Saturday, July 5, 2008

Simply... professed!

At the same time the friars were welcoming our new brother novices this past Fourth of July holiday, we also celebrated with four young (okay, young-ish) men who have just completed their novitiate year. The quartet—three from our province of St. Barbara, and a fourth from our sister province of Our Lady of Guadalupe-- made their first, or simple profession of vows. At a Eucharistic liturgy celebrated on the morning of July 4, the new friars made their public profession in the presence of Bishop Richard Garcia of the Diocese of Monterey, California, and before provincial ministers Melvin Jurisich (St. Barbara Province) and Larry Dunham (Our Lady of Guadalupe province.

More than 200 friars, family members, and friends attended the liturgy held in the chapel of the St. Francis Retreat Center, San Juan Bautista, California—including an extraordinary turnout of some 50 friars from the province of St. Barbara. Novice master Brother Regan Chapman was on hand; Friar Ponchie Vasquez served as master of ceremonies.

The newly professed are Friars Eric Pilarcik, Joseph Sury, Robert Valentine and Christopher Kerstiens. Their “simple” or temporary profession represents a public commitment to observe the vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience during a period of one year. These vows, then, are renewed annually for a minimum of three years before the man is eligible to make solemn (or lifetime) profession as a full member of the Order. There is tremendous wisdom in this step-by-step process. Although the wait for solemn profession may seem frustrating and even interminable at times, it nevertheless allows both the candidate and the community to continue the process of mutual discernment. After all, the ultimate commitment is ostensibly for one’s lifetime, so thoroughgoing reflection is essential.

Friar Eric Pilarcik, 41, was born in Royal Oak, Michigan, and received his BA degree from the University of Notre Dame, South Bend, Indiana, before moving to southern California. Prior to entering the Franciscans, Eric worked in real estate in both Michigan and California. Most recently, he worked as a location scout for tv and film companies in the LA area. Upon the profession of simple vows, Eric has been assigned to St. Elizabeth Friary, Oakland, California, and will begin studies toward the M.Div. (Master of Divinity) degree at the Franciscan School of Theology in Berkeley.

“The past year was difficult to begin with-- adusting to things-- being in the middle of nowhere in a hyper-remote area and getting used to the community of friars at San Miguel. (The novitiate is located at the Old Mission in San Miguel, California.—ed.) The program was intense, but it ended up being just excellent. It was never what I expected. I learned to see God in so many things-- by stopping and noticing God throughout my life: in the past, in the present, in others, and in myself.

“I feel very happy to have been accepted by the friars. Entering later in life-- with past careers-- I worried about where I would start, how I would fit in. But I learned that it was just perfect. I would not have been ready one day sooner. I was amazed. Things fell right into place. I look forward to the next year-- to classes, to exploring things, and to having the opportunity to learn more about theology. And I am looking forward to the St. Elizabeth community. And to leaving the door open to new discoveries.”

Friar Joseph (Joe) Sury, 38, is a native Demotte, Indiana, and moved to the Phoenix, Arizona area with his parents while he was still in high school. Joe worked as an accountant before joining the friars. Upon the profession of simple vows, he has been assigned to St. Elizabeth Friary, Oakland, California. Like his classmate, Eric, he will be studying for the M.Div. degree at the Franciscan School of Theology, Berkeley.

“I have a deeper awareness today of my life than I did prior to entering the Franciscans. I've had the gift of a year to reflect-- not only for today-- but for the rest of my life. I've been able to see the moments where hod has been in my life.
I have grown in self-esteem and confidence. I've been able to do things I felt afraid to do in the past. I've been able to grow in community w/ the friars already at Old Mission San Miguel as well as with my classmates. I'm beginning to realize the special bond we've had and will have for the rest of our lives. And.... I am looking forward to pasing the dishrag on to the incoming novices!”

Friar Robert J (Bob) Valentine, 52, was born in Dearborn, Michigan, and brought up in the Phoenix, Arizona area. Bob studied Regina Cleri seminary high school in Tucson, Arizona. Bob subsequently entered our formation program first in 1975. After nearly eight years with the Franciscans, Bob left for more than twenty years, during which time he completed his training as a physician assistant at the University of California, Davis. Prior to his most recent entry into postulancy, Bob worked as emergency room coordinator for hospitals in the San Francisco Bay Area. Upon the profession of simple vows, he has been assigned to St. Boniface Friary in San Francisco’s Tenderloin neighborhood. He will be working as physician assistant for hospitals in the Berkeley/ Oakland area.

“It has been most important for me to see myself as loved-- to understand that I am loved and loveable. I've come to understand that my 'loveability' has absolutely nothing to do with with what I do, but who I am, and Who created me. It is very much a manifestation of the Incarnation. My life as a friar will be about living that life-- not about doing 'the work'. I have learned that my weaknesses and failures are also my gratest strengths. And the greatest gift I have to offer my community . Because of my weaknesses I am now more fully human.”

Friar Christopher (Chris) Kerstiens is a native of Torrance, California, and is a member of the Our Lady of Guadalupe Province, with headquarters in San Antonio, Texas. Upon his first profession, he will be assigned to the formation community in San Antonio and will begin studies at the OMI (Order of Mary Immaculate) School of Theology in that city.

“I have learned so much about myself and about the friars during my novitiate year. But now, I’m ready for the next step in my formation and am really looking forward to starting studies.”

Congratulations, Brothers! Now, get to work!


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