In his Testament, written towards the end of his life, St. Francis mentions, almost casually, “…and the Lord gave me brothers…” As remarkable a personality as St. Francis was, his vocation, his whole life was about fraternity, about brotherhood and sisterhood. St. Francis was a brother, among the Lesser Brothers and Poor Sisters of Assisi. More than that, he became a brother to all those he met, and to every creature.
The Franciscan story isn’t the story of a great philosophy or a great idea. Being a Franciscan is about experiencing life as a brother or a sister of Jesus Christ and through Jesus, becoming a brother or a sister to all men and women and to every creature. It is both very simple and very profound!
Have you ever wondered about the vocation to priesthood or the Religious Life? Have you wondered what kind of people hear and respond to the call? If so, you may be interested in the reading some of the profiles on this page.
Here is a selection of short testimonies of Irish Franciscan Friars. They are short introductions describing in a few words how they heard the call to become Franciscans, what they discovered on their vocation journey, and why today they are still living that original call.
Meet the brothers…
I met an Irish friar while working as a Civil Engineer in the humanitarian field in El Salvador in 2009. I was trying to live out my Catholic faith by helping bring about a more equitable and fairer world. However, even though I had been doing good work there already, building houses for poor people, I realised that the deep inequalities in the world will never be fixed by humanitarian work alone.
This friar impressed me by the way in which he walked humbly with the people as a brother and was always brimming with joy and spreading it to them. I thought, this is how I want to live my life. I then realized that this is how the Lord’s prayer ‘that they may all be one’ is answered – by spreading the real joy of the Gospel. It is accessible to all, especially the poor – something I was experiencing.
I entered the Franciscan postulancy in September 2012 after completing the various projects I was working on in El Salvador and I completed my formation, being solemnly professed in Sept 12 of this year (2020).
The Franciscan spirituality is of joy and fraternal fellowship and I am drawn to accompanying young people on their life journey in this way, giving them the gift of faith in Christ’s love, something that will enable them to become truly alive.
My name is Br. Vincent, and I have been with the Franciscans for 10 years. I was ordained a priest in 2019. My vocational story began when reading a book on the life of St. Francis. I was so moved by his story, that I wanted nothing else in the world other than to do what Francis did in his imitation of Christ, and to live in fraternity with nothing of our own, but to live the Rule and life according to the Gospel. High ideals, and ones we as friars struggle with daily!
As part of my training, I did a course on hospital chaplaincy, and as a result was blessed and privileged to work in 2 hospitals during the Covid-19 pandemic. I recognized how much of a team we were in the hospital, all wearing the same medical scrubs and facing into the unknown. My work as a chaplain was as much about walking alongside the staff, as it was the patients. Some of what I did was Sacramental, but a lot of the time was being available and providing a listening ear. Also liaising with families who couldn’t visit their loved ones and to assure them of my presence with them and for them before the Lord.
I learnt that as a friar, we are tasked with many situations and ministries that we feel are outside our ability, but a reliance on God to equip and provide is essential in our trust of Him who calls us forth in His name.
I remember growing up in Waterford and we would frequently visit the local Franciscan Friary for Mass and confessions. The one memory that I can highlight from these visits is the feeling of being at home in the friary church. This feeling always stayed with me and as life progressed and the presence of a vocation began to emerge, I always found myself returning to the feeling of being at home.
Priesthood was the vocation which was always had the strongest pull for me and when I entered the national seminary, I quickly realised that something was missing – this feeling of being at home was tugging at me from within. I knew at that stage that my vocation had to exist within the context of a Franciscan Spirituality.
And so, the journey began!
Since joining the Franciscans in 2013, I have enjoyed the gift of many opportunities: living and studying abroad, experiencing the universal nature of the church, and meeting people from all over the world. In pastoral ministry too, the opportunities have been both rich and challenging.
One such ministry that I have found to be deeply enriching is that of hospital pastoral care. Initially, I had huge reservations about my ability to work in this area. I had a strong awareness how I was entering onto hospital wards filled with healthcare professionals who were trained and qualified to deal with sick people.
As a chaplain in training, my awareness had been of how untrained I was in comparison to the professionals with whom I share the patients. In truth, I felt inadequate standing there in my habit, looking like some guy who had just walked off the set of the latest Star Wars film! However, I persevered, and God certainly surprised me during this time. I found in myself an ability to connect in some positive way with people who were at their lowest and most vulnerable, particularly around end of life. Connecting with the most vulnerable in our lives is a key aspect to our Franciscan Spirituality. It is really a grace and it does bring a real sense of fulfilment and joy.
So, if you are thinking about looking at the Franciscan way of life, be open and allow yourself to be surprised by God. It really is a wonderful journey.