Get Updates

St. Anthony's Breadbasket E-newsletter gives you an opportunity to learn more about St. Anthony of Padua and how he continues to inspire the Franciscan friars in their work today, especially among the poor.

Home Page

Fr. Larry Zurek, OFM

Posted on by

”Parish Ministry has been my blessing.”

Fr. LarryFr. Larry Zurek, reflects on his career as a parish priest, as he prepares to leave his 11 years work in Peoria, Ill serving two inner city parishes, Sacred Heart and St. Joseph’s.  Fr. Larry has loved and invested himself in pastoral work for more than half of his life, serving five parishes full time and several others with Sacramental Ministry in 30 years as Pastor or Associate Pastor.  Associate Pastor, Fr. Luis Aponte-Merced is also leaving after ten years there.

Savoring the sweet memories of being so close to his congregation, Fr. Larry believes two legacies of his tenure are leaving a beautiful church to worship in and a place for people to give their hearts and minds to God.  (View photos of the renovation)  On his watch he also saw to the major renovation of the parish hall.

Fr. Larry“We also have an outreach program, Sophia’s Kitchen, in which we give out 400 to 600 sandwiches a day to those who come to the door at St. Joseph’s.  Children from different parishes make cards that are tucked in with the food.  They have bake sales and other fund raisers and various parishes have a yearly collection to underwrite the expenses.”  The two priests also serve as chaplains and confessors for several religious orders of Sisters.  “There is a large group of Franciscan Priests, Brothers and Sisters in Peoria.”  He added they treasure the large community and all get together for picnics and such.

Times do change.  This summer, both Fr. Larry and Fr. Luis are preparing to turn the helm of their ministry over to diocesan priests. In recent decades, many Catholic schools and churches have closed due to student attrition, change in population centers and budget constraints.  But Peoria’s current two Franciscan churches are not closing. Fr. Frank Jasper, Provincial Vicar assured the congregation of that when the change was announced last November.

Fr. Larry & Fr. Luis

Fr. Larry & Fr. Luis bless school children

Both Fathers Larry and Luis will go to their new ministry together.  They will assume responsibility for the Vocational Team which will recruit men for the Franciscan Priesthood and Brotherhood.  They will be centered in Cincinnati at the St. Anthony Shrine but will go wherever applicants live for interviews and stay in daily contact with them as they make their life-changing decision.

Father Larry explained, “We are very excited and are looking forward to these new challenges.  We look forward to getting our feet wet.  Already we have gone to planning meetings and have gone to a Vocational Conference”.

Fr. Larry Zurek, OFM

Here Fr. Larry is preparing for his new position in Vocations, the recruiting of new friars.

“My pastoral work has been intense.  There hasn’t been much time for hobbies and personal interests.”  But he can look back with pleasure on one thing.  “When my Mother died in 2009, I wanted to honor her by planting a garden at the Friary.  One of the parishioners helped me put it together.   I am not sure if it will continue to be cared for, like trimming the roses after I leave, but I hope it will.”

Fr. Larry does have latent art abilities.  In the early days of his priesthood, he enjoyed using his talent by making religious art – batiks, to be exact.  There is always the availability of candle wax to use with the fabric work.  It prevents the dye from penetrating the cloth.  The products were used for holidays and special occasions.    Hopefully there will be some time in his new assignment to pick up where he left off.

 

Read more

Fr. Cyprian Berens, OFM

Posted on by

 

Fr. Cyprian Berens, OFM, greets Pope John Paul II in 1989

Fr. Cyprian Berens, OFM, greets Pope John Paul II in 1989

Not everyone can say they have met Popes and Saints

 

Though quite humble about it, Fr. Cyprian Berens, OFM has photos of himself with Pope John XXIII, Pope John Paul II, and even Blessed Mother Teresa. He will tell you in his gentle voice that they are “group pictures” taken when he worked in Rome, adding, “One is of Pope John Paul II washing my dirty feet in a Holy Thursday service.”

Pope John Paul II washing the feet of Fr. Cyprian

Pope John Paul II washing the feet of Fr. Cyprian

“Pope John the XXIII told me not to feel confined in an office as Curia Treasurer counting numbers all day. He understood because he too was a Bishop’s secretary when he was younger”. The Holy Father commiserated with Fr. Cyprian. The Pope was that sensitive to his visitors.

“I would pick up Mother Teresa from the airport and we would talk about business. I would preach at her six Missionaries of Charity houses in Rome and hear the confessions of her novices every week”.

Fr. Cyprian is resident Chaplain Emeritus of the Archbishop Leibold Home of the Little Sisters of the Poor in Cincinnati. At 91, he has had a rich life salted with service to scholars, saints and sinners.

Fr. Cyprian began life as the son of a high-end tailor who was trained in New York. His mother was a homemaker. He had two brothers and one sister. In the early grade school years, he attended public elementary school and in the second grade was taught by none other than Miss Margaret Potter… my mother-in-law. Miss Potter was so impressed by his intelligence and goodness, she went to his First Holy Communion and followed him through to his Ordination as a Franciscan. Miss Potter’s eldest son Bob Queenan (my husband) said “Mom often held him up as the example of what kind of kids we should be.” In rebuttal, Fr. Cyprian said, “She must not have really known me.”

Fr. Cyprian with two nuns of the Lateran community, Mother Teresa, and a Maltese seminarian.

Fr. Cyprian with two nuns of the Lateran community, Mother Teresa, and a Maltese seminarian.

Life was good until the depression when his dad lost everything and needed to start fresh. “Life was different then, but we didn’t suffer from hunger. Our faith stayed as the center of our lives.” He became acquainted with the Franciscans when he attended Roger Bacon High School and transferred to St. Francis Seminary. From there he followed the educational and spiritual tract of the Friars until his ordination in 1951. The first six years of his 64 as a priest, he served as Associate Pastor in Illinois parishes.

In 1957, he was called to Rome to serve as the Assistant Treasurer and Secretary to the Minister General of the Franciscan Curia. “It took me all three years to learn Italian.” which was on-the-job and in casual conversations. The one thing that did not take long was to learn how to order his favorite gelato.

Upon completing his tenure there, he was called back to the States where he became Asst. Novice Director at St. Anthony’s Friary for a year. From 1961- 63 he was assigned to Duns Scotus, MI, as Master of Brothers, Director of Tertiary Brothers, Rector of Chapel and also taught at Mercy College.

Fr. Cyprian Berens, OFM, sits with two nuns of the Little Sisters of the Poor

Fr. Cyprian Berens, OFM, sits with two nuns of the Little Sisters of the Poor

Fr. Cyprian’s reputation of competence preceded him and he was again called to the Eternal City to be General Treasurer of the Franciscan Curia, this time working there for four years. During those Italian years he traveled extensively on business. From the General Curia Fr. Cyprian was sent to Florence, Italy for four years. He was assigned as Director of St. Bonaventure College, a research institution and was also Superior of the House. After that assignment was completed, he became the Treasurer of St. Leonard College in Centerville, OH and also was an Instructor for a year. Cincinnati was his next call, serving one year as Guardian at St. Anthony’s and Director of Brothers and 13 years as Director of Communications.

Fr. Cyprian was once more asked to return to Rome for five more years as the American/Italian speaking Confessor at St. John Lateran Church. “Only the good go to Confession,” he said. “It was just four hours a day.” His official title there was Penitentiary. All those years in Italy were really enjoyable for me,” he confided. When he returned to the States for the last time, he was Pastor for 10 years at St. Paul the Apostle in Calumet, MI.

Being “retired” is a misnomer. Fr. Cyprian’s days are full saying daily masses, preaching at the Little Sisters, being present to dying residents, counseling retirees, helping new residents adjust, and still driving 140 miles monthly to a prayer group in Madison, Indiana. He knows the name of every resident (100+) all the Sisters and workers at the home, so don’t believe him when he says he thinks his memory is slipping.

Joanne M. Queenan

Fr. Cyprian Berens, OFM, directly behind and to the left of Pope John Paul II

Fr. Cyprian Berens, OFM, directly behind and to the left of Pope John Paul II

 

Read more

Fr. Gil Wohler, OFM “He offered Mass in Zulu!”

Posted on by

Fr. Gil Wohler, OFM

Fr. Gil Wohler, OFM

Doing a retrospective on oneself can be daunting!  Fr. Gil Wohler seemed to be taken back when asked to be interviewed.  He is more comfortable flying under the radar. Though initially reticent, he soon shared interesting snippets of his 52 years of priestly life.  He is a Friar for 60 years.

At 79 years of age Fr. Gil said his Franciscan life has “come full circle.”  He sat in the guest parlor of Mercy Community Winton Woods where he is chaplain to senior residents in 74 independent living apartments. The building and campus was converted from what originally was St. Francis Seminary in Mt. Healthy, OH, north of Cincinnati, Ohio

“I first came here as a high school freshman.  Then later on, after ordination, I was a teacher at Roger Bacon High School one year and for seven years was an instructor of Latin, History and Science here at the minor seminary.  When I retired nine years ago, I came here again.”  That is a little too succinct!

Fr. Gil Wohler, OFM, in 1996 with carved wooden art from South Africa

Fr. Gil Wohler, OFM, in 1996 with carved wooden art from South Africa

It was the in between part where things started cooking!  Like layers of a luscious torte, the Wichita, KS, native talked about his other lifetime assignments.  After four years as Director of Franciscan Candidates and three years as Director of Vocations he diversified and took on pastoral and other duties at St. Boniface parish in Peoria, Illinois for 12 years.   Following that, Father transitioned back to be an Instructor and Spiritual Director of St. John Vianney Seminary and St. Francis House of Studies as Spiritual Director and Guardian for ten years.

Father Gil then launched into his favorite assignment.  He became a missionary to Pretoria, South Africa where he taught in the Sancta Sophia National Seminary for four years and preached at La Verna Retreat Center for two more years. “I didn’t learn the language but became able to offer Mass in Zulu. During that time I worked with such good people!” In between he traveled to Kenya and Botswana. He journeyed through major cosmopolitan cities, deserts and ghettos.  “Those ghettoes were nothing like what we call them in the States! I wanted to stay, but was interrupted by the need for triple by-pass heart surgery. I had it done down there and was laid up in the hospital for three months.

“Yes, I met Nelson Mandela and voted with the 97% of South Africans in those early democratic elections.”

After his recovery, he returned to the states and worked for three years in the inner city as pastor of St. Francis Seraph Parish in the Over the Rhine neighborhood of Cincinnati.

Then came retirement.  But as Chaplain at Mercy Community, there isn’t a lot of time for that as he offers Masses, is spiritual director, celebrates benedictions, visits residents in the hospital, and anoints the sick. He spends a lot of time talking with residents by phone.   He has a passion for playing bridge having been trained by the guru of bridge playing in South Africa.  In between he will delve into a mystery or two.

Fr. Gil Wohler, OFM, with Santa Claus at Northgate Mall during 'Advent with the Franciscans'

Fr. Gil Wohler, OFM, with Santa Claus at Northgate Mall during ‘Advent with the Franciscans’

Read more

Fr. Robert wouldn’t give up on his dream

Posted on by

 

Fr. Robert Seay, OFM

Fr. Robert Seay, OFM

Fr. Robert Seay, OFM always dreamed of being a Franciscan priest.   It took him, however, a little longer than most to realize his dream.  Fr. Robert is African American, one of two in the St. John the Baptist Province along with Br. Giovanni Reid. Both friars serve in Louisiana, Fr. Robert in Lafayette and Br. Giovanni in Shreveport.

It is probably fair to say that the Franciscans did not know how to deal with Fr. Robert when he joined. He was first directed to the Brother’s School at Oldenburg, IN and learned the skills that most lay friars did in that time; managing the physical plant of a friary as a chef, sacristan, porter, mechanic, launderer or housekeeper.  For six years, he worked in the business office at Bishop Luers High School in Ft. Wayne, Indiana in the financial department.

Inside, however, he continued to feel that urge to become a priest.  He prayed.  He discerned.  He sought guidance.  He was asking for something that hadn’t been done before, a Brother requesting to be admitted to Holy Orders.  But he finally received the permission he needed.

Being a non-traditional seminarian, black, and older, his path to the priesthood was different from the track usually walked by his brother friars. Because of his “delayed vocation” he was sent to Pope John XXIII Seminary in Boston for training and was ordained at age 33.  During his Deaconate, he worked at the University of Cincinnati Newman Center.  “We had an open working relationship with Bishop Joseph Bernardin who encouraged us to coordinate efforts with a diocesan priest and a sister.  We had a great team and spent much of our time with the kids on campus.  Those young people brought an energy and vitality to the parish liturgies and it revitalized St. George, the associated parish.”   Fr. Robert was one of the first friars to work in collaboration with other Franciscan Provinces and their ministries.

One of the Christmas displays built by Fr. Bob and parishioners of St. Paul

One of the Christmas displays built by Fr. Bob and parishioners of St. Paul

Fr. Robert was privileged to do what few newly ordained men have done.  He worked with people of influence and was often in the limelight, working to quell hotbeds of riots and racial unrest in Boston, New York and Louisiana.  He was often invited to consult on testy, delicate community situations.  Fr. Jeff Scheeler, Provincial Minister, describes Robert as “a peacemaker, able to quiet disturbances.”  Fr. Robert’s quiet presence brought even the most volatile rabble-rousers to settle down.   He gave people a chance to speak but would not allow grand standing or soap box tirades.

For the past 14 years, Fr. Robert has been pastor of St. Paul the Apostle Church in Lafayette, LA.  St Paul the Apostle Church has been an African American parish in Lafayette for one hundred years. He also serves as the Chancellor of Holy Family tri-parish school.  Robert uses what he calls “good pressure” to promote high academic standards in his 300 student school.  More than half of the upper grade children receive the Presidential Achievement Awards annually.

Father Robert, at age 80 has been a priest for 38 years.  Wherever he has been, he has made a difference.   Many of his talents are kept unseen until a situation causes him to draw upon them, like being a painter and a sculptor.  He is creative and designs a new concept for the annual nativity scene at his church every year.

One year he made a “Portiuncula,” a replica of the tiny chapel St. Francis rebuilt in the valley below Assisi, for his Nativity. The parishioners had to enter the chapel to see the crib as it was constructed to be like the first nativity scene St. Francis made. “It takes about a month to get the whole thing together,” he said.

Thank you Fr. Robert for all you do.  We are blessed that you persevered.

Fr. Bob Seay, OFM, with St. Paul parishioner Harold Thibeau for an afternoon of fellowship and food and blessings with other bikers from around the country.

Fr. Bob Seay, OFM, with St. Paul parishioner Harold Thibeau for an afternoon of fellowship and food and blessings with other bikers from around the country.

 

 

Read more

Br. Dominic Lococo, OFM

Posted on by

Br. Dominic Lococo, OFM

Br. Dominic Lococo, OFM

For 60 years Br. Dominic Lococo has followed St. Francis.  He has been his Brothers’ Keeper, taking care of body and soul (sic).

 

As a Tertiary Brother, he was a tailor and made their habits. He was trained as a shoemaker and made sandals for newly invested friars for Mt. Alverno Franciscans. He has also been a sacristan contributing to the care of the souls of his brother friars.

His Italian roots and love of food helped him embark on his assignment as a chef in Oldenburg, Indiana, cooking for as many as 60 friars at a time.  One of his first recipes was his mother’s spaghetti sauce.

He served as spiritual assistant to the Third Order for 12 years.  He also excelled at selling subscriptions to St Anthony Messenger Magazine, a Franciscan Media publication.

Br. Dominic sells St. Anthony Chaplets at the Feast of St. Anthony

Br. Dominic sells St. Anthony Chaplets at the Feast of St. Anthony

For 32 years he read for visually impaired listeners at the Radio Reading Services for the Blind. “They would let me read for a half hour of whatever I wanted, like Angels Among Us and Guideposts, a non-denominational publication.”

In all, he has had 14 assignments, most of which have been in the Cincinnati to Oldenburg area.   “We call it the Franciscan Beltway”.

Br. Dominic’s parents were married in Sicily.  They moved here after their first son was born.  “My Father owned a grocery in Louisville, Kentucky, selling lots of fruits and vegetables.  Mom and Dad spoke Sicilian at home, a dialect of Italian.  There were five of us boys and we would inadvertently mix in English a lot when with our parents, but soon were fluent with the help of our playmates.  It was strange when I went to Italy for my Jubilee visit in 2008, celebrating 50 years as a friar.  I stayed with cousins in Sicily.  After all that time, I still recalled and could speak Sicilian.  Italian is like a different language to me and I prayed no one would speak it to me expecting that I knew their language”.

At 82, he lives at Mercy Winton Woods, the former St. Francis Seminary, in one of independent living apartments with lush gardens and woods.  He is still very active and exercises at a health club.  He has a hearing impairment but does not allow it to get in the way of staying healthy.

Br. Dominic with Santa Claus at the Northgate Mall ministry last December

Br. Dominic with Santa Claus at the Northgate Mall ministry last December

He uses his creative talents making St. Anthony Chaplets, 13 sets of three beads and a medal of the Saint.  It is a rosary of meditations and prayers to St. Anthony.  Click here for instructions in praying the chaplet.  Br. Dominic offers them at various Franciscan events.

Read more

St. Anthony hears your prayer no matter where you are!

Posted on by

Jim Scheeler, a brother of SJB Provincial Minister Fr. Jeff Scheeler, is a Kroger Grocery Store Manager.  He was interrupted on a busy day to assist an elderly lady to find her car keys.
Pope John XXIII

Pope John XXIII

 

He tried to hone in where to begin looking in his huge store.  “Where were you last, Ma’am?” he asked. “I have no idea!” she answered, obviously shaken by her loss.  Jim calmed her by showing his car key.  “Does your key look like this one?”  “Yes, Yes, but there is a picture of a dead Pope on it, too!” “That helps!” Jim replied.

Believing she was Catholic, he said, “Listen, let’s say a quick prayer to St. Anthony to ask him to help you find it.”  But what if we don’t find it?” she worried.  “”We will take you home, then, so don’t fret.” he assured her.

Right when their 30 second prayer was finished, there was a call from the Pharmacy.  “”We found the keys!  Someone is bringing them up to you right now!”  There was a picture on the key fob of Pope John XXIII.

 

aboutstanthonyWe’d love to hear your St. Anthony story too.  Use our Contact Page or Email: shrine@franciscan.org or Call Colleen Cushard at: 513-721-4700.  Share your prayers with us and our online community at our Prayer Page.

 

Read more

Fr. Mark Soehner, OFM

Posted on by

TRIED BY FIRE

 

Fr. Mark Soehner, OFM

Fr. Mark Soehner, OFM

Director of Franciscan Postulants, Fr. Mark Soehner is a survivor in more ways than one.  While pastoring an inner city parish in Detroit, MI., he took an antiquated elevator from the eighth floor friary of the chancery building.  He was rushing to get to Mass. The elevator jammed between floors leaving him trapped.  The emergency phone was disconnected and personal cell phones weren’t yet a part of daily life. Eventually, his cries for help were heard by a woman who worked in a fifth floor office.

The elevator company came and re-started the equipment. Fr. Mark could see down below him between the iron gate and the brick walls of the shaft. There was an arc of electricity that caught onto a cloth that was wrapped around the cables below the cage.  He saw a small ball of fire explode and flame up around his prison. Smoke bellowed.  Temperatures spiked.  Angry flames lapped around him.   The firemen arrived.  They did not have the Jaws of Life!

Fr. Mark Soehner, OFM, and Br. Al Mascia, OFM, the Mall Outreach of Christmas 2013

Fr. Mark Soehner, OFM, and Br. Al Mascia, OFM, the Mall Outreach of Christmas 2013

He inhaled scant oxygen by breathing into his cowl.  He heard the firemen say to the woman, “You have to get out of here! “  I can’t!” she screamed. “There’s a man trapped in there!”  “Don’t worry about him!  There’s nothing we can do for him now,” they yelled over the roar of the fire.  A volunteer fireman working at his day job in a downstairs bookstore had a tool that could pry open the gate.  Fr. Mark doesn’t remember a lot of what happened next when he was lifted from imminent death.  He said because the fire department didn’t have any oxygen he was taken to a local hospital.

As if this trauma weren’t enough for anyone’s lifetime, he also confided that one of his sisters, the one closest to him in age, was murdered by her husband.  Every family who has experienced this kind of violent loss of a beloved member understands its lifelong impact.  It was over 20 years ago and, the missed milestones, the anniversaries, the swirl of memories, continue.

Severe life traumas like these could weigh heavily on his shoulders.  So much so that they could become impediments to moving forward.  You wouldn’t know any of this by his demeanor and positivity. He went on to use his wisdom and empathy in his priestly ministry to beleaguered, complex populations and to grieving hospice patients and their families.  Tempered by those experiences, he integrated his skills and education into new work as a pastor, a guardian, as a homilist, as a counselor, as a spiritual director, and in formation as current Postulant Director.

As a young man of 23, he started in the way of Francis as a Brother working joyfully by “living his ideals” at Zacchius Friary in the Over the Rhine area of Cincinnati.   He lived with the poor and homeless without a car or TV.  He experienced their fears, stresses, miseries and losses.  He worked with disenfranchised people living without money, job or shelter. For income, he got a job in a breakfast restaurant. “Some said we were playing at being poor!   But it was so much more than play.”  Fr. Mark even lived on the streets for a few days.  “I slept in the shelter on mats with my shoes under my pillow to prevent them from being stolen.  I was lucky to keep my glasses.”

The 2009 pilgrimage was featured in the Washington Post.

The 2009 pilgrimage was featured in the Washington Post.

Soon after, he accepted the call to study further to become a Priest.  He holds two master degrees, with a specialization in inter cultural missions and a post graduate certificate in counseling which allowed him to be licensed in Michigan   He calls himself “a shy extrovert who has to talk to know what he is thinking.”  Fr. Mark is not bound by labels, neither his own or ones that come to him.   He models what he preaches.  “I always tell my guys in formation, ‘The grass is always greener on the side you water.’ ”

Five years ago, the temporary professed friars proposed the idea of a 300 mile, seven week walking pilgrimage that would start in Roanoke, VA and end at the Monastery of the Holy Land in Washington, DC. Inspired by the first friars of St. Francis, they would live without money, a place to stay, or possessions, trusting only in God.  Fr. Mark was very open to it and strongly encouraged the idea.  At the age of 51, he laced up his shoes and joined the group on the walk.  He counts this journey “as one of the most treasured experiences of his life.”   The journey made the front page of the Washington Post

SJB Provincial Council

SJB Provincial Council

Now, at 55 and a priest for 27 years, Fr. Mark is in his second term as a Provincial Councilor.  He functions as the Province’s Special Delegate for Child Protection.  He is very good natured and laughs easily. He has a strong passion for his work and life as a friar.   He keeps his life in balance.  Mark has a covey of good friends, is a runner, and still finds time to create clever and lovely cards for his friends and family.

Read more

The Veteran Pastor

Posted on by

Fr. Mike Chowning, OFM

Fr. Michael Chowning, OFM, is a veteran pastor.  He has served the people of Mother of Good Counsel (MOGC) parish in Hazard, Kentucky for 21 years.  “And I will be here as long as the Council wishes,” he added.  He has also served as pastor in Cincinnati, OH,  Albuquerque, NM, Peoria, IL, and Southfield, MI.

Fr. Mike was raised in Detroit, Michigan in a large family.  He had 8 brothers and sisters, his grandparents, an uncle and a friend of his father’s all living together in the Chowning household.  “There were lots of Catholic families in our neighborhood so we didn’t think that was unusual at all,” he smiled.

Fr. Mike is a quiet, modest and unassuming man.   He is a planner.  When it was time to expand MOGC, he took a year to study how they would do it on their small plot of land and researched how they would underwrite the cost.  Thanks to Fr. Mike’s excellent organizational and planning skills, grants, donations and fundraising, the parish encumbered only $80,000 of the $1.6 Million costs of the project.

Hazard is settled deep in coal country.  The stone church is nestled on a steep hill in the center of town.  Unemployment is a serious problem.  Poverty abounds.  Through networking and creative problem solving, Fr. Mike finds ways to make a difference in the lives of those who come for help.   The working poor and indigent may need a hand up, but there is always empowerment built into the assistance.

Fr. Mike and parishioner

“One good thing we have going here in Hazard is the cooperation between agencies,” Father said. “When you have that, you can get things done and make a difference.  We have developed a lot of nice resources in our area.  He described a Free Medical Clinic, a homeless shelter which prepares young men for independence through Community Ministries’ transitional living program.  Individuals can stay in rental housing for a year while learning to get and keep a job and getting a grip on money and home management, overall, just learning how to be a good tenant.    And there is the Master’s Land Pantry which provides formula and diapers, clothing and equipment to parents with small children.  That program can always use baby furniture that is like new or gently handled as well as clothing for the babies.  The Spouse Abuse shelter can also use women’s clothing.    Fr. Mike and other members of the parish are serving on many of the organization boards. He is entrench in the community.

One other project in Hazard that Fr. Mike is proud to see developed is the building of a half dozen houses, similar to Housing for Humanity.  He said they are valued at about $100,000.  The families move in after much loan forgiveness, with a loan of about $40,000.  “They are really nice houses and it is gratifying to see it come together.”

In his spare time, Fr. Mike enjoys ham radio.  In recent years, he attended a retirement workshop and started to look forward and identify his interests for leisure time.  After speaking to high school students about ham operating, he was told that his enthusiasm had fired up at least one student to go on and study computers and electronics and graduate from college.

Fr. Mike’s ham radio

“Today, in an emergency, the internet and most communication is dependent on a power grid. The ham operators are the first responders in emergencies like Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy. They are right there with the Red Cross,” he continued.  He knows Morse code and stays on the cutting edge of what really is a serious resource in a crisis.  “The time around dusk and dawn, when the propagation is better, is when most of the communication goes on,” he said.   Due to time and other reasons, he no longer is directly active as a ham radio operator.  He has the Extra License.  That is the top level in ham radio operating.  Pastoral responsibilities are his priority so he restricts his activities to administering tests for those seeking an operators’ license.

He also enjoys fly fishing though he says he doesn’t make his own ties.  He likes to go with his brother and nephew and get into the physical part of casting along with enjoying the beauty of the sport.

For more information about Mother of Good Counsel Church visit their website or Face Book page.

Mother of Good Counsel Church sits on the side of a mountain in Hazard, Kentucky.

Read more

Volunteers Make Forever Friends in Jackson, KY

Posted on by

Volunteers from St. John the Baptist parish in Harrison, Ohio, outside one of the homes they visit during their annual Christmas trip to Jackson, Kentucky.

Friends are Friends Forever!

 

For the thirteenth year, youth and adults from St. John the Baptist Parish in Harrison, OH, will make their annual Christmas trip to Jackson, Kentucky. They have adopted the Holy Cross parish served by Br. Jerry Beetz, OFM and Fr. Reynolds Garland, OFM.

Fr. Reynolds Garland, OFM, and Br. Jerry Beetz, OFM, of Holy Cross Church in Jackson, Kentucky

They help in a variety of valuable ways.  Traveling in spirit are the people of St. John’s who provide the resources to help some of the people who live in the mountain town and surrounding “hollers.”

Lynda Noel, Religious Education Coordinator and Hub Martini, Young Adult Coordinator lead the 15 member group who will begin their one day trip at 6 am on December 23.

A red pick up truck, graciously on loan from a woman of the parish, leads the caravan into the mountains.  It is packed with gifts, food and practical items.  There is no concrete plan upon arrival.  Things usually fall into place.

Earlier this summer, a team from the parish spent a week in Jackson doing whatever they could.  They patched a roof, cleared heavy weeds, built a ramp, widened and replaced a front door and painted a porch.

Keegan Haag who has made the trip to Jackson since high school comforts Holy Cross parishioner Judy Jett by the friendship pear tree. Her deceased husband Everett is being remembered.

This project is a heart opening, memory making experience.  “It is much more than just giving and doing things,” Linda explained.    “All of us were moved at our visit with the bedridden blind woman praying for us and we joined with her family singing O Holy Night.

Christian love is expressed in non verbal ways by visiting and singing carols to patients in a nursing home.   A lonely bachelor was so touched because someone remembered him.

“The people do not have money, but their faith is deep.  All of us recognized that.  We have built relationships with Catholics and non Catholics alike.  An ailing woman told Linda, ‘I consider you my sister!’

‘Friends are Friends Forever’

“We planted a sturdy ornamental pear tree in front of Holy Cross Church and then placed an engraved plaque at its base in memory of the people who have passed on whom St. John’s visited over the years, it says, Friends Are Friends Forever.

Read more

Br. Colin King, OFM

Posted on by

Colin King, 33, is a spirited young friar in the second year of temporary vows. He is a man who takes life as it presents itself, no matter how big the challenge. He has had some rough experiences in his role as a special education teacher. For six years he worked with students who had severe mental, emotional and academic needs.

“I learned to not to be a super hero and try to solve their problems but to love them, not to protect them,” he says. Some of his students had been abused, others had personality and severe mental illnesses, and some were homeless. Others had mild to moderate cognitively low ability for academic work. More than a few had home difficulties not conducive to having a sound learning environment.  Some of his students were raising their siblings!

Following the daily work in the classroom, Colin had a reaction not unlike other young teachers – a crisis of faith. He was confronted with serving youngsters who were bearing the most unfair burdens in life.  It made him angry.  He saw today’s classrooms in their naked reality and hung in there.

Franciscan fraternity is important. Br. Colin King, OFM, Br. Roger Lopez, OFM, and Br. Adam Calder, OFM, share a meal at the APA last May.

”Until 2009 I never met a friar. My calling wasn’t with a blaring trumpet nor did I see a blinding light.  Once I felt solid in my decision to join the Friars, I confided to my family and they were supportive.  Mom is an Irish Catholic and Dad is Lutheran turned Episcopalian.”  Four years later, he is spending a year at the missions in Jamaica with Fr. Jim Bok.  “I want to roll up my sleeves to the elbows and get my hands dirty in the vineyard,” Colin says.

“I was the only older brother to three sisters.  Never having any brothers, I was seeking fraternity. After college at Xavier University, I lived by myself and I was profoundly lonely.  I compensated by over working.  By living in community, I am hoping my brothers will support me and still hold me accountable to stay with my priorities and keep a balance to my life. I realize that in community life some of my ‘siblings’ are the age of fathers and grandfathers. That enriches my journey.”

This isn’t his first time in Savanna La Mar, where he worked at the soup kitchen and doing outreach ministry. “I’ll stay in Jamaica until the Provincial Chapter meets in May next year.”  His second trip to Jamaica convinced him he wasn’t crazy about sand and beaches. There’s no air conditioning in the friaries, bathing amenities are primitive, and mosquitos eat you for lunch.  So Colin is going into this obedience with eyes and heart open.  Being an educator, he is amenable to a teaching assignment down the road.  Right now he wants to work with a small Catholic population in a high poverty area like Jamaica.

Colin has about five more years before ordination.  In that time, he will finish training in Philosophy and Theology and meet all the provincial formation requirements.

Last summer Br. Colin served in Galveston Texas.  Read his blog post, “Blessing Haunted Spaces.”

 

Br. Colin King, OFM, with parishioners of St. Joseph Church in Savanna-la-Mar, Jamaica

 

Read more

Get Updates