A Postulant’s Reflection

Our province has three men in the postulancy phase of initial formation as Franciscan Friars Conventual: Luke Duchemin, Jonathan Robert Nemo and Christopher M. Fernandez.
Chicago’s St. Bonaventure Friary – Postulancy is home to all postulants from the four provinces of North America. This year there are eight postulants residing together, under the direction of Our Lady of the Angels Province friar, Fr. Brad Milunski, OFM Conv. and the guidance of several other experienced friars, sharing a year of introduction to & immersion in the Franciscan / Gospel life.

Our Lady of the the Angels Province postulant ~ Luke Duchemin (at center below) has been the author of the blog “More Than an Idea” since July of 2014. Luke’s July 20, 2018  post shares his reflections on what it means to be a postulant.

Director of the Postulancy ~ Fr. Brad Milunski, OFM Conv., our three postulants ~ Jonathan, Luke & Christopher, with our Minister Provincial ~ Very Reverend Fr. James McCurry, OFM Conv.

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What is a postulant?

A good question goes a long way. There are some questions that can easily catch me off guard. Like when someone recently asked me if I was French. Maybe? I’ll have to check on that… But generally whenever I meet someone for the first time there are a few questions I always expect to hear:

How tall ARE you?
Where are you from? Delaware.
Oh…where is that?
Or better: I’ve driven through there!
How do you say your last name?
(Dook-e-min? Duck-min? Or my favorite, Dutch-man?)

Trending now: what is a postulant?

Prior to entering the Postulancy, Luke attended this summer’s Ordination of four Franciscan Friars Conventual. Here he is blessed by one of the newly ordained friars of our province, Fr. Maximilian Avila Pacheco, OFM Conv., during the reception that day.

Nearly three weeks ago, my journey as a postulant with the Conventual Franciscans began. So what exactly is a postulant? To be honest, I’m still searching for an appropriate answer myself! The official Webster’s definition of a “postulant” is a “candidate or petitioner,” especially referring to someone interested in joining a religious community. Definitions help me, but this still doesn’t really get at the core of who I am and what me and the seven other men discerning this way of life are doing. We could consider ourselves candidates of the cross—the Tau cross to be exact—open to learning more about the way of St. Francis of Assisi and many of the Franciscan saints who have paved this way before us. We could consider ourselves as seekers petitioning to enter into a community that we see as life giving to the world and ourselves. More importantly, and most accurately, I’d say that we are respondents: we’ve heard (not audibly…of course if any of us have heard the “still small voice,” that is awesome and I need to hear that story) God’s call. Now, here in Chicago as postulants, we are responding.

Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening… (1 Samuel 3:9)

The postulancy is a year of focused discernment. Just as if I couldn’t imagine marrying someone without dating them, I would be unable to ascertain whether or not religious life with a specific community is a match made for me without spending time getting to know the community and being known by them. Just like in any loving relationship, this commitment is mutual. Just as much as I am asking questions of the Conventual Franciscan community, the friars are asking the same questions of me! Will this work? Does this fit? What would this look like 5, 10, 35 years from now?
To postulate is to express a desire for a long-term commitment. I’m not here to live a spiritually charged “gap-year,” I’m here to ask myself if this is the life that I am willing to lay down, sacrifice, for the greater glory of God—so that I might not lose my life, but save it (Matthew 16:25).
And at any rate, to seek out such a commitment, as in any loving, living relationship, the discernment (the constant consideration of God’s influence, the activity of His love in my life throughout the various people and circumstances) never stops… This means that as a postulant, my relationship with Jesus doesn’t plateau…if anything, I’ve only just begun to really wonder how Christ is calling me closer to Him, His Church, His kingdom.
Now that I’ve taken a step in this direction with the Franciscans, one could say the discernment has just begun! I wish this were true; the journey leading to this postulancy year has been full of hope and hurdles. I’ve never been much of an athlete, so the hurdles caught me by surprise…this is a roundabout way of saying: commitment is hard. Discernment takes time. Discernment never stops; it develops.
In the final weeks leading up to our July 2nd start date in Chicago…I didn’t purchase my airfare until the 1st week of June. That is how uncertain I was about committing to this decision. Call me crazy (which I am!) or human (which I also am!), there was a stretch of time where I honestly thought I wouldn’t be here…yet here I am! (Maybe more on this story later.)
As our postulancy year progresses, so does our discernment, so does our relationship with Jesus, His Church, and you! Religious life is call to even greater intimacy with God’s creation, especially his people, through action and contemplation; we are in Chicago, pondering how we would and could respond to this call through the Franciscan way of life!
So what is a postulant? Who is a postulant? Someone who is willing to take a risk in committing to Christ and to a community so that others might be encouraged to postulate (advance in, come to believe in, or even witness to) the truth of Jesus Christ in our very lives. As we postulate this community and discern our vocation we are grounded in this one pursuit: who is Jesus Christ, and what does He want from me? Now that is the question worth asking…

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If you would like more information on how you can become a Franciscan Friar Conventual, please contact our Province Vocation Director: