Holy Spirit Province Saint-Esprit
Franciscans of Canada - Franciscains du Canada
Ordo Fratrum Minorum
SARA FRANCIS, Western Catholic Reporter
August 30, 2010
Cochrane – An aging Franciscan community has just gotten an injection of new blood and, in turn, new hope.
Jean-Pierre Ducharme and Billy Isenor made their solemn profession of vows to live a life of poverty, chastity and obedience to God as a Franciscan friar at St. Mary’s Catholic Church here on Aug. 20.
The 33-year-olds are welcome youthful additions to the Franciscan Friars of Western Canada, whose members average 70 years old. For years the number of new members has dwindled, but this is a hopeful sign of change for Franciscan Father Dennis Vavrek, superior of the Western Canadian friars.
“This is a rare event in this part of the world, in this time and place to have young gifted men make a commitment to religious life,” said Vavrek at an outdoor reception following the Mass.
One year ago to the day, Daniel Gurnick and Armand Mercier made their solemn profession of vows, which at the time was only the third profession in 20 years.
“Ten years ago we didn’t have anybody around,” said Vavrek. “We were feeling demoralized. It’s just like someone who gets married and can’t have a family, what are you leaving all your work to in terms of your legacy. With these guys, there’s a future for us. It’s picked up the spirits of our older men.”
For Ducharme and Isenor, they were attracted to the 800-year-old religious order partly because it has stood the test of time.
“It’s 800 years old, but it’s been 800 years living,” said Isenor.
“What attracted me to this charism is I see 90-year-olds still participating in their own way. To our current friars, 50 to 70, and it doesn’t look like they’ve lost any passion.
“At first when I met everybody I saw a lot of wisdom around me and I liked that because I think in this search there is a search for holy men, holiness and wisdom and that comes with age. And we certainly have a lot of wisdom,” said Isenor, adding it’s not the number of vocations the brothers are concerned about, rather the quality of men.
Currently, the Province of Christ the King has roughly 30 members in British Columbia, Alberta and Saskatchewan with five more men in formation: two in temporary vows, two novices and one postulant starting in September.
After serving as vocations director for a decade, Brother Gerry Clyne is looking forward to having Ducharme help him recruit new members in the upcoming year.
“We’re finally starting to see some fruit. I feel like Zechariah: ‘Lord, now let your servant go in peace,'” said Clyne, laughing that it will be nice to have someone without white hair to be the new face of vocations.
Clyne believes the formation period is made easier when done with a peer group. “When they come in by ones they are almost destined to fail,” he said.
Several men have come to discern with the brothers over the years, but the inability to make a permanent commitment has been the downfall, said Clyne. “There are too many options out there.”
On the other hand, Clyne said the order gives men a variety of options for ministry while living out the Franciscan spirituality, something which is attractive to prospective members.
“It’s a hopeful time and it’s a time where we are living by faith to see what shape the province will take,” said Clyne.