Unfortunately, the Franciscan orders run high school seminaries are pretty much gone or going. This was one of the comprimises that we had to make when we entered the period of reform after Vatican II. Perfectae Caritatis mandated that religious orders return to the spirit of our founders and our original charism.
The original charism of Franciscans was not a priestly charism, but an obediential and fraternal charism. That is, we were founded as an order of brothers whose primary obligation is to obey. From this obedience flows our detachment (poverty), prayer, brotherhood, community life and service.
Since the focus shifted from preparing men to become priests to preparing men to become like Saint Francis, the seminary was no longer the right place to have formation. Seminaries were created for the formation of diocesan priests, not for the formation of religious men. Religious men were always formed in the bossom of their communities.
Monks were formed in monasteries, not seminaries. Friars were formed in brotherhoods, not seminaries. Today, there are over 300 branches of the order in 114 countries and 1.7 million members. What makes us all one family and sons of St. Francis is our love for our brothers, our obedience to Francis and the rule. What makes us different is the way and places in which we serve the Church.
If you check any website for any of the Franciscan branches you will observe that the formation for priests is not mentioned. The focus is on Francis, his life, his mission and his vision. A man can still ask to be received to the Franciscan family and to the priesthood. But he must understand that those friars who are ordained must get permission from the other brothers and the major superior to be ordained. The major superior speaks for Christ and for Francis. He decides who has a call to the priesthood.
In the meantime, young mena and old, who want to be Franciscans should begin by carefully studying the life of St. Francis, reading his rule, the early friars and getting as much information as they can about the Franciscan way of life. There is nothing wrong with wanting to be a priest. We love priests. But you must first and foremost want to be a Franciscan brother. Without that, you will not be a happy friar.
We train everyone in theology. But we make no distinction between the formation of a man who wants to be a priest and one who wants to be a teacher. The formation is all about being a follower of our holy Father Francis.
Since formation is about Francis, it's also going to be very much centered on the Trinity and the community life within the Trinity. So, the expectation is that as you grow older and make progress in Franciscan formation, you will also make progress in community living. Whether you're a priest or a carpenter is not as important to us as the fact that you must desire with your whole heart and mind to be a brother like Francis was.
You can and should stay in touch with friars. You can go to any of our websites and learn about our different communities. There are the four original Franciscan communities: Friars Minor, Friars Minor Conventual, Friars Minor Capuchin and Third Order Regular. From these four communities other Franciscan communities have been carved out in response to the needs of the Church and the needs of the friars.
Beside reading some of the works that I mentioned above, I would suggest that you write any of us and maintain an on-going contact. You can maintain contact with as many friars from the different Franciscan branches as you want. The more that you write to, the better picture that you get of the variations on the same theme, FRANCIS OF ASSISI.
If you're truly looking at the Franciscan family, don't worry too much about being a priest right now. If it is God's will, the superior will grant you permission to be ordained. We have always had priests join our family or friars who asked to be ordained. Focus on Francis. Find out if Francis is really the right spiritual teacher for you. Is this the man whose teachings and inspiration will lead you to heaven?
You can develop your own aspirancy program while you finish high school. Just read and talk to us. We'll try our best to answer your questions and even share some cool stuff that you probably don't know about our way of life.
Since you are attracted to Friar Juniper Serra, it would be a good place to begin. If you have not read about him, do so or read more. One more thing, Friar Juniper Serra was not part of the OFMs. The OFMs did not exist in his time. At that time, the Franciscans were made up of several hundred small congregations that followed the same rule written by St. Francis.
The OFMs were organized by Pope Leo XIII in the 19th century. He pulled all of these small groups together under the common name, Order of Friars Minor. The larger groups he allowed to remain autonomous with their own government, but the same rule That's how you get the different branches. Today, John Paul II allowed more branches of the order to break off from the OFM, OFM Cap, OFM Conv, TOR, and SFO. As these groups that Pope Leo XIII had promulgated became so large, there has been a need to create smaller groups to preseve the brotherhood. It's hard to have one brotherhood with 1.7 million men. You will often see other friars that also belong to the Franciscan family with other initials after our names.
Start your own formation now by reading and contacting these different groups of friars and learning what Franciscan life is about. The priesthood will come for you, if it is God's will. If not, you can still be a very holy and fruitful friar, if THAT is God's will for you.
Br. JR, OSF