Deepening Journeys in Franciscan Life
Each year, friars in formation participate in the Brothers Walking Together program—an interprovincial, post-novitiate experience coordinated by the six US provinces in which friars spend nine months living and serving in different cultures.
The purpose of the program is to expose temporary professed friars to new experiences and remove them from their comfort zones as they prepare for a life of ministry. These experiences help our friars grow spiritually and personally; strengthen their bonds of unity, fraternity, and community; and deepen their journeys in Franciscan life.
We wanted to share with you the stories of two friars who recently completed their nine months of service. We think you’ll find them as inspiring as we did, and we want you to see how your generous gifts are changing lives.
Peace and good,
Fr. John Bok, OFM, Co-director
P.S. When you support our friars in formation with a charitable donation, you are helping the next generation of friars prepare for a life of service in the spirit of St. Francis of Assisi.
Brian Menezes, OFM:
My ministry was to provide food and clothing to the poor at St. Francis Inn and Marie’s Closet in Philadelphia, Pa. We worked tirelessly to serve our guests seven days a week and to do our very best to make sure they had all they needed to make it through another night in the Kensington neighborhood. Together with our guests, we formed a small, but caring, community. In all honesty, our greatest gift was the volunteers that came and helped us. The needs of some of the guests could be quite great because of a shortage of mental health resources, affordable housing, medical care, and a sympathetic ear. Our biggest challenge was to keep hope alive and not give up, even when the help we offered was turned down or when things became difficult with our guests.
Living and ministering in the Kensington neighborhood has helped me hone in on my spiritual connection, which I believe has made significant growth ever since I began my formation journey. I was also able to confront fear, a personal hurdle of mine, during my time at the Inn. These nine months in the Brothers Walking Together program have strengthened my resolve to be a Franciscan and affirmed my call to serve the children of God.
Tyler Grudi, OFM:
Daniel Cruz, OFM, and I arrived in Negril, Jamaica, last August while the pandemic was still going strong. We started our time there tutoring and helping at a virtual learning center that allowed children to use Wi-Fi to access their online schoolwork. As things progressed and schools reopened, we tutored three days a week at Revival Primary School, teaching English and math to third and fourth graders. We also served at St. Anthony’s Soup Kitchen a few days a week the entire year. We assisted lay women with preparing over 360 lunches a day for the people of “Little Haiti,” a squatter community across the street. We also assisted people coming to Mary, Gate of Heaven Church for assistance with prescriptions or food supplies.
I felt privileged to be invited to play my cello with the various church communities across Westmoreland Parish. It is an instrument many Jamaicans have not heard of or seen. I learned to play my cello in a gospel/reggae beat, as well as sing Jamaican choruses (Jamaican spiritual songs) before Mass. Sharing in the music of the people was a great joy this year. I was also invited to preach every Wednesday at daily Mass. These moments challenged me to humble myself before the community and allowed me to process some of my ministry experiences in the light of the Gospel.
The friars in Jamaica consider their relationships with all people, Catholic or otherwise, to be privileged spaces of living the Gospel. Their example of living the Gospel first by their deeds has been a tremendous source of inspiration for me as I begin my life as a lesser brother. The poor have not only become more a part of my life, but they’ve become more a part of my heart.
*Adapted from “Reflections on Brothers Walking Together,” an article by Communications Director Sr. Eileen Connelly, OSU, that was published on Franciscan.org.