Below are some photos showing members of the English Speaking Conference attending:
ASSISI, ITALY - The Secretaries of Formation of the Order from throughout the world are currently gathered in Assisi for an international Conference on the theme, "Jesus went with them: A formative approach to Franciscan accompaniment." You can follow the conference at: http://www.ofm.org/SGFS2013/index.php
Below are some photos showing members of the English Speaking Conference attending:
By Lasha Morningstar / Western Catholic Reporter
COCHRANE, Alberta, Canada - It began simply enough. Joachim Ostermann "thought it would be a nice break" when his Vancouver parish said a retreat was being held at Westminster Abbey.
"I had never been in a monastery before," he thought. "I should check this out. I might like it. It might be a nice way to spend the weekend, so why not?"
But God had other plans for this PhD scientist.
"During that retreat I was struck by the insight that I was not called to early retirement," recalls Ostermann.
"I would not be accomplishing much, just enjoying myself. It was in prayer, plus the silence, the opportunity to be entirely separate from secular cares, to be in a totally different environment. In order to have a good retreat it is necessary to make a clear distinction between the external and the internal."
So began Ostermann's journey to become a Franciscan brother. He took his solemn vows Aug. 23 at Mount St. Francis in Cochrane.
His life path did not start out this way though.
Born in Germany to parents Barbara and Gunther, Ostermann and his two brothers and a sister always attended Mass. "When I was growing up, a Catholic family would be seen at Mass. It has changed since then. But at that time, church attendance was a must."
Determining his life's course came early to Ostermann. "I knew as an adolescent that I wanted to be a scientist" and he began his "search for truth in the sciences."
Ostermann's university studies were accomplished in Dusseldorf and Munich where he received his PhD in biochemistry. "I went into chemistry mostly because I wanted to do hands-on work."
Ostermann travelled to the U.S. in 1990 and became a research fellow at Princeton University. His supervising professor moved to the Sloan Kettering Institute in New York and Ostermann went with him as a research fellow.
During his time as assistant professor of biochemistry at Vanderbilt University in Nashville in 1999, Ostermann had difficulty getting funding for his research.
Frustrated, he took a year off to become a visiting scientist in Germany and then came to Canada in 2001 to work in the bio-tech industry. "After the struggle over funding and money in academia, I wanted to be financially secure. I wanted financial security and independence."
Ostermann worked in bio-tech companies in Montreal and Toronto, co-founding the second company. Financially, the bio-tech move worked well.
"I reached the goal of being financially independent, and I wanted to evaluate again what I really wanted to do," he remembers. "My plan was to return to academic science. For a single guy, I had enough money to last and a friend offered me a job in his lab as a research assistant."
Then he moved to Vancouver and God stepped in when he went on his life-changing retreat. After returneing from the retreat, Ostermann sent an email to his pastor, saying "Something happened. What was it? I'd like to talk."
They started meeting immediately on a weekly basis.
"He heard me discern what had happened," says Ostermann. "He encouraged me to consider the call to religious life. He thought it was genuine and that I should explore it."
During his discernment process Ostermann discovered he was not called to the monastic life. "I really did not want to live behind monastic walls in a secluded religious community."
He also realized he did not want to give up the competency he had in the world.
"That is how I came to the Franciscans. I can live my life as a Franciscan but also keep the option of working."
A Vancouver friend, on hearing of Ostermann's decision to become a Franciscan, asked, "You worked so hard to make money. What is going to feel like to give it all up?"
"Very happy. It is liberating."
Before making solemn vows, a Franciscan must abandon all his worldly possessions. "The order is not allowed to receive money from us," explains Ostermann. "We are encouraged to give it to the poor. For me, my principle beneficiary is Development and Peace."
Another friend, an Israeli citizen who once worked with Ostermann in New York, understood his life-changing path, writing in an email, "In a manner of speaking it is not such a big change for you. You were a scholar then and you are a scholar now. You like to study and discover new things and you are basically doing it now in theology."
The journey to solemn vows took six years.
Were there struggles along the way? The 52-year-old Franciscan sighs, "Oh, lots. Does God call me to that? Am I personally equipped to live this religious life? God does not want someone to do something he can't do."
This single man must also share his life with others. "Community life can be quite challenging, takes getting used to, learning some skills," says Ostermann. "Religious communities have their own culture, their own way of living together."
His answer to the understandable struggles is prayer.
"Without prayer what else would there be? The choice to live the religious life has to be grounded in prayer and trust in Jesus Christ. Prayer restores inner peace."
During his Franciscan discernment, Ostermann studied at Newman Theological College and graduates with a master of divinity this fall. "I have no plans to return to studies soon, but I might in the future."
He is also scheduled to be ordained a deacon by Archbishop Richard Smith Sept. 14. "As a deacon I might do Baptisms, preaching on Sunday."
Ostermann's immediate job is at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Parish in Sherwood Park as a pastoral assistant. "It will give me an inside look at parish ministry without having to be the pastor."
Asked about his hopes for the future, Ostermann replies, "I can't answer that in a few sentences."
After a minute or two, he shares, "What I really hope to do is to give a credible witness to the importance, viability, everlasting hope of the Christian faith, to people who have been shaped by the scientific technological culture.
"Many see a conflict between the scientific understanding of life and the faith understanding on life. They try to live a dualism that causes unbearable tension. Like when you go the hospital if you have cancer, do you trust in chemotherapy or do you trust in prayer."
There is a contradiction between the materialistic understanding of the world, which science provides, and the faith understanding, which is based on Christ.
"How do you reconcile that? I can't answer that. But what I am hoping is that someway in my life, maybe this way (as a Franciscan brother), I can be a witness to the significance of the Christian faith especially in this scientific, technological culture."
WESTERN CATHOLIC REPORTER | September 9, 2013
Carlos Ona followed the signs. Now, at 38 and a Franciscan friar, Ona looks back and sees "there were so many signs God was directing me to this life. I just followed them."
Born in a small town in the Philippines, Ona was the youngest of six children. His mother Julita was very devout - "She would always drag us to the church." Carlos' father Fraterno was a public transit driver.
When Ona reached Grade 6, he was encouraged by his parish priest and his mother to enter the seminary. "I really didn't want to go," remembers Ona. "It was the summer and I wanted to play in Manila."
When he graduated from Our Lady of Mercy High School, Ona went on to university, completing his bachelor's degree in computer science. His studies served him well and he worked with a prominent company as an application specialist and programmer.
But at 27, Ona, "looking for greener pastures," came to Vancouver as an immigrant. "I didn't know anyone. It was a risky move."
He found work as a metal cleaner. Loneliness prompted him to turn to his Filipino community and he joined Singles for Christ. "I took the 12-week Christian life program at St. Mary's in Vancouver and became involved in various ministries."
Seminars and retreats filled his life and Ona found his faith uplifted. Inspired by lay speakers, he went on a discernment retreat with the Vancouver Archdiocese in 2004.
Emotion fills his voice as he recalls that time in his life. "I was really confused. Should I enter the seminary or get married? I was going out at that time with someone."
Ona's spiritual director was a Dominican, and when he attended the Dominican's ordination, "I was crying. At that moment, I felt different. The lady beside me said 'I would be happy if one day you would be ordained as a priest.' And at the reception the words 'I will make you fishers of men,' caught my attention."
Ona found himself confused and conflicted.
"I was really in deep thought. What will I do with my life? I came to Canada to work, to support my family. God, what is happening? Help me. There is something inside me going on."
Ona knows God helps those who help themselves. So he searched for every spiritual book he could find. "And I went to Mass after work every day."
Finally he asked God for a sign, a very specific sign. "There were so many options out there, I did not know which one to choose."
What sign did he ask for? "Blue roses. And then I went on my way, going to work every day and I forgot about it."
Several months later, a friend called asking him to come to Mass on Sept. 8, the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary. He also asked him to bring flowers.
Ona was irked. "It takes me an hour and half to get downtown on the bus and you are asking me to pick up flowers? But I agreed."
He stopped at a flower shop and looked over the various blooms.
"And then I saw a sign. 'Blue roses.'"
He remembered asking for a sign and at Mass asked God, "Is this it Lord? Is this the sign? Do you want me to go to the seminary? After Mass I was so happy, I was so relieved. God is there listening."
So he entered Christ the King Seminary in Mission, B.C.
"Studies were bit of a struggle but I was really happy. The school system here is different. There were a lot of adjustments that I had to do."
But his journey was not over.
One night, Ona read the story of St. Francis and found himself crying. "I wanted to follow his ideal."
Ona's spiritual director did not know of his yearning. But before a meeting with his director, Ona prayed that if his director mentioned anything about St. Francis, "This might be it. God is calling me to the Franciscan order."
After the opening prayer, the spiritual director handed Ona a leaflet titled Prayerful Joy of St. Francis and Brother Leo.
Ona said, "Father, you must be kidding. Before I came, I prayed if you mentioned anything about St. Francis then it might mean God is calling me to the Franciscan order."
The director replied, "There you go Carlos. You got the sign."
But his path was not smooth. Invited by a friend to come and spend Easter in Edmonton in 2007, he stayed with the Franciscans for five days and left thinking, "It wasn't for me."
"But prayer always helps to reach the right answer."
So he came to Edmonton to start the master of divinity program at Newman Theological College and was told there was no Franciscan postulancy program that year. "I was so disappointed."
But changes occurred, and Ona was able to start his novitiate.
Now he uses his university education to develop the Franciscans' website and does desktop publishing for the order. "I also volunteered with the IT department at the Archdiocese of Edmonton."
It has been six years, and Ona made his profession of solemn vows Aug. 23 in Cochrane and is now in Victoria.
Years passed "really quick and now I am going to profess as a full-fledged brother of the Franciscan order," says Ona. "Those six years weren't joy, joy, joy. There were struggles along the way. But if you overcome those challenges, it is really a source of joy and peace."
Asked about his hopes for the future, Ona says, "I am hoping for the order to become more lively, with more young vibrant friars. And I want to bring the joy that I feel to the people and be faithful to the Gospel life."
DUBLIN, IRELAND - On the Feast of the Birthday of the Blessed Mother, Friar David Collins, OFM, of the Province of Ireland, kneeling in the sanctuary of Adam and Eve's Church and placing his hands into the hands of Provincial Minister Hugh McKenna, OFM, promised "to live all the days of my life in obedience, without anything of my own, and in chastity."
Friar David's celebration of his solemn profession as a Franciscan at the Merchants Quay, Dublin Church was in the presence of many friars, family and friends. David, from Cork, had many travel from there for the celebration.
In his homily for the occasion, the Provincial Minister spoke of the many ways that God calls each and everyone of us. He said, "God calls each of us in different ways to different tasks. He calls people to the married life, to the single life, to the religious life and to the priesthood. There is a deep joy in coming to an understanding of God’s call to each of us. Our brother David has spent the last number of years discerning God’s call to him and he has come to today to make a public and lifelong commitment to follow God in the family of St Francis. David, like our Father Francis before you, you too have been able to say: this is what I want, this is what I seek, this is what I desire with all my heart. And I pray that God’s call may always fill your heart with joy as you continue your journey of faith."
Congratulations David! Ad multos annos!
Brs. Vincent & David
ENNIS, COUNTY CLARE, IRELAND - On Saturday, August 31, two friars of the Province of Ireland made their First Profession of Vows professing "to live for a period of one year in obedience, without anything of my own, and in chastity.
Gathered with friars, family, friends and local people, Br. Vincent Finnigan, OFM, and Br. David Connolly, OFM, celebrated their first profession at the Franciscan Friary in Ennis in a celebration presided over by Vicar Provincial Kieran Cronin, OFM. Their first profession of vows brings to an end their canonical year of novitiate which also took place at the friary in Ennis. Fr. Caoimhin O'Laoide, OFM, serves as the Novice Master.
Br. Vincent, originally from Achill, County Mayo, has been assigned to Merchants' Quay friary in Dublin and will begin a two year course in philosophy in Maynooth. Br. David, originally from Cork City, will attend the Franciscan Study Centre in Canterbury, England, for a year of Franciscan studies.
The new class of novices begin their novitiate year on September 9.
BURLINGTON, Wisconsin - In a beautiful celebration of prayer and fraternity on the August 2 feast of the Portiuncula, nearly 50 friars from around the Conference, gathered at the Interprovincial Novitiate at St. Francis Friary here in Burlington to witness the First Profession of Vows of 13 Novices from 7 member Provinces of the Conference.
One-by-one, the Novices stepped forward and knelt before their respective Provincial Ministers, placing their hands into his and professing, "To the praise and glory of the Most Holy Trinity, I, Brother N., since the Lord inspired me to follow more closely the Gospel and the footprints of Our Lord Jesus Christ, before the brother here present and into your hands, Brother N., with firm faith and will: vow to God, the Holy and Almighty Father, to live for a period of one year in obedience, without anything of my own, and in chastity, and at the same time, I profess the life and Rule of the Friars Minor, confirmed by Pope Honorius, and promise to observe it faithfully in accordance with the Constitutions of the Order of Friars Minor. Therefore, I give myself to this fraternity with all my heart so that, through the efficacious action of the Holy Spirit, guided by the example of Mary Immaculate, through the intercession of our Father Saint Francis and all the saints and supported by your fraternal help, I can constantly strive for perfect charity in the service of God, of the Church, and of Humankind."
Following their profession of vows, each received a new cord for their habit, this one now with the three signature knots of the friars minor representing the three vows, replacing the cord that they had worn throughout their Novitiate year that had no knots.
Making their First Profession:
Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary Province (Franklin, WI):
Br. Jason Shell, OFM
Christ the King Province (Western Canada):
Br. John-Paul Markides, OFM
Holy Name Province (New York):
Br. Dennis Bennett, OFM
Br. Casey Cole, OFM
Br. Edgardo Jara-Araya, OFM
Br. Ramon Razon, OFM
Immaculate Conception Province (New York):
Br. Roberto Serrano, OFM
Br. Walter Vijil, OFM
Our Lady of Guadalupe Province (New Mexico):
Br. Miguel Alacántar Gonzalez, OFM
Br. Edgardo Diaz Vazquez, OFM
Br. Samuel Zamora de los Santos, OFM
Sacred Heart Province (St. Louis, MO):
Br. Edward Tverdek, OFM
St. John the Baptist Province (Cincinnati, OH):
Br. William Estrellanes, OFM
The celebration of First Profession brought to a conclusion the third year of the Interprovincial Novitiate endeavor that now includes all seven U.S. Provinces, plus Western Canada and the Holy Spirit Province of Australia. Throughout the year, the Novices engaged in classes on religious life and the vows, prayer and Franciscan spirituality, liturgy and music, and the sources and the Rule and Constitutions. They also took part in a variety of workshops and retreat experiences, as well as volunteer opportunities.
In two weeks, the Interprovincial Novitiate will enter its fourth year and expects to welcome up to 13 men to begin their Novitiate year on August 14. Friars from member Provinces are welcome to attend the celebration of Reception of Novices, according to Novice Master Ralph Parthie, OFM. In addition to the Novice Master, the rest of the Novitiate Team includes Friars Dennis Shafer, OFM; Henry Beck, OFM; and Scott Brookbank, OFM. Br. Norbert Bertram, OFM, serves as Guardian of the local community there.
The Interprovincial Novitiate is located in a friary of the Assumption BVM Province. The Provincial Ministers of all of the participating entities took time on Friday to thank Assumption Provincial Minister John Puodziunas, OFM, and the friars of his Province for being gracious hosts and "great landlords" for the novitiate.
In attendance to receive the vows of their Novices were the following Provincial Ministers: John Puodziunas, OFM (Assumption BVM), Dennis Vavrek, OFM (Christ the King), John O'Connor, OFM (Holy Name), Primo Piscitello, OFM (Immaculate Conception), Gino Correa, OFM (Our Lady of Guadalupe), William Spencer, OFM (Sacred Heart), Jeffrey Scheeler, OFM (St. John the Baptist). Vice President of the Conference and Provincial Minister of Ireland Hugh McKenna, OFM, was also in attendance.
This originally appeared in the July 31, 2013 issue of HNP Today, newsletter of the Holy Name Province.
By Jocelyn Thomas
ALLEGANY, N.Y. — A dozen men in formation from around the country have returned to their home provinces after spending five weeks at a summer study program hosted at St. Bonaventure University in Western New York, sometimes referred to as "Camp Bonaventure."
The 12 postulants from the seven U.S. Provinces participated in courses, prayer and other activities as part of their program at SBU in Allegany, Holy Name Province’s sponsored college.
From June 24 to July 26, the men, ages 20 to 52, prepared for their novitiate year in a scenic setting in what is often endearingly referred to by locals as the “Enchanted Mountains." They took their classes at SBU’s Franciscan Institute.
“This summer experience provided more reasons to love the Franciscan family in general,” said Abraham Joseph of Holy Name Province. “I am very grateful for this wonderful collaboration among the provinces."
The program has several purposes, said Ronald Pecci, OFM, the Holy Name's postulancy director, who with Fr. Carl Langenderfer, OFM, of St. John the Baptist Province, based in Ohio, coordinated the program that precedes reception into the Franciscan Interprovincial Novitiate in Burlington, Wisconsin.
“For the first time since we joined the Franciscan Interprovincial Novitiate in 2011, postulants from all seven U.S. provinces participated." HNP formation students have attended summer courses at the Franciscan Institute for nearly four decades — since the 1970s. In those years, they were novices. After the reception of novices was moved from June to August, the program became one for postulants — men about to begin their novitiate year.
Learning and Sharing
In addition to taking two courses — “Francis: His Life and Charism,” taught by Mary Meany, and “Survey of Franciscan History,” led by Dominic Monti, OFM — the students participated in community prayer as well as activities around the campus.
Because courses are condensed into short time frames, classes are fairly intense. For example, Dominic's classes were held all morning. A full semester's worth of coursework is condensed into just three weeks.
“Besides participating in the liturgical schedule of the Franciscan Institute, we also had prayer and Mass together in the garden apartment where we stayed,” said Ronald. “We also had meals together at least once a day in our apartment. The postulants sign up to lead prayer, prepare meals and do house cleaning. The program has turned out to be the most significant one for the interprovincial postulancy program and perhaps for all of our individual postulancy programs.”
The program also allows postulants to get to know each other, and the men enjoyed the opportunity to sit and talk.
“We had them here for study but also to allow them to come to know one another and begin to bond as a class before they get to the novitiate. The novitiate team has told us that getting the postulants together as we do has been a big help to them. It allows more substantial elements to be present in the novitiate a month sooner than before,” said Ron.
Abraham, a native of Haiti, said the summer was rewarding from many perspectives.
“As important as the courses, the life in fraternity with the other postulants, under the mentorship of Fr. Carl and Fr. Ron, was a source of enrichment for my vocation,” said Abraham, who spent the past year in Wilmington, Del. “We shared with each other our personal experiences. We expressed our visions, our hopes, and also our concerns. We learned to work, pray, and study together. We also have interactions with members of different branches of the family: Capuchins, Conventuals, and Third Order Regular, who are also students at the institute.”
"I started my journey into the way of life of St. Francis with a few questions in mind. What exactly is the Franciscan family, its history and members? What is its mission? The SBU summer session answered these questions."
Before classes began, the student friars had an orientation to the area. “It included volunteering at the Allegany Sisters’ Canticle Farm, and doing some sightseeing,” said Ron.
The postulants also got to know the Franciscan spirit of fraternity. Many of the men attended Mass together and visited the Mt. Irenaeus Franciscan Mountain Retreat.
Festivities and Fraternity
On July 4, the postulants were invited to a holiday cookout at the friary, also attended by the Franciscan Institute staff, and later enjoyed watching the fireworks. On July 15, the group celebrated the feast of St. Bonaventure with a festive Mass and dinner sponsored by the institute.
“We celebrated the feast with a special liturgy, followed by a delicious banquet in Doyle Hall for all the professors, staff, and students,” said Fr. Carl. “Dominic presided at the Mass, and F. Edward Coughlin, OFM, preached on St. Bonaventure's love of wisdom, and challenged us in our pursuit of wisdom.”
“There is a very good spirit of volunteerism in the group. They are good about washing dishes, volunteering to lead and aid the liturgical celebrations and a few are even willing to cook,” said Ron in one of the updates that he and Fr. Carl emailed every week to the postulant directors of the participating provinces. "They seem to be accepting of each other and, when we have our weekly 'house meetings,' most are exceptional in their sharing and honesty.”
In addition, the group had several parties. “We in the postulant house hosted the sisters on campus for supper one Saturday evening for approximately 25 people,” said Fr. Carl. “On Thursday evening, there was an impromptu party on our front lawn, with refreshments, singing and games.”
Fr. Carl provided several updates in a column that was titled "Letters From Camp" and published in the SJB News Notes newsletter. "Camp Bonaventure is our tongue-in-cheek name for summer school at St. Bonaventure University," he said. "It's like an extension of postulancy from the various provinces, except that all the postulants from the U.S. provinces are here with Ron and myself."
“We had Wednesday night 'community meetings' and I have to commend the guys on how honest and transparent they have been. I admire their honesty and see it as a great sign for their future in community.”
On Aug. 15, the men will be officially welcomed into the Franciscan Interprovincial Novitiate.
— Jocelyn Thomas is director of communication for Holy Name Province