants

As spiritual assistant of a local fraternity of the Secular Franciscan Order, I responded to a quite racist post by a member of the fraternity about those who wish to cross our southern border. I responded by providing the members of the fraternity with the statements from the US bishops about migrants and refugees.

A member of the fraternity responded, “I feel like arguing with him!!! Open borders are creating the crisis. Attracting families to come!!!!! Should I say that to him?”To which, I responded:

Refugees vs. Migrants

I would respond by saying that refugees are different from migrants, and it’s important to know the difference. Migration at the southern border is at an all-time low. Refugees fleeing violence in their countries are the people clogging the border crossings!

Refugees have human rights internationally. These rights are among those enumerated in numerous international treaties. All countries are constitutionally obligated to accept refugees. The U.S. bishops remind us that we are also morally obligated to accept them. I’d have to say that, for me, accepting refugees seems to also be in line with Gospel values.

It is, of course, important to distinguish between true refugees and those just trying to get into the country any way they can. Under the current conditions, it is clear that most people presenting themselves at the southern border are women and children fleeing violence in their countries. This makes them true refugees deserving of human right protections.

So, what can we do to stem the tide of refugees at our borders? The most critical thing, in my opinion, is to build up their countries at home. We’ve been deporting gang members for some time now, as we should, but without any concern for what they’ll do back in their home countries. The effect has been outright lawlessness and people taking their children and fleeing the chaos which has now enveloped their countries. Instead of threatening to withhold foreign aid, that aid is the key to restoring law enforcement to these countries which have become, in effect, failed states with no ability to effectively police their own cities.

I agree that there is a crisis at the border, but it seems to be not a crisis of “open borders” but rather a crisis for an unprepared nation having problems dealing with the refugees presenting themselves at the border or to agents once they’ve crossed. As much as we’d like to think that there’s a simple solution, such as a wall, the problem in Central America has been building for some time now, and there are no easy solutions. In the short term, we need to beef up our refugee processing, and — in the longer term — work at improving living conditions in Honduras, Guatemala, etc. in order to address the root problem.

Church Teachings

What does the Church teach about refugees?

Catechism #1911 Human interdependence is increasing and gradually spreading throughout the world. The unity of the human family, embracing people who enjoy equal natural dignity, implies a universal common good. This good calls for an organization of the community of nations able to “provide for the different needs of men; this will involve the sphere of social life to which belong questions of food, hygiene, education, . . . and certain situations arising here and there, as for example . . . alleviating the miseries of refugees dispersed throughout the world, and assisting migrants and their families.”

Catechism #2241 The more prosperous nations are obliged, to the extent they are able, to welcome the foreigner in search of the security and the means of livelihood which he cannot find in his country of origin. Public authorities should see to it that the natural right is respected that places a guest under the protection of those who receive him.

Political authorities, for the sake of the common good for which they are responsible, may make the exercise of the right to immigrate subject to various juridical conditions, especially with regard to the immigrants’ duties toward their country of adoption. Immigrants are obliged to respect with gratitude the material and spiritual heritage of the country that receives them, to obey its laws and to assist in carrying civic burdens.

US Bishops, Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship The Gospel mandate to “welcome the stranger” requires Catholics to care for and stand with newcomers, authorized and unauthorized, including unaccompanied immigrant children, refugees and asylum-seekers, those unnecessarily detained, and victims of human trafficking. Comprehensive reform is urgently necessary to fix a broken immigration system and should include a broad and fair legalization program with a path to citizenship; a work program with worker protections and just wages; family reunification policies; access to legal protections, which include due process procedures; refuge for those fleeing persecution and violence; and policies to address the root causes of migration. The right and responsibility of nations to control their borders and to maintain the rule of law should be recognized but pursued in a just and humane manner. The detention of immigrants should be used to protect public safety and not for purposes of deterrence or punishment; alternatives to detention, including community-based programs, should be emphasized.

Inability to Accept

Now, what do we do if we find ourselves to be in disagreement with the teachings of the Catholic Church?

I think that the Church was quite wise to print the text of the catechism in different size fonts. The largest font is reserved for dogmas (e.g., “Jesus is the Son of God”) and smaller and smaller type is used for the application of these dogmas.

One could say, “I’m with the bishops on everything except the death penalty” or “I’m with the Church on everything except accepting refugees.” These are disagreements with the teachings of the Church and not with the underlying dogma.

One would hope that, in time, with prayer and reflection, one would confirm their conscience to the teachings of the Church, but it is the human condition that occasionally we fall short. It’s why we find Catholics who are actively involved with the application of the death penalty, who work with nuclear weapons, who are pro-choice, who want to refuse safety to refugees, etc. These Catholics can accept the dogmas of the Church but find it difficult to accept fully the application of that dogma, as taught by the Church.

The Church has always taught that the conscience is supreme. Catechism #1782 tells us “Man (sic) has the right to act in conscience and in freedom so as personally to make moral decisions. ‘He must not be forced to act contrary to his conscience (emphasis added). Nor must he be prevented from acting according to his conscience, especially in religious matters.'” (You can see more of what the Catechism has to say about conscience here.)

The Church does say that we are obliged to correctly form our consciences, but more than anything we are obliged to follow it. If one sincerely feels in their conscience that it is wrong to assist the refugees at the border or to deny them the safety of our country, then they are obliged to follow their conscience regardless of what the bishops teach about it.

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