Sunday, August 26, 2018

Friar Antonio Luevano Reflects on His Discernment and Formation



Friar Antonio Luevano hails from Rancho Cucamonga, California. Prior to joining the Franciscans, he worked for the Diocese of San Bernardino. He currently resides at Old Mission San Luis Rey, Oceanside, CA to complete his theology studies at the Franciscan School of Theology (www.fst.edu). 


Franciscan Friars
Office of Vocations
1500 34th Ave.
Oakland, CA 94601
Phone:  (408) 903-3422
Email:  vocations@sbofm.org

A Desert Experience: A Reflection by Friar Andrew Dinegar

From June 18, 2018 – July 8, 2018, I visited Santa Barbara’s Ite Nuntiate Franciscan Intentional Community, located in Elfrida, Arizona.  Elfrida is a very small town, with a population of about 460 people.  Elfrida is located 25 miles north of Douglas, Arizona; Douglas is a border town.
The Ite Nuntiate Community was started by Friar David Buer, OFM., in September, 2017.  Currently, two other friars live in Community with Brother David. They are Friar Sam Nasada, OFM and Friar Luis Runde, OFM from the Sacred Heart Province.

On June 18, 2018, Brother Sam and I visited Ajo, Arizona, for two days, staying with his friends, the Weyers, who are involved with the Ajo Samaritans, a group of religious and lay volunteers, who serve in desert ministry, which involves groups of folks who drive deep into the Sonoran desert, walking the migrant trails, carrying gallons of drinking water, snacks and other supplies, and placing them along the routes where the migrants could find these life-saving items as they cross the unforgiving desert.

On the morning of June 19th, Brother Sam and I woke early. Along with Sister Judy Bourg, School Sister of Notre Dame, and John Heid, a local volunteer, we started out on a journey which took us 14 miles in to the desert on a 4-wheel-drive vehicle, and then walked another mile along a migrant trail to place our supplies.  John and Sister Judy are very knowledgeable with the local desert migrant trails.

Ajo Samaritans is an offshoot of Tucson Samaritans (http://www.tucsonsamaritans.org), a humanitarian aid organization founded in 2002.  It is a mission of Southside Presbyterian Church and seeks to help prevent deaths and suffering along the U.S.-Mexico border. The Samaritans are made up of volunteers who drop off food and water in various locations in the Sonoran Desert. They come from various faith traditions or none at all.  Using two donated four-wheel-drive vehicles, they carry water, food, emergency medical supplies, communication equipment and maps out to the desert daily to help save the lives of people who are crossing the landscape.

The four of us came upon a few empty water bottles (gallon-sized) and a hoodie sweatshirt, items which had been discarded by migrants walking the trail.  I had been thinking of that old adage, “If these walls could talk….” Well, I used that adage in context of, “If these items could talk;” “If these desert floors and trees could talk.”  What would they say?  What would they speak to me?

Ending migrant deaths and related suffering on the U.S.-Mexico border is also a mission of the non-profit organization Colibri Center for Human Rights (http://www.colibricenter.org).  From January to June 20, 2018, the number of migrant deaths (recovered remains) in Pima County stood at 56. According to Border Patrol statistics, more than 7,200 have died trying to cross the U.S. southern border. But it is believed that the actual number is even higher. Colibri is working in partnership with the Pima County Medical Examiner and the families of those missing by comparing information about missing individuals and those who died and were recovered in the desert. Colibri’s mission includes finding the missing and identifying the dead.  Over the last 12 years, the ministry had collected nearly 3,000 detailed reports of missing persons who had disappeared in the desert.

On Tuesday evenings, in Douglas, a group of religious and volunteers gather at a local McDonald’s restaurant, approximately 3 blocks from the US-Mexico border crossing to remember our brothers and sisters who tried to cross and lost their lives in the desert. During the weekly vigil in Douglas, Arizona, participants hold up crosses bearing the names of those who died while trying to cross the border into the United States. The vigil serves to remember all the migrants who have died in Cochise county. We each read the name on the cross out loud, held it up, and laid the cross on the side of the road leading to the border crossing.  It started as a response from the Douglas faith communities to the finding of 6 dead migrants who were trapped in a sewer ditch during a heavy rain. When most people in our country ignore this atrocity or put the blame on migrants, these few people in Douglas make sure that all brothers and sisters of ours in God are not forgotten.

Another ministry which we had visited, in the Mexican border town of Agua Prieta, south of Douglas, was C.A.M.E. (Centro de Atencional Migrante "Exodus"). Here I learned more about the brutal and life-threatening journey that migrants must endure. Hundreds die annually in the inhospitable desert.  Most of these are slow, agonizing deaths of thirst and heat exhaustion.   
Most would-be crossers travel from southern Mexico and even as far away as Central and South America.  Statistically, for every 1 who makes it, 2 do not.  Many are abused and robbed by their “Polleros” or “Coyotes” (people they pay to lead them to cross the border).  Others are blocked at the border and tumble back into Agua Prieta, or are apprehended by the U.S. border patrol and deported.  The majority of them are left far from home, penniless, demoralized and often injured or ill.                 
For this reason, the C.A.M.E. Migrant Center was established in 2007.  This is a short-stay center where migrants receive a meal and a place to rest.  They are provided information on where they can receive medical assistance.  The shelter is a free, safe place where people can spend the night, connect with their families, wait for additional funds to return home and receive basic humanitarian care. The center does not receive government aid but operates on donations from organizations such as Rancho Feliz, churches and other relief groups in the area.

One day Brothers Sam and David, a group of young women from CalState East Bay campus ministry, and I visited an immigration trial in the Federal Courthouse in Tucson. In what is named "Operation Streamline", the detainees filed into the room seven by seven for a dose of rapid-fire justice. In less than a minute and in quick succession, each migrant pleaded guilty to illegally entering the United States and was sentenced. If applicable, the clients could apply for asylum. They were overwhelmingly Central American and Mexican men, many of which were still in the dusty, sweaty garb they had been wearing when they were caught by Border Patrol agents. They looked dazed, tired and resigned to their fate, many having just completed a harsh trek across the sweltering desert. Some of their heads drooped as they listened to the judge.

Within my 3-week visit with my brother Franciscans, I and other volunteers, visited the migrant trails in the desert 3 times. Each trip was different.  We drove many miles into the desert on each occasion, and walked up 1 mile, if not more, to get to our ‘destinations,’ where we repeated the same processes of placing supplies for our brothers and sisters who will pass through these routes. The desert is not a joke.  Extreme temperatures, dry heat, views that have no end in sight (the desert floor and sky go on for miles!). It’s foreboding and not kind to people who enter into it.

When I say, “enter into it,” I mean more than just walking through the desert, physically.  I also mean emotionally and spiritually.  The desert takes you out of yourself.  In my case, the desert was challenging me.  It made me stop and take a look at my life and place it into the context of our brothers and sisters who risk their lives to leave their personal hell and try to live a better one, at any cost. And not only our brothers and sisters in this desert, but in all the ‘deserts’ throughout our world.  The deserts of poverty, loneliness, abandonment, addictions and abuses, worldliness, pride, and the list goes on and on…

My ‘cost’ was being stripped down to my core, my soul, to taking a look at my life and the gifts and graces which God had given me and continues to try to give me (if only I would stay open to Him).  All the things that I had, many of which those who are crossing the border don’t have.  I looked deep inside myself as I looked deeply around the desert, and saw a comparison:  my emptiness, my shallowness, my false self.  I had many opportunities and offerings in my life, many of which I had not taken, for whatever reasons, and many I had taken…for granted, and not put to good use. There are people out there in the world, who would jump at the offerings that I have had, if they could.
During each of my 3 visits to the desert, the desert had held me hostage, with (literally and figuratively) nowhere to run or hide.  I was as exposed to myself as I was to the elements, and I had nowhere, nothing to do, to turn to, except to go interiorly, and visit with God and try to find myself and live the life for which I was created.




Friar Andrew Dinegar is originally from Brooklyn, NY. He currently is a novice with the Franciscan Interprovincial Novitiate in Santa Barbara, California.






Franciscan Friars
Office of Vocations
1500 34th Ave.
Oakland, CA 94601
Phone:  (408) 903-3422
Email:  vocations@sbofm.org

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

New Novices Received at Old Mission Santa Barbara


Group photo of novitiate class 2018-19: Row 1 (l to r): Josh Tagoylo (SB), Carlos Portillo (HNP), Richard Phillip (HNP), Nhan Ton (SH), Rafael Ozoude (SJB). Row 2 (l to r): John Neuffer (HNP), Steven Young (HNP), Andrew Aldrich (ABVM), Matt Ryan (SJB), Bernard Keele (OLG). Row 3 (l to r): Loren Moreno (HNP), Ian Grant (HNP), Salvador Mejia (SB), Andrew Dinegar (SB). Photo by Dick Tandy, ofm


On Monday, July 16, 2018—a typically balmy Santa Barbara morning—14 new novices representing all six of the US provinces involved in the R + R (Revitalization + Realignment) process were received into the Order. One of the group, Bernard Keele (OLG) received the Rite of Probation initiating his transfer from the Benedictines to the Franciscans. In addition, two men from Christ the King province in western Canada—not present-- are awaiting their US visas before they can join their US confreres in the program.

“We’re not at St. Peter’s in Rome, “ began Friar Jeff Macnab as he welcomed the diverse group of new friars—almost all of whom had just completed their postulancy year in Silver Spring, Maryland before moving to the present interprovincial novitiate location at Old Mission Santa Barbara (California). “We’re very relaxed here,” he continued as he looked around the intimate group of new and “old” novices, ministers provincial, formation team members, and others gathered in the Friars Chapel: “This is a family celebration—a family gathering.”

The sense of family was reinforced in the remarks given by Provincial Minister Jim Gannon of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary (ABVM) province. Following the proclamation of the Prologue of the Gospel of St. John (1:1-10), Father Jim mentioned that it reminded him of not one, but three separate generations of baptisms witnessed in his native Philadelphia. He began by mentioning the parish priest of his own childhood who, typically, immediately following the baptismal rite, would carry the infant in his arms from the rear of the church. The priest would then “present” the infant by placing it on the main altar, while he recited the Prologue, formerly known as the “last Gospel”. Fr. Jim shared that this same custom has been treasured in his own family for three generations now.

Fr. Jim challenged the incoming novitiate class members to work to understand more deeply the real meaning of the Prologue—“words full of grace and truth; grace upon grace, love upon love” and to apply its message to their own lives. “The Prologue of the Gospel of John is one of the most glorious foundational statements about Jesus Christ. Yet, we often skip over (it). John's story reveals two most fundamental affirmations about Jesus: Jesus is the presence of God's own life and that Jesus makes this life of God available to every human being.”

“For Francis of Assisi,” he continued, “ the Word became the core foundation of his renewed, revitalized life. The Word turned Francis of Assisi upside down and inside out. I firmly believe that no individual renewal or revitalization, no global renewal or revitalization of the Order of Friars Minor-- no national renewal or revitalization of the Franciscans in the United States will be successful unless we are committed to renewing our love for living the Gospel of Jesus Christ.”

“Brothers, you are the next generation,” he concluded. “As you enter your novitiate year, enter deeply into the implication of the Prologue of John's Gospel. Enter deeply into the implications of the Incarnation, the Word made Flesh upon your life as a Friar Minor.”

During the actual reception of the new novices, each man was called by name and, along with two solemnly professed friars as witnesses, signed the Book of Reception. Bernard Keele (OLG) was welcome separately into “a time of probation” with the friars. Also in attendance were representatives of each of the six participating provinces, including: Provincial Ministers Jim Gannon (ABVM), Jack Clark Robinson (OLG), Ralph Parthie (SH), David Gaa (SB), and Mark Soehner (SJB). Friar Basil Valente represented Holy Name Province.

Afterwards, Provincial Minister David Gaa, of the Province of St. Barbara, presented each new novice with a journal of his own “to write and express your journey.” “. . . . Be attentive to the workings of the Spirit and (even) the days you resist the challenge,” he urged them.

The service concluded with blessings of and by this year’s interprovincial novitiate team, consisting of Friars Jeff Macnab (SB), Michael Blastic (HNP), and Michael Jennrich (SH), as well as Sister Susan Rosenbach SSSF.

The new novices include: Andrew Aldrich (ABVM); Ian Grant, Loren Moreno, John Neuffer, Richard Phillip, Carlos Portillo, and Steven Young—all of Holy Name Province; Nhan Ton (SH); Andrew Dinegar, Salvador Mejia, and Joshua Tagoylo (SB); Raphael Ozoude and Matthew Ryan (SJB); and Bernard Keele (OLG), formerly of the Benedictine order. Still to arrive are Adrian Macor and Theodore Splinter of the Province of Christ the King (western Canada).

Friar Charles Talley is the Communications Director of the Province of St. Barbara. He currently resides at San Damiano Retreat Center in Danville, CA.







Franciscan Friars
Office of Vocations
1500 34th Ave.
Oakland, CA 94601
Phone:  (408) 903-3422
Email:  vocations@sbofm.org

Thursday, December 21, 2017

A Franciscan Advent

Advent’s vision and energy for fuller birth I find can be helpful for us as we engage our Franciscan future.  Image Advent as a mountain that God beckons us to climb.  And as we climb, let us free our imaginations to vision our future, the future of God coming into our present.

The expression of time as divided into “the already and the not yet” is for me the best understanding of eschatology.  The fullness that came and comes in Jesus is “the already”, the “not yet” is what we are called to.

To me, and I’m sure to you as well, no tradition, no spirituality holds a more future-making potential than one we were graced to become part of.  Europe never saw the likes of the Franciscan Movement.  It took hold as nothing else did.  Its power still resides in that tradition that we claim to be our heritage.

“…how beautiful the feet of those who proclaim good news…”   The human is God’s chosen dwelling place!  That is the good news that we bring to all we do and say!

As you are aware, in Mark, Matthew, and Luke, the eschatological is intertwined —or explicated within — the apocalyptic.  On the mountain of Advent God will show us not only the fuller birth that is open to us in this moment of our history, but God will also bring to our hearts places where apocalyptic images are so raw and pressing.  Think of Yemen, of Syria, and so many other places and situations that come to your mind so readily and so painfully.

We face our history!  We face it for we are one human family!  An image that sears my awareness is, “My country is at the center of every economic, environmental, and military disaster the world over!”

As Advent begins, Mark becomes our gospel companion.  Mark as no other caught the immediacy of Jesus.  May his immediacy catch us up too.  Mark’s Gospel is a primer on discipleship.  How fortunate and blessed we are to live in this communion of disciples!  In the immediacy, in the intensity of Francis’ following of Jesus may we join together as one.  Jesus calls us to collaboration.  A new Franciscan Movement awaits our collaboration.
                                                   

Friar Matt Tumulty has had the richness of living in two Provinces, Holy Name (NY) and Santa Barbara (CA).  He served for over 5 years as a missionary in Japan and worked with a Small Eucharistic Community for fifteen years in San Anselmo, CA. In Portland, OR he helped start Franciscan Enterprise which renovated abandoned houses with volunteers to house low-income families. He also once served as a co-pastor to a Lutheran/Roman Catholic joint community and ministered to the homeless and to migrants at the Arizona-Mexico border.  He is presently retired and living at Mission San Luis Rey, Oceanside, CA.



Franciscan Friars
Office of Vocations
1500 34th Ave.
Oakland, CA 94601
Phone:  (408) 903-3422
Email:  vocations@sbofm.org