It’s been a while since we have had this many postulants enter at one time. In fact, I believe that this is the largest postulant class we have had in the thirty-two year history of our Capuchin Province of Mid-America. They are five great men beginning a journey with us which will hopefully lead to a perpetual commitment to the Capuchin life.
I really am proud of the men we have who are in various stages of formation. Five are postulants; one is a novice; three are in what we call “post-novitiate” formation, a time when they continue to discern their life with us and also are involved in studies and ministry training. One of these three, Brother Christopher Gama, has now been accepted for a perpetual commitment as a Capuchin and will make Solemn Vows in November. Two others, Barnabas Eichor and Joseph Mary Elder, have made Solemn Vows and are studying theology and preparing ministerially for ordination to priesthood.
The rest of us are in formation, too. We call it “ongoing formation.” Our life demands that we continue to form ourselves both spiritually and academically in the Gospel Way, in living our Capuchin values, and in keeping up to date in the areas in which we minister.
All of this is part of focusing on our future. Realistically speaking, our numbers have dwindled since 1977 when we became a province of Capuchins separate from the Province of St. Augustine. We have had to move out of ministries and out of places. Some would call it downsizing. It is all a part of becoming what God intends for us to be as a province. Discovery is part of the journey. We have also moved “into” new ministries and new places. That is the prophetic part of the journey and the prophetic part of “becoming what God intends for us to be.” While we aren’t finished with our “downsizing,” we are also not finished with our moving into new ministries and places.
Another, and perhaps the major, part of focusing on our future, is our vocation and recruitment program. Our way of life is as attractive and relevant today as it was fifty, a hundred, and five hundred years ago. The Franciscan family numbers over 30,000 and dates back to the 1200’s when, as Francis says in his Testament, “The Lord gave me brothers.” The “Capuchin” family, within that Franciscan family, numbers over 11,000. Men are still being called to the First Order, the Order of Friars Minor, Capuchin. It has to be our job to notice those vocations, invite them, give the men called the best formation possible in our way of life, and then put their talents to work in a province that is “becoming what God intends for us to be.”
Each day, in every friary of our province, the friars pray two important prayers in addition to our usual prayer for the deceased, for our benefactors, and for special needs brought to our attention. The first of these prayers is a “Prayer for the Province,” which prays for God’s guidance as we renew and re-envision our province (as we “become what God intends for us to be”). The second is a prayer to St. Conrad of Parzham (patron of our province) asking him to intercede to “open the doors of our friaries to more and more candidate for our Capuchin way of life.” Both prayers are being answered and will continue to be answered.
A primary job of the Capuchins in the Mid-America Province is to focus on the future and prepare for new vocations and for “becoming what God intends for us to be.” May the Lord give us peace and all good things along with the courage and wisdom to focus on the future.