Friday, August 22, 2008

Eleven Friars Make Solemn Vow Retreat

From Bro. Jason Welle, OFM

From June 27th to July 27th, I was blessed to spend a month in the mountains of Colorado on retreat with ten other Franciscan friars preparing to make their solemn vows. Our group was a snapshot of the Church around the world, with friars hailing from Vietnam, Mexico, Syria, and Palestine, as well as the United States. All of these friars had discerned a permanent commitment to the Franciscan way of life, and sharing prayer, input, recreation, and fraternity together, for thirty days enabled us all to deepen this commitment.

Road to Bear Lake, Rocky Mountain National Forest

Our group resided at St. Malo’s Retreat Center an hour and a half north of Denver. When John Paul II came to Denver for World Youth Day, he took some personal time for hiking and prayer at St. Malo’s and we were very conscious of his presence among us; we spent many hours hiking the trail now named for the Holy Father, in addition to many other trails in Rocky Mountain National Park.

Amid this breathtaking scenery, Fr. Francis Di Spigno, OFM, and the rest of the retreat committee organized several complementary components to help us explore the meaning and gift of our Franciscan vocation. Fr. Tom Hartle, OFM, the guardian of the retreat, provided a stable and supportive presence for the month, which began with Fr. Bill Beaudin, OFM, preaching a week of conferences on the prayers and writings of St. Francis.

The second week, facilitated by Fr. Jerry Bleem, OFM, focused on Christianity and the Arts. Fr. Jerry led us in both imaginative activities like sketching and painting and repetitive activities like calligraphy and crochet.

These helped us touch our more creative sides, opening channels for the week-long directed retreat with Fr. Tom and Sr. Doris Gerke, OSC. These directors met with each retreatant for an individual conference each day, with the rest of each day free for silent prayer and reflection.

St. Catherine of Siena Chapel, St. MaloRretreat Center

Three special wisdom figures provided the input for the final week. Fr. Nicholas Lohkamp, OFM, reflected on his life as a moral theologian; Fr. Daniel Barica, OFM, on his ministry as pastor of California parishes and missions; and Fr. Mark Soehner, OFM, on his work in psychology and parish ministry.

Listening to these three very different friars comment on the blessings and challenges of their Franciscan vocations and their hopes for the community’s future rounded out our thirty days of prayer and growth in fraternity.

When the retreat ended, we scattered to return to our home provinces, conscious that even though we would profess our solemn vows in different places this fall, we are deeply united in our common vocation to the Order of Friars Minor.

Bro. Jason Welle, OFM, on his way to his Solemn Vows at Assumption BVM Church in Pulaski, WI!

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