Being fully formed in the Franciscan way of life is a multi-step process, one that is designed to call forth and strengthen our Christian and religious identity as Franciscan friars.
The initial stage of Franciscan formation is called postulancy. The word comes from the Latin, postulare, which means "to ask." An aspirant asks to enter our nine-month program of preparation for formal acceptance into the Order. Our postulancy program provides an intense orientation to Franciscan community life, prayer, and an opportunity for ministry. During this time our postulants are provided with resources to help them develop the psychological and emotional qualities necessary for religious life and ministry. Our postulancy program is located at Old Mission Santa Barbara.
The second stage of Franciscan formation is called novitiate. Novitiate is a year-long period in which a novice (meaning beginner) discerns his calling to religious life, deepens his relationship with God, and develops his Franciscan identity by studying the Rule, General Constitutions, and the vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience. As a formal member of the Order, the novice receives the habit of the Order: the tunic, hood, and a cord. The cord, however, does not have knots, which symbolize our religious vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience.
All novices participate in our Franciscan Interprovincial Novitiate at St. Francis Friary in Burlington, Wis. Novices come from all seven OFM Provinces in the United States, as well as Christ the King Province in Western Canada, and the Provinces of Australia and Singapore.
Upon successful completion of the novitiate year, novices conclude the year by taking the vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience for one year. At this time they receive the three knots on their cord. The vows are then renewed yearly, until solemn profession. This phase is temporary profession. Temporary Profession is a period between three (3) to nine (9) years in which one integrates his Franciscan call into the consecrated life of the Order of Friars Minor.
During post-novitiate friars further their ministerial and professional preparation and are educated according to their needs, gifts, and wishes under the guidance of their directors. The usual course of training for friars is based at the Franciscan School of Theology in Oceanside, California. Many friars will also receive technical or occupational training, such as nursing school, social work, or a professional trade.
Upon completion of post-novitiate (3 to 9 years), the temporary professed friar, with approval from his directors and the local community, petitions the provincial minister to be received into solemn vows. If received, he professes the vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience for the "rest of my life." This marks the beginning of full, lifelong membership in the Order of Friars Minor. Ordination to the priesthood then becomes a possibility after profession of solemn vows.
Formation as a Franciscan friar lasts a lifetime. Formation continues through provincial retreats, fraternal gatherings, sabbaticals, and further advanced studies. However, it is within the day-to-day life with the friars and those they serve that they are continually formed and called to a deeper relationship with God.