Capuchin Friars: Making the commitment to consecration in Boston

Friars from San Lorenzo and St. Francis Friaries at an evening discussion on Franciscan spirituality. Courtesy photo

In recognition of the 50th anniversary of Second Vatican Council, Pope Francis has declared 2015 a Year of Consecrated Life. Pope Francis has asked the Church's brothers, sisters, and priests to "wake up the world" by sharing their faith, hope, and holiness through their testimony about their experiences living a consecrated life.

"Consecrated religious" is a term used to refer to brothers, sisters, and priests of the Catholic Church who feel called to follow Jesus Christ in a more exacting way and thus take vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience, thereafter living a consecrated life.

Our Capuchin Franciscan Friars of the Province of St. Mary have all professed these vows and are living a consecrated life. But their decision to do so is considerably more involved than simply taking a set of vows. Men interested in joining the Province of St. Mary, or any Capuchin Franciscan Province, undergo a process called formation.

The early stages of the formation process include candidacy, postulancy, and novitiate. During candidacy, interested men experience the fraternal connection among the Capuchin brothers, working and praying with them. During postulancy, these young men live in residence with each other and with professed Capuchin Franciscans for nine months, learning more about what it means to be a Capuchin.

Finally, during the novitiate year, these men are officially invested with the habit, cord, and sandals of the Capuchins, all signs of their commitment to consecration. They also spend time discerning their particular vocation, while preparing for the profession of their simple vows, which happens at the end of their novitiate year.

After completing their novitiate year and professing their simple vows, which entail an initial commitment to live the Rule and Life of St. Francis in poverty, chastity, and obedience, our men in formation move to the Province of St. Mary's post-novitiate program in Jamaica Plain.

For the first few years, these brothers live in San Lorenzo Friary while learning to balance Capuchin values of prayer, fraternity, study, and ministry. They study at local colleges, Boston College School of Theology and Ministry and at St. John's Seminary. All friars in post-novitiate have a public ministry in Boston. Some work at St. Francis House, which provides many services for the homeless of Boston, some minister prisons, while others provide assistance in college campus ministry and in local parishes. Each year, for a minimum of three years, brothers in post-novitiate make a simple profession of vows, renewing their commitment to poverty, chastity, and obedience.

During their time at San Lorenzo, brothers in post-novitiate also prepare to take their solemn vows, a final profession of vows that signals the end of the initial formation process and their status as a full-fledged Capuchin Franciscan Friars. Lasting a minimum of three years (during which brothers continue to profess their simple vows each year), the process of preparing to take solemn vows involves monthly meetings with the supervisors of the post-novitiate program, Brother Lake Herman, OFM Cap. and Father John Tokaz, OFM Cap. During these meetings, Brother Lake and Father John discuss with the post-novitiate friars how they are doing academically, in ministry, in fraternal living, and according to the other Capuchin charisms. They also conduct lengthier evaluations twice a year to help candidates assess their progress toward making solemn vows.

Upon professing their solemn vows, some Capuchin Franciscan Friars move across the street to St. Francis Friary, where they continue formation, and, if they are discerning ministerial priesthood, complete any necessary coursework that remains. San Lorenzo Friary was started in 2002 to serve the same function it continues to serve today -- to provide a place for brothers in post-novitiate to prepare to take their solemn vows and become Capuchin Franciscan Friars of the Province of St. Mary.

As the number of brothers in the post-novitiate grew, the Province realized it needed more space and established the St. Francis Friary in 2008 for friars who had professed their solemn vows. Brother Lake and Father John are quick to point out that the presence of the Capuchins in Boston has grown since then beyond simply being there to complete the post-novitiate part of the formation process. "People call us for any number of things -- to give talks, to hear confessions, to preside at Mass... so we're known more and more," says Brother Lake. And he and Father John anticipate that their growing reputation in this respect will only continue to expand.

Brother Lake also points out that a real effort is being made in the Boston area to reach out to young people and their families through the work of Capuchin Youth and Family Ministries (CYFM), a ministry of the Province of St. Mary. Staff from CYFM are traveling up to Boston to lead retreats and other faith-based activities with young people and their families in the communities around San Lorenzo and St. Francis Friaries. To recruit for these retreats, CYFM staff go to local parishes and Catholic high schools to speak with young people who might be interested in participating. The retreats help young people and their families get involved with their faith and find inspiration in their faith to give back to their communities and help those in need (For more information about these retreats and to get involved, please contact Brother Lake Herman, OFM Cap. at brolake@cyfm.org).

For the Capuchin Franciscans of the Province of St. Mary, the decision to live a consecrated life is not one to be made lightly. The process of formation gives interested men the opportunity to reflect on God's call and equip them to fully respond to his radical love. The San Lorenzo Friary and St. Francis Friary are the final two stops on the path to fully joining this Capuchin brotherhood, following in the footsteps of St. Francis.

Colin Lentz is the Communications Manager (clentz@capuchin.org or 212-564-0759 Ext. 253) for the Province of St. Mary, representing Capuchin Franciscan Friars of New York and New England.

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