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Parade is a walk of discovery

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“At the Old Ball Game!”

Fr. Stephen Cho from South Korea

Fr. Stephen Cho from South Korea

At noon on Opening Day, Fr. Stephen Cho is glued to his smartphone, thumbs churning out tweets and Facebook posts. By now, most friends know he will walk in the 97th Findlay Market Parade with brothers from St. John the Baptist Province. It’s a new experience for Stephen, a Korean friar who is living at St. Francis Seraph Friary while he learns about religious publishing at Franciscan Media.

When it’s time to gather for the parade, he hoists a PVC pipe over his shoulder – it will hold up their banner – and follows a group heading north in Over-the-Rhine to their assigned spot in the lineup.

Wordlessly, Stephen takes in the carnival surrounding him: clowns, kids, floats, bands, flags, bicycles, horses, dogs and cartoon characters with giant heads. Asked if they do this in his homeland, he shakes his head no. “Asian culture doesn’t parade,” he says, “especially in South Korea.” Not that it’s unknown. “Decades ago, when excellent results [were] achieved in the Olympics or world championships,” the government would honor the winners with a parade. In 2014, South Koreans flocked to the processions led by Pope Francis during his visit to Asia.

With or without parades, Koreans are passionate about baseball.

Br. Chris Meyer

Br. Chris Meyer

When countryman Shin-Soo Choo played a season with the Cincinnati Reds, the folks back home followed his every move. Then, says Stephen, “He went to Texas. Free agent.”

Stephen isn’t the only rookie on this team. Br. Chris Meyer, preparing to leave for the missions in Jamaica, also responded to a call for participants. He’s hoping to rack up some miles on his pedometer and work on his tan. “It’s my first time in the parade,” he says, “and may be my last.”

Passing time

While they wait for the signal to start, friars chat with their neighbors in the parade, including a woman who trains miniature horses and brought four of them with her today, their manes dyed the colors of cotton candy. Petted and photographed, they are stars of the backstage show.

Roaming the streets with his camera, Fr. Frank Jasper is approached by parish people and other folks who admit they’ve left the Church. Emboldened by his habit, “They just come up and start talking about how they like the Pope,” he says.

Once the banner pole is assembled, friars Tom Speier, Tim Sucher, Pat McCloskey and Carl Langenderfer gather for a stirring rendition of Take Me Out to the Ball Game, videotaped for social media. Although some words escape him, good sport Stephen gamely follows their lead.

Reds Banner

Friars Gene Mayer, Pat McCloskey, and Stephen Cho

When it’s finally showtime, he picks up one end of the banner for the 16-block trek down Race Street, past Fountain Square, and onto Fifth Street to the stopping point, the Taft Theatre.

From the outset it’s obvious that Chris, like fellow marcher Tim, is a natural. Chris works the crowd, high-fiving a row of kids parked at the curb, and initiates a twirling dance move that spins the banner 360 degrees. The crowd loves it. Tim is everywhere, clasping outstretched hands and dashing from one side of the street to the other with the rallying cry, “Go Reds! Let’s hear it!”

Sharing the joy

Content to carry the sign for much of the way, Stephen is captured smiling in every photo.

By parade’s end, Chris has logged 10,000 steps on his pedometer. More important, “I enjoyed it,” he says. “So often we’re in our own friaries, and here we are in this public view, and we really get to hear how much we’re loved and respected. It’s a great opportunity to share the joy friars bring. It was a very positive experience.” Next year, he says, “I think we should work on our routine. We’ve got to spice things up,” maybe by doing the limbo under the banner?

Stephen says he was glad to see how “friars have been sharing life with the people of Cincinnati for more than 100 years of existence. I was proud to be a Franciscan in the middle of Cincinnati made one,” united in a spirit of exuberance and good will.

Before long, he pulls out his phone and starts thumb-chatting.

As Pat had predicted, “It’ll take him more than one tweet to describe this day.”

More photos of the day on our Flickr page.

Originally published in the SJB NewsNotes.

Fr. Tom Speier and Fr. John Bok enjoy a sweet ride thanks to our friend Roger Pierson and his 1954 Packard

Fr. Tom Speier and Fr. John Bok enjoy a sweet ride thanks to our friend Roger Pierson and his 1954 Packard

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A Special Bond

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While on home leave from Negril, Jamaica, Fr. Jim Bok, OFM, always eats at Gold Star Chili with Jeff Rapking

While back in the States from Negril, Jamaica, Fr. Jim always visits with Jeff.

Jeff Rapking loves Roger Bacon High School
and they love him too

Jeff makes sure the cafeteria runs smoothly

Jeff makes sure the cafeteria runs smoothly

Jeff Rapking leads the way to the cafeteria at Roger Bacon High School.

It’s as tidy as an Army mess hall, and Jeff is largely responsible.

“When the lunch starts, I start,” he says, proudly describing his duties with the custodial staff, from managing trays to sweeping the floor, from cleaning tables to straightening chairs. “I love to work here,” he says, fisting his hands at his sides and smiling so broadly he squints.

Jeff is lucky to be here, and they’re lucky to have him. Many people with special needs face a lifelong struggle for acceptance. Jeff, whose world is limited but not defined by disabilities, is trusted, loved and respected at Roger Bacon. “The Bacon family, that’s his family,” says Barb Coyle, the school’s former Outreach Director and a longtime friend.

“It’s a good example of how a community embraces one of their own to provide a place where they can thrive” instead of falling through the cracks, says Paul Zlatic, Assistant Principal. “There is a real sense here that everyone has value. We’re a diverse school – rich, poor, black, white. Jeff is just another great piece of that.”

It’s been that way for 33 years, ever since Jeff was hired by friar Jim Bok during his days as Principal. “He has a special place at Bacon in the hearts of a lot of folks,” says Fr. Jim, one of Jeff’s favorite people in the world.

“One of  the guys”

“There is such a purity and honesty and sincerity to him,” Paul says of Jeff. “It’s easy to be drawn to that.”

Barb Coyle and Jeff at this year's Opening Day Parade with staff from Franciscan Media

Barb Coyle and Jeff at this year’s Opening Day Parade with staff from Franciscan Media

Barb was running Bacon’s Community Outreach Program when she met Jeff. “He was always popping into my room. If something was driving me crazy, he would show up with his smile and innocence and joyful spirit and it just rubbed off. Everything makes him happy.” Ask him why and Jeff says, “I’m all the time in a good mood.”

Crazy for sports, he’s a fixture on the sidelines at Bacon’s football and basketball games. “He will offer players a high five,” Paul says. “Many times he rides with the football team” to away games. “He’s just another one of the guys.”

In Jim’s years at Bacon, “When kids were around, I never ever saw or witnessed anybody mocking Jeff. There was always a genuine respect for him on the part of the students. I think all the kids there knew that Jeff loved Roger Bacon and everything about it.”

One year when he competed in Special Olympics – winning gold in the softball throw and 100-yard race – the school held an assembly in Jeff’s honor. “Kids were high-fiving him all day,” according to Barb. “I am a good runner,” Jeff says shyly. “I’d love to go around the track more times.”

“He is solid gold”

Polar Bear PlungeEight years ago when awards were given for milestone service at RB, Jeff received the sole standing ovation for his 25 years. In 2007, Bacon students organized “Jumping for Jeff”, a Polar Bear Plunge into a freezing swimming pool to raise money for Special Olympics.

“Jeff means a lot to the kids,” says St. Clement Pastor Fred Link, who for years was Jeff’s walking buddy around St. Bernard. “They very much respect him. He is solid gold, just goodness, as tender-hearted as they come. He brings out the best in folks.”

It’s hard to say no to Jeff, says Barb. “He loves his Cincinnati Reds and goes to a lot of games,” courtesy of teachers, students and alumni. Each season, Paul says, “I usually go to at least one game with him, sometimes two.” Barb once managed to wheedle tickets from Reds owner Bob Castellini when she wrote to him explaining that Jeff had never been to Opening Day.

Barb and Jeff at a Reds game

Barb and Jeff at a Reds game

“We had great seats,” she recalls. “We went to the parade and game. His favorite player, Joey Votto, hit a home run. On the way home I asked him what was the most exciting part of the day, thinking it would be the home run. Jeff started clapping his hands. He said, ‘I loved the clowns and the bands.’”

This should not have surprised Barb. “Jeff was always a huge fan of the Roger Bacon band,” Jim says, and especially fond of Wes Neal, who in 37 years led the band to numerous state and national titles. “Wes was really nice to him. Every Friday night at football games Jeff would be right with them, marching along.”

Friends forever

More than sports, more than bands, “Jeff loves Fr. Jim,” says Paul. “He gets so excited whenever Jim gets into town” for a home visit from the missions in Jamaica. “Jeff will talk about it for weeks leading up to it,” anticipating their usual outing to Gold Star Chili. “If I ever came to Cincinnati and Jeff found out and I didn’t see him,” Jim says, “he would be hurt.”

They’ve known each other for 40 years, since Jim was a cleric theology student. “I was going to law school at night and teaching at Roger Bacon during the day.” Outside the school, “I used to hear what sounded like a siren; it was this little boy, Jeff, riding his bicycle” and making a racket. “He and his family went to St. Clement Church. He was developmentally handicapped, going to Bobbie Fairfax School” for children with disabilities. From the day they met, “We were always friends.”

Jeff on the steps on Roger Bacon HS

Jeff on the steps on Roger Bacon HS

After ordination, as Principal at Roger Bacon, Jim got a call from Jeff’s school. “They had programs where they would place kids in internships” in preparation for the real world and asked if Bacon could take Jeff. Jim said, “We’d be delighted; what is he capable of doing?”

“Maybe he could clean tables in the cafeteria, that kind of thing?” they suggested.
Jim readily agreed. “He came and he never stopped working there.”

Love and support 

Jeff’s diligence is legendary. “He’s so conscientious about the work he does,” Paul says. “He takes it very seriously when a fork or spoon gets into the garbage.” After lunch Jeff patrols the tables, arranging the chairs in perfect alignment. “He always does a sweep of the grounds to make sure things are kept up.”

Satisfied that all is well at school, Jeff will head home, one street over from Bacon, to walk his dog, Rusty. “Jeff has a wonderful mom and a sister who provide a lot of support,” says Paul. “Together we kind of make sure he’s doing well.”

Apart from the televised sports he devours, “His world is very limited,” Jim says, “and Roger Bacon is a significant part of his world.” During the summer, when he helps prep classrooms for the school year, “Jeff gets depressed,” Barb says, because he misses the students.

“I love everybody here,” Jeff says. “I still miss Fr. Jim the most,” and wishes he weren’t so far away.

“Jeff is as innocent as a child, but he can get sad,” Fred says. “When somebody dies, he really grieves and doesn’t understand it.” He has his challenges, “no doubt about that. But he sure is devoted to Roger Bacon.”

In fact, says Jim, “You could consider him one of Bacon’s biggest boosters.”

Originally published in the SJB NewsNotes

Fr. Jim and Jeff outside the Newport Aquarium in 2007 for the "Jumping for Jeff" Polar Bear Plunge organized to honor Jeff and raise money for Special Olympics

Fr. Jim and Jeff outside the Newport Aquarium in 2007 for the “Jumping for Jeff” Polar Bear Plunge organized to honor Jeff and raise money for Special Olympics

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Mercy – The Force of God Awakens in Us

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Fr. John Quigley, OFM, celebrates
Pope Francis’ Jubilee Year of Mercy

“Jesus Christ is the face of the Father’s mercy.  These words might well sum up the mystery of the Christian faith,” quotes Fr. John reading from Pope Francis’ Misericoriae Vultus or Bull of Indiction of the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy.

Those unable to attend the presentation due to location or schedule conflict asked us to record the presentation and we so we did.  Hope you enjoy it.

Fr. John shares his thoughts on exploring the mystery of God, the vast ocean of God’s love for us, forever.  The great hope that we will be loved forever.  Click on the video to watch.

Year of MercyNext in the series:
Fr. Larry Zurek, OFM:
Monday April 11 at 7:00 PM
Fr. Larry’s presentation will be video taped and available for viewing soon.

Fr. Mark Soehner, OFM:
Wednesday November 2 at 7:00 PM

Learn more about how the Franciscans are celebrating the Jubilee Year of Mercy at

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Four days of prayers to St. Anthony

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Earring on Pussywillow

Impossibly lost?
Not when you ask St. Anthony for help!

Thank You St. Anthony!

I have a cross and earring set that I made several years ago.  The first time I wore the set was on a four hour shopping trip.  When I got home I was minus one earring.  I was so upset, I prayed to St. Anthony for four days. 

 I thought, “This is impossible to find.”

The fourth day I was putting food out for my birds.  I was so surprised to see it on top of a pussy willow branch. 

This was impossible. 

How did it get there?


    Jennie in Pennsylvania


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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Speed Dialing St. Anthony

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St. Anthony Speed Dial

A fast-track to St. Anthony’s prayers

I call upon St. Anthony so often the he is on my speed dial.  He is after all, my friend.  After finding several things for me, my husband said,

“That friend of yours is always in your corner.”

Thank you for your prayers and good deeds.

God Bless You,

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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“I just can’t stop thanking Jesus and St. Anthony”

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Except for a few scratches and the steel guard around the back of the scooter missing, all other things are intact. The engine is in perfect condition.

My family gave up hope, but not I

Last year, 2015 in the month of March, my daughter’s scooter was stolen. My nephew who took the scooter, parked it, locked it but did not take the keys.  When he realized this he rushed to the parking place. The scooter was gone. He filed a complaint at the police station.

I was heart broken. I prayed to St Anthony to intercede for me to Jesus.  Months passed, there was no news. My family gave up hope, but not I.  I continued to pray.  Being a fairly new scooter, they said the culprits would have ripped the scooter apart and sold all the parts. But I clung to my prayers. My faith was strong.

On Thursday February the 18th, almost after eleven months we got a call from the police station, informing us that they found our scooter intact and with only a few scratches. I was overwhelmed with joy and gratitude to God.

My hope, faith and prayer did not go in vain. I just can’t stop thanking Jesus and St Anthony.

–Josephine in Bangalore, India

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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40 Days, 40 Nights, 40 Dollars

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Focused Lenten Almsgiving

Br. Tim with his Missioning Crucifix

Br. Tim with his Missioning Crucifix

The traditional practices of Lent are prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. Sometimes it helps to give a focus to those practices. So this Lent, in an act of solidarity and support, we are inviting the friars and our friends to focus these spiritual exercises toward Br. Tim Lamb, serving now with the friars of St. Francis of Assisi Province in Africa. Br. Tim is living at the Franciscan Novitiate in Kakoba, Uganda, a village outside of Mbarara. We invite you to pray for Br. Tim and his confreres, to forgo some small pleasure this Lent, and to share a small gift with Br. Tim’s community: a dollar a day for the 40 days of Lent.

Br. Tim writes: “The money will be used in two places. Fr. Dismas (the guardian here) has a personal project visiting the local prison. He could use about $1,000 for supplying medicine for sick inmates. The remainder I would direct to St. Francis Counsellor Training Programme (British spelling) where I have been working as an instructor. The money would go toward tuition for primary school teachers who are seeking a degree in counseling. They are pioneers in that they would be the first school counselors in the nation.”

Br. Tim shares with us periodically about his life, work, and these projects on his blog: Our goal is to raise at least $5,000.

Tim donation 6 DARK EDIT 300Your gift of solidarity ($40) can be sent to:

Friar Works
1615 Vine Street
Cincinnati, OH 45202

Or donate online
Please let us know that your donation is for Br. Tim by making that notation on your check or in the Comments box online.

May Br. Tim help us remember during this Lent: Omnes donum est; all is gift!


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24 Hours for the Lord

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24 Hours

Pray with us during ‘24 Hours for the Lord’

When Pope Francis announced the Jubilee Year of Mercy, one of the things he called for was “24 Hours for the Lord,” to be held on the Friday and Saturday preceding the fourth Sunday of Lent, March 4-5, 2016.

The Franciscan Friars of St. John the Baptist in the Cincinnati area are responding to this call and invitation.  From 5 p.m. on Friday, March 4, to 5 p.m. on Saturday, March 5, all are welcome to come and pray at St. Anthony Shrine, 5000 Colerain Ave. in Mt. Airy (Cincinnati), anytime during those 24 hours.

Pope FrancisThe event will begin with exposition of the Blessed Sacrament and close with Benediction.  At the top of each hour, various individuals or groups will share some form of prayer or devotion (about 10 minutes), and the rest of the hour will be given to quiet personal prayer.  Confessors will be available periodically to celebrate the Sacrament of Reconciliation with those who wish.

Friars, Franciscan sisters, friends in our ministries, prayer groups from our parishes, youth groups and Bible study groups will be leaders for the prayer. Different forms of prayer will be available: rosary; scripture reading; litany; song; and more.  The prayers can be opportunities to pray for situations in our world that need mercy, healing, forgiveness or reconciliation.

“By calling for an attentive listening to the word of God and encouraging the initiative ‘24 Hours for the Lord’, I sought to stress the primacy of prayerful listening to God’s word, especially his prophetic word,” the Pope said in announcing the event. “The mercy of God is a proclamation made to the world, a proclamation which each Christian is called to experience at first hand.”

SJB CouncilGet Directions to the Shrine.

Share your prayers with us on our Prayer Page.

The friars are looking forward to praying with you and for you especially during this Jubilee Year of Mercy celebration of  ’24 Hours for the Lord’

You may want to check with your local parishes to find out about this type on celebration in the area where you live.
Visit our Year of Mercy page for more events and interactive information.

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“Just another day at the office”

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In almost 39 years as a priest,
“I never did an anointing in a hospital while surgery was going on,” says Fr. Al Hirt, OFM

Fr. Al Hirt, OFM

Fr. Al Hirt, OFM

That changed when Fr. Al got a call from Good Samaritan Hospital in Cincinnati. Told a religious sister was having heart surgery, he was asked to come to the operating room to anoint her. “I’m guessing the doctor was Catholic, and the surgery was not going well,” Fr. Al says. “I was free to go, so I went quickly.”

At the hospital he donned a gown and cap – everything but gloves – to enter the surgical theater. “The ‘charge’ nurse led me in and reminded me to stay 12 inches away from anything that was blue” – anything sterilized. “There must have been a dozen or so people,” obviously in the midst of surgery.

Fr. Al soon saw the object of their attention. “I’m looking at an open chest with a heart beating. Wow!”

Approaching the elderly person’s head, “I did a simple anointing, a laying on of hands. It was a rather quick experience; I was in and out.”

Fr. Al assumed the situation was so dire that the patient did not survive. When he called the hospital to find out he was told, “She was in [surgery] for clogged arteries, but the aorta broke. The surgeon was able to stop the bleeding” in time to pull her through.

She’s still hospitalized, “but they can’t do anything for a while; if she gets strong enough, they’ll go back and do the original surgery.”

In the meantime, “Her sisters are saying it’s kind of a miracle” she survived thus far. “Just another day at the office,” Fr. Al says ruefully. “I guess I did all right.”

Fr. Al’s story was originally published in the SJB NewsNotes edited by Toni Cashnelli.
Photo: © Fr. Frank Jasper, OFM

St. Anthony Statue at the ShrineLet us pray for you.  Post your prayers online on our Prayer Page.  Or email to:

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Pilgrimage to the Shrines of Italy

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St. Peters Basilica in Vatican City

St. Peters Basilica in Vatican City

 Pilgrimage to the Shrines of Italy
September 27 – October 7, 2016

Fr. Larry Zurek, OFM

Join Fr. Larry Zurek, OFM, for an incredible tour of some of Italy’s most sacred and historical sites.

For more information and a detailed brochure, email:

Or call: 513-721-4700, ext 3219

To check it out online visit:

St. Michael Archangel

St. Michael Archangel



Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi

San Giovanni Rotondo

Tomb of Padre Pio

Abbey of Santissima Trinita

Madonna del Rosario

Vatican City

Loreto Holy House

Loreto Holy House

Papal Audience

St. Peter’s Basilica

St. Paul Outside the Walls

Christian Rome City Tour

St. Mary Major

St. John in Lateran


Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi

Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi

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