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The Church: home-base of second chances

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Musings from Fr. Dave

Palm Sunday


With today’s liturgies, we begin the most sacred time of our church year: Holy Week begins, blending into the Sacred Triduum (Holy Thursday through Easter Sunday.)

The Palm Leaf by William-Adolphe Bouguereau (1825-1905)

The Palm Leaf by William-Adolphe Bouguereau (1825-1905)

There are two Gospels proclaimed at our Masses this weekend, both from Matthew. The first: Jesus’ wonderful entrance into Jerusalem, the second: Matthew’s account of the Passion of Jesus.

The contrasts today are stark!  From spirits soaring high in triumph, to the dark scene of Jesus’ crucifixion.

As you hold blessed palm branches in your hands at today’s Mass, let your imaginations fly, as you listen to all the readings. Those stark contrasts are much like the ups and downs of our own lives. We have memorable celebrations as well as heart rending troubles as we walk life’s path.

I beg you to remember well, that the Roman Catholic Church is the home-base of second chances.

Jesus lived and died while on mother earth so that we may live.

His Resurrection and return to His Father is His eternal promise to every one of us.

When you think all is lost … the Holy Spirit that dwells within you brings peace and all that is good to your troubled spirit.

Everything that we are as Roman Catholic Christians is contained in Holy Week.

Please pray for all R.C.I.A. members as they prepare to fully enter into the church this coming Saturday evening at Easter Vigil Mass.

Have a prayerful and blessed Holy Week!

Love, Fr. Dave

Fr. Dave Kobak, OFM, is the pastor of Holy Family Church in Oldenburg, Indiana


We want to pray for you.
Share your prayers with us and
our online community at our Prayer Page.
May this your most joyous Lent and Easter ever.
God Bless you.

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“Play Ball!”

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Br. Kenn Beetz, OFM, Fr. Jeff Scheeler, OFM, Fr. Al Hirt, OFM, and Br. Gene Mayer, OFM, take turns carrying the banner in the Reds Findlay Market Opening Day Parade.

Br. Kenn Beetz, OFM, Fr. Jeff Scheeler, OFM, Fr. Al Hirt, OFM, and Br. Gene Mayer, OFM, take turns carrying the banner in the Reds Findlay Market Opening Day Parade.

For the first time ever
the Franciscan friars marched in the
95th Cincinnati Reds Findlay Market Opening Day Parade
celebrating the return of baseball to the Queen City.


Fr. John Bok, OFM, & Fr. Blane Grein, OFM, ride in the rumble seat of a 1930 Ford Model A Roadster courtesy of Cobb Car Care

Fr. John Bok, OFM, & Fr. Blane Grein, OFM, ride in the rumble seat of a 1930 Ford Model A Roadster courtesy of Cobb Car Care

When Findlay Market opened in 1852, Franciscan Friars were already part of the melting pot that is Over-the-Rhine.  Followers of the example of St. Francis of Assisi, Friars arrived from Austria in 1844 to serve this neighborhood of German immigrants through a parish, school, and social service programs.

Our mission continues today with St. Francis Seraph Parish and our St. Francis Seraph Ministries: our soup kitchen, elementary school and the Sarah Center for women.

Our presence in the Opening Day Parade allows us to share that rich heritage and celebrate our diverse community.  See all the photos of the day at our gallery:

As Fr. Frank Jasper says of the day, “It was a great parade.  Everything was perfect.  We couldn’t ask for a better day.  The kids were great too.”  Watch the highlights in this video.

Art Teacher Cedric Michael Cox inspired his students to create the church and banners promoting the Franciscan charism of peace and community.  Enjoy this video of our visit to his lively classroom as Br. Tim Sucher, OFM, assists Mr. Cox and his students paint the façade of St. Francis Seraph Church.

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A Renaissance Friar

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“I see each question, whether with a personal problem or something about scripture or theology as very important and when I am at my computer I often imagine the person to whom I am writing as if I were talking to them in person.”
Fr. Jim Van Vurst, OFM

Fr. Jim Van Vurst, OFM

A Franciscan for over 60 years, Fr. James (Jim) Van Vurst, OFM, is truly a renaissance man, sharing a wide variety of talents throughout his priestly ministry.

Some assignments bore heavy responsibilities, such as his 19-year ministry at Duns Scotus College in Southfield, Mich., which included teaching psychology and spirituality and working with friar and lay students at the college, teaching psychology and medical ethics at the nearby Province Hospital School of Nursing and doing counseling in the hospital’s mental health clinic.  During his last four years at Duns Scotus, he was also President of the college and Guardian of the large friary.

From 1981-1990, he was Vicar Provincial for St. John the Baptist Province. For 11 years he served as Director of Pastoral Care at St. Leonard Retirement Center in Centerville, Ohio. While there he became a certified nursing assistant.

For the past eight years he has worked for Franciscan Media (formerly St. Anthony Messenger Press) and the website, doing a monthly column as well as answering questions that come to the website’s popular “Ask a Franciscan” column. It receives over a thousand questions each year plus many letters. “I see each question, whether with a personal problem or something about scripture or theology as very important and when I am at my computer I often imagine the person to whom I am writing as if I were talking to them in person,” Jim explains.

He finds great satisfaction using his first love, theology and spirituality, in his work. “The beautiful thing about theology and spirituality is that at its core, it remains the same revealed truths but it must always be adapted and explained to the condition of our own present time and circumstance.” That, and utilizing his psychologist skills, has been the thread binding most of his Franciscan assignments.

Jim is also busy as Associate Pastor at St. Clement Church in St. Bernard, Ohio, working with people as a spiritual director and hearing confessions and counseling those who need assistance.  He also teaches art to the seventh- and eighth-graders at St. Clement School who come up with interesting questions like, “Is it a sin to get a tattoo?” and “How big is God?”

In his limited time off, Jim does watercolor painting. His gallery of quality abstracts, nature, and architectural paintings decorate the office halls at St. Clement. He also enjoys spending time with his only sibling, Sr. Mary Ann Van Vurst, a Sister of Charity.

Jim turned 80 in February and says he is aware he is slowing down. “But please don’t bring up the word ‘retirement’,” he asked.  “I can go a long time doing what I am doing.”

Fr. Jim Van Vurst, OFM, teaching a painting workshop

Fr. Jim Van Vurst, OFM, teaching a painting workshop

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Friends with “St. Tony”

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A friend indeed.
Helene writes about her friendship
with “St. Tony”


Dear Editors

St. Anthony of Padua

St. Anthony of Padua

My favorite saints are St. Francis of Assisi, St. Theresa of the Little Flower, and St. Anthony of Padua.  St. Anthony and I have become really good friends.  My classroom was a place where I would lose things all the time.  All I’d have to do is ask for St. Anthony’s help and somehow I’d find what I had been missing.  Since I was having the conversations so often, St. Anthony became simply, “St. Tony”.  My students would remind me to ask “Tony” if I would become bewildered or something went missing.

My renaming of St. Anthony to “Tony” was not a sign of disrespect, but a sign and acknowledgement that the Saints need to be our friends.

In fact, recently my son had a repairman at his home while I was there visiting.  The young man misplaced his work phone.  I asked “Tony” to help and sure enough he found the phone almost right away!  I did not think the young man was Catholic so I proceeded to tell him about St. Anthony and how helpful he has been to me in my life.  The man then told me he had heard about St. Anthony when he was a boy from his mother but had never asked him for help.  I like to think they became friends from that day on.


St. AnthonyWe’d love to hear your St. Anthony story too.  Use our Contact Page or Email: or Call Colleen Cushard at: 513-721-4700.  Share your prayers with us and our online community at our Prayer Page.  You can donate to St. Anthony Bread or any of our ministries at our Donation Page.

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Real Men Don’t Cry?

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The Raising of Lazarus by Rembrandt (1630) Public Domain

The Raising of Lazarus by Rembrandt (1630) Public Domain

5th Sunday of Lent
April 6, 2014


This week there is another long Gospel. It is the beautiful story of the Raising of Lazarus.   Easter is getting closer; only a few weeks away.

The readings you hear today deal with our own mortality, (Ezekiel 37:12-14), and Jesus’ promise to every one of us for Eternal Life, (Romans 8:8-11).  The people of Ezekiel’s time looked forward to freedom from oppression. The Letter to the Romans speaks of “The Indwelling of the Holy Spirit”.

In John’s Gospel, (John 11:1-45), Jesus weeps over the death of His close friend Lazarus.

I don’t know how many times I have heard the expression, “Real men don’t cry.” Today’s Gospel tosses that saying in the trash heap. If Jesus wept over the death of a friend, what makes anyone think that that emotion is weak?

Being the true Son of God, Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, and restored life to His friend.  The power of God’s Word can restore life in us as well.  Here is something worth pondering in these later days of Lent.  What has “died” in you? What can the Holy Spirit restore in your life?

Fr. Dave Kobak, OFM

Fr. Dave Kobak, OFM

All of us have dark areas in our lives; places that we would rather not think about or revisit.  Besides the fear of physical death, there may be things in your own spirit that have died and need to be brought back to life. In these waning days of Lent, place your trust in the Holy Spirit that dwells within you.

Being chronically human, we think that there is much that is impossible to accomplish. Deepen your faith!  Nothing is impossible with God.  Jesus wept for His friend Lazarus.  Jesus weeps when He sees you bound in fear. Permit yourself to allow Jesus to restore what has died in you.

Father Dave

Fr. Dave Kobak, OFM, is pastor of Holy Family Church in Oldenburg, Indiana.

We want to pray for you.
Share your prayers with us and
our online community at our Prayer Page.
May this your most joyous Lent and Easter ever.
God Bless you.

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Waters of Eternal Life

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Baptism of Christ
Musings from Fr. Dave
Third Sunday of Lent
March 23,  2014

Welcome spring!

I am sure that everyone is happy to say goodbye to winter. I have been thinking about what to plant in my garden this year; I think I will go a little simpler this time around. The soil ought to be much better too, all the grounds from my wake up morning coffees have been steeping in the garden all winter long.

As we anticipate the warmer weather to come, The Word this week also comforts us with stories of clean cold water refreshing the thirsty.

The ancient Hebrews were refreshed by water from the rock.

The woman at the well was refreshed by a different kind of water … the waters of eternal life that Jesus spoke of … both to her and to you and me.

Our beautiful Baptismal Font symbolizes the water that Jesus speaks of. The Paschal candle rises up from that water.

As we continue on in our Lenten season, and are blessed with more Baptisms each week, allow the good grace of our own Baptisms to shine out. Baptism is such an easy thing to overlook or take for granted. It is a powerful sacrament, one that opens the flood gates of God’s Grace upon us. Lent is about Baptism, and the impact it has on us as Roman Catholic Christians.

Fr. Dave Kobak, OFM

Fr. Dave Kobak, OFM

Our R.C.I.A. class is eagerly waiting to be fully received into the church. Please keep them in your prayers as they continue to prepare themselves.

Before you know it, the spring blooms will be here. As spring refreshes mother nature, allow the Holy Spirit to refresh you too.

Count your blessings!

Fr. Dave

Fr. Dave Kobak, OFM, is the pastor of Holy Family Church in Oldenburg, Indiana.

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Fr. Murray Bodo, OFM, Franciscan Poet

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Those are the two magnetic poles of my life: books and the Franciscan Priesthood. The glue that holds them together is Saint Francis of Assisi himself.

Fr. Murray Bodo, OFM

Fr. Murray Bodo, OFM

Growing up as an only child in Gallup, N.M., Fr. Murray Bodo, OFM, was always performing improvised skits for whoever would watch. It was not until he was in high school that he discovered poetry as a creative outlet.

Following ordination on June 5, 1964, he continued his studies, then went on to teach at St. Francis Seminary and Duns Scotus College.  He served as Spiritual Director and did a lot of research and writing as well.

In 1972 Murray, a teacher and an up-and-coming poet, went to Italy on a mission to write a book about St. Francis.  He produced a slim paperback of prose that defined his future and continues to inspire readers around the world in ways he could never have imagined.  That book was Francis: The Journey and the Dream.

Journey and the DreamMurray’s work far surpassed the expectations of its author and its publisher (St. Anthony Messenger Press, now Franciscan Media). More than 200,000 copies have been sold in English, Spanish, German, Italian, Chinese, Maltese, Portuguese, Slovenian and Korean.  Asked if he ever tires of talking about it, like a rock star who’s always singing his greatest hit, Fr. Murray shakes his head no. “It always gives me an opportunity to talk about Francis, who along with Jesus is one of the passions of my life.”

Forty years, dozens of books and hundreds of poems later, the work that is still most celebrated, most closely associated with its author is ,The Journey and the Dream now available in an anniversary hardback edition. Facing his 77th birthday in June, “It is like I did the book of my life at 35 years old,” Murray says. “Everything I have written since, its seed, its germ, are in that book. I smile at myself and wonder if I should have stopped there.”

Fortunately for us, he did not.


Some of Fr. Murray’s newer books include:Francis and Jesus

Francis and Jesus published by Franciscan Media

“You are about to be led on a wonderful journey with both Jesus and Francis, by Fr. Murray Bodo, who has earned the right to speak about both of them.”—From the foreword by Richard Rohr

Of Francis and Clare published by Tau Publishing

“Of Francis and Clare brings together in one volume all of the poems relating to St. Francis and St. Clare that I’ve written from 1980 to 2013. Cumulatively, they provide a sort of landscape of the world of Francis and Clare that writing the poems revealed to me. Each of these poems is a small journey of discovery, and all of them together are, I hope, the landscape of a larger journey into the heart of the Franciscan vision and charisma.” – Fr. Murray

Of Francis and ClareEnter Assisi:  An Invitation to Franciscan Spirituality published by Franciscan Media, to be released in January 2015.

“It’s the first time that I’ve written a book specifically on Assisi since Susan Saint Sing and I wrote A Retreat with Francis and Clare of Assisi.  But this book is more a homage, a love song to the city I’ve been visiting for over 40 years.” –Fr. Murray

To learn more about Fr. Murray, his books, and the Franciscan Pilgrimages he leads in Assisi, Italy, please visit his website:

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“Help someone else first, St. Anthony”

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“Help someone else first, before me, because it is only a thing
and I can handle this loss,” writes Kathleen.
Yet St. Anthony blesses her by finding the ‘thing’ she cherishes:
her special charm bracelet.

Praying woman silhouett

It has been a bad few years. I lost by brother (10 yrs ago), my step sister (less than 3 yrs ago), my sister (1 1/2 yrs ago), then my step dad (5 months ago). This does not include the loss of cousins, aunts and uncles and friends. Although the specific death dates escape me now, the loss has the same affect regardless. The causes of death ranged from medical, car accident, aids and suicides. My siblings were between the ages of 44 and 50 when they died. Material things, although I enjoy them, have far less meaning to me now since the loss of my sister a year and a half ago. In fact, life is the only thing that really matters to me at all now.

About a month ago I noticed that my charm bracelet was missing. I felt that it was somewhere in my house and I would find it when I had time to look for it. When I got around to searching, it was no where to be found. Generally I am quite careful with jewelry and I have almost everything that anyone has ever given me. The bracelet was not in any of “the usual” spots I would have put it. I pulled apart the house. I vacuumed and checked the vacuum bag–nothing. I dusted and cleaned and checked every quirky spot where I may have set it down—nothing. I was surprised by my reaction to not finding it. In the past, the loss of this favorite piece of jewelry would have really upset me.

I did miss my bracelet very much as there were charms on it from my sisters, mother, husband and children, and even one charm from my sister who passed. This charm was of a shoe from Holland. It was given to me to remind me of my brother who passed while he was in Holland. It’s a special bracelet. I prayed to St. Anthony that I would find it but I prefaced the prayer with “help someone else first, before me, because it is only a thing and I can handle this loss.”  I was surprised with myself and my reaction to the loss.

Charm BraceletAt least two weeks more had passed and the bracelet was still missing. One night, I was praying in the shower. I said to St. Anthony,  “I am really ok with this loss. It is fine. No big deal. It is just a thing.”

Then I got out of the shower, dried off and opened the cabinet beneath the sink to get something. Wow–I knew right away, it was my bracelet. I saw a shiny illuminated thing in the far corner in a cardboard box!  How it got there, I have no idea. I believe my bracelet was lost and Saint Anthony either placed it there for me to find or lead me to it. I certainly never intentionally placed it there and the latch on the bracelet is such that it is extremely difficult to open. I don’t believe if fell off. It was all so strange, yet not.

St. Anthony answered my prayer even though I was not desperate to find it and asked him to help others first. Our lives are blessed.

Best, Kathleen


We’d love to hear your St. Anthony story too.  Use our Contact Page or Email: or Call Colleen Cushard at: 513-721-4700.  Share your prayers with us and our online community at our Prayer Page.  You can donate to St. Anthony Bread or any of our ministries at our Donation Page.


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Hail to the Chief’s Libraries

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(In honor of Presidents’ Day Feb. 17, we asked Chaplain Colonel Robert Bruno, OFM,  to write about one of his hobbies, visiting libraries and museums housing presidential materials.)


Fr. Bob Bruno at the offices of the Chaplain Corps

My initial interest began while I was assigned to an Air Force year of study at Boston College in 1985-86. I came across the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library & Museum while touring downtown Boston and paid it a visit. I was so fascinated by the experience that I began what I call my pilgrimage to visit as many of these sites as possible when I became aware of how many of them there actually were. Since then, I have visited the following presidential libraries and museums:


1. George Washington: Mount Vernon, Va.

2. Abraham Lincoln: Springfield, Ill.

3. Theodore Roosevelt: Oyster Bay, N.Y.

4. Herbert Hoover: West Bend, Iowa

5. Franklin D. Roosevelt: Hyde Park, N.Y.

6. Harry S. Truman: Independence, Mo.

7. Dwight D. Eisenhower: Abilene, Kan.

8. John F. Kennedy: Boston, Mass.

9. Lyndon B. Johnson: Austin, Texas

10. Richard M. Nixon: Yorba Linda, Calif.

11. Gerald Ford: Grand Rapids, Mich.

12. Ronald Reagan: Simi Valley, Calif.

13. George H. W. Bush: Austin, Texas

I know I’m missing several of them, but still on the list to be visited among others are:

  • · William McKinley, Canton, Ohio
  • · Rutherford B. Hayes, Fremont, Ohio
  • · Jimmy Carter: Plains, Ga.
  • · William J. Clinton: Little Rock, Ark.

I was particularly interested in President Truman’s museum since he was the president in the year I was born. Several of the museums offer the opportunity of visiting the actual homes of their presidents at the time of their deaths. Visiting them is like a journey back in time as they were bequeathed to the National Park Service as they were. Each one of them offers a fascinating perspective on how the world looked from the perch of the U.S. presidency in their day.

(The Office of Presidential Libraries administers the nationwide network of libraries and museums. To learn more, visit

This story originally was featured in the SJB News Notes of February 15, 2014.  Toni Cashnelli is the Communications Director.


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A Note to Fr. John from Pakistan

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Our E-Newsletter reaches people around the world


Dear Fr. John,

Heartfelt greetings from Pakistan. My name is Samson, born in a Roman Catholic family in an Islamic state, Pakistan.

From my childhood, I am a believer of St. Anthony. I used to attend regular masses of St. Anthony’s every Tuesday here at the Cathedral in city of Rawalpindi until the winter timings clashing with my office closing time. I work in Islamabad, the capital city, which takes at least 45 min to drive to cathedral to attend the mass. For last few years, God has blessed me to be able to provide buns (bread) on weekly basis, keeping the tradition of St. Anthony in the church, for which I thank God.

Now talking about this newsletter of January 2014, I got married at the age of 31.  Although we still live in a joint family, three sisters and two nieces and newphews, whose father is recovering from drug addiction, my life has changed so much as expected. My father went to heaven in November 2013 and from that time on, the life has been hitting so hard on me.

My wife is the perfect one and since we are the most educated and main providers to the whole family including other four married brothers and sisters with their kids, we often feel so tired of life’s treatment to us. I was so down driving to the office this morning. While saying rosary, I paused for a long time and reflected, what has gone wrong with my life, why I am not in control of things that happen or fail to happen?  But I am so encouraged reading your letter and conclude:

St. Anthoy Shrine in Cincinnati

• I must share my worries and plans with God to give him a chance to laugh and guide me…

• I must ask St. Anthony to pray for me

• I must resume to ‘seek and do the will of God in everything in life’

Please pray for me and my whole family.   God bless you and all the work you do also your team.



Read Prayers of St. Anthony, share your prayers with us, and read the prayers of our online community at our Prayer Page.


We’d love to hear your thoughts about Fr. John’s E-Newsletter too.  Use our Contact Page or Email: or Call Colleen Cushard at: 513-721-4700


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