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home : features : people of faith

6/2/2011 6:30:00 AM
Siena fostered friar's vocation
Brother Daniel Horan, OFM, distributes communion.
Brother Daniel Horan, OFM, distributes communion.

Strolling across the Siena College campus and greeting students, faculty and friends is hardly an unusual occurrence for the friars who serve the Loudonville school.

But for Brother Daniel Horan, OFM, those encounters are "little moments of random and unpredictable grace."

Stationed at the college for formation - a sort of internship for friars before they take their vows - Brother Daniel has spent the past year teaching at Siena, ministering to the students, traveling with them on a mission trip and even playing in their pep band.

A graduate of St. Bonaventure University in Olean, the 27-year-old Utica native once pictured himself becoming a parish priest. But, as he spent time and prayed with the Franciscan friars at his university, he realized the importance of community in religious life - so he began looking into the Franciscan Order of Friars Minor, since they live communally.

Since then, Brother Daniel's passion and experience also led him to pursue a ministry in education. Choosing Siena College for his year of formation seemed a perfect fit: He's been able to work for the Department of Religious Studies, teaching both Introduction to Christian Theology and a foundations course that introduces students to the intellectual life of the school and examines significant texts on a number of topics.

"It gave me the chance to get to know the students, just by working with them and following their work," said Brother Daniel, admitting: "Of course, I might have emphasized Franciscan writings more than another teacher."

To make sure he was a part of the full range of student life during his formation, he also agreed to play drums in pep band, worked with campus ministry and was a part of a spring break mission trip to the Dominican Republic.

"I've worked at a university before, but this was my first time working with undergraduates," he said. Although he initially had some reservations, "it was a wonderful blessing to be around them."

Coming from another Franciscan school, Brother Daniel said he was a little biased in favor of his alma mater.

After just a year, he realized how wrong he was: "My admiration for [Siena's] work has increased. It was tempting to compare them, but at their heart they are the same. At their heart is the same Franciscan tradition that I love so much.

"Franciscan schools like this are facing tough times," he added. "They continue to follow in the footsteps of [Ss.] Francis [of Assisi] and Clare in a time when it's not easy to do so."

The Franciscan way of life drives Brother Daniel, whether he's teaching, ministering, blogging or writing. As he now looks toward his final vows to become a priest, he's eager to introduce more people to that tradition.

"Most people don't know much about St. Francis beyond the birdbath," he joked, referring to the saint's renowned love of animals. "But there is a wealth in this tradition that we can all tap into today."

In his little spare time, Brother Daniel is also a novelist and writes a blog, "Dating God: Franciscan Spirituality for the 21st Century." He was recently elected to the board of directors of the International Thomas Merton Society.

He has completed his time at Siena. In August, he'll make his solemn vows in Washington, D.C.

"From this year at Siena, it was just confirmed for me that teaching, scholarship and public speaking is something I should do. It's a part of my vocation - and now I have the experience of connecting with young people, relating to them, knowing their movies and television references and seeing what this generation of the Church needs," Brother Daniel said. "I'm so grateful for those moments."

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