Reflections - Friars in Post Novitiate
Their Vocation Journey Continues...
William Tarraza, O.F.M., Cap.
The novitiate year was a year that gave me an opportunity to ask God, in the words of our founder St Francis, “Who are you Lord, and who am I?” I had asked this question many times; however, I had never given God the time to begin to answer the question. So in reality, the novitiate gave me the opportunity to simply listen to God’s response to my question.
God’s response was not quite what I was expecting. Perhaps I was naïve to think that I would get a solid answer upon finishing novitiate; however, I was given the tools and a foundation to begin a life-long journey into the love of God as a Capuchin Franciscan. My prayer is that as I return to the Province of St Mary and begin studies in Boston, I may be able to take all that I have learned about God’s gift of my vocation and share it with all those I encounter. I desire to be closer each day to Jesus. I hope that with the support of the brothers, we may never cease searching for the answer to Francis’ question, “Who are you Lord, and who am I?”
John Alvarado, O.F.M., Cap.
I have spent a year in California with the question “What do you want from me, Lord?” This question lingered the whole year awhile I was in California, and so I prayed about it, and this is where He has led me.
During the novitiate, among other things, I worked with mentally disabled people and I prayed throughout these days. Those two great things changed my life forever. I didn’t always know if this life was truly a right fit for me, but I realized that all this made me happy. I guess God likes giving surprises because I had a whole lot them during that year- surprises that allowed me to realize that my life will always be full of surprises, and surprises that are full of beautiful mystery that I have to face but never alone. As I begin my post-novitiate formation, I am very grateful that through the grace of God I still experience the beauty of falling in love with our Lord every day.
Anthony Zuba, O.F.M., Cap.
Toward the end of novitiate, as the first day of summer drew near, we made a five-day retreat in order to reflect on the vows of chastity, poverty, and obedience. The brothers passed the mornings in prayerful silence while meditating on the meaning of the vows in Capuchin life. Among other helps for our meditation were Capuchin documents like the Constitutions and the documents of the seven Plenary Councils of the Order. We spent the afternoons in gentle quietude or in one-on-one conversations until gathering in small groups for deep sharing. This was not a silent retreat, but given the opportunity to make much of it a time of hermitage, I made myself scarce, remaining in solitude to the maximum extent possible. By the end of our retreat, I felt renewed and eager to take vows.
In preparation for the group conversations I jotted a few notes. I share them here with you, to show you how God moves me to affirm the Gospel way of life Francis of Assisi accepted.
1. As to chastity, lived in celibacy and fulfilled in fraternity:
Celibate chastity is emotional poverty, accepted solely out of love for Christ, for the sake of others. Celibacy is the state through which I respond to the summons to love. It is the way I embody the love of Jesus Christ. For me it is the ordinary mode of relating to others as a fully human, fully sexual person.
I believe I would be unmarried even if I never knew God. But God knew me and loved me in this state, and God bids me to love precisely in this state. God has redeemed my loveless life and put love in it. God makes me, in my unmarried state, chaste—that is, free from lust, jealousy, domination, and exploitation—and makes me, in my relationships, capable of communion and generativity.
Celibacy frees me to have healthy and fulfilling female friendships. It safeguards our relationships. It empowers me to seek justice in solidarity with all women and to fight misogyny and patriarchy in society (and the Church).
God has blessed and chosen this state for me: not primarily because it is good for me (although it is), but mainly because it is good for others. I believe I would be celibate even if I were not a Capuchin. But in giving me the gift of celibacy, God is both challenging and helping me to love with this particular religious family. Thus I choose to make a home, a life together, with brothers I did not choose personally, trusting that God will show us how to give and receive more perfectly the love of Jesus Christ.
2. As to poverty, lived in solidarity with the poor and fulfilled in minority:
I find myself tongue-tied. Words have dried up. Once, as an editor, I made a living on words, stacking them, bricking them, describing other people’s lives from a fair distance. From the privileged perch of the journalist, my voice resounded, naming and shaping reality for others. Later, as a community organizer, I helped oppressed peoples, especially workers and immigrants, recover and use their voice, and I used my own to amplify theirs. We worked together to shape a better world, a shared reality. Now as a friar about to vow poverty, I seek to surrender myself totally to the Voice who is utterly beyond my power to command or create. This Voice summons me to let go of control. This Voice I can hear in the cry of the poor—it is the voice of the God of Jesus Christ. It will shape my reality with its absolute and unconditional claim on my soul, my being, my life. If today I hear this voice—and it is always today, and it is always sounding—and if I heed it, then I will know the poverty of spirit Jesus called blessed.
3. As to obedience, lived in humility and fulfilled in ministry:
Obedience is listening faithfully. The only one to whom I must listen absolutely is God. God’s word is the cry of the poor, commanding me to love my neighbor and do justice. Jesus, the Messiah, is that word, the cry of the poor. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is the way to hear the word and obey the word. To live the Gospel is to listen to God. To live the Gospel is perfect obedience.
My ministry is to live the Gospel. I will do anything that enables me to hear the cry of the poor and do justice for them in neighbor-love. I will listen to any brother whose need or request gives me occasion to fulfill the command, the new and old command, to love neighbor. And I will resist any brother whose command goes against the Gospel, or the Rule of Saint Francis by which we live the Gospel, or my conscience.
I take seriously the fact that, because Jesus Christ has come, died, and risen, we are living at the end of time. It is already here; that it is not yet fulfilled is a sign of our lack of faith and our disobedience. I will struggle faithfully with my brothers to live into the reign of God here and now. Nothing less than total commitment to the word-made-Messiah in the cry of the poor, to bring about love and justice for all people, now, today, matters. As Francis and Clare have done their part, now may I listen and do for others wisely!
Scott Surrency, O.F.M., Cap.
This past year has had its ups and downs as I’ve learned to adjust from the self-contained life of a novice to juggling the responsibilities and obligations of full-time studies, ministry, and fraternity. The one thing that has sustained me throughout all of this is my commitment to a life of prayer, the foundations of which were laid, by God’s grace, during the novitiate year. It’s very easy to get caught up in the business of things, but in my experience, as soon as prayer ceases to be my top priority, it all starts to unravel rather quickly.
I’m thankful for the new ministries I’ve been involved in this past year – teaching religion once a week to 6th-, 7th-, and 8th-graders during the academic year, and this summer volunteering full-time at St. Francis House in downtown Boston, which provides meals, clothing, and various medical, social, and legal services to the homeless. The middle school students taught me so much just with the questions they would often ask, and as I’ve worked with and served people who are materially poor, my eyes have been opened to the presence of Christ in them, which has in turn deepened my prayer life and helped me to understand more fully what it means to be a Capuchin Franciscan friar.
I’m looking forward to renewing my vows towards the end of the summer and to beginning studies for the Master of Divinity at Boston College in the Fall. I’m also curious to see what the Lord has in store, for He rarely, if ever, acts according to my plans –for which, in hindsight, I am always exceedingly grateful – and always comes through in surprising and unexpected ways with some special grace just when I think I can’t go on. I’ve heard many of the older friars say that Capuchin life brings its share of challenges and struggles, but if you stick with it, it’s so very worth it – I’m finding out for myself that they’re right, thanks be to God.
Victor Garcia, O.F.M., Cap.
This couldn’t be a better time to reflect, especially now that some form of milestone for me has been achieved. I just completed my Master of Divinity degree at Boston College School of Theology and Ministry, and I have only a few more theology courses to complete next school year to complete my studies for priesthood.
I am therefore grateful to the following, who without their continued support, none of this would be possible: The Province of St. Mary, her Provincial and Definitory; the brothers of the Province of St. Mary, those whom I have been directly and/or indirectly involved, especially those in formation; the benefactors, the affiliates, the associates and the friends of the Province of St. Mary; and, lastly (but not the least), my family and friends from my childhood to the present.
Not only do I feel that I have accomplished something for the greater glory of God, but I also feel that all my personal premonitions, visions, aspirations or expectations in faith are being affirmed and reinforced. And all this as I continue to appropriate all that I have learned and experienced through formation in its human, spiritual, intellectual and pastoral dimensions, in ministerial service and in pastoral and fraternal interaction. So far, what I have learned and experienced have brought good, fair and positive effects on those whom I have been involved. This has brought nothing but joy to me.
I pray that all experience this joy (even if this is only a temporary or momentary condition in our lives) and that this inspiration continues to recur in our lives to the end. May the good Lord continue to bless us, everyone!
Matthew Janeczko, O.F.M., Cap.
In the past two months, I have professed perpetual vows with the friars and been ordained to the diaconate. I now need to catch myself when asked about my vocation. I no longer respond, “I’m training to be a friar,” but rather now say, “I am, in fact, a friar.” Of course, I’ve been a friar for several years now, but the reality of what I have promised has become more apparent to me through the dual graces of my profession and ordination. What’s more, when asked what I do, I not only say that I am a student studying for the priesthood, I now add in that I’m a deacon. All of these qualifications are a shorthand way of attempting to explain to people that my life has been radically changed in the past several months and will continue to do so in the near future.
And yet, there has not been a break in my vocation: though changed, I remain, at my root (along with my vocation), roughly the same. I still find myself attempting to figure out in what particular manners God is calling me into relationship with both Himself and His people. My Capuchin journey continues to challenge me to a greater conversion of life: a deeper love for Christ and a stronger commitment to following the Lord as did our Holy Father Francis.
Yes, indeed: profession and ordination did not interrupt my vocation or change it. Rather, they’ve helped me continue it. Thanks be to God.
Erik Lenhart, O.F.M., Cap.
My three years in Post-Novitiate formation have been graciously filled with prayer, ministry, and education. I've been fortunate to spend the last two summers with friars in Latin America (Honduras '11 and Bolivia '12). In Honduras, I experienced a great deal of kindness and hospitality as I learned Spanish and worked at a nursing/ infant care home in Ocotepeque. In Bolivia, I continued learning Spanish at the Maryknoll language institute in Cochabamba.
Stateside, I've continued my studies at Boston College School of Theology and Ministry while working at St. Francis House (soup kitchen and clothing distribution), and working in parochial religious education at St. Peter's and Holy Family in Dorchester. I've also helped lead youth retreats in Dorchester and worked in the Basic Needs program at Catholic Charities. For 2013-14, I am working at New York Presbyterian Hospital-Westchester as a chaplain intern (CPE) and in the fall will continue with studies.
On the whole, I'm grateful for the life of prayer, education, and service, which has blossomed for me at San Lorenzo Friary, Jamaica Plain, MA.