Feast of St. Matthias
Peace and all good!
And welcome to this first, FRIARside Chat, for men in discernment who would like to know more about Franciscan life.
I am Father Chuck Talley, ofm, coordinator of vocations for the Franciscan friars (OFM) of the Province of St. Barbara on the West Coast. One of seven Franciscan (OFM) provinces in the United States, we minister among the people of God in an area covering six states: California, Oregon, Washington, Nevada, Arizona, and (part of) New Mexico. We also have brothers serving as missionaries in Russia, Kazakhstan, Mexico, and Peru.
From time to time I’ll be writing about people and events in our Province which will give you both information and insight into how we live, work, pray, and even “play” together as friars. Your comments and feedback are always welcome. Contact me at: email@example.com Also, you can find further information on the Province of St. Barbara at our website: www.sbfranciscans.org.
Interviews for Postulancy Admissions (May 9-10-11)
I’ve just returned to my home and office in Sacramento after having spent three days at San Damiano Retreat Center (Danville, CA) with our applicants to postulancy and the members of the Admissions Committee . Postulancy is the first formal step towards entry into the community. After a period of discernment with us (in most cases 9-18 months), men who feel called to our way of life are invited to apply to our nine-month residential program in Portland, Oregon. Postulancy functions as a kind of halfway house, giving candidates an authentic live-in experience of Franciscan life.
This year, four men have applied for admission. Their interview before the Admissions Committee is the final step of a lengthy and thorough process which includes all the basic “stuff” you’d expect in a college/ job application (resume, references, academic records, criminal background check, physical examination, psychological testing, etc.) as well as some specifically reflective pieces. For example, each man is asked to write a spiritual autobiography describing his experience of God in his life, his understanding of our Catholic faith, and his particular interest in Franciscan life. Every applicant should have a basic understanding of what life in a religious community is about and what our vows (poverty, chastity, and obedience) mean.
It’s a demanding and time-consuming process. But it’s not just about jumping through hoops to get into the Order. The reflection questions are really meant to be a kind of at-home retreat—to get each man to think and to articulate for himself and for others: What do I really believe? How do I understand my calling from God? What gifts to I bring to the table?
After all of that, candidates are invited to the three-day interview retreat. This year it was held at the beautiful San Damiano Retreat Center in Danville, California. This hilltop sanctuary located in suburban Contra Costa county about an hour’s drive east of San Franciso, is a perfect setting for peaceful reflection and contemplation. (Check out their website at www.sandamiano.org for information about private and group retreats!)
Of course, the men who are applying don't know quite what to expect. But if you’ve ever been through a big job interview or college application, you have a pretty good idea of the process. Basically, each applicant meets for a one-hour interview before the Committee, a group comprised of several friars and laypeople. The Committee members all have a copy of the completed application documents before them. Their interest is in putting a human face on the application. They want to get to acquainted with each of the applicants-- to hear from him directly about why he is interested in and feels drawn to religious life. They also want to know more about his background and life experience, his talents, interests, and hopes. And they may ask for some clarification about things the applicant has written or said.
After all the interviews are complete, each Committee member invites an applicant for a one-on-one Emmaus walk: "Was there anything you wish you had said but didn’t? Anything you’d like to clarify or change?" We’re all different. Some people excel in a group interview. Others choke it completely, but are much better relating with somebody one on one. We understand that and try to take it into account.
So what do applicants do when they’re not being interviewed? We have morning and evening prayer, Eucharist, meals, and social time. Men also have the option of hiking, jogging, or pulling weeds. Or rest in their rooms, pray, read, or journal.
After the interviews are complete, the Committee meets and votes for each man: acceptance, acceptance with reservations, deferral, or denial. They also make a list of specific recommendations for each candidates—things they believe will assist the man during his postulancy year. The Committee’s recommendations are sent to our Minister Provincial, Father Mel Jurisich, ofm, to review and approve. In this process, the Provincial has the last word about who to invite to enter the postulancy. Those accepted prepare to arrive in Portland on Labor Day (first Monday in September).
This year, each of our four applicants received a calligraphy rendering by one of our friars, Franklin Fong, ofm, of St. Francis’ "Prayer before the Crucifix," The text serves as an excellent meditation for all of us:
Most High, Glorious God,
enlighten the darkness
of my heart
and give me
true faith, certain hope
and perfect charity,
sense and knowledge,
Lord, that I may carry out
Your holy and true command.
-St. Francis of Assisi