For many young Catholics in Australia, 2008 was a year of immense grace as World Youth Day came to Sydney and brought along with it the opportunity for an unique encounter with Christ.
One such Catholic was Conventual Franciscan Brother Bernard Mary Fonkalsrud OFM Conv. whose own powerful experience praying in front of the WYD Cross and Icon at his home parish started him off on the path of discernment.
With St Maximilian Kolbe and St Joseph of Cupertino as examples and after years of formation in Australia and the US, Brother Bernard’s journey has culminated with his Solemn Profession in Kellyville on Monday.
Brother Bernard professed vows of poverty, chastity and obedience in a ceremony held at Our Lady of the Rosary Parish, Kellyville, on 23 September in front of his family, friends and brother Conventual Franciscans.
Parramatta Bishop Vincent Long OFM Conv celebrated the Mass with Parish Priest Fr Alejandro Lopez OFM Conv and a number of concelebrants from across the Diocese and Religious community.
Travelling all the way from the United States to receive Br Bernard’s profession was Fr Michael Zielke OFM Conv, Minister Provincial of the St. Bonaventure Province.
During his homily, Fr Michael spoke on living the faith in the Franciscan way and challenged those present to put Christ in the centre of who they are in order to persevere.
“The proof is in the pudding my brothers and sisters by a life well lived when we lose ourselves in God and become really another Christ,” Fr Michael said.
“Why do you think St Francis is still so popular today? Because it’s not about Francis. Francis leads us to Jesus crucified. It’s that simple.
“The Cross and the Crucifixion reminds us of how much God loves us, of how much God wants to be a part of our lives if we let Him. And that’s the key my brothers and sisters. If we let Him.”
The fruit of centring one’s life on Christ, as the Minister Provincial reminded the congregation, is to become great saints for God’s honour and glory.
Addressing Br Bernard directly, Fr Michael told him to never be afraid to challenge himself and his brother Franciscans to live the gospel.
“We are in this together. We need each other. We need sometimes to be challenged to remind us what it is all about,” said Fr Michael.
“Bernard let your life proclaim Jesus. Let what you do in a few moments in this church continue forever.
“So when the Lord one day calls you home you can go with open heart, open soul and open mind knowing you’re in favour and the Lord has been glorified.”
Kneeling before the Minister Provincial, Br Bernard professed his vows while placing his hands on the Holy Gospel.
The words spoken during the profession, as Fr Michael told the congregation, will change Br Bernard’s life forever and “if he so chooses to live them, each and every day, will make him into a great saint”.
Br Bernard thanked Bishop Vincent, Frs Michael and Alejandro and all those present for taking part in his Solemn Profession.
“This is both a very exciting time for me and a very terrifying time for me for everything that lies ahead,” said Br Bernard at the conclusion of the Mass.
“I thank God and Our Lady for leading me here. I know that I’m not worthy but I know it’s God that strengthens me to be here.
“I thank Him for this blessing in my life and the many gifts He gives me every day though I don’t deserve it.
“I thank you all for your continued support today.”
If you are interested in discerning with the Conventual Franciscans or wish to find out more, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
By Mathew De Sousa. Republished with permission from The Catholic Weekly.