Australian Novices Return to the States

An incident here at Noviciate has been the need for three Australian Novice to return home as they awaited the U.S. Immigration Department to process their religious worker visa. While the issue of getting their visas has gone on for well over 6 months, I (and others) thought it was best not to discuss the incident in any public forum...for reasons I can now talk about.

Jude, Kieran, and Jude are the three novices from the Australian Province of the Capuchin Franciscans (pictured here with Fr. Carmel Flora). They are great guys and add color to our community here. The only problem was their immigration status here in the U.S., a source for concern not just for them, but for the rest of us as we grew closer to them.

For reasons we can only guess at, this year has been especially difficult for people to attain a visa to be in the United States. Even their status as "R" (temporary religious worker) was being held up in their attempt to get their visa's for the combined formation year of Pre-Noviciate and Novitiate here in the States. It was an issue in the spring that we thought would be taken care of by the time we all got together in June.

For whatever reason, the Australians were not able to attend the 2 months in Kansas because of this. As time got closer to moving from Kansas to Pittsburgh, there was the wonder if they'd even make it at all.

Due to some quick thinking by the collaboration of different provinces, there was a quick solution that got them here in time at the end of July: the start of Novitiate. By going into Canada, and then coming into the U.S. on a 3 month visa waiver, they were able to participate in the Novitiate process with us - all the while the provinces continued to work on the visa situation. Without a resolution, we knew they would have to go back after the 90 days.

Days turned into weeks, and each day and night we prayed for some resolution. The uncertainty of the entire situation was worse than a definite "no." The whole mess became even more personal as they became more integrated into the opportunity they missed out on when we were in Kansas for 2 months.

On the 6th of October the Aussies left home with the hopes of getting their final interview completed and receiving their visas. Each day we continued to pray, eagerly awaiting any news and noticing their absence and how it affected the entire community. Again...days passed without any news. It seemed like they were destined to stay in Australia.

Just recently we were informed that the Aussies would be returning this week. Apparently after someone in the Australian province decided to send emails to all of the U.S. consulates, (angry emails calling them incompetent, unorganized, and a few other choice adjectives), the paperwork that had been missing "had been found and was being processed with great urgency."

With a sense of relief and happiness, we eagerly await their return. They are due to arrive on the 23rd, but with the International Date Line, I don't know if they're arriving tomorrow, next week, or if by some freak of time they're arrived 6 hours ago and the world has to catch up! Either way it is glad to have them back.

And like most guys, when the worrying and the concern is gone, the teasing and joking immediately resumes:

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