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Religious Brothers Day 2018

A Reflection by Our Lady of the Angels Province Friar, Br. Paschal Kolodziej, OFM Conv.

“I have felt a vocation to the Brotherhood for most of my life. I was taught by Franciscan Sisters who instilled in us, their students, a great love for the Eucharist and the Blessed Mother. I saw their Franciscan spirit of generosity in action. For most of my Franciscan life I have worked as a nurse both within the community and outside the community. Ministering as a nurse connected me so well with my Franciscan life. In taking care of the sick, I was constantly reminded of how St. Francis ministered to the lepers of his day. I was enabled to serve the sick in this same spirit. As a brother, I was able to accompany the staff and relatives whose loved one I cared for. This allowed me to express in a very real way the love of Christ to all.”

A Reflection by Our Lady of the Angels Province Friar, Br. Ed Handy, OFM Conv.“I was raised in a practicing Catholic family in Catonsville, Maryland. My home parish was a non-Franciscan African American parish. At an early age, I always had a feeding that God had a special plan for me. God’s plan was unknown to me at that time. The Conventual Franciscan Order was also unknown to me. Whenever I think of my vocation I reflect on what is revealed in Isaiah 43: “I have called you by name.” The scripture reads, and you are mine. You see, it was not I who had chosen God, but he has chosen me. It was through God’s Divine Providence He led me to the Conventual Franciscan Order. It is in this scripture that God promised to lead the blind to places unknown. For me it was Watertown, New York, Hoboken, New Jersey, Montreal Canada, Costa Rica, Central America and a few other places where our friars are located. This promise is one that I have experienced firsthand. For 59 years as a Franciscan Brother I feel that I have come this far by faith and trusting in the Lord. Like St. Francis caring for the disenfranchised of his time, my current ministry for the last 22 years have been reaching out to people with HIV/AIDS. As a Conventual Franciscan I thank God for my vocation to the Brotherhood

A Reflection by Our Lady of the Angels Province Friar, Br. Jim Moore, OFM Conv.

“Fifty years ago this coming September 5th, God blessed me with a special gift of vocation: Religious Brotherhood. It was on that day in 1968 that I entered the Franciscan Friars Conventual to begin my life as a Religious Brother. My ‘call’ first came to me as a member of a wonderful Irish-Italian family in Syracuse, NY where I was a ‘brother’ to my four siblings! Along with my parents, they were the first to teach me about the joys and struggles of ‘brotherhood’ and community/family living. At the same time, I also credit my elementary and secondary school teachers, the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet. These Religious women were wonderful role models and witnesses of ‘community living’ and ministry. I believe it was this call to community that drew me to the life of St. Francis of Assisi and the Franciscan community. As a Religious Brother, I consecrated myself through the profession of the vows of poverty, chastity and obedience, and I have lived a wonderful life of communal prayer and witnesses to God’s love and presence in my life by serving in a number of creative ministerial opportunities. Thanks to the support of my brothers in my Franciscan community, I have been a high school teacher, a vocation director and a formation director. For our Franciscan community, I have served on our Leadership Team and been a university campus minister and a spiritual director. I was also fortunate to be the founder of a year-long, non-profit volunteer service program for young adults (FrancisCorps). God has certainly been good to Jim Moore! Religious Brothers are called to be brothers to Jesus, and therefore deeply united with Him in brotherly service to others. I hope and pray others join me in this amazing vocation. To me, St. Francis of Assisi is the perfect example of Religious Brotherhood. He is my role model, my friend, my brother.”

A Reflection by Our Lady of the Angels Province Friar,

Br. Tim Blanchard, OFM Conv.

“My Name is Br. Tim Blanchard and I am currently studying at the Catholic University of America, living in Silver Spring. My vocation to the brotherhood surfaced from the example of simplicity that St Francis so greatly exemplified in his life. Francis did not mimic Christ but rather imitated him by becoming one at heart with the Father through his simple yet profound actions of faith. This was my attraction to the brotherhood, by seeing a brother not only as a noun but a verb I was challenged with the question of what it mean “to brother?” For me it means truly being that simple brother who takes on the roles of Christ the Worker, Christ the Consoler, and Christ the Compassionate. When I “brother” to others as a vowed consecrated religious I am not always able to speak Christ, but my vocation as a brother allows me to be Christ to others by my actions and call to simplicity.”

A Reflection by Our Lady of the Angels Province Friar,

Br. Emmanuel Wenke, OFM Conv.

“My story is a bit unusual in that until the day I actually entered the Friars as a postulant, I had no idea that the vocation of Religious Brother existed in the Franciscan order. I had never knowingly met anyone who was a brother, despite the fact that I had grown up in a town with a longstanding and substantial Franciscan presence. All the friars I had ever spoken to at that point were either priests or they were in seminary preparing to be. I assumed that to be a friar meant to be a priest. I learned about the vocation very quickly, as many of the men in my first Friary community were brothers. I found religious brotherhood immediately inspiring in its simplicity and in the humility with which the brothers carried out their ministry to the Friars and to the people of God. They made the Friary and whatever other space they ministered in feel like home, something that is very important to me, coming from a large family! They also exhibited a quieter, more contemplative spirituality which deeply impressed me. I eventually discerned that God was calling me to live my Franciscan vocation as a religious brother. I realized that my appreciation and love for the vocation of priesthood (Which continues to this day!) did not necessarily mean that God was calling me personally to that vocation. The more I prayed and spoke with trusted friends and spiritual directors, the more it became clear that God was calling me to be a brother. Since I made that decision, I have found such joy as I grow in my calling to spiritual brotherhood, to a radical commitment to companionship with and support of my brothers and sisters. It is a gift that I could never have earned, but for which I am endlessly grateful!” “Give thanks to the Lord for He is good, His mercy endures forever!” ~ Psalm 136

A Reflection by Our Lady of the Angels Province Friar,

Br. Jim Doyle, OFM Conv.

The Journey of One Franciscan Brother: The announcement that May 1st is Religious Brothers Day came as a surprise to me. I guess I should have known, but I didn’t. My bad. That said, it was a welcomed surprise, not only because it was an acknowledgment by the Church of the value of a Brother’s vocation, but it prompted me to review my own vocation story. I never liked trying to put my vocation into words. So much of my story, like an iceberg, is under the surface. It’s ineffable; describing it never seems to hit the mark. But here goes …

Somewhere in my spiritual or academic past, I came across a quote by one of my favorite spiritual writers, Abraham Heschel, where he said, “God is of no importance unless He is of supreme importance.” Heschel’s insight (so simple, yet so profound) left me gobsmacked! Really, I’m not being overdramatic; I had to lie down after I read that. Heschel had given expression to the “why” of my religious vocation far better than I ever could. I later had a similar experience when I read in the writings of Charles de Foucauld: “From the moment I believed there was a God, I could do nothing else but live for Him.” Again, I was overwhelmed by how accurately Charles had described my own vocational experience. Charles had nailed it. My vocation as a religious Brother is summed up (as much as that’s possible) in the insights of Heschel and de Foucauld. My vocation is, in a word, the totality of my relationship with God. I find it “Franciscan” because I know Francis would be on board with these writers. Francis surprisingly gave me a structure unlike any other–a fraternity of brothers–to live out this deep, inner and sometimes overwhelming relationship. To be a religious Brother means I have accepted the call of God to be in an extremely personal relationship with Him and to feel (it’s got to have an emotional component lest it be sterile and lifeless) that God wants to be in an extremely personal relationship with me. It’s living the life of every Christian, but in an extremely unique way. This relationship is, I admit, at times euphoric and at times exhaustive. It is always massive and all-consuming. At the end of the day, I just end up acknowledging that it cannot be any other way. God always has a definite plan for a Brother’s life—or sometimes several plans. I lately found that teaching ESL to refugees was an invitation to me from Him. I absolutely love being in Buffalo (aka Buffalonia and/or Buffalove) doing ESL work with refugees from Congo, Nepal, Somalia, Yemen, Syria, etc. I’m learning Swahili—that’s a hoot. My students (and God, I’m sure) get a kick out of my pathetic pronunciation. I know if I can keep them laughing, they’ll keep coming back. As part of my work with the Adult Learning Center for Buffalo Public Schools, I also get to be a substitute with high school drop outs who have returned to school. They are a bit rough around the edges, but they all have dreams and I love to hear them. My own life journey tells me that God is directing them all, just as He has done all along the way with and for me. Whether it’s ESL or GED or ABE (Adult Basic Ed), I just want to be a brother to all–an encouraging, supportive presence, while they find their God-given way. At the end of the day, I am a Brother because no other relationship with God would ever suffice. It attracted me 40 years ago and it continues to attract me today. Go figure …”

A Reflection by Our Lady of the Angels Province Friar, Br. Dan Geary, OFM Conv.

“My journey as a Franciscan began over 30 years ago and I’ve always felt my call was to the brotherhood. Early on in religious life I was very blessed with some great examples of Franciscan brothers. I have found the life of a Franciscan religious brother to be a particularly intimate call to walk with our Lord and our Lady. Our life’s focus is on living our vows and being firmly grounded in our fraternity. We have a unique call to serving and accompanying our brothers and sisters on their journeys. Because of the nature of our vocation our ministries are full of diverse and intriguing opportunities. Our charism often calls upon us to serve as a bridge in our community, in the Church, and in society. I feel the dynamism of the brother’s vocation can be summed up in the mystery of the Presentation of the Lord in the temple; as with Christ, we are called upon to offer our lives up in obedience to the Father, to live Mary’s selfless “Yes” in bringing Christ into the world. There is also the hidden element of our life as found in St. Joseph, the call to be the courageous prophet and witness as Simeon, and the patient contemplative amidst a busy world as Anna. I am so grateful for how my life has been blessed in being called upon to serve in so many ways as a Franciscan brother, both within the fold of our fraternity as well as out in the vineyard of the Lord.”

A Reflection by Our Lady of the Angels Province Friar,

Br. Stephen Merrigan, OFM Conv.

“As I look at the 60 years as a Conventual Franciscan Friar, I realize that time sure flies. I look every day at a 76 year old and think of my many brother friars I have met and with whom I have lived. My Religious brothers and I have lived with and known so many wonderful friar priests and brothers. I have served in many different jobs, in several friaries and cities. When I think of what I have done, I know that I could not have done any of it without the support and good examples of all of the friars, who have helped me when I needed them. We all worked as a team with lots of support from prayers and from our Minister Provincials and Guardians. My last ministry was in the Provincial Satellite Offices, in Rensselaer, NY. I worked with the lay staff there for 18 years before I retired to our friary in Seaside Park, NJ, where I now have started by new “career.”

May 1, 2018 is a day to celebrate the gifts, charism and rich history that is the vocation of the Religious Brother in the Church, during the second annual Religious Brothers Day. READ MORE

Please keep all of our friar brothers in your continued prayers. We currently have brother friars in and serving in formation, as well as serving as Friary Guardians, Social Workers, Chaplains, Campus Ministers, Educators, Catechists, Artisans, Psychotherapists, Paramedics, and Firefighters, as well as in Parish Support, Nursing, Healthcare, Outreach, Pastoral Care, serving on boards for charitable organizations and in care of our senior friars. If the life of a Franciscan Friars Conventual Brother seems like the right path on your vocational journey, please contact our Vocation Director, Fr. Russell Governale, OFM Conv.

To learn more about Our Lady of the Angels Province visit their page HERE.

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