Combing through my old e-mails, I found this message I sent to the vocation director of the New York/New England Capuchin province on the evening of July 11, 2010. I reprint it in its entirety.
How life has turned since then. And yet -- still, I am who I am. More of who I am, I hope. There are many ways I can be and become the person -- the brother -- God has created, but this is the way it is working out: not perfectly, of course, but it is a way in service of love's perfection, and that is good enough.
While my motivations for being in religious life have evolved and will continue to do so, this letter speaks truly, both today and to my once-and-future yearnings.
Dear Brother Tim:
Peace and all good things -- this is Anthony Zuba. Do you remember me? I attended Capuchin Franciscan vocation weekends from 2000 to 2002. You may recall that I was a candidate in 2002, and [the province] did not accept me into postulancy. After a year in the CapCorps in 2002-03 in Baltimore, I concluded I was not being called to be a friar, and I did not apply for postulancy again. I returned to New York from Baltimore in 2004 and worked for a year in journalism, my former vocation. Feeling a strong call to theological studies, I enrolled at Boston University School of Theology in 2005. (If I remember correctly, you provided a favorable letter of recommendation.)
I've had the pleasure of being in touch with the brothers residing in Jamaica Plain. Bro. Thomas McNamara and I were classmates at Weston Jesuit School of Theology in the fall of 2005 in a course on sexual ethics. For several months from 2006 to 2007, Bro. James Donegan and I were volunteers together at St. Francis House, the largest daytime homeless shelter in New England. I remember prayer and dinner with the friars in Jamaica Plain on the weekend of the Super Bowl in 2006, when I got to meet Bro. Sean O'Malley!
In 2008, I got my M.Div. from Boston University School of Theology. I am still living and working in Boston. For two years now I have been a community organizer. I lead the Massachusetts Interfaith Committee for Worker Justice, a faith-based non-profit that organizes religious communities to support workers' rights campaigns. We're a lot like the Greater Boston Interfaith Organization, which many of the friars in Jamaica Plain are involved in, except we focus exclusively on economic justice issues like access to living wages and good benefits, the right to join unions, and immigrant workers' rights. I have had the occasional privilege of working with Bro. Jack Rathschmidt, and recently I met Bro. Martin Curtin.
Being a faith-based community organizer is great, but something is still missing in my life. I spend my time building community and ministering to working families, but I don't have a community or family to call my own. Community organizing is great mission work, and I feel fulfilled as a disciple that way -- I feel like I find the Church and God's kingdom in this work. But the Church is also about communion, gathering in, as much as it is about mission, sending forth. Boston is my home, but I do not have a group of intimates to go home to. While I have found wonderful communities of faith to worship with and communities of faith to work with, I know I need a community of faith to live with. In short, I need brothers. And I need to be a brother to others.
I am surprised to be thinking and praying about religious life once again after all these years, but there it is. I am now 32 years old, and I will be 33 in September. "Born" Catholic, I came into faith as an adult, and I have been a practicing Catholic for 13 years. I am an educated Catholic, with a Master of Divinity. I have lived in intentional communities, Catholic and ecumenical, for six of the last eight years. I am not the wide-eyed, naive, and uncertain young man who applied for postulancy in 2002. I have experiences, both good and bad, of living in community and doing ministry that I did not have in 2002.
My life is in flux at the moment -- I will be moving into new housing within a month or two; my organization is struggling to stay afloat financially -- but I would like to have a conversation with you in the next week or two, if that is possible. I need to put these daydreams into focus. I need other ears to help me hear God's call....
Thanks, Brother Tim. As you closed so many of your letters to me in a Franciscan spirit, so I close....
With God's love and mine,