Three make first professions in Franciscan community, first to enter since group was established

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LAVEEN — Three members of the Franciscan Friars of the Holy Spirit have professed temporary vows, the final step toward making a solemn profession — or permanent commitment — to the growing Laveen-based community serving the spiritual needs of the area’s Native American population.

The June 23 ceremony also marked the first temporary profession by members who joined the community here in Arizona, following its establishment by Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted in June 2016. The Franciscan Friars of the Holy Spirit’s mission is largely re-invigorating the Native American community in the area. All seven original members arrived in the Diocese of Phoenix following their move from western Pennsylvania in May 2015.

“These are the first novices to enter here, go through postulancy,” the initial transition from the world to the culture of religious life, “go through novitiate and now make first profession. These are the ones who were formed here in the desert,” observed Bishop Olmsted following the Mass at St. John the Baptist Church, where Br. Xavier Kozlowski, Br. Paul Graupmann and Br. John of the Cross Costantino each dedicated himself to living a life of poverty, chastity and obedience in the community.

(Jesús Valencia/CATHOLIC SUN)

“Even though it’s a temporary profession, it’s still a complete gift of self to God, and we do this with the intention of it being permanent,” Br. John of the Cross told The Catholic Sun following Mass. “We want to give God the chance to, if He’s calling us to something else, to show us. But, I really believe this is exactly where the Lord wants me to be.”

The three were received into the novitiate in December 2016.

“We started as seven and these guys joined us two years ago in a great act of faith; and now we’re 10 professed friars,” Fr. Athanasius Fornwalt, FHS, the community’s formation director explained after Mass. “That is a sign of life, that there is something growing in the community.”

While the three brothers’ journey are the first “homegrown” members of the community to profess temporary vows, the next phase of their journey will take them outside Laveen, to Detroit, where they will live while attending Sacred Heart Major Seminary and continuing to prepare for the priesthood.

“That’s the next big endeavor for us is to be running a priestly formation program for our own men. It’s our first time starting a house of formation toward the priesthood,” Fr. Athanasius noted. He will be assisted in that effort by Br. Peter Teresa McConnell.

“I’m just so thankful for His call in my life and His invitation to be His and to be part of an amazing fraternity of brothers,” said Br. Xavier.

Each of the three will now wear new cords around their waist, replacing the former ones during the ceremony, to symbolize their new role in the community.

(Jesús Valencia/CATHOLIC SUN)

“These men come, renouncing their own wills, sacrificing their wills for the will of the Father and clothed by the Church, clothed with the Holy Spirit,” Fr. Alcuin Hurl, FHS, said in his homily, adding the three newly professed’s zeal for growth over the past 22 months inspired him.

“They begged for more Adoration, they begged for more prayer. I had to call off the dogs and [say], ‘just go to sleep, guys,’” Fr. Alcuin recalled, drawing laughter across the church.

Prayer and quiet contemplation were the chief vehicles for discernment as to God’s direction over the past 22 months, according to Br. Paul.

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“Really there has been this deep sense of peace and this great sense of unity,” with the friars, “almost seamlessly fitting in to that. Four years ago, I had kind of a big conversion experience, and what a blessing it is when you do say ‘yes’ to God. God has really fulfilled the desires of my heart.”