"Jesus, Francis, Contemplation, Ministry, and Capuchin
Witness throughout the Years"
A reflection on the January 9-11, 2015 discernment weekend by one of our candidates, Michael Judge.
Discernment weekends with the Capuchins of St. Mary's Province have been a true blessing in my life for many reasons. First, the candidates and friars are truly great and holy men. I found that spending time with them was very similar to hanging out with a group of good friends, with little pressure to do anything but to be open to God and to be on time (there is little downtime during a discernment weekend, but lots of prayer).
At the same time, the retreats have been very informative. Presentations by friars and vocation stories from everyone gave valuable insight into the joys and struggles of fraternal religious life in general. Fraternity and regular prayer allow struggles to be joyful and encourages balance. Coming from a broken family, the benefits of fraternity and family are a bit of a novelty for me that I have only observed from a distance for most of my life. This was unexpectedly the kind of topic that I discussed on my discernment weekends, and I was amazed at how easy it was to trust the guys there with some of my deeper concerns regarding my discernment.
Another aspect of the weekends is that each guy, was at such peace and was so open to sharing tender parts of his discernment process, especially the professed brothers. Many of the friars were beautifully broken souls who were found and rebuilt by God in different ways, and their past brokenness allows them to go forth and help other lost souls who need most to either find their way back to God or just live a better, more fulfilling life. In this way, the Capuchin ministry truly does the God's work in the world by seeking the poor and the poor in spirit, largely without boundaries and with great courage and patience.
To see a video of this discernment weekend, please click here.
Discernment Weekend- October 3-5, 2014
"A Very Franciscan Weekend"
A reflection on the October 3-5, 2014 discernment weekend by Scott Leet
Friday, October 3, 2013
We arrived in the early evening; the Sun was still shining brightly in the evening sky, illuminating the day. Brilliantly shone the buildings and church of the Parish of The Good Shepherd. Burning brightly, too, was the promise of the weekend; a weekend fashioned around the Feast of St. Francis. A promise of insight into our vocation and a reminder that we need not, and indeed do not walk this journey alone.
The weekend began with evening prayer and a communal meal, both of which were overseen by the postulants. How wonderful to experience the promise and of community through both.
That first evening we also celebrated the Transitus, the celebration of the passing of St. Francis, with and in the parish community of Good Shepherd. Surrounded by the faith community we were quickly ushered to the core of the experience, as the postulants assisted the gathered community be re-enacting the Transitus. Fr. Robert Abatiello presided and challenged those present to ponder, and truly, what it is about this person Francis of Assisi that so entices the world that some 800 years after his passing the charism of Francis is still lived, vibrant and relevant? What is it that drew all of us present in that church to memorialize this event?
Afterwards, we returned to the retreat center for introductions of the participants, a Holy Hour and a pizza; beginning to create a community and strengthening soul and spirit for our journey.
Our brother Andrew Sknoieczny shares his thoughts on a recent discernment weekend.
This past discernment weekend was filled with many blessings; it was great to see that so many brothers were able to be a part of it. Throughout the weekend there were about 15 friars who were able to be there and support the candidates in their discernment.
After talking with several of our candidates, one thing that stood out as an important part of the weekend was the presence of so many friars. I remember from my own experience as a candidate how important it was to meet the friars at these weekends. The weekend provided the candidates with an opportunity to talk with friars about their own vocation and discernment, and to talk about discernment with other candidates.
Fr. Senan gave several presentations during the weekend about fraternity, prayer and ministry. The presentations were inspiring and offered, both candidates and friars, a lot of material for personal reflection. One part of the weekend, which I really enjoyed, was the opportunity to discuss the different topics from the presentations in small groups, and then to hear from the larger group what their reflections were. Prayer was another vital part of the weekend; we were able to gather as a community for the Divine Office, Holy Hour, and for a communal rosary. The weekends also provide plenty of time for personal prayer and reflection, which is such an important part of discernment.
I was very glad to have been a part of this past weekend, and very blessed to meet so many candidates who are discerning God’s will in their lives.
Please click here to see a video of a recent discernment weekend.
Discernment Weekend-December 6-8, 2013
"Discernment and Decision"
On December 6-8, 2013 we held a Discernment Weekend for our candidates considering applying to the Province next year. Fr. Senan Taylor, O.F.M., Cap. led the reflections on Discernment and Decision for the well-attended event in Ipswich, MA. As usual the talks were fantastic. Fr. Senan challenged us to "know who we are" and to make a decision based on that. We continued with the format of small group discussion that worked so well at the August Discernment Weekend, and it continued to bear much fruit. The candidates really took it all to heart as ten of them asked for applications for next year's Postulancy program by the end of the weekend.
This was my first Discernment Weekend as a Postulant and not as a candidate and I found it quite different than last year. Although I continue to focus on my ongoing discernment, my main energies were focused on the needs of the candidates. Spending time talking to them and sharing my own experience in Postulancy was a recurring theme in discussion - as it was for me last year when our now novices shared their experience of Postulancy with me. The circle of life! I also spent a little more energy organizing the music for liturgy and incorporating the many and wonderful musical talents of the new candidates into our celebrations.
Overall the weekend was its usual blend of reflection, prayer, fraternity, and fun. Gifts were shared, lives enriched, jokes told, and the Spirit moved in it all. If you are thinking of a Franciscan vocation please make time to come to the next Discernment Weekend. At the very least you will know a little deeper the stirrings of the Spirit in your own soul - and you'll have fun.
Discernment Weekend- August 2, 3 and 4, 2013
We had not had a discernment weekend during the summer months for many years and when it was decided that it might be worth gathering the cadidates during that season, we hoped that they would be all be able to attend and spend some fraternal time together. Our prayers were answered more than we could have imagined- 22 candidates were able to attend the weekend gathering in Thornwood, NY, along with several friars.
Fr. Jim Gavin, O.F.M., Cap., as always, gave excellent and inspiring presentations, this time with the theme of discerning and following God's call for each one of us. For the first time, small group discussions were held after each presentation so that the candidates and friars could share what their insights into what was discussed and learn from one another's journeys of discernment. We look forward to seeing all the candidates again at our next discernment weekend, which will be held in Saugerties, NY, from September 27-29.
One of our candidates, Brian Dorrian, wrote a reflection built around one of Fr. Jim's presentations. Below is the text of that reflection.
"Let your hearts burn with the Word of God, especially when you have done something terrible and hideous." These words were spoken by Fr. Jim Gavin O.F.M., Cap. earlier this month at the Capuchin Franciscan (St. Mary Province) discernment weekend retreat for candidates discerning a vocation to the religious and priestly vocation. Fr. Jim was the main speaker throughout the entire three-day retreat. Although every presentation was powerful and challenging, I would like to focus on the above statement for today.
As a broken, sinful 23 year old Catholic man, it is a constant struggle for me to truly embrace the Faith, to make my life as a Christian just that, a way of life and not simply a title or label. Pope Francis recently challenged us concerning this very topic. During a recent Sunday Angelus message, the Holy Father stated; "In the Gospel, Jesus tells us that to be a Christian is not to have a ‘label’ but to live and testify to faith in prayer, in works of charity, in the promotion of justice, in doing good." Pope Francis later states that "This way of Jesus is 'narrow,'... [Jesus] asks us to open our hearts to him, to recognize ourselves as sinners in need of his salvation, his forgiveness, his love, and to have the humility to accept his mercy and let us be renewed by him."
Today, let us all take a step back and reflect on Pope Francis' words in light of Fr Jim's statement. Are we living out our Baptism? Are we following the narrow way of Jesus? Of the Cross? Do we have a faith that encourages us to cry out to the Lord during our struggles and after we have committed terrible and hideous acts? Reflecting on my life to this point, the answer for me is no.
Like St. Augustine, I have a restless heart that yearns to be with my God, that yearns to live out my Baptism.
Our final weekend of the 2012-2013 academic year was held on March 1, 2, and 3 at Miramar Retreat House in Duxbury, MA. The retreat center is in a beautiful and peaceful setting which made it easy to step back and to reflect on what God is doing in our lives. We were blessed to have eight candidates attend this weekend, four of which were attending one of these weekends for the first time. Also in attendance were twelve friars who came from all over the province, among them our postulants and our brothers in studies. Their presence and their input were, as always, very much appreciated and gave the candidates a good idea of the fraternal spirit which animates our Capuchin communities.
The theme of this weekend was The Capuchin Mission and the presentations were offered by our Vicar Provincial, Fr. Michael Marigliano, O.F.M., Cap. Fr. Michael spoke of the one mission that God has for all persons, which is to do whatever is in their power to make the world we live in a better place. He then spoke of the particular expression of that mission that Capuchins have been entrusted with; that is, to work with the marginalized of our societies to ensure that they are able to share in the benefits of God’s reign and are empowered to do their own part in making that reign more and more present in the world.
Besides the presentations, there was plenty of time for private and communal prayer, beautiful and inspiring liturgies, social gatherings, and time to share our discernment journeys. On Sunday, everyone went to our two friaries in Jamaica Plain (Boston) to see where our brothers in studies live and to hear about their ministries. Throughout the weekend, the candidates got to know each other and the friars well, and we pray that these relationships will continue as we help one another to discern God’s will for us.
Discernment Weekend- January 18, 19, and 20, 2013
“Change and Transformation”
The third discernment weekend of the academic year was held once again at St. Joseph Villa, which is a retreat center run by the Dominican Sisters of Sparkill. There’s a reason we continue to use this retreat center so often. The sisters provide a comfortable, relaxing and beautiful setting which helps all those attending the weekends to step away for a few days from all that is going on in their lives and to re-focus themselves on figuring out what God is calling them to.
We were blessed to have eight young men attending the weekend and they came from New York, New England, and even Florida and Texas, as well as several friars from all over the province. Throughout the weekend, there were many opportunities to communal and private prayer, silent reflection and social gatherings. The candidates very much enjoyed getting to know one another and the friars. Everyone shared their vocation stories, as well as their hopes and dreams and concerns as they continue to discern God’s will for them.
The theme of this discernment weekend was “Change and Transformation” and was presented by Fr. Senan Taylor, O.F.M., Cap. Fr. Senan is a wonderful and captivating speaker and his talks on growing as a person in relationship to God and to other persons challenged and inspired the candidates and friars. One candidate remarked that Fr. Senan’s talks did something that he greatly appreciated- they didn’t only speak of the love of God, they also made sure that the listeners remembered that this love of God demands a response from us. In other words, Fr. Senan helped us to be aware of the necessity of knowing what we are being called to and then doing something about that call.
Discernment Weekend- November 16, 17, and 18, 2012
"Discernment and Decision"
The second discernment weekend of the 2012-2013 academic year was held at St. Joseph Villa in Saugerties, New York, from November 16-18 and was again a powerful and enlightening experience for all concerned. We were blessed to have eight men who are discerning with the Capuchins attend the weekend, and they came from all over New York and New England, and even as far as Texas and Florida. Several friars came down for the weekend as well and their presence and input was very much appreciated.
This weekend was presented by four of our student friars: Br. Scott Surrency, O.F.M., Cap. and Br. Matt Janeczko, O.F.M., Cap. spoke of discernment and decision, basing their discussion on Scripture, Franciscan history, and Christian spirituality, and relating it all beautifully to what God is calling us to. Br. Alex Prado, O.F.M., Cap. and Br. Erik Lenhart gave inspiring talks illustrating how these principles of discernment and decision were operative in their lives as candidates and as Capuchins. On a lighter note, Br. Erik also entertained us with a comedy routine, poking some good-natured fun at some aspects of Capuchin life.
During the weekend, there were plenty of opportunities for private and communal prayer, personal reflection, and social gatherings. The retreat center is located on beautiful and quiet grounds near the Hudson River, so the candidates had plenty of space to go off and reflect on their vocation journey, either alone or with another candidate or friar. All those who attended this weekend enjoyed themselves very much and were very thankful for this opportunity to continue this discernment of God’s will for them with other men who are also on the journey.
Discernment Weekend- September 28, 29 and 30, 2012
“The Capuchin Charisms”
The first discernment weekend of the academic year was held at St. Joseph Villa, which is a retreat center run by the Dominican Sisters of Sparkill. The retreat center was a beautiful and relaxing setting for the gathering of 10 candidates and 15 friars, each putting aside all that is going on in their lives for a few days to explore what God is calling us to. The participants came from all over: New York, New England, Pennsylvania, and Texas.
The weekend focused on the theme of “The Capuchin Charisms”, a charism being a gift given by the Holy Spirit to a person, or to a group such as a religious order, in order to build up the Body of Christ. The presentations were given by four of our brothers: Fr. Michael Greco, O.F.M., Cap. spoke on fraternity; Br. Lake Herman, O.F.M., Cap. reflected on peace, justice, and ecology; Fr. Sal Cordaro, O.F.M., Cap. spoke on prayer and contemplation; and Fr. Michael Connolly, O.F.M., Cap. shared his thoughts on ministry. All the presentations were focused on how these themes are integral to the Capuchin life and identity, and how they form men to live the Gospel life in the spirit of Francis of Assisi and of our Capuchin heritage.
There were plenty of opportunities throughout the weekend for prayer and silent reflection, liturgical worship, and social gatherings. The candidates very much enjoyed getting to know one another and the friars. Everyone shared their vocation stories, as well as their hopes and dreams and concerns as they continue to discern God’s will for them. Many of the candidates remarked that this weekend was a wonderful experience and that it exceeded their expectations. It was a fine start to this academic year and a testament to the Franciscan spirit at work in the world.
Discernment Weekend - April 1, 2, 3, 2011
"St. Francis: Following in the Footsteps of Christ Jesus"
Our final weekend of this academic year was held on April 1, 2, and 3, at Miramar Retreat House in Duxbury, MA. We were blessed with 15 candidates, 4 of which were attending for the first time. The weekend focused on the theme, "St. Francis: Following in the Footsteps of Christ Jesus". Each of the friars assigned to San Lorenzo and St. Francis of Assisi friaries as well asMichael Connolly, O.F.M., Cap., from St. Clare Friary offered their perspectives on a range of topics including the vows, charisms of the Capuchin Franciscans, the philosophy, academics, ministries and daily schedules of the Post-Novitiate program. Friars also shared their recent experiences in the Novitiate program. Our Postulants were also present to describe their Postulant year thus far.
The weekend was very informative, with opportunities for prayer, silent reflection, fraternal experiences, and time to become familiar with the friaries of San Lorenzo and St. Francis of Assisi and Our Lady of Lourdes Church where we serve.
Discernment Weekend - January 28, 29, 30, 2011
"St. Francis: Being Formed Into Christ Jesus"
Our weekend held on January 28, 29 and 30, at Good Shepherd Friary in New York City focused on the theme, "St. Francis: Being Formed Into Christ Jesus". Presentations were given by our Brothers, Jim Gavin, O.F.M., Cap., Michael Greco, O.F.M., Cap., and Michael Loerch, O.F.M., Cap. In addition to covering our theme, the eleven candidates who attended were given a better understanding of the Postulancy program through discussions on scheduling, classes and ministerial preferences. Candidates also experienced quality fraternal time and fruitful prayer opportunities. Michael Connolly, O.F.M., Cap., gave a wonderful Liturgy and provided us with a very warm and inviting environment. Our Postulant Brothers, Christopher George, Brendan Graham, Alex Prado and Scott Surrency shared their experiences in Postulancy and their hopes for Novitiate and Post-Novitiate.
The inclement weather had little effect on our weekend, especially since it did not prevent our nine friars from the Boston area from joining us. As a result of the Candidates' evaluation of the weekend, it was decided that our four discernment weekends for the year will be spent in our retreat center and we will introduce four 'ministerial' Saturdays, two in New York and two in the New England area. Candidates will be invited to witness our friars in various ministerial settings. We are looking forward to our next discernment weekend, April 1, 2 and 3, 2011 in Duxbury, Massachusetts.
Our November 19, 20 and 21, 2010, discernment weekend was held at Good Shepherd Friary, with12 candidates in attendance. We are blessed to have the support of so many Capuchin friars as well as our Postulant brothers attending this outstanding and Spirit-filled weekend. Our main presenter, Francis Gasparik, O.F.M., Cap., focused on the theme, "St. Francis: Childlike / Christlike". The candidates were impressed by his unique style, and found his talks to be a source of encouragement in their discernment journey. Jim Gavin, O.F.M., Cap. spoke about missionary activity of Capuchin Franciscan Friars within the local Churches of Midtown Manhattan and the Pacific Islands, while Bob Abbatiello, O.F.M., Cap., offered his reflections on the history of Good Shepherd parish and the Capuchin presence. Our presenters were informative and inspiring, and as always, Michael Connolly, O.F.M., Cap. created an environment that provided a welcoming atmosphere throughout the entire weekend.
The friars from Jamaica Plain, MA, our Postulants as well as the many friars from the New York area who attended added such a wonderful perspective to our weekend. The candidates who altered their plans in order to join us were rewarded by the Spirit whose Presence was felt throughout the weekend.
Discernment Weekend - October 1, 2, 3, 2010
"St. Francis: The Journey and The Dream"
On October 1, 2 and 3, we held our first discernment weekend of this academic year. It was attended by 14 candidates while over 30 Capuchin friars visited during our three days together. Each of us had a profound experience of fraternity and prayer and were inspired by the story of the vocation journeys which each shared. We also visited our parish of the Sacred Heart in Yonkers where we heard of the many ministries offered by the friars there. In addition, we were inspired by the senior friars and the joy, excitement and peace that shone through them.
The candidates ranged in age from 17 to the mid 40s and included those still in high school and three who have already earned their Master of Divinity. The bonding of the group almost immediately was no doubt the result of the many prayers of our friars and benefactors as well as the openness and generosity of spirit of our candidates. On Saturday evening we witnessed a recreation of the final hours of the life of our Father, St. Francis, on this earth in a ceremony called the Transitus. The theme for the weekend was, "St. Francis: The Journey and The Dream", presented by our brothers, Michael Connolly, O.F.M., Cap. and Senan Taylor, O.F.M., Cap. The presentations were outstanding.
As always, the hosting friars of Good Shepherd parish were most hospitable and welcoming. It was a wonderful experience and we are grateful to the good Lord, our Capuchin Friars and so many wonderful people who support us. We are especially grateful to our candidates who came from all over New York and New England, as well as one from Catholic University in Washington, D.C.
Discernment Weekend - April 30, May 1, May 2, 2010
"Franciscan Peace-Making in a Culture of Violence"
Our last discernment weekend of this academic year was held at Good Shepherd Friary with our brothers, Paul Crawford, O.F.M., Cap. and Tom McNamara, O.F.M., Cap. presenting on the theme, "Franciscan Peace-Making in a Culture of Violence". Ten candidates attended, three of whom for the first time.
On Saturday, we assisted with the food pantry sponsored by Good Shepherd Parish. We participated in a tour of the friary, church and school followed by discussions of the ministries and outreach as well as presentations of past and present ministerial experiences.
On Sunday, after the close of our discernment weekend, we joined our brothers at St. Michael Friary who hosted a farewell ceremony of our brother postulants, Ron O'Keefe and Matt Giles and the investiture of our brother, Michael Ramos.
During the course of the weekend, a total of thirty-five brothers from thirteen friaries met our candidates either at Good Shepherd or St. Michael's Friary. In addition, six friars wrote or called promising their prayers. A special word of thanks is offered to each for their presence and prayer which mean so much to our candidates. We are very grateful for the overwhelming and consistent support from our friars which make such a positive impression on our candidates.
Discernment Weekend - February 5, 6, 7, 2010
"To Be Formed Into Christ Jesus"
Our first weekend of the new year focused on the theme, "To Be Formed Into Christ Jesus". Francis of Assisi desired above all to be formed into Jesus for the sake of the Kingdom. Our presenters, Marty Curtin, O.F.M., Cap., and Jim Gavin, O.F.M., Cap., brought a wealth of knowledge and experience to relate the message of Francis. We were blessed with twelve candidates attending, half of which were attending for the first time.
On Saturday, we visited our Postulancy house in Brooklyn where our co-directors, Tino Arias, O.F.M., Cap., andMichael Greco, O.F.M., Cap., spoke to the candidates about our Postulancy program, schedule and ministries. Brother Michael Ramos and the postulants Matt Giles and Ron O'Keefe also spoke with the candidates, sharing their witness to Christ's Love and their vocation journeys thus far. Through visiting the Postulancy house, neighborhood and some ministry sites, the candidates were able to see and experience a day in the life of a Postulant. The candidates really enjoyed spending time with the friars and Postulants and getting to know them better.
On Sunday we visited Children's Village in Dobb's Ferry where we participated in discussions, attended the Liturgy offered by our brother, Marty Curtin, O.F.M., Cap., and shared brunch and fellowship with residents.
Throughout the weekend there were opportunities to share in Liturgy and Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. The weekend proved to be very informative and enlightening.
A local Catholic television station recently visited our postulants in East New York to show their life and to give them an opportunity to share their stories of how God is calling them to serve Him. To see the segment that was aired, please click here.
On November 30, the Church began the Year of Consecrated Life, an opportunity to celebrate all that religious men and women contribute to the life of the Church and to learn more about their particular way of life. To read more about all that is happening in our province and beyond to celebrate this special year, please click here.