In an agreement between HNP Today and Dating God I’m happy to share with you the extended interview given for the article that was published on January 12, 2011 titled: “Dan Horan Feels ‘Wonderfully Blessed’ by Internship.” The interview is rather lengthy, coming in at just above 2,000 words. Enjoy!
Below is the extended interview from the HNP Today article featuring Br. Dan Horan, OFM, author of this blog.
Interview with Br. Daniel P. Horan, OFM
with Rebecca Doel of HNP Today
R. Doel: What specifically are your roles at Siena during your internship year?
Br. Dan: I am teaching two courses each semester at Siena College: RELG 240 “Introduction to ChristianTheology,” which is an introductory course to systematic theology and a course directly related to my academic field of study. I am teaching a section of that course both in the Fall and Spring.
I am also privileged to teach a yearlong freshman seminar called Foundations 100 & 105. This is an interdisciplinary course that is a much more eclectic than the work I’m doing in theDepartment of Religious Studies. The Foundations section is a special one too. I work closely with Fr. Ken Paulli, OFM, who pioneered a service-learning section of the course last yearand has passed the course on to me, while also remaining involved in this year’s class. So insummary, my primary ministry is academic in nature.
I am involved with several other aspects of the campus life too. I was recruited to play the drums in the Siena College Pep Band for the Men’s and Women’s Basketball games – a responsibilitythat I inherited, believe it or not, from my little brother, Matthew, who graduated from Siena this past May (2010) and had played the drums for the Pep Band for 2 seasons. They needed someone to replace him and I was asked to do it (one of my fellow friars spread the word to the band director that the new friar used to play drums in DC). It’s a unique opportunity to work with the students and be a part of the College life that most friars never get to experience. We spend a lot of time rehearsing, traveling to and from games and playing at the games themselves– it’s certainly a different way to be a minister of presence. I understand that one or two of the band members have even decided to take my class in the spring – so who knew music couldbe a good theological recruiting tool!
I am also working in a consultative manner with both the Franciscan Center for Service and Advocacy and the office of the College Chaplain to help create a resource guide and theological reflection program from a Franciscan perspectivefor students and staff that go on service trips abroad and domestically. I will be initiating the program in March 2011 when I go to the Dominican Republic with a group of students and Dr. Shannon O’Neil of the Siena College Women’s Center for an alternative Spring Breakimmersion trip.
R. Doel: Besides length, how has this internship differed from your summer assignments?
Br. Dan: Unlike the summer assignments, which are largely designed to be geographically and experientially diverse to give the student friars wide exposure to a variety of provincial ministries and houses, the year-long internship year is designed to focus more specifically in a ministerial area that both the particular friar and the province leadership feels best reflects the friar’s gifts, talents and interests, while also responding to the needs of the province. Many friars spend a year on internship in a parish or service church, others go to one of the colleges to do campusministry or academic ministry (such as I’m doing), while still others go abroad – like myclassmate Steve DeWitt – to do an internship in a foreign setting.
R. Doel: Has the internship strengthened your Franciscan vocation in any way?
Br. Dan: This internship year has certainly strengthened my Franciscan vocation in very particular ways.
Because most of the friars at Siena or St. Bonaventure University are so busy and committed to their ministry, which has become even more demanding as the number of friars decreases on both campuses, many of the other friars around the province don’t often have a very good sense of what the day-to-day life of a Siena of SBU friar is like. I have been very inspired by the dedication and work of my brother friars here at Siena. Up early for morning prayer and often up late with student-related ministry or campus events, the friars’ days are packed with teaching, research, administration, sacramental ministry and many other activities.
I have found myself wonderfully blessed by the example of my brother friars as well as learning a lot from their wisdom, example and advice. One of the greatest aspects of this year has been to get a first-hand, real experience of what a life of academic ministry in Holy Name Province is like. There really is no other way to discern whether or not God is calling you to a particular form of ministry than to do it for a year in a community of friars that are doing that type of ministry alongside you.
R. Doel: Is teaching a ministry you see yourself continuing after your solemn profession &ordination?
Br. Dan: Of course every particular ministry and friar assignment is a process of dual-discernment that takes place as a friar comes to better understand God’s gifts in his own life, while the province, through the provincial administration, also comes to both recognize those gifts of each friar and assess the ministerial needs of the province.
What this semester has provided me with is a stronger sense of what ministerial gifts I have and how those gifts might be used in the provinceto best serve the people of God. Before coming to Siena I had already been quite active inacademic work beyond graduate studies, having published more than twenty scholarly and popular articles and giving invited lectures and academic papers in both the United States and Europe. The research and publication part of academic ministry was something I was alreadyaware of as a strength and interest, but I needed to explore the teaching side of that way of friarlife. With the exception of a course I taught in the Education for Parish Service program at Trinity University in Washington last fall, I hadn’t had much experience of teaching at this level.
My internship year so far at Siena has given me great experiences in and out of the classroomand the feedback from my teaching mentors has been very positive. I can absolutely see myself continuing in the ministry of education after solemn profession and ordination.
R. Doel: Do you feel there are any challenges/advantages of teaching college students asa recent grad yourself?
Br. Dan: I suppose there are both challenges and advantages to being a younger friar who himself is less than a decade out of undergraduate studies. One advantage that seems to come with that position is a greater ability to relate to the college students and the students, in turn, are better able to relate to a professor relatively close to them in age. There are other young professors in their late 20s, recent graduate students and the like, that teach at Siena and that I have been privileged to get to know this year. I think we all share that ability to understand cultural and entertainment references, the use of new technology and other generational characteristics of the students that may be more removed from some of our older colleagues on faculty.
That said, one challenge that comes with being so young is that, when I’m around campus and not in my habit, I am usually mistaken for a student. The friars here particularly like recalling how I was stopped by campus security – twice in one week by different safety officers – and asked for my student IDearly in the year, only to discover I was a new friar. It’s funny to laugh about that now, but I am regularly confused for a student, especially in the library.
R. Doel: You credit your interaction with friars at Bona’s as part of what shifted yourinterest in being a diocesan priest to a Franciscan friar. Has that in any wayimpacted your interaction with students at Siena?
Br. Dan: I can say that my own experience of knowing the friars at St. Bonaventure when I was a college student has certainly made me very aware of the importance the presence of the friars on campus and in the classroom. Where else does one have the opportunity to positively impact the lives of 3,000-or-more young adults for four years at a time? The students, staff and faculty love the friars and the friars give their time and energy generously in their ministry to the Siena College community, just as the friars do at St. Bonaventure University.
R. Doel: What prompted you to start your blog?
Br. Dan: Ah yes, the blog. Well, the initial impetus for the blog was the strong encouragement, bordering on insistence, of my publisher that I start and regularly maintain a blog. I have a book coming out with St. Anthony Messenger Press and the marketing department, through my editor, has made it clear that today’s authors are expected to utilize social media and provide an increased web presence.
Blogs are unique in this respect, particularly from a publishing perspective, because they allow an author to provide new material on a regular basis. If a reader happens to like an author’s blog, in my case www.DatingGod.org, it’s very likely that he or she would like one of the author’s books. The reverse is also true, if you like an author’s book, you might like to read more from that particular writer. I was at first reluctant to do the blog, but have found myself really getting into it. The incredibly positive feedback and increasing numbers of readers encourages me. For me it is a very real ministry, a way to connect with hundreds of people daily, offering a particular (not “the”) Franciscan perspective on prayer, theology, currentevents, culture, entertainment and a variety of topics. I believe that in addition to my scholarly or academic work, there is a real need and ministerial opportunity to do popular theological and spiritual writing for a wider audience. That is why I agreed to do this book with SAMP and will continue to write online and in print for a broader audience in addition to my more scholarly work.
R. Doel: As one of the younger members of the Province & one that is using a variety of “new” media, what are your thoughts on using Facebook, Twitter, YouTube,etc., to spread/promote Franciscan values?
Br. Dan: Franciscans are way, way, way behind the culture and even other religious communities when it comes to engaging so-called “new” social media. I take seriously the call to evangelizationthat the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (this past November) and Pope BenedictXVI (both in his last encyclical in and in a recent address to Catholic journalists) have talked about in recent months concerning the internet, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and other web-based media.
I am wholly convinced that the Franciscan tradition maintains a very rich treasury of spiritual resources that speaks to the hearts and minds of today’s spiritual seekers, the young and old alike. However, the “tried-and-true” forms of communicating that tradition to audiences of days past no longer work today. What we believe, what we strive to live daily as Franciscans, what attracted us to this way of life and continues to keep us here is powerful and we need to do a better job sharing our stories of faith in the Franciscan tradition with others. I believe that, like the telephone or television or internet, the “new” social media of today is here to stay and they are the way to invite people to come and know Francis and Clare of Assisi, and, in doing so, know themselves and God better.
R. Doel: Are there any other projects you are working on that you would like to share withthe readers of HNP Today?
Br. Dan: In addition to preparing my two Spring courses, I’m working on a few articles for publication that are in various stages of completion. I have articles appearing this winter and spring in the journals Woship, The Cord, Seminary Journal and The Merton Journal.
I also have the book on contemporary Franciscan spirituality for St. Anthony Messenger Press that is nearing completion. I am at the early stages of two other book-length projects. I have been contracted by The Merton Legacy Trust to be the editor of the correspondence between Thomas Merton and Naomi Burton Stone, which is a longer-term project. I am also working on a very exciting book with another HNP friar, Robert Lentz. We are doing a unique project in interreligious constructive theology for which I am doing the writing and Robert is creating new icons that work together with the text in a dynamic and interrelated way. Additionally, I have been invited to give lectures in New York City (January), Buffalo (February) and Louisville (September), and I will be giving some academic papers at a few conferences in 2011.
In other words, there are alot of exciting projects in the works!