By Friar Mario Serrano OFM Conv.
2020 marks the 800th year of “St. Anthony’s conversion.” In 1220, a young Augustinian friar named Fernando was moved by the missionary spirit of the early followers of St. Francis. Fernando’s first encounter with the Franciscan friars was in his hometown of Lisbon, Portugal. He witnessed five young Franciscans sharing about their desire to do missionary work in Morocco. These same friars would later return via the same route as martyrs, and this profound encounter with the first Franciscan martyrs from Morocco would become the decisive moment for Fernando, soon to be known as Anthony – St. Anthony of Padua.
St. Anthony received a call within a call, and he allowed the Spirit of God to move him beyond his comfort zone. And just like him, we are witnessing how the Spirit continues to stir the souls of young men to join the Franciscan movement, even amid this tragic pandemic.
As on July 15, 2020, three novices, friars Joshua Sherls, Alex Gould, and Roberto Macias-Marin professed their vows leaving behind, like St. Anthony, a life known for the Spirit-filled Franciscan life of living the Gospel. These three young friars made their commitment in a very sacred place known as “La Misión de San Antonio de Ysleta del Sur,” established in 1680. Today, it is located in the city of El Paso, Texas, but this mission, named after Anthony, owes its heritage to the Tigua people and the early Franciscan Missionaries in northern New Mexico, who decided to venture south toward the Río Grande.
The Tiguas for the past 340 years have praised St. Anthony, who is the patron of the mission and the Tigua People. Even within the pandemic reality, taking precautionary measures, the Novena prayers to St. Anthony were celebrated, “promesas” – personal devotions were upheld. The Tigua Peoples’ meal was shared, Mass for the Feast of Saint Anthony was celebrated, and they danced to the beat of their sacred drum still echoing within our hearts. The mission is alive. May we allow the Spirit that moved Francis and Anthony to drive us as we seek to live our call within a call.