On December 12-22, 2023, the Provincial Custody of Our Lady of Coromoto in Venezuela, the Provincial Delegation of St. Anthony of Padua in Ecuador and the Provincial Custody of St. Francis of Assisi in Colombia jointly conducted their second meeting for post-novices. The event took place at the San Antonio de Padua Friary and Formation House in Bogotá D.C., Colombia.

Those participating included Friar Sidifredo de la Cruz CHAPARRO GUALDRÓN, the Provincial Custos of Colombia; Friar Jair del Cristo CONTRERAS LÁZARO, the Director of the Formation Commission of the Province of Colombia and Rector of its post-novices; and Friar José Alberto SUÁREZ ALEMÁN, the Rector of the post-novices of the Custody of Venezuela. Also present were the post-novices of the Custody of Venezuela: Friars Gabriel GARCÍA GONZÁLEZ, Cristian TERÁN GAMBOA, Henry JIMÉNEZ GRATEROL, José Luis GIL RIVAS, Deiby MEDINA GUERRERO and Darío ROJAS ARAQUE; the post-novices of the Delegation in Ecuador: Friars Patricio LÓPEZ CANACUAN and Luis BARBERAN CASTILLO; and the post-novices of the Custody of Colombia: Friars David de Jesús VELASQUEZ CARDONA, Cristian de la CRUZ, Brayan ESTRADA GARCÍA, Breiner TORREGLOSA ARDILA and Richard ACUÑA RIVAS.
The objective of the meeting was to more deeply understand and practice the conformation of oneself to Christ, in the style of St. Francis of Assisi, in the context of the 800th anniversaries of the Christmas at Greccio and the Stigmata of St. Francis. The meeting began with a retreat experience at the Lagoon of Neusa, and the aqueducts of Cogua and Zipaquirá. The retreat was led by the Provincial Custos of Colombia, Friar Sidifredo de la Cruz; and the Custodial Econom, Friar Alexander HERNÁNDEZ BLANCO. They offered a period of profound silence―a desert experience―focused on following Christ in the manner of St. Francis at La Verna.
Next, there were several formation sessions led by Friars Pedro Pablo BERMÚDEZ, Elkin SOSA CORREA, Fabián ARRIETA BOTERO, and other friars in charge of this meeting. The formation sessions covered various topics, namely, the following of Christ in the Gospels, Franciscan Mariology, Franciscan Ecclesiology, Christ in the light of the great Franciscan masters such as St. Anthony, St. Bonaventure, Alexander of Hales, Rochelle Odon and Blessed John Duns Scotus, and finally, the theology of the Incarnation in the Latin American tradition.
There were also several fraternal and formational activities, such as encountering Christ in the suffering faces of the elderly at the Nuevo Sol Geriatric Center, meeting with the members of the community at the Parish Church of San Luis de Tolosa in Bogotá, and participating in the Christmas novenas with the faithful at the local San Antonio de Padua Friary.
There were also several fraternal moments in which the friars talked about their respective cultures through the history of their Jurisdictions and the history of the Conventual Franciscans in their respective countries. The friars also spent time together participating in sports, taking care of the friary, going on outings around the city of Bogotá, visiting the Poor Clares, and stopping by the Inmaculada Concepción Friary in Bogotá, the current seat of the postulancy program in Colombia. All this made it possible to create a fraternal and familial atmosphere.
At the end of the event, the post-novices wrote an evaluation of the meeting. They found it meaningful and fruitful because it nurtured the spirit of humility, service, simplicity, obedience and charity between the friars. Each confrere was encouraged to be submissive to God’s grace, to apply himself generously, to allow himself to be guided by his formators and to be open to fraternal life.

Friar David de Jesús VELASQUEZ CARDONA