About the friars…

bro-friarsThis weekend, our parish is hosting Fr. Kevin Mullen, OFM, the Provincial Minister of Holy Name Province. I thought this might be an opportunity to compile some “frequently asked questions” about life as a friar. So here goes…

Are all friars priests? Actually, no. Our first avocation of life is as brothers to one another. Where the diocesan men in formation are always on the path to priesthood, our formation is different. We spend our first two years with the Franciscans as postulants and novices, learning and experiencing what it means to live in community with other friars (brothers). After novitiate, you are asked how you want to live out the vowed life. We have men who are university professors and administrators, teach at medical school, are social workers, psychologists, tailors, cooks, artists, operate assisted living facilities, teach high school, and many are ordained priests working in parishes.

When you work in a parish, who is your boss? As Franciscans, we take solemn vows to follow Jesus in the manner established by St. Francis of Assisi. We live the vow of obedience to the Pope, our Ministers General, and our Provincial Minister. Fr. Kevin is our Provincial Minister for the OFM Franciscans on the east coast. Fr. Kevin is the “ordinary” (a technical term of church Canon Law) for our Province. Bishop Parkes is the “ordinary” of the Diocese of St. Petersburg.

Does that mean you also work for Bishop Parkes? Sacred Heart is a diocesan parish. When the parish was first established in 1860 the priests were all priests of the diocese (back then, St. Augustine). In the 1880s the bishop of St. Augustine asked the Jesuits to staff the parish and minister in his name. When any religious order is in a parish, we minister in the name of the local bishop. For all matters of the parish, as pastor I report to and obey the bishop. For all matters of our Franciscan life in our local community, we report to the Provincial Minister through our local community Guardian. Here in Tampa, Fr. Zack is the Guardian.

Did the Pope appoint Fr. Kevin as Provincial like he appoints Bishops? Given they are both “ordinaries” under Canon Law, that’s a good question – with an interesting answer. The Pope does not appoint the Provincial Minister. When the friars come together for a provincial chapter (meeting) we elect the Provincial Minister to serve for six
years.  And when his term is up, the new Provincial Minister will assign him a new job within the province. Fr. Kevin was the president of Siena College when he was elected in 2014. When his term is up maybe he will again be a pastor in a local parish!

As you might infer from the answers above, life as a Franciscan can be a bit fluid. But one thing that never changes is our vow to be brothers to one another in following Christ in the manner of St. Francis.

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