Friar Pierre Charland, O.F.M. Provincial receives the Solemn Vows of Friar Michael Perras, August 23, 2019 - Credit: Dori-Lyn Brezinski
By: Alison Bradish
One could say friar Michael Perras was raised in the arms of the Archdiocese of Regina.
The 42-year-old man originally from Glenavon became an official brother with the Order of Friars Minor (O.F.M.) August 23 in Cochrane, Alberta surrounded by family and friends. He was the only man from Canada who professed his final vows this year, and the first to do so in the newly formed Holy Spirit Province of Canada. (There are 14, 000 Order of Friars Minor in the world, and they are broken up into provinces. There used to be a Western and Eastern province in Canada, but they have recently come together to create one province.)
Perras journey to that moment was kick started in 2012 while he was working as Pastoral Assistant at Resurrection Parish in Regina. It was during that time one of the Friars came to the Parish to preach a Lenten mission and there began Perras first real encounter with the Franciscans. As he was explaining his work to the visiting Franciscans, he was asked, “Why aren’t you a friar?”
Perras says it was one of those still voice moments, and he realized he didn’t have an answer. “Anybody who knows me knows I can come up with an answer pretty quick. I was stunned quiet in that moment and that’s when I thought, ‘ok, I obviously need to do something around this.’”
The silence and the question of why he wasn’t a Friar propelled him to spend some time with the Friars later that year in Alberta, checking out their community. When he made his way out to his parents’ place that Thanksgiving, he let them know he was seriously thinking of becoming a brother.
The eldest of four siblings, Perras credits much of his vocational journey to the love of his parents, who he says were supportive right from the beginning. “I think because my parents are active in their parish community this isn’t foreign to them. They both have experience of religious communities in their life,” Perras says about the openness of his family to his call. He says he and his siblings also had some good discussions about his decisions. An uncle to many nieces and nephews, Perras explained it to them that they would be getting more uncles, his Franciscan brothers.
The formation process for a man seeking to become a Friar is intense, taking at least 5 to 6 years before taking solemn vows. Perras novitiate year (his second year of formation after postulancy) took place in Burlington, Wisconsin. It was an international centre for English speaking novices. There were friars from Ireland, the United States and Mexico. It was at the end of that year Perras made his first set of vows. Afterwards he lived in Edmonton and studied at Newman Theological College where he earned his degree in Theology and was involved in different types of ministries. Every year in August he would renew his vows for another year. From there he was able to request making his solemn vows.
“Solemn vows are my perpetual, forever, commitment, to living my life as a friar,” explains Perras who says the profession is equated to a wedding ceremony. It is the public expression of a brother’s commitment to live out the evangelical counsels (poverty, chastity, and obedience) in fraternity and unity in the Franciscan community. It is not the same as ordination, although some friars go on to become priests.
Unlike monks, the Franciscan Friars of the Order Minor are not cloistered. Friars share their gifts in a variety of ways and many friars around the world are parish priests, administrators, health care workers, social workers, artists, scientists and teachers.
Perras himself is part of the parish retreat team at Mount St. Francis. He lives with 7 other friars in Cochrane where they are serving the larger community through retreat ministry.
One of the things that impressed him about the Franciscans order was the sense of fraternity and community. “They are men who don’t always agree on everything but they are trying and living in communion with each other.”
Perras says other aspects that appealed to him were the simplicity of life of the friars and their spirit of welcome and hospitality, and in a special way to those who are suffering.
St. Francis started the tradition of the nativity scene, and the Franciscans helped spread the practice of the Stations of the cross, both of which Perras says is fundamental to the spirituality of the friars, and spoke to him personally about the journey from the cradle to the cross.
Perras says he is grateful for all the prayers and support from those who have shared this journey with him. He was particularly moved by the response of the pastoral council at Resurrection Parish when he announced he was leaving his position to join the friars. “Their reaction was let us pray for you. They literally cradled me with their prayers,” recalls Perras, who also gives much credit to his grandparents, three of four who are still living and pray for him everyday.
There were challenges in responding to the call. For Perras, it was stepping out of the familiar to embracing newness. “My life was about to change drastically, however, this is a good thing because it is being open to the fullness of God. Being able to fully live out who we are as children of God by accepting that seed that was planted in us at our baptism.”
Alison Bradish lives in Moose Jaw with her husband and two children. They attend St. Joseph’s Parish. She earned Bachelor of Arts in Journalism at the University of Regina. She is naturally curious about local and world events. She writes from her home where she strives to bloom where she is planted. She often feels pulled to the topics of religion, education and politics.
Page URL: http://archregina.sk.ca/news/2019/09/30/former-pastoral-assistant-resurrection-parish-professes-his-solemn-vows-franciscan