Friday, July 4, 2008

Investiture: Our New Novices Receive the Habit

This Fourth of July holiday, the friars of the Province of Saint Barbara had two very special celebrations. The first, held at the time of community evening prayer (5:15pm) on July 3, marked the “investiture” or formal reception of the Franciscan habit by our three incoming novices: Eric Burke, Javier Diaz, and Victor Vega. The event was attended by approximately 75 friars, family members, and friends at the chapel of the St. Francis Retreat Center in San Juan Bautista, California (about 100 miles south of the San Francisco Bay area.

The investiture is quite a moving ceremony in which the newly received members of the community symbolically “shed” their former identity in the world and begin their new life as religious. Father Mel Jurisich ofm, our minister provincial, and Brother Regan Chapman, ofm, the novice master formally received the new novices by literally “clothing” them in the characteristic brown robe, capuche (hood), and cord belt of the Order of Friars Minor. The version of the habit presently worn by the Order of Friars Minor (OFM) actually dates from modifications made in 1894 and is reminiscent of the garb of laborers in 13th century Italy, the time of St. Francis of Assisi.

In decades past, candidates would enter the sanctuary formally dressed in suit and tie. At the moment of receiving the habit, their jackets would be removed and exuberantly thrown onto the sanctuary floor—much to the delight of most of the friars-- and to the consternation of some of the mothers. We’ve really toned things down a bit since that day.

By taking on the habit, the new brothers publicly declare their intention to live the life of the Friars Minor “in poverty, chastity, and with nothing of their own” for the requisite probationary year. Much of that year will be spent learning the significance of the trio of vows Franciscans take: poverty, chastity, and obedience. In addition, our new brothers will spend time learning more about Franciscan spirituality, deepening their prayer life, developing community living skills, engaging in limited ministry and manual labor, and growing in their identity as Franciscan friars. Upon the conclusion of their successful novitiate year, the men will make their first, or “simple” profession, renewed annually for a minimum of three years.

So, meet our new novices, and read what they have to say about their hopes and expectations for this important new stage of their commitment to religious life. Keep in mind that each of these men has already completed a rigorous trial or “postulancy” program—in this case, a nine-month residency in Portland, Oregon, under the direction of Brother Robert Rodrigues, along with the help of Father John dePaemelaere.

Brother Eric Burke, 27, was born at Jemez Pueblo, Jemez, New Mexico, and brought up in the Chino Hills area of southern California. Eric holds a BA in Human Services from California State University, Fullerton, and was involved in full-time parish work as a youth minister at St. Paul the Apostle Parish in Chino Hills before entering our postulancy program in September, 2007.

“The more I think over how I got to this moment, the more I realize the grace of God in my life. This postulancy year leaves me feeling excited and overwhelmed at the same time. So, we'll see what comes of it.”

Brother Javier Diaz, 24, was born in Santa Ana, California, and brought up in Corona. He received a BS degree in Business from the University of California, Riverside, and worked in retail sales at a Smart & Final outlet before joining our postulancy program.

“The postulancy year has been extremely exciting. I am open to the seeing what the coming year will be. I am praying that I can grow in the spiritual life and in community with the brothers I will be entering with as well as the brothers already there. I will be learning to balance my life with the friars along with my life with family and friends."

Brother Victor M. Vega Solorio, 33, is a native of Michoacán, Mexico. After immigrating to the United States, he lived in the Salinas, California area where he was an agricultural laborer before entering our postulancy program. Previously, Victor successfully completed the ACE (Accelerated College English) program at Mount Angel (Oregon) Seminary while in residence at our House of Welcome & Discernment/ Casa de Bienvenida y Discernimiento in Portland, Oregon:

"I feel very happy to come to novitiate. I feel excited about religious life, about Franciscan life. Now that I am receiving the habit I feel more part of the Franciscans and part of Franciscan spirituality and style of life. I hope I can continue to grow in my relationship with God, grow as a human being, and grow in a community with other novices and friars. I want to continue discerning my vocation, preparing myself for the next step."

Welcome, Brothers! Felicidades! Congratulations and good luck! Our prayers are with you.//

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