Three friars say ‘yes’ to ordination
Why have so many people come so far? “They are good men and will do great things,” says Jordan Neeck, referring to friends Clifford Hennings, Colin King and Roger Lopez who were ordained June 11.
Jordan is so sure of this that he drove 500 miles from his home, a Norbertine Abbey in Wisconsin, to be part of their ordinations at St. Clement Church in Cincinnati. “I’m here to share in the joy in celebrating their accomplishment and the grace given by God to accept this call.”
In fact, the supporters who fill the sanctuary are almost as excited as the participants.
“I wouldn’t have missed this for the world,” says Chicagoan Marc Butiong, who once spent seven days in Jamaica with the three friars “bringing Eucharist to the sick, helping at the soup kitchen, painting homes for the homeless, putting together care packages for Christmas.” As a student at the University of Illinois at Chicago, “It was my foray into being a man of faith. I thank God for them in my life.”
Relatives and lifelong friends feel included and appreciated, with good reason. The three being ordained – Roger and Clifford to the priesthood, Colin to the diaconate – know that ordination does not set them above or apart from other people. It brings them closer.
David Lukinovich, a friend of Clifford’s family, remembers the kid they called “CD” [for Certificate of Deposit] because “he was going to knock it out of the park in the business world.” Here from Baton Rouge, La., David says the grown-up Clifford “glows with happiness and joy.”
“We come from a lot of different places,” acknowledges Master of Ceremonies Fr. Richard Goodin welcoming guests to an event that seems more like a family reunion than a formal ritual. Ordaining Bishop Joseph Binzer, familiar to friars, is comfortable with this crowd. When Colin’s selection is affirmed by applause, the Bishop responds, “I thought I heard some angels and saints applauding along with us.”
As is his custom, Bishop Binzer met the three friars for a pre-ordination lunch and conversation at what he calls “a gourmet restaurant.” Dining at Skyline Chili, they discussed “their hopes for the future, their trust in the Lord and how truly blessed they are.” When the Bishop asked them, “What might I say to everyone else who is here?” they said, “That everyone who is here today might fall in love more deeply with Jesus Christ, that all of us might commit to serving the Lord.”
In his homily the Bishop quotes a News Notes story in which Colin expressed his excitement and Clifford and Roger talked about serving as Franciscan priests. He also quotes from an address Pope Francis gave during the Jubilee for Priests in Rome. “The Heart of the Good Shepherd tells us that his love is limitless; it is never exhausted and it never gives up,” the Pope told priests. And one papal pronouncement the Bishop especially likes: “He [the priest] is stubborn in doing good, anointed with the divine obstinacy that loses sight of no one.”
Turning to the three friars, the Bishop says, “Thanks for being great examples for all of us of what it means to be a disciple of Jesus Christ. Know that we are here not just today but [always] to pray for you and support you.”
He calls them forward for the Promise – first Colin, then Clifford and Roger. Each responds to the final query with, “I do, with the help of God.”
“May God who has begun the good work in you bring it to fulfillment,” says Bishop Binzer.
A touching Litany
The ceremony unfolds with a sight not often seen, three friars lying prostrate in the aisle, as cantors Br. John Barker and Sacred Heart friar Br. Ed Shea, a comrade in the 2009 walking pilgrimage, intone the Litany of the Saints.
It is the interactions of friars that leave a lasting impression: Br. Gene Mayer fussing with Colin’s vestments; tears from Fr. Paul Walsman; bear hugs from Fr. Ric Schneider for the newly ordained; the ear-to-ear grins of Fr. Larry Zurek and Fr. Joe Ricchini.
After Communion, Provincial Minister Jeff Scheeler expresses “deep and profound gratitude” to teachers and formators “who have accompanied our brothers along the way,” as well as their families. “Thank you for your support over the years. We promise to try to cherish them as much as you will continue to do.”
And to Clifford, Colin and Roger he says, “Thank you for your generosity, your willingness to serve.” Jeff hopes that “what we have called them to today will go not to their heads, but to their hearts.”
For Roger’s Mom, Carlotta Lopez, the best moment was “seeing the brotherly love; it’s very touching.”
“It was so heartfelt, so beautiful, such a genuine thing to see how much joy they had,” says David’s daughter, Mary Lukinovich, who has known Clifford “all my life”.
Clifford chose the friars, says his mother, Susan Hennings, because of “the brotherhood. Watching the priests come and lay their hands on Roger and Clifford was probably the most touching.” Her son Seth, 20, was moved “seeing my brother give Eucharist for the first time.”
When Roger was an altar boy, says Carlotta, “The pastor told me, ‘You’ve got a priest on your hands.’” In high school Roger was voted “most spiritual, most likely to be a priest.” For Carlotta’s part, “I just prayed he would make the right decisions.”
As for Clifford and Colin, open minds and open hearts have helped them find the way. Susan says of her son, “He’s definitely where God wants him to be.”
More photos on our Flickr album Ordinations 2016
this story was originally published in the SJB News Notes, edited by Toni Cashnelli
Piecing together the story of a soul
Fr. Murray Bodo, OFM, jokes about the girth of his new book.
“Once I started I kept going,” he says of writing his 380-page autobiography, Gathering Shards: A Franciscan Life (Tau Publishing). “Now I can hardly lift it.” He’s a bit embarrassed about the literary importance implied by such heft. “Maybe we can use it as a doorstop?”
Asked by Tau to record the story of his life and his spiritual journey, he initially declined. “I thought it would single me out as somebody worthy of writing an autobiography,” says Murray, one of our foremost Franciscan writers of prose and poetry. “I felt my life was too ordinary to warrant something like this” – that it would seem pretentious or self-indulgent.
Then, he says, “I realized no life is ordinary, and when I had the opportunity to look at it, I see how extraordinary my own life has been,” from a halcyon childhood in the Southwest through days of doubt about the path he pursued, from friendships that helped him hone his craft to the inspiration he found in his adopted home, Assisi. He also realized, “I could not have written this book when I was younger. There’s a certain clarity that comes [at age 78] you wouldn’t have at the time you’re passing through it.”
More than anything, Murray’s 32nd book is an appreciation of his parents and the friars, the friends and the places that shaped his spirituality and kindled his creativity. “My parents and others who loved me and believed in me and let me go are the real protagonists of these memories,” he writes in a foreward.
And because Shards is so personal, “It’s the hardest book I’ve ever written,” Murray says. “The scariest thing was self-disclosure. How much do you tell? How deeply do you get into it? I had the most anxiety when I sent it in and realized, people are going to be reading this! I have never felt that vulnerable.”
The book’s title comes from the pieces of Anasazi pottery Murray collected as a boy near the Navajo Reservation in Gallup, N.M. “The following pages, fragmented and flawed though they are, attempt to gather the shards of my life into a metaphorical pottery bowl similar to those I tried (and failed) to assemble,” he writes in a Dedication. Some of his published poems are the tissue binding the sections. “Poetry has been a way to process my inner life,” he explains.
An adventure begins
Pleasant Street Friary in Over-the-Rhine is about as far from Gallup as you can get. But it’s obvious that Murray’s office with its Native American rugs, pottery and panoramic paintings is occupied by a child of the Southwest.
During the two years of “immersion” he spent writing Shards, he returned to Colorado and New Mexico, “revisiting the places of my youth. I could feel myself being renewed by the landscape. Someone once said, ‘Every landscape you love is the landscape of your youth.’”
The first segment of Shards, a narrative of childhood, is so vividly drawn it’s like stepping into one of the cowboy movies to which young Murray was addicted. Mom Polly and Dad Louie led quietly remarkable lives, as did many hard-working parents tested and tempered by the Great Depression and World War II. What’s striking and relatable is how lovingly Murray describes their sacrifices – and the guilt and gratitude he still feels so deeply. Imagine letting your only child leave home at the age of 14, watching him board a Greyhound bus bound for a seminary 1,500 miles away.
“I was 14 years old; it was a great adventure,” says Murray. “From the time I was 14 I’ve been a pilgrim, away from my roots. The pilgrim spirit is something very congenial to me. I am truly the itinerant friar.”
Though it’s the story of a soul, Gathering Shards is grounded in relationships. “If I only wrote about mystical experiences, that’s a pretty short book because we live an incarnational life.”
He writes candidly of his spiritual isolation as a Franciscan novice: “It was as if Jesus stood for the last time at the door of my soul and left without even saying goodbye. And no amount of prayer or fasting seemed able to bring him back.” Providentially, Novice Master Benno Heidlage came to his rescue. “Fr. Benno intuitively grasped the story of woe I shared with him; and having been there himself as a young friar, he empathized with the depression into which I’d sunk and deftly led me through this dark night of the soul with compassion and prudent counsel.”
As often happens in Murray’s life, the right person was there at the right time. “One of the things that helped me [write the book] was three long sections about the people who influenced me,” he says. Chapters are devoted to “those exceptional others” who were friends and mentors: poets Denise Levertov and Herbert Lomas, and Fr. Francis Harpin, who taught Murray about “authentic prayer” in Assisi.
Eventually, Murray found himself through teaching. “I realized I had more gift for doing what I was doing than as a missionary.” Ironically, “By doing obedience I found parts of myself. This became my familiar world, but it has never had the emotional or archetypal pull the Southwest has had for me. As a teacher I took the summers ‘off’ to be in Assisi” as a guide for pilgrims. “So in some ways, I was fulfilling my desire to be a missionary.”
Since 1972 when Murray wrote Francis: The Journey and the Dream, the book that made him famous, Assisi has been “a place vital to my spiritual, emotional and creative life….it clings to me the way this Umbrian hill town clings to a spur of Mount Subasio…”
“There is meaning”
While Murray was assembling these shards, “I was learning things about myself in the process. I realized that some of my best writing came out of the times I was broken. I’m not a saint; I’m a writer. It’s writing that helps me grow closer to God.”
After two years of research, recollection and re-writes – “it was fulfilling but draining” – he’s pleased with the way the pieces fit. “Somehow the book seems to cohere. I wanted it to be honest. My prayer and hope for every page was that whatever I was saying about myself would remind readers about their own selves. There is meaning, there is a pattern in our lives. My hope is that especially friars will think of their own lives and how special their lives are because they’re Franciscan.” Being a friar is “an extraordinary life to commit yourself to – full of riches you don’t think of day-to-day. I had the great privilege to have time to do that.”
The result is a substantial book about a substantial life. “I dropped three or four chapters,” says Murray, still mindful of the weight – and the cost – of his autobiography. “How much is this thing? Seventeen dollars? I don’t know anyone who can afford it!”
For those who cannot, here’s a spoiler alert: The book ends happily.
Originally published in the SJB NewsNotes by Toni Cashnelli
On April 19th, Br. Chris Meyer, OFM, left the US for his new ministry in Jamaica, “I’m looking forward to continuing the work friars are doing across [the Diocese of] Montego Bay,” said Br. Chris. He is living at the St. Joseph friary in Savanna-la-mar with Fr. Max Langenderfer, Br, Louie Zant and Br. Tom Gerchak. A few days after his arrival, he met to discuss opportunities in technology with the diocese. Br. Chris will be serving as the Communications Director dealing with internal and external communications helping the Diocese of Montego Bay establish an online presence.
Just a few weeks after he settled in, Br. Chris returned to the States to attend the All Province Assembly (APA) in St. Meinrad, Indiana. It was a week of fraternity, prayer, learning and discussion for 115 of the friars of this Province. Br. Chris taught an enlightening class in social media to the friars.
At the APA the celebration of his new mission also took place.
“It’s always a powerful moment when the brothers extend their hands and pray over you,” Chris Meyer said after being commissioned to serve in the Diocese of Montego Bay, Jamaica.
Provincial Minister Jeff Scheeler asked this blessing:
“Almighty God, in every age you have chosen servants to proclaim your Word to the ends of the earth. Hear our prayer for our brother who will serve your Church as a missionary. Fill him with your Spirit that he may have the mind and heart of Jesus who lives and reigns now and forever.”
Please keep Br. Chris and all of our missionaries to Jamaica in your prayers.
Several months ago I could not find an angel charm bracelet that was very special to me. I prayed to St. Anthony, my parents and brothers in heaven, God Himself, and finally St. Jude.
My friend told me I needed to offer money to St. Anthony. I told her I didn’t believe in bribing. But a week or two later I found it so I am enclosing a check for the replacement value of the bracelet.
When I was a young girl and I went with my family to visit my grandmother in New Orleans, we went to church and my mother always gave me money to put in the poor box. A practice I continue to this day.
Thank you for the work you do for the poor.
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