The Custody of the Holy Land is blessed with a large number of vocations to Franciscan missionary life. Since it is an international body it accepts candidates from all over the world, particularly from the Middle East, Europe, Latin America and the U.S.A. The Custody has four training centres:
On the way...
This is the year of initial training when a candidate enters the Franciscan Order after undergoing the necessary discernment for his calling, a period when he is supported by vocational supervisors and it has been ascertained that he is seriously motivated to become part of the Order. The novitiate is the time for direct learning of fraternity life, whilst remaining a lay person. The Custody of The Holy Land has postulancy houses at Ain Karem (in Israel) and at Harissa (Lebanon). The postulants generally come from different countries and continents, and therefore immediately live in that conviviality of differences whose wealth of human rapport and brotherly relations offers a taste of spirituality and of the Franciscan project. Study, prayer, communal life, participation in the life of the Custody, familiarizing with St Francis’ ideal of life, for one year help the postulant to understand and formulate his life commitment.
On donning the Franciscan habit, after a year of postulancy, the year of novitiate begins. The programme during this time includes playing an intensive part in everyday life in the brotherhood where they are admitted. The studies programme includes courses on the Franciscan Rule, Sources, History and the history the Custody. The daily lectio divina, training in religious and Gregorian chant, the responsibility of manual work about the house, service in the sanctuary and in the convent, but also serving the poor and supporting the parish’s pastoral activities including the commitment to participation in Jerusalem’s great liturgical feast days, as well as the attention to the contemplative dimension that must be experienced during the days of retreat, all making up the programme of this period, which bonds them closely to the life project that they are called upon to confirm. The novitiate house is in Bethlehem.
At the close of this year of novitiate, and with the approval of their trainers, the novices take a simple religious vow, in other words they make the public commitment to live according to the rule of St Francis: obedience, poverty, chastity. This commitment is repeated for four separate years. The professed friars live in the Convent of St Saviour, in Jerusalem, during this second training period. In this great brotherhood, home of the Custody of the Holy Land, they attend the international seminary together with the brethren who have been sent here by their Provinces for a life and study experience. The training programme includes a two-year period of philosophy studies and one year for the specialization in a language spoken in the territory served by the Custody. At the end of these three years the theological quadriennium begins. Everyone takes part in the life project of the St Saviour community: they offer their services for celebration of the liturgy in the Basilica of the Resurrection, they participate in the Custody’s cultural initiatives.
The four years of temporary profession conclude with the solemn profession, which makes the novices permanent members of the Order, with full rights and duties in the Custody. After the solemn profession they continue to study theology, but they reside in one of the convents in Jerusalem or the neighbouring areas, and are gradually guided into taking fully responsibility for their training, which passes from initial to permanent.