Pope Francis meets with delegates to the general chapter of the Order of Friars Minor during an audience with 200 Franciscan leaders at the Vatican in 2017. CNS photo/L’Osservatore Romano

Franciscans look to reach out to youth

By 
  • March 21, 2020

Canada’s OFM Franciscans aren’t facing a vocations emergency, but they do have a problem — the same problem many dioceses and religious orders of priests face across Canada.

“The vocations that we’re using right now, or the men that we’re calling in to fill the void, are from abroad,” explained OFM Conventual Franciscan vocations director Fr. Jobe Abbass.

The Order of the Friars Minor is a global order with a pretty steady flow of vocations.

“In fact, we’re the same as we have been (in terms of vocations) for the last 20 years at least,” Abbass said. “Basically because of the increased vocations in Africa, India and Southeast Asia. So, we’re very fortunate that way.”

But Abbass would rather see a few more Canadian vocations. The problem he faces is trying to invite young men into a community dominated by men in their sixties. Abbass was born in 1952 in Sydney, N.S., and the other Canadian-born OFM Franciscans running parishes in Ottawa, Kingston and Toronto are men of his own generation.

As a retired professor of Canon Law at Ottawa's Saint Paul University and his community’s vocation director, Abbass doesn’t think the biggest hurdle he faces is the generation gap.

“It’s really not a generational thing as much as it is openness to the Spirit,” he said.

Abbass was a lawyer in private practice before he joined the Franciscans in the late 1970s.

“The Spirit of God still works and it entered my life in a way that was so powerful that I left the law practice,” he said.

There are still young people out there working on their careers, immersed in a consumer culture, who wonder whether there’s something more — just as he wondered as a young man.

“It’s not to say that Canada is a godless society, but one where the Lord is not as present as we would want,” said Abbass. “He is still there and I’m sure that He will send young people our way.”

Abbass isn’t seeing many young adults in pews, which leaves him searching for new ways of reaching them outside of church.

“We have a project now of forming a team. I want one young person from Ottawa, Kingston and Toronto to join me and we’ll work together on trying to have a promotion of vocations,” he said. “Maybe get ideas from them about how to access youth.”

The 57th annual World Day of Prayer for Vocations is May 3 and Abbass intends to be ready.

“It’s not as if we’ve just given up. That will never be the case,” he said.

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Correction: The Order of the Friars Minor Conventual and the photo uses is of the OFM friars not OFM Conv., who Fr. Jobe is a member of.

Friar Mario
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