Yesterday I leisurely drove to Boone, NC where I spent the night before driving on to Lenoir, NC this morning to interview a prospective. I was in no rush yesterday or today so I could enjoy the fantastic scenery as i drove through parts of Kentucky, Tennessee and into North Carolina. Both days were bright and sunny so the vistas were even more spectacular. The eastern mountains of our land have a beauty all their own.
Yesterday as I was nearing the end of the trip, my GPS indicated far more time that the remaining miles should take. So I thought: "What does it know that I don't?" I found out. Route 321 was closed due to a rock slide so the GPS took me on mountain highways with many hills, switchbacks, and winding curves. It reminded me of my days in New Mexico when I used to drive up into the mountains to relax. I love mountain driving and I really took my time and enjoyed it. When I arrived in Boone to go to my motel I was near the eastern continental divide which means I was at the higher altitude.
Today I drove back on I-40 which was also beautiful. Just before getting into Knoxville, TN I had to come down a long, winding stretch of highway which I found exciting. Trucks were restricted to the right lane and the left lane was bordered by a cement barrier just a few feet beyond the driving lane. So basically I was driving down a narrow "tube" between a cement barrier and a long line of trucks. The speed limit was 55 and my cruise control was set about 60. I managed not to hit the brake for over nine miles as I wound my way down a very steep and winding road. I was first in line so I could set my own pace. As childish as it may sound, I really enjoyed the challenge of steering through the "slalom." It also made the time pass more quickly.
Anyway, I had a good visit with a young man in Lenoir and a relaxing, pleasant drive for about seven hours each day.
Again this year, we at the Vocation Office participated in the Youth Leadership Conferenceof the Diocese of Joliet, IL. Bro. Chris Meyer, O.F.M. (Friar in foreground in the picture on the left) joined Bro. Tim and me this time so there were three brown habits mingling among 600 young people (mainly high schoolers with a few graduates) plus their adult chaperons. Saturday morning we had to move inside for Eucharist (picture on right) due to a healthy rain storm Friday night. The campus was fairly soggy.
Bro. Chris managed to to sneak in a picture of me setting up our vocation display table. The table is a bit of a formality since most of our contacts with the students are in the workshops, on the outdoor recreation area, and at meals. Although there were some brave souls who stopped at the table, most are a little shy about being seen my their peers seeking out a talk with a vocation director. So to make it easier, we wandered among them talking with them and taking the initiative to begin a conversation.
Again this year we were mightily impressed with the conference. There is a spirit of openness and welcome at the conference and in the diocese that begins with the local Bishop, Peter Sartain, and carries down through his priests, seminarians, lay leadership and students. I enjoyed being there so much last year that we asked to be invited back--and I asked again this year. :-) I'm happy to have been a part of it all.
In the context of a prayer service, Michael Charron, O.F.M., and three classmates from Sacred Heart Province, professed their First Vows at our Interprovincial House of Novitiate in Cedar Lake, IN this morning. In the picture on the right, Michael is making his profession with his hands in those of Provincial Minister Jeffrey Scheeler, O.F.M. which Norbert Bertram, O.F.M., our man on the Novitiate Team, looks on. On the right are Provincial Ministers Jeffrey Scheeler, O.F.M. of Saint John the Baptist Province and William Spencer, O.F.M. of Sacred Heart Province.
Bro. Norbert also preached the reflection at the service (far right). He emphasized the face that what the novices have learned and experienced during their year of novitiate is meant to guide them in good and bad times as they begin to live their Franciscan lives beyond the confines of the novitiate.
In true Franciscan spirit, a meal was served afterwords. Some of the Conventual Franciscan Novices from Mishawaka, IN joined the OFM community for the ceremony and meal. Both sets of novices share common speakers and workshops throughout the year.
I promised a video from the Joint Province Assembly which took place at St. Xavier University at the end of May. Well . . . . As you can see I never got it posted. Actually the footage was rather boring so I decided to let it alone. Tomorrow, however, I will be going to Cedar Lake, IN for the First Profession of Michael Charron, O.F.M. I got good footage last year at the profession ceremony. Hopefully I will again tomorrow. You'll know in a couple of days. :-)
June is always an exciting month for those of us involved in the various stages of Franciscan Formation. The month leads off with the Postulants finishing up their year and going on a brief vacation prior to beginning their Novitiate on June 25th. The present novices make their First Profession on June 15th. Then the new class of Postulants arrives on July 1. Meanwhile, the Friars already in Temporary Vows are out and about doing ministry int he province and/or going to school at St. Bonaventure University in NY. It's exciting to see the progress of our men in formation. It makes the efforts of the Vocation Office and the other stages of Franciscan Formation all worthwhile.
Besides my ministry as Vocation Director for the Franciscan Province of Saint John the Baptist, I also keep a part-time involvement in academia/preaching/teaching. I spent this past Monday evening, for example, with a dozen or so college students discussing the theology of our Catholic Eucharist. This afternoon I spent a little time at Saint Anthony Messenger press recording answers to moral questions posed by the listeners of "Ask a Franciscan" on American Catholic Radio. I do this periodically and enjoy the chance to apply the academic training I received in Moral Theology. I love to teach and I find the radio recordings a rewarding outlet.
In the picture I am being interviewed by Sharon Cross of Saint Anthony Messenger Press. The photo was taken by Ron Riegler.