Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of June 23, 2003
Bro. Toad and Bro. Gerry
Franciscan tells of his journey of faith on hike through meadows and hills
By RENATO GANDIA
WCR Staff Writer
Elk Island National Park
Lush trees, exotic dragonflies and butterflies, a moose, pelicans hovering in the sky against a calm lake and a gentle breeze blowing all morning.
These are but a few of the things that participants of a Franciscan-led outdoor activity will remember, when they hiked at Elk Island National Park, 45 km east of Edmonton, June 14.
They walked in the meadows and hills for 12 km. It can be tiring for the novice hiker. But one can always overlook fatigue when you get more than physical exercise.
While hiking, participants, including Fathers Dave Norman and Dennis Vavrek, shared their stories with each other as they observed and admired nature.
In one stop they saw a rare frog, which Franciscan Brother Gerry Clyne referred to as Brother Toad, reminiscent of the founder of his order, St. Francis, who called nature brothers and sisters.
At one point they were getting frustrated as they expected to encounter a moose, deer or any wild animal.
Disappointment vanished. After they took a 30-minute rest, they saw the moose they'd been looking for all morning.
But more importantly, while resting, 26 young people from different parishes heard the vocation story of one of the Franciscans, Brother Gerry Clyne.
Clyne was raised in a strong evangelical Protestant Christian family in Ottawa.
He went to a Bible college in Moose Jaw, Sask., where he graduated with a bachelor of theology degree in 1984. There he met a professor who changed his life. Although the professor was not Catholic, he exposed Clyne to many things in Catholicism.
Clyne became drawn to the Catholic Church and to religious life but he struggled with issues like doctrines on Mary, transubstantiation and papal primacy.
Instead, he attended the Anglican Church. "It was 'catholic' enough without having to deal with the specific 'Roman' issues," Clyne noted.
Eventually he told his parents of his interest in Catholicism and religious life. "They were distraught. It was a very painful time in my life. Today my parents have come to accept my being a friar. They even came to my solemn profession."
During his college years he first encountered religious life. But from the Bible he discovered the ideals of this state of life before he knew it already existed.
"This was the most significant affirmation that I was called," said Clyne.
He also went several times to St. Peter's Benedictine Monastery in Muenster, Sask., where he met Franciscan Father Richard Rohr, from Cincinnati, Ohio, who gave his general interest in religious life the specific Franciscan direction.
"In St. Francis all that I found in Catholicism came together with my passion for nature."
After college he moved to Waterloo, Ont., where he attended Mass at the university, went through the RCIA and finally, in 1986, became a Catholic.
Almost immediately after, he began inquiring about the Franciscan order but got no response in Toronto. In the meantime he moved to Winnipeg and looked after mentally handicapped people.
"This was very demanding but it gave me a sense of doing meaningful ministry. This was another affirmation of my calling to religious life. I was already living a religious life in as far as I could- praying, ministering, living simply and celibately, and associating with a Christian community."
Because he was a new convert he was required to wait two years before joining the Franciscans. In August 1988, Clyne entered the novitiate and made his solemn vows, Oct. 4, 1994.
"I love being a Franciscan; I feel I have come to be what I always really was. And now that I am the vocation director I feel I have come full circle, helping other young people discern their vocations."
In an interview while on the hike, Clyne told the WCR the Franciscans organized the hike to expose young people to the beauty of God's creation as well as to establish a rapport with them.
Holy Rosary Parish's Mark Stanicki, 15, liked the exposure to nature and enjoyed exploring the woods.
He also appreciated Clyne's story because he learned more about St. Francis of Assisi.
Danielle Lutes, 23, from St. Albert Parish said, "It was hard work but it was worth it in the end. We accomplished something. It was fun to meet different people from different parishes. And it was good to hear Brother Gerry's story. I did not know much about the Franciscans and their background."
Laurie Hryciuk, 26, felt the same and said, "It's really nice to see the connection of Brother Gerry's spirituality with nature. You don't hear that often."
Alissa Marcinkow, 19, of St. Joseph's Basilica, loves being outdoors.
Brother Gerry's sharing "is very appropriate for the event and it's really neat that he related to our walk earlier what he shared," she noted.
The event ended with a Mass at the friary, where they shared more stories and pizza.