Transition is God’s Way of Promotion

Transition is God’s way of promotion. And we here at St. Francis of Assisi are going through a bit of a transition, as one of our Friars, Fr. Brian Smail, O.F.M., is transitioning from our parish to the provincial offices. Our director of music and pastoral associate, Meredith, sat down for a little Q and A… here is what she learned: 

Meredith: How long have you been a Friar and can you share a bit of your journey with us in a nutshell?  

Fr. Brian: I have been a friar since 1992 (30 years). I am what they used to call a “delayed vocation”… now they call it a “second career vocation.” I used to work at Bank of America in Boston for 15 years. Part of my job was going into Boston. When I was in Boston working I would go into St. Anthony’s shrine which was down in the financial district. That is when I met the friars. In those days I didn’t even know what a friar was. What was the difference between a friar and a regular priest? Interestingly enough, the first friar I ever met was Fr. Michael Carnevale. He was at Arch Street at the time. I was able to ask him questions about what his life was like. He told me about his life. And at that time I really wasn’t interested in being a friar. I was fascinated by their life. The more I got to know them and what they did, how they with each other and the people that they served.., it attracted me more and more. One day I was in the lobby and there was an application to be a friar, so I took it. That application remained in my brief case for two years, I kid you not! Two years!  Anyway… I filled it out! I was accepted. It was not an easy decision. I had a very comfortable life. I wasn’t wealthy by any means… but I had a comfortable life. My family and all my friends were in Boston. I was in my mid 30’s then. But something told me that if I don’t do this now, I am going to regret it some day. So I took the plunge. My novice director when I went in was Father Andrew Reitz and that was in Brookline, Massachusetts. That is how I got involved with the Friars. Bumping into them in downtown Boston. Learning about them and being attracted to their way of life. 

Meredith: When did you come to NYC? 

Fr. Brian: I came to NYC in 2007. I had been in Boston for 9 years at St. Anthony’s. And I was asked to be the Director of Vocations. The provincial John O’Conner asked me to move to NYC. It wasn’t like he asked me, “Brian would you like to do this…” – it was more like, “Brian, I need you to do this!” But he did let me think about it. I figured I was being asked to do something that was important to the province, so I did it. And again, it was a whole new experience… moving to NYC. I didn’t know anyone here. The Friars were so welcoming to me. Fr. Jerome Massimino was the pastor then, and he made me feel right at home. I would say it was an easy transition in terms of my community life as a friar. It took a while to really get into the vocation director position. But I grew to love it. I did that for 7 years. And it was one of the longest terms anyone ever served as vocation director. It is an office that really needs a fresh pair of eyes and skills to move it forward to the next level. So I did what was mine to do. Because I liked the parish here so much, (I used to help out here when I was vocation director) I asked to stay here and work at the parish). 

Meredith: When you transitioned to the parish, in what capacity did you work here? 

Fr. Brian: I worked here in the church as Parochial Vicar. I also wanted to do more than sacramental ministry. I was already certified as a spiritual director. I did a program at Boston College for that. So that was one of the things I brought with me. I also did Adult Faith Formation and Bereavement Ministry which I very much have enjoyed. And of course, the sacramental things. 

Meredith: You have been at the Church of St. Francis of Assisi working with us here since 2014 full-time until now. Now you are transitioning back to the province. What will your work entail with the province? 

Fr. Brian: It is kind of complicated, as it is a number of areas. It primarily the area of finance and development. So many people that the friars have served are very, very generous to us. They remember us in their wills and bequests and trusts. I process those. I am also the grant administrator for the Bonfils grant and the benevolence grants that the province disperses. I will also be working on other projects in development. 

Meredith: What is the thing you will miss the most about working at the Church of St. Francis of Assisi? 

Fr. Brian: One of the things I love about this parish is that you meet people from all walks of life. Different ethnic backgrounds, socio-economic backgrounds, everybody. This is a parish of choice for many, many people. You also meet people from all over the world. I am going to miss that the most. And also the staff. We have a great staff here of incredibly talented people. I will miss that a lot. That is why I am hoping that once I get settled in this new job I can help out as my schedule permits. I can’t imagine being a public minister, and not doing that type of work. I will definitely miss that. But you know in this life sometimes when you are asked to do something, it’s not so much about you but about what the province needs. 

Meredith: Thank  you for taking the time to meet with me this morning. We are so grateful for the years you have been with us here and we will surely miss you, but find comfort knowing you are next door and hopefully will have time in your schedule to worship with us!!  Blessings on your new endeavors.