The formation process consists of the actions and contemplative steps that men take as they seek to discern whether they are being called to the Capuchin Franciscan way of life. In some sense, this is a life-long activity. For it remains important for most if not all Capuchins to periodically review and confirm their vocation long after their initial decision to accept their calling.
Capuchin Friars assist and support those in discernment throughout all the steps in formation. This important ministry starts with the Province’s Vocation team. This team provides guidance to men when they first express an interest in becoming a Capuchin Friar. They do this by leading these candidates through a non-resident program, consisting of discernment weekends, visits to friaries, and spiritual counseling. At the end of these steps, if a candidate feels he has a true calling, he then applies for acceptance into our postulancy program.
The Province runs its Novitiate program in cooperation with all the other provinces in the United States, Canada, and Australia. Novices from all the provinces first gather in a short Pre-Novitiate program where they get to know one another, establish a fraternal life, and participate in prayer and ministry to the poor. All participating provinces including the Province of St. Mary supply experienced friars to help direct this part of the formation process. Upon completion of this short step, the novices move to a more formal and intense formation step – they enter their Novitiate phase. At the beginning of Novitiate, they are vested in the garments of a Capuchin. This begins a one year program of study, prayer, and ministry. All of this happens under the watchful eyes of a small cadre of Novitiate leaders and teachers who provide guidance and direction to the new novices. This direction and counseling is particularly important because it’s at the end of this program that qualified novices first profess the vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience, the evangelical counsels that mark a unique way for living out the gospel of Christ.
The Post-Novitiate phase focuses on preparing friars for specific ministries and services as they begin to better understand the form of gospel life that they intend to follow. The Director of Formation and other formation counselors give guidance regarding their choice of studies, ministry opportunities, fraternal life, and Franciscan spirituality. Regular meeting with the Director of Formation and others help gauge when these friars in formation are ready to Solemnly profess the vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience, a step which marks a perpetual and highest level of commitment to the evangelical counsels. Most friars will continue their studies after solemn profession as they pursue advanced degrees necessary for becoming priests or qualifying for other professions. Throughout this step as in all previous steps, formation ministers are present to provide guidance and counseling as needed. In addition and as noted above, formation as a friar and as a minister of the Gospel does not end with profession of Solemn Vows. Formation is a life-long process and the Province of St. Mary provides its friars with on-going formation which allows each friar to grow in his spiritual and ministerial life.