Reflections - Friars in Post Novitiate
Their Vocation Journey Continues...
As part of their formation, four of our brothers traveled to Central America to explore what it means to be brother, minor, and servant in a different culture. Please click below to read more about their experience.
http://publishing.capuchin.org/Page Content Documents/immersion experience 2014.pdf
Recently, a friar asked me: “So, how does it feel to be in a habit?” My response to him was: “Well, it fits!” I didn’t simply mean that the tailor had done a great job, but that it truly fits on me, and I in it. I meant that all that this habit represents fits with what my relationship with the Lord has led me to desire.
Its simplicity fits my desire to live poverty in humility and minority. Its uniformity affirms my desire to live and be part of a family community. Its symbol of service fits with my desire to labor to bring about God’s Kingdom and espouse God’s Church had her mission.
The support I have experienced from the brothers of this province has affirmed and assured me that I too fit in even with my flaws and shortcomings. As I now prepare to profess the vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience and to more fully immerse myself in this Gospel life, I praise God for inviting me to live such a beautiful and challenging life! Praised be Jesus Christ, now and forever!
Paul Fesefeldt, O.F.M., Cap.
As I come to the end of my Novitiate year, I can really appreciate the gift that this year has been. I’ve shared often with the other novices that no one gets a year like this in the world and we should take the opportunity to enter into it whole heartedly. To take time to deepen my prayer life and my commitment to my Capuchin vocation has been a real blessing.
Although it has been tough to be separated from my home Province, I have grown in a greater appreciaton of the larger Capuchin Order. Living and praying with other novices from all over North America and the Pacific has been a blessing and it gives me great hope for the future of the Order to have such quality people from all over.
I look forward to continuing my Capuchin journey as I return East and begin my studies in Boston.
George Alvarado, O.F.M., Cap.
Novitiate was quite an experience. There were many challenges and struggles that I’ve faced throughout the year, such as being in the West Coast where things are done very differently from the East. The challenge for me was not having a formator from our province on staff or even somebody living in the house that was from our province. Thankfully Fr. Brendan Buckley from our province lived closed by and he came over regularly to hear confessions for the novices. He was very helpful to talk to and vent with over the challenges of the life. This is also were spiritual direction helped a great deal, as did talking to my brother novices. Besides all the struggles and challenges, there were also very beautiful moments and fun times during novitiate.
Our fraternity hit it off very well before even novitiate began because of IPP (Interprovincial Postulancy Program). The honesty from each brother during our vocation stories in IPP really helped build a foundation that grew even stronger in novitiate. Fraternity in novitiate was crucial to my discernment and vocation. I really have to thank my brothers who I have had the privilege of living with because if it weren’t for the bonds and relationships that were built, I would have easily left novitiate a long time ago.
Most of the beautiful moments happened when we all came together as a whole. For example during Christmas we hosted a posada for a large Hispanic community. Our musically talented brothers entertained the crowd very well, our top chefs of the class prepared great food and everyone helped in some way or form. The people left feeling joyful and loved because of the effort we all put into each individual person there. I can go on and on about Easter, Thanksgiving etc. It really was the best holidays I have ever experienced during my novitiate year. These were big moments where everyone came together but there were also smaller unnoticeable moments that made my novitiate experience worth it. Like hanging out with a brother past midnight and talking about family, struggles, fears, hopes and dreams etc. That’s where I felt the most love and the presence of God.
To read more of our brother George's reflection, please click here. http://publishing.capuchin.org/Page Content Documents/reflection George Alvarado.pdf
Michael Lettko, O.F.M., Cap.
At the end of my novitiate experience and getting ready to move into studies, some of the greatest experiences so far have been the depth and experience in my prayer life. Our fraternity is very supportive and at times challenging. There are many great experiences in this life, including the ability to build relationships throughout the order. I look forward to joining a new community, and to really getting to know the brothers in the province.
Andrew Skonieczny, O.F.M., Cap.
It has now been a full year since the novitiate, and a full year of living life as a Capuchin Franciscan Friar. One thing that comes to mind as I prepare to enter into my second year of temporary vows is that there is something to be learned about Capuchin life every day, especially through our life in fraternity and through the ministries that we do.
During the novitiate year, the vows were more of something to be studied, a goal of some sort, or an ideal to live up to. However after profession of first vows, when they became a reality to everyday life, I was able to view my vocation through a new lens. Everyday became an opportunity to grow deeper in my understanding of the vows I have professed, a continual conversion to grow closer to Christ. I have had many experiences, most of them in the ordinary events of life such as going to class and taking the subway, that have allowed me to reflect deeper on the meaning of the life I have professed to live.
As I continue my formation, I look forward to beginning my philosophy studies, and to another year of growing deeper in my understanding of what it means to be a Capuchin Franciscan Friar.
William Tarraza, O.F.M., Cap.
All Christian are called to proclaim Christ crucified; however, I think that this passage takes on a special meaning for me as a Capuchin. At his death, Saint Francis of Assisi desired his brothers to do as Christ shows him. He neither left us a blue print nor extensive writings on how to be a Franciscan. He left us with the example of his life in which he lived proclaiming Christ crucified.
As a friar entering my third year of vows, I constantly ask myself, ‘is my life proclaiming Christ crucified?’ Yet like the cross, I know my life is full of paradoxes. I am well aware of many of these paradoxes and I am sure my brothers could tell you many more that I am unaware! Yet I think this is the essence of our lives as Capuchin brothers: we are all on a pilgrimage to preach Christ crucified by the way we live without anything of our own, in chastity and obediently. When we fall short, we have each other to dust one another off when Christ picks us up.
As I have seen this summer ministering in a hospital, suffering is inevitable. Yet if we choose to suffer with Christ and our fellow Christians/brothers, we in turn proclaim Christ crucified. I pray that my proclamation of Christ crucified will never become stagnate. I pray that, like Saint Francis, I may live this dynamic life with intent on constantly proclaiming Christ crucified. I hope this year I may grow deeper in this call to be a lesser brother on this pilgrimage we call life.
John Alvarado, O.F.M., Cap.
This past year I have been living in Jamaica Plain, which was a great experience. I had to start college which was practically a new experience for me because I had been away from school for almost three years. Going to school was not easy but the best thing about asking for help in a fraternity is that everybody will give a hand. It was my brothers who motivated me to study and gave me good tips on study habits.
I realized that my whole life will be asking for help and calling out for aid in my most difficult times, including in spiritual matters. But I have my prayer books and my loving God who is willing to pick me up when I fall. In my ministry I tried my best to do the same which the brothers did for me, which was gave a hand and smile. I worked with kids of all ages, most of them from troubled homes, so I did my best to listen to them and pray for them. I tried to make them see the good things in this life and the beauty of learning. I did my best and that was all I could have done for them- that was enough.
So I could truly say that living in Boston has been very good and that ministry is an amazing experience. I just looking forward for what else God has in store for me and I have to be ready for it; in prayer and with a humble heart.
Anthony Zuba, O.F.M., Cap.
God is everywhere. But we cannot find God just anywhere. Where one person finds herself and God, another person may be lost, even though the same God abides there. Every person is different. Therefore, God prepares special places for each of us. When the moment comes, Jesus brings each of us to the special place where God is waiting for us. And Jesus gives us the inner vision and wisdom to recognize which places are for us.
Initial formation with the Capuchins has showed me how to recognize the places where Jesus will lead me to God. It has showed me how to recognize the hour of God's choosing. Initial formation has done this because it has showed me the unique person God is making me through the Holy Spirit.
Over the last four years, Jesus has brought me to several places: first to Brooklyn, then to Victoria, Kan., then to Santa Ynez, Calif., then to Boston. Now, Jesus brings me to New York City to minister with the brothers and with God's people at our two parishes in midtown Manhattan. It is less common these days for initial formation to occur outside a formation house, yet it is a testament to the friars' faith that they see Jesus leading me to live the Gospel here and now in New York City. We friars are of one heart and mind, whatever our particular feelings and thoughts, that this is an opportunity from God, and it will be for the good of the order, the Church, and for all people. And it will be good for me, too.
No one knows how this will work out. No one can foresee how God's love and mercy, and the peace and justice of Christ, will show forth through my ministry or through the evangelical fraternity the brothers and I will share. With Thomas we can justly say to Jesus, "Master, we do not know where you are going" (John 14:5); but when he continues, "How can we know the way?" we will fall silent, for we will trust that Jesus is our way, our companion and our guide through every uncertainty. Wherever we are, whatever happens, good or bad, we go and we live with God who has formed each of us uniquely and has destined each of us for glory. As an emerging Capuchin, it gives me joy to be on the move again and rebuild God's great house in a place I never expected to go.
Scott Surrency, O.F.M., Cap.
I am currently in my fourth year of temporary vows and in my third year of theological studies at the Boston College School of Theology and Ministry. I spent this past summer doing a chaplaincy internship at Yale-New Haven Hospital, which was just as rewarding as it was challenging. Not only was I able to grow in terms of my pastoral ministry and identity, but I was also able to see just how much I have been formed as a Capuchin friar and imbued with the Franciscan spirit.
I usually find it a little difficult to see the fruits of the initial formation process since I am still directly engaged and involved in it. Full-time ministry this summer afforded me the opportunity to step back and appreciate more fully the values and resources I bring to ministry as a Capuchin Franciscan. As I get closer to the end of my time of initial formation, I can see how everything – postulancy, novitiate, academic studies, fraternity at both the local and the provincial level, contemplative prayer – all fits together, and that’s very exciting to me.
I am grateful both for the grace God has given me to stick through the tough times of my life as a friar so far, and for the patience shown to me by my brothers as I’ve moved in and out of (and occasionally back into) those rough spots. It is my fervent and sincere hope to make my final profession of vows next summer, and I am both enthused and humbled by the prospect of ordination to the priesthood in a couple of years. I am genuinely curious to see where my Capuchin vocation will take me in the future and what kind of people and places and situations I will encounter.
John Koelle, O.F.M., Cap.
Lord, show me where you want me to go.
The beginning of my second year of ministerial formation was a return to the parish where I did my first year: The Brookline Collaborative of St. Mary of the Assumption and St. Lawrence here in Boston. I was the only seminarian stationed there so my ministerial responsibilities increased. In addition to greeting parishioners and serving masses, I offered monthly Baptismal catechesis, gave days of recollection and talks to children and their parents during the Advent and Lenten liturgical times. There were communion calls and with the pastor, many visits to the area hospitals where patients were in need of pastoral counseling and the sacraments. My memory of a visit to a young couple remains with me.
The couple just had their first child, a boy named Bailey. Bailey was not healthy so the doctors didn’t expect the child to live long. Fr. Brian and I went to the hospital to baptize little Bailey and to talk with the parents. They were naturally concerned but their faith in God’s love for them and Bailey kept them hopeful for a miracle. As I walked away from the hospital, I found myself praying for the young family; asking Jesus to be with them through this very difficult time in their lives. Sadly, six days later, Bailey died. At the funeral mass, the parents gave a eulogy which spoke about the love they have for their child and gratitude to God for the gift of children and His mercy bringing their son home.
As Capuchins this experience isn’t new. We are called to be lesser brothers and accompany those who are heartbroken, forsaken or lost. I would have never experienced anything like this powerful moment if I didn’t follow Jesus’ call to return back to school and study for the priesthood. Each day has brought me closer to Him through those who thirst for Him in their lives. Through personal and communal meditation and prayer, I find myself each day thanking God for the blessing and gift of my vocation; and more importantly, showing me how He wants me to respond to His call to be brother to ALL.
Lord, to where do you want me to go?