Thom Schlinck ’19 was Mr. Siena – literally and figuratively. Inspired by his years of involvement through the College in community service and the prayerful example of the friars who live communally on campus, he will soon begin the journey to become a Franciscan friar himself.
“Some people have that moment, that flipped switch when they know they have that calling,” said Schlinck. “For me it was more gradual. Each year at Siena I felt more and more that this was what I was called to do.”
Although he had been thinking about becoming a friar since he was a freshman, it wasn’t until his junior year that Schlinck started telling friends.
“Everyone was really supportive, and no one seemed surprised,” he said.
For the past year, Schlinck has been living and working at the St. Francis Inn, a soup kitchen in Philadelphia, as part of the Franciscan Volunteer Ministry. Next week he is entering his first year as a postulant at Holy Name College in Silver Spring, MD. Next year he will become a novice, where he will prepare to take simple vows and where he will first wear the brown habit – the most visible emblem of the Franciscan calling.
A history major and pep band tuba player, Schlinck was involved in many organizations during his Siena years, but it was the Mentoring Program that was closest to his heart. Working and playing with the “littles” on Saturdays and during summers, this was where he first felt called to serve others, particularly young people.
“These kids have grown up in a society where because of their race or class or neighborhood, they started off life at a severe disadvantage. When I think about how I want to serve as a friar, I think about working with kids and college students.”
The Mentoring Program was where Schlinck got to know Fr. Sean O’Brien, the program’s director. Schlinck says – only half jokingly – that his dream job is to come back to Siena one day as Br. Thom and take over Fr. Sean’s job. Fr. Sean probably won’t mind handing over the reins.
“From his earliest days in the program, Thom's genuine good spirit was palpable to all who came to know and experience him,” he said. “He gave fully of himself to the kids in the program and was someone I could always count on to go the extra mile without being asked. During my 30 years as a friar many people influenced, inspired, and guided my Franciscan journey on how best to live the Gospel values. Thom Schlinck is one of those people.”
He participated in several service immersion trips through the College’s Franciscan Center for Service and Advocacy, and it was on a trip to Puerto Rico when he had long talks with Br. George Camacho that sealed his decision to follow the path of St. Francis.
“He talked to me about his experiences as a brother, and about dedicating your entire life in service to God’s people. It was then I fully realized that this is what I wanted to do with my life.”
Br. George said throughout their conversations, he encouraged Schlinck to leverage his gift of integrity to discern a potential call to life as a Franciscan friar.
“Thom is an incredibly mature, creative, and intelligent young adult and I would be honored to count him among my religious brothers in the Franciscan order,” he said. “One of Thom's greatest strengths is his authenticity. In living the life of the Gospel, we should bolster our sense of genuine integrity and not suppress it. It is only then that we can be of service to others and attempt to foster heaven on Earth. Regardless of where this journey takes him, he is setting the right example and living the Gospel.”
A vocation literally means a calling, and Schlinck said he believes everyone has one.
“Everyone has a calling to make the world a better place,” he said. “It’s not just for a select few. Everyone is called to do something.”