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WHAT MADE YOU BECOME A BROTHER?

The four Novices


What made you become a Brother?

Religious are frequently asked, ‘What made you become a Brother/Sister?’ The answer is seldom simple. Four novices who will be professed at Alnmouth Friary on 13th December 2014 give a brief answer to that question.

David SSF

In some ways you could probably say that I had some idea about my vocation as a Franciscan friar from an early stage in my life. As I was growing up I had a fascination with monks and friars (although at that time I didn’t know the difference between a monk and a friar). This fascination was strengthened by my visits to Taizé, an ecumenical Religious community in France, as a teenager. Growing up I also had a fascination with St Francis which was probably inspired by my father’s membership of the Third Order.

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The three knotted rope is tied around Br David.

I guess a lot of people that go to university to study can find it to be a time of great questioning; you are taught to question and to criticize things that you might have taken for granted, and for some Christians this can lead to a crisis of faith. But to me it was different. I found the critical atmosphere at university to be very inspiring and it led me to take my faith more seriously, it forced me to make answers for my faith.

It was also at this time that I started to think a lot about my future, what profession (if any) I should choose etc. And something that came up during this time was a sense that I might be called to some form of Religious life. First I thought that I might join the brothers at Taizé since it had been such an important place for me. So I went and spent a summer there when I was 21 years old. I found that time to be very rewarding and spiritually transformative, but I didn’t feel that I should join the brothers there. When I came back home I made contact with the Novice Guardian and the brothers at Alnmouth Friary and I made a visit and after sometime back home I thought that I might be ready to try my vocation as a postulant and later as a novice. I’ve now been in SSF for over three years and to join SSF has probably been the best decision I’ve ever made.

Robert

I became a Christian in my home town Berlin at the age of 11. More by coincidence, I became a Lutheran. In my later teens, I drifted out of church. I made a new commitment as a student in Manchester at the age of 26 (thanks to the Chaplaincy and Student Christian Movement). There I took part in the ecumenical ‘Week of guided Prayer’. I had fruitful daily discussions with my prayer guide, an Ignatian Sister. She had the key that opened for me the Catholic universe, from which my prejudice had barred me so far.

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Br Robert SSF

Back to Berlin, I found a Franciscan Friary next to my flat, which became quite an inspirational place to me. I belonged at the same time to the Catholic Society and to the Protestant Students. But more and more, I felt at home in a Catholic environment. My Manchester conversion changed the plans I had for life. Rather than become a scholar, which I always wanted, I decided to take a gap year after university to explore my vocation. I desperately wanted to go to Iona (I liked Britain). But they turned me down. Looking for an alternative, I ended up in Hilfield (coincidence?). There I was haunted, not for the first time, by the thought that God wanted me to live in celibacy. But it was the last thing that I wanted! After wrestling for some time, I only found my peace again by allowing for this possibility.

From then onwards it was a case of slowly growing into this possibility, which more and more became certainty. Not without occasional doubts, of course. I joined the Jesuit Volunteer Community, doing work with asylum seekers and vulnerable people in Liverpool. In 2011, the four of us started in Alnmouth. The first months felt like coming home. My rational ideas about vocation became visceral. And when Cristian and I got confirmed as Anglicans, it just felt right. The Noviciate was a time of growth for me, that rooted me in our life and made me ever more longing to give myself fully to it.

Cristian Michael SSF

My spiritual journey started very early in my life but things really developed in 2007 when I came to the UK. I came here from Lebanon where I was working as a nurse for nearly 19 years. It wasn’t a very peaceful place to live and work, so after some thinking I decided that I was in need of some time off! The idea was to travel around Europe for some time and then go back. So I came to the UK and somehow I ended up volunteering for a charity that takes care of drug addicts and homeless people. In my life I have always given priority to work that can help or assist people in need. Being a Christian from birth I always felt and knew that God has given each one of us a gift and we have a responsibility to use this gift to help and serve God’s people in this hard and difficult world.

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Br Cristian Michael SSF

After some time I joined the community at Hilfield friary. The time I spent there, living, worshiping and working alongside the Brothers with a Franciscan inspiration was in a way the starting point for me. I felt that I had a certain call to a Franciscan vocation but I was not sure if it was a call to be just a member of the community there and live alongside them or join the Brotherhood. It took me three years living at Hilfield to really understand what God was asking me to do! He wanted me to become a good servant, to help and assist God’s people wherever there is need, he showed me that I’m in the right place and by asking to join SSF as a Brother I will do his will and fulfil the vision he has for me.

For as long as I can remember, God’s presence was visible in my life, he guided me with gentleness through all my life, and when sometimes I sit down and think about it I know he was preparing me for this big and important change in my life. So I joined the Order with God’s blessing and the support of the Brothers. Three years have passed from the time I joined and two days ago (as I write) I was elected to first profession.

My journey continues in a world that is divided, in a world that has no compassion for the weak and vulnerable, but together with my Brothers we fight the good fight to do God’s will wherever there is need.

Please keep the Society of Saint Francis in your prayers; united together we can do the impossible and make a difference in this world.

Micael Christoffer

I was born into the Church of Sweden, and baptized as a child on 3 October, though I didn’t know about the Franciscan connection then. It was natural for me to be a part of the parish activities for children. I felt at home in the parish and grew in spirit and responsibility. As a teenager I began to lead the younger school children in our after school club. More responsibility was given when I became a part of the Church of Sweden Youth board, first in the parish and then in the diocese, and in a national committee responsible for the organization’s educational material about outdoor activities (similar to what scouts do.) I also became a member of the PCC at 18. Before that I had been a ’Church Warden’ which in a Church of Sweden context means someone like a Sacristan, and helped the priest with other liturgical things in a Church service or Eucharist.

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Br Micael Christoffer SSF

Several in the parish saw training for ordination as a next step, but I never did that. I explored how to do it but it sounded boring and I trained to be a Parish pedagogue instead. That took me to new parts of Sweden where I met other expressions of Christianity. It became even more an experience of ecumenism when I began my parish work and met a lot of Christians from the Middle East.

In my weekly prayer group I shared my questions about where my love for saying the office, and my thoughts that I might be called to celibacy instead of starting a family of my own like my friends, could take me. During prayer, one of the women saw a image of a man surrounded by birds. I saw that as Francis. I started to explore more about connections with him in the Church of Sweden and found TSSF and joined. At one of our Area Chapters, Brother Giles was a guest and he helped me to visit the brothers in England. Since then I stayed in touch with Brother Desmond Alban and two years later, September 2011, I moved to Alnmouth, to become a postulant, and later a novice. I hope to take the next step back there at Alnmouth on 13th December!

 

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Four newly Professed Brothers with Br Benedict SSF