Why did I join the Capuchin Franciscans?
A reflection by Fr. Robert Barbato
Whatever the reason was that brought me to join the Capuchin Franciscans, I am grateful to discover that I think God led me here. Fr. Bobby recalls his first visit with a sick farm worker in the county hospital intensive care unit. All of a sudden, while talking about his estranged son, the leather-faced older man started crying.
I couldn’t imagine this guy feeling secure and comfortable enough to cry in front of another man, except here I am as a priest in a habit. That was a real important moment for me in my ministry. There was such a power in that room that I really needed to honor and use it in a good way.”
A reflection by Fr. Hai Ho
My vocation came about by the grace of God. The more I thought about a vocation in religious life, the more I became resistant because I was also attracted to marriage. But then I got to know the brothers with their community prayer and service as a lay volunteer, and that really attracted me. I just felt that this was my calling.
It’s been good and also a challenge in my ministries and studies. What has kept me going is what Francis said in a letter to the entire order: ‘Hold back nothing of yourselves for yourselves, so that he who gives himself totally to you may receive you totally.
A reflection by Fr. Joseph Seraphin Dederick
I became a Capuchin because I resonate with the founder, St. Francis, and the friars I visited were always down to earth, and they seemed to enjoy life.
Now I’m really eager to start my first permanent assignment in Durango, Mexico, at our new House of Insertion, ministering to the people where we’re actually living—bringing the hopes and dreams of families we know into our prayers. It’s going to be a new style of living our charism.
A reflection by Br. Crispin Thiel
I usually reply, "Well, you see, I lost this bet..."
In actual fact, the best thing that ever happened to me was discovering within me the vocation that is called "Franciscan." Unlike a lot of other spiritual traditions, the Franciscan tradition can't be easily described by a set of definitions, constitutions or even history. It is true that at its center is the life of St. Francis of Assisi who lived about 800 years ago. Yet for every biography written there seems to be a different image of Francis. Francis was so many different things for so many different people: a little poor man, a poet, a troubadour, a prisoner, a nurse, an evangelist, a missionary, an ascetic, a mystic, a lover of animals, a peacemaker. But for the last 800 years, and even to this day, people discover that they share something with St. Francis, and find they have something in common with this odd collection of people who call themselves, "Franciscan."
I was an ambitious student in graduate school before I had the courage to stop everything and try living as a Capuchin Franciscan friar. While at public high school in Southern California, I had "fallen away" from being an active Catholic. When I was 15, I was intrigued by some friends of mine who went over to St. Jude's Church to play volleyball. This doesn't sound intriguing, unless you knew my friends. We weren't really into sports; we were into Monopoly and silent movies. So when I heard they were voluntarily engaging in anything athletic, I had to check it out!
As it turns out, it was a warm Christian community of teens and adults that opened my eyes to the reality of Christ's presence in a group of people. That is what drew me to discover Christ's presence in other ways, too: in scripture, and in the sacrament of the Eucharist.
Before long it was time to go on to college. I first started to consider spending my life doing church work. But Fr. Mike Wempe recommended that I first go to school and do a bit of growing up. At college I was involved with giving youth retreats, playing guitar at Mass, and getting involved in social issues by participating in the "Tortilla Marathon" or Oxfam fasts, and going to "Bread for World" or C.R.O.P meetings. I found such life in looking at the places where there are people in need.
I graduated from U.C. Irvine in 1981, and still not sure of my destination. I had a lot of support at the UCI Interfaith, an ecumenical gathering place where Fr. Bill McLaughlin would be for mass or spiritual direction. I really wanted to try going to the seminary, but I wasn't sure which one. I felt that living in a religious community was important to me, since I always enjoyed living with others, rather that living alone. There were so many different orders and congregations that I decided to go to graduate school at U.C. Santa Barbara in the meantime. I visited different groups, and found the St. Mark's student community wonderfully uplifting and encouraging.
When I visited the Capuchin Franciscan novitiate in Santa Ynez for the first time, I got lost. When I finally arrived I didn't find anyone around so I peered into a large building that turned out to be a dining room. Br. Joe came up to me and said, "I'm sorry, I don't know who you are, but I just found out that there are 40 people on their way here for lunch, and no one told me. Could you help me set the tables?" So there I was looking for plates and spoons for 40. After a while, the novices came to help and when all was ready, we discovered that the 40 visitors were only there for coffee, not for lunch. So we all sat down and we introduced ourselves over a very large lunch.
I thought to myself, "Wow, a religious order as disorganized as I am!" Some have said that "Franciscan Order" is an oxymoron. But there I was completely at peace with this group of generous, hospitable men who call themselves Franciscan. This turns out to be the place where I was to live in a couple of years myself as a novice.
It has been about 15 years since that day, and I have grown to discover that this community is where God wants me. It has accepted me enough for me to grow to accept myself as a wounded sinner, and challenged me enough to form me as a wounded healer. Since my ordination to the priesthood, I have worked in South Central Los Angeles (our parish, St. Lawrence of Brindisi, is in Watts) and at St. Francis High School as a math teacher.