Facing the unthinkable
Last week our Communications Director Toni Cashnelli gathered videos and statements from our friars in response to the shooting in Las Vegas that left 58 people dead and 489 wounded.
We began this week with yet another, deadlier mass shooting, one of the worst ever seen in this country, if not the worst. The perpetrator was a man who raised no red flags beforehand among his family and friends. We will likely never know how such violent acts could be conceived and nurtured within the human heart.
As you read these responses and reflections from our friars and other church leaders, bear up in prayer our fractured country, divided in so many angry ways. Pray too that the spirit of St. Francis, whose feast day occupied the middle of this painful week, will find real and persuasive expressions in a time when we need his gifts the most. “Blessed are those who endure in peace, By You Most High, they will be crowned.”
–Fr. Bill Farris, OFM, Provincial Vicar
We friars of St. John the Baptist Province extend our deepest sympathy and promise of prayers for the victims of the mass shooting in Las Vegas. This senseless act of violence affects all of us. We, the people created from the wounded side of our executed Jesus, ask for healing for those who have been wounded, for the families and friends of the murdered, and for a change of heart for all who choose violence. May the families of those hurt in any way receive comfort and courage from our Risen Lord.
–Fr. Mark Soehner, OFM, Provincial Minister
“When innocents are killed, some people find that to be a great challenge to faith. I don’t think we should let their deaths make us more bitter people.”
–Fr. Pat McCloskey, OFM, in a video blog for Franciscan Media “Where was God during the tragedy in Las Vegas?”
Since the latest mass shooting that just took place in Las Vegas, I’m personally aware of a growing sense of fear. Not for my own safety, no, but for what might be happening to us as a country. The script is becoming all too familiar and, unfortunately, all too predictable as well. Something horrendous happens and captures our national attention for a little while as various notables mouth the same text: Our thoughts and prayers are with the (fill in the blank).
What’s worrying me the most about this is that there seems to be an absence of true mourning. Flying the flag at half-staff for a few days is indeed a start but more akin to someone wearing black at a funeral; a pro forma gesture. Dr. Alan Wolfelt, an expert on grief and mourning, has this to say: “We all grieve when someone we love dies, but if we are to heal, we must also mourn.
I remember attending an interprovincial gathering up at Siena College which began the day after the Orlando shooting in 2016. Upon my arrival I looked around for some outward sign that the tragedy which had just taken place had in some way registered there, 1,200 miles away. Eventually it made its way into our intercessory prayers that week, but I remember feeling as if something else was sorely missing as we went about our business, something outward and more manifest.
I’m thinking about that haunting poem of W. H. Auden right now which says, in part, “Stop all the clocks…let the mourners come.”
–Br. Al Mascia, OFM
As I was sleeping Sunday night I kept hearing news notifications on my phone and thought something must have happened. On Monday morning I checked and saw the sad news. It was shocking. I immediately prayed for the dead and the injured and then we prayed for them at Morning Prayer and Mass. One thing that struck me was the display of evil by one and of heroism by so many others. Many more lives were saved because of the good people on the ground. Not all the facts are in yet on what was going on in this individual’s mind.
If people/authorities were able to read other’s minds some of these acts could be prevented, but that is not the case. Demonstrations of evil are a hard thing to swallow. God, have mercy.
–Br. Mark Gehret, OFM
On the first day of October, we marked Respect for Life Month with its theme of “Be Not Afraid”, and we face the unspeakable once again. This past year has been overrun with an inordinate amount of uncertainty, suffering, heartache, and tragedies in the public eye and in our personal lives. There’s no shortage of reasons we cry out to God. May God give us peace!
–Fr. Francis Tebbe, OFM
Shock, horror, disbelief, overwhelming sadness. Then I ask the question, what are we doing in this nation about mental health? Our nation is crying out for mental health reform.
–Br. David Crank, OFM
Lord have mercy on your children. We are broken and need your love. Mend our hearts. Remove hatred. Give us eyes to see as you see. Ears to hear as you hear. Hands that are open to one another and hearts for compassion.
–Fr. Clifford Hennings, OFM
Most everyone is horrified, myself included. Because our access to news is somewhat limited, we don’t know all the details. Nobody from outside the country has spoken negatively about our country or culture. No one has offered condolences, either, but it has been mentioned in our prayer. Most of the U.S. folks seem to be of the same mind and lament that we are not doing more to control guns, kind of like “here we go again,” and it just seems to get worse each time.
–Fr. Jeff Scheeler, OFM, from a pilgrimage in Italy
We need a lot of prayers, and prayers with good works. Oftentimes we pray but don’t have the answers, and perhaps one of the answers to this is that we should look very closely to the mental health problem. Perhaps a nationwide hotline could be set up where a person who may be going through this situation will be able to call and ask for help.
–Fr. Robert Seay, OFM
In this little chapel tonight we recall the death of someone important to us. …Francis of Assisi, such a towering saint of the Catholic Church – you can’t help but smile at the mention of him. But there are plenty of chapels, churches and funeral homes in Las Vegas and around the country tonight where smiles are non-existent and hearts are beyond heavy.
The contrast between a life well lived and a great many lives cut way-too-short is the reality of our evening. Historically we remember a saint who died gracefully after a long battle with several illnesses. And presently all of humanity mulls over how one man could surprise-attack so many utterly innocent people.
With that acknowledged, let our prayer and reflection tonight hold the saintly and the victim together – as difficult as it may be. But let us not allow such senseless violence to overshadow the great witness of Christianity’s saint of peace.
–Fr. Richard Goodin, OFM (from his Transitus homily, St. Anthony Chapel)
My take is that, for most folks, the USA is a faraway place and most Jamaicans pay little attention to it. No one expressed sympathy or even commented on the event unless I mentioned it. Most Jamaicans are not deep into following things American. People here are very myopic—well, the ordinary people who have no money or connections in the U.S. Ms. Yvonne, our cook, told me at Mass this morning that there was another shooting in Red Ground last night. Her nephew was brutally murdered about six weeks ago in Red Ground. The violence here, in Negril and the country, continues to escalate with gunmen shooting people right and left. Here it is one at a time, not 58 plus hundreds wounded. So, simply put, most folks here are focused on the ongoing murders and have little time to care about what is happening in the USA.
–Fr. Jim Bok, OFM, missionary
Share your prayers on our Prayer Page. God bless you.
On May 31st, elections were held at the Provincial Chapter meeting at St. Meinrad Abbey in Indiana. Our newly elected leadership team (from left) Councilors Br. Vince Delorenzo, OFM, and Br. John Barker, OFM; Minister Provincial Mark Soehner, OFM, Vicar Bill Farris, OFM, Councilors Fr. Bob Bruno, OFM, and Fr. Page Polk, OFM. May “God give his grace” on our new ministers!
Fr. Mark and Fr. Bill are both in the process of moving to Cincinnati from Michigan. We look forward to working with this strong leadership team and ask that you keep them in your prayers as they plan for our future as Franciscans and examine ways to revitalize Franciscan life in the US.
Photos of the Provincial Chapter on Flickr
Current and past Provincial Ministers:
Marie is grateful for the intercession of St. Anthony.
I am sending this donation to St. Anthony’s Bread in appreciation for a favor from St. Anthony.
On Saturday, April 30, we were finishing up a pilgrimage of the Iberian Peninsula, including visits to Fatima, Burgos, Lourdes and Barcelona. On returning from an excursion to Montserrat, my friend realized that she could not find her prescription sunglasses. We all started praying to St. Anthony, but they did not seem to be anywhere in her purse or on the bus. She figured she had left them in one of the shops we had visited prior to boarding the bus. Our tour guide called a fellow tour guide who was visiting Montserrat that afternoon and asked that they keep an eye out for the glasses.
That evening we had our last excursion on the same bus. As a final check I looked down between the seats and saw the glasses, which were in a white case, wedged between the seats and sticking out a little. I’m sure that the glasses weren’t there when we originally looked. They would have been so noticeable due to the contrast of the white against the dark colors of the seat cushions and floor. Perhaps they were dislodged while we were driving, but I’d like to thank St. Anthony for the divine intercession.
With much gratitude to St. Anthony!
Marie in Pennsylvania
We’d love to hear your St. Anthony story too. Use our Contact Page or Email: firstname.lastname@example.org 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.
“I loved her dry sense of humor and her ability to engage you in intelligent conversation,” says Sister Ann Bartko, abbess of the Monastery of St. Clare in Cincinnati, of the late Barbara Sonnenberg. “ I experienced Barbara as a woman with integrity who did not put on airs; she was true to who she was.”
Barbara was one of the most Franciscan people I have ever known. She was a Secular Franciscan in St. Margaret of Cortona Fraternity for over 50 years. She held every office there and many of them multiple times. Barbara served well on the advisory board of St. Anthony Messenger Press for many years.
After leaving generous gifts to two friends, Barbara gave the bulk of her estate to Cincinnati’s Poor Clare nuns and the friars of St. John the Baptist Province.
She was especially concerned about the senior friars, whom she sometimes joined at Mass at St. Margaret Hall, not far from her home. She brought Holy Communion to parishioners and Catholics in two senior residence facilities. Barbara brought Holy Communion to sick members of St. Mary Parish and assisted at countless funerals there over the years.
Before she retired from the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County, she served in several branch libraries and eventually headed the lending department at the main library downtown. Barbara was a great promoter of literacy and for several years tutored adults who were learning to read.
“Barbara and I shared a birthday, which bonded us,” says Natalie Schoeny, a longtime friend and fellow parishioner at St. Mary Parish in Hyde Park. “I am so honored to have known her and been a party to her dry wit as we volunteered together! She made the ordinary a bit more extraordinary as she would weave her stories of daily life. She often would say ‘Do you get it?’ or ‘that kind of thing,’ trying to get reactions worthy of her storytelling. She never wanted to be in the limelight, but to me she was the limelight, shining happily or sarcastically on many occasions. Missing her till we meet again!”
A Franciscan to the core, she felt very much at home whenever she was able to visit Assisi. Her sense of humor was very sharp but never mean; no irony ever escaped her. This picture, my favorite one of her, resulted from being coaxed into allowing her friend Natalie Schoeny to take it after a St. Patrick’s Day party.
I will miss my dear friend but her Franciscan spirit lives on, both in the life she lived and the legacy she left. She steadfastly avoided public recognition; she will certainly have something to say about what I have written here!
Fr. Pat McCloskey, OFM, is the Franciscan Editor of St. Anthony Messenger magazine.
Once you have met your obligations to yourself and those you love, consider remembering The Franciscans of St. John the Baptist Province in your estate plan. Simplify your life and the lives of those you love by requesting our free Estate Planning Organizer, available in hardcopy or a computer-friendly version. To receive your organizer, contact Colleen Cushard at 513-721-4700 or at email@example.com or download from our website.
Meeting God in the Upper Room: Three Moments to Change Your Life
Monsignor Peter J. Vaghi
Recalling his own Holy Land pilgrimage experience, Monsignor Peter Vaghi explores three significant events in the life of the early Church that can be traced back to the Upper Room in Jerusalem (sometimes called the “Cenacle”) in order to guide us to a deeper appreciation and understanding of living the Christian life in prayer, worship and service.
Each of the book’s three parts is dedicated to one of these key moments in the history of our faith: the Last Supper and the institution of the Eucharist, the post-resurrection appearances of Christ to his followers, and the Holy Spirit descending on the apostles at Pentecost.
The walk with the Lord is a continued encounter with Him in the power of Holy Spirit. In Meeting God in the Upper Room, Monsignor Vaghi captures the various integral ways in which we continue in our day to meet the Risen Lord—in the sacraments; in our prayer lives; in our profession of Easter faith; in our works of charity and service; in our devotion to Mary, Mother of the Church and our Mother; in the experience of the gifts of the Holy Spirit; in the call to evangelize and our efforts to evangelize in our own day—in our homes, workplaces, places of leisure, in our travel. All of these make up the rich and continued spiritual legacy of that Upper Room and what happened there.
In writing about the Upper Room, Monsignor Vaghi tells of not just its historical significance, but its profound spiritual significance. It was there that Christ and his disciples retreated from the world in order to teach and learn, respectively, how they could carry on the faith. And as we set aside time to enter the “Upper Room” of our own life, we discover that Jesus is waiting to meet us there as well.
–Monsignor Peter J. Vaghi is pastor of the Church of the Little Flower in Bethesda, Maryland, and a priest of the Archdiocese of Washington.
Wendell Berry and the Given Life
We drive to work on the stored energy of ten thousand years of sunlight. Our daily bread seems to generate miraculously from store shelves. And our communities can be connected with a billion ones and zeros over fiber optic cables. For us, the idea of being a creature can seem passé. Yet in this lonely world of mastery, in a time so dominated by human desire and design that it has been dubbed the “anthropocene,” the human age, many of us feel that we are missing some essential truth about who we are.
The glimpses of this truth come when we lose cell reception on a long hike in the forest and our eyes are lifted to the simple marvel of trees. We feel this truth when we take up a shovel and sense the satisfying heave of dirt as we plant a modest garden. We hear this truth when we tune out the traffic and listen to the song sparrow’s melody, eavesdropping on a beauty that serves no human economy. In all this we hear a whisper of the truth that we are creatures—and we long to live in this reality. But how can we, when we have moved so far from our life source in the soil?
For the past 50 years, Wendell Berry has been helping seekers chart a return to the practice of being creatures. Through his essays, poetry and fiction, Berry has repeatedly drawn our attention to the ways in which our lives are gifts in a whole economy of gifts.
Berry presents us with the sort of coherent vision for the lived moral and spiritual life that we need now. His work helps us remember our givenness and embrace our life as creatures. His insights flow from a life and practices, and so it is a vision that can be practiced and lived—it is a vision that is grounded in the art of being a creature.
Wendell Berry and the Given Life articulates his vision for the creaturely life and the Christian understandings of humility and creation that underpin it.
–Ragan Sutterfield is the author of Cultivating Reality: How the Soil Might Save Us, and a memoir, This Is My Body.
Party with the Friars from 4 PM till Midnight on Mardi Gras!
Join the friars on Fat Tuesday (February 28) at Urban Artifact to celebrate the release of the St. Anthony Quad beer.
Wild yeast collected from the grounds of the National Shrine of St. Anthony located in Mt. Airy in July, 2015 formed the basis for this one-of-a-kind Belgian style quadruple ale. The wild yeast, versus more commercial fast-acting yeast, takes months to ferment. St. Anthony’s Quad was aged for 10 months in first use oak red wine barrels by Urban Artifact.
Doors open at 4:00pm. Fr. Carl Langenderfer will start things off with a quick prayer at 5:00pm. Renegade Street Eats food service will be there by 5:00. Jazz Renaissance (New Orleans style jazz) will start at 8:00. Come join the friars and some of the wonderful people who support them. A portion of the St Anthony beer sales will help to support the Franciscan mission work.
RSVP on the Facebook Event page.
Directions to Urban Artifact our on their website: http://www.artifactbeer.com/
Read more about the collaboration and process in this article from August 2016.
Br. Tim Lamb, OFM from this Province lives at St. Anthony Friary and serves as Secretary of Formation and Master of the House of Theology for the Province of St. Francis in Africa, Madagascar and Mauritius. He lives in Lang’ata, Nairobi, Kenya. It is very spartan living.
The 24 friars in the community share two cars. The electricity goes out on a regular basis and they wash their clothes by hand. Until very recently many of the friars were walking to and from school. Thanks to a grant from the Franciscan mission office, they were able to purchase 15 bicycles.
“We are not short on needs here. This is partly due to the places we have chosen to serve. We target isolated and poorly developed villages. The people in the parishes we serve support the friars, but in food stuff, very little by way of cash. We have to depend on the kindness of our benefactors”, writes Brother Tim.
Some of those needs are as follows:
• An addition to the present building. They are expecting 8 additional friars in August and currently only have room for two more.
• A generator which would help monitor and maintain electricity for essential things like the water pump for the bore hole (well) and refrigeration for food. This generator would also prevent damage to electrical equipment in the house due to fluctuations in power which accompany any power outage, which happens at least once or twice a week.
• A new (used) truck for shopping and hauling.
• 2 green houses to provide on-going vegetables for self-sufficiency .(There are two growing seasons, but year round pests, (insects, birds and rats) make growing out of doors difficult.
In Subukia, Kenya the friars have been instrumental in building a water supply for the area, built a medical dispensary, an orphanage, housing for internally displaced persons due to armed conflicts, and a residential high school. This is very typical of the work of the friars.
The cost to sponsor one student friar is roughly $3,000 US dollars per year. Brother Tim’s goal would be to find sponsors for all of the friars in formation. There are about 98 friars in initial and priestly formation. Each sponsorship would include pictures, a biography and regular updates from your friar. Would you like to sponsor a friar in Africa? Could a group you belong to sponsor a friar?
Would you like more information about how you can help our efforts in Africa? Email firstname.lastname@example.org and we can get you connected to Br. Tim. Keep up with Br. Tim on a regular basis through his blog, Omnes donum est.
See more photos of Br. Tim and his ministry on our Flickr page.
Mary Beth shares two stories of St. Anthony’s help.
The first is from many years ago and the second tells of St. Anthony’s help last Mother’s Day.
Several years ago, one of our daughters was teaching English as a second language in China. She was homesick and although China had never been on our list of places to go, my husband and I agreed to visit her.
We purchased nonstop airline tickets that went over the North Pole from Newark, NJ, to China. When in the Newark Airport, which is absolutely HUGE, I wore my glasses instead of contacts on a chain around my neck, so I could hopefully nap on the very long trip. About an hour and a half after going through TSA screening, we were sitting at our gate. I saw a sign across the way that I wanted to read and put on my glasses which I use for distance. I could not see well out of one of the lenses and took them off to clean. To my surprise, the lens was missing! After checking our current area, we decided to walk back to the place where we went through security. We knew it would be extremely difficult to replace the glasses in China. Security was quite far away and it was unlikely we would find the lens, especially so long after losing it and how hard it would be to see, but I asked St. Anthony to help me.
A TSA agent was kind enough to allow me to go back through the security line to look for the lens. He and Jack stayed on the other side of security and talked. I didn’t find it and we were walking back to our gate when Jack asked my why St. Anthony didn’t find the lens. I told him that St. Anthony was probably very busy finding something really important, like world peace. Then we saw the TSA agent running to catch up with us. A few more moments and we would have been very hard to find in the enormous crowd. The agent had found the lens and I got to tell him about St. Anthony! I was so thankful not only for the found lens but also that my husband spent time talking with the TSA agent so he was aware of our situation. Thank you for your intervention St. Anthony
Keep reading for Mary Beth’s second and more recent St. Anthony story.
Several years ago my son, my daughter-in-law, and my grandchildren gave me a very special charm bracelet. Over the years they have each picked out meaningful and unique charms to add to it. I keep the bracelet in a very secure place, not only because of the sentimental value but also because I know the charms are quite costly.
On Mother’s Day I wanted to wear the bracelet but my husband Jack was in the hospital; he usually helps me with the clasp as I have arthritis in my hands. I took the bracelet with me to church, planning to ask a friend, if I needed assistance, but I decided to leave it in the car. I thought I had placed it carefully with my chaplet rosary, but, in retrospect, I must have thoughtlessly left it in my lap.
After church I went directly to the hospital to visit my husband. I got distracted by a picture he wanted me to take of a statue of Our Lady on the very top of the hospital; it is the center for transplants of organs – pancreas, kidneys, and livers – for South Jersey. Whenever a transplant is done, the statue has a beautiful light to notify the community. When I got home, I remembered the bracelet and went to retrieve it from the car and could not find it anywhere. I thought I might have lost it in the hospital parking lot which is very large; it is a distance away and can take up to 2 hours round trip. I was not looking forward to driving back to look for the bracelet, but I knew the longer I waited the more unlikely it would be to find it. I knew the bracelet would be virtually impossible to replace and I also dreaded the task of telling my daughter-in-law that I had lost such a special and thoughtful gift.
I prayed fervently to St. Anthony; then remembered that I went to church before I went to visit my husband. The church is only 10 minutes away so I headed there. I doubted the church would be open to check the lost and found. Before morning Mass I had not parked in my typical place but had parked in one of the less crowded areas of the parking lot as I had promised to help out with a fund drive. I went there and found the bracelet in the parking lot near where I had parked and miraculously it had not been run over by my car or any other and was perfectly intact! I could not say enough “thank you’ s” to St. Anthony for my Mother’s Day gift from him!!
We’d love to hear your St. Anthony story too. Use our Contact Page or Email: mailto:email@example.com 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.
Our newest parish Ascension Chinese Mission in Houston
On November 20 Fr. Bonaventure Huber was installed as pastor at Ascension Chinese Mission in Houston, Texas, marking a new chapter in the history of SJB Province.
He and fellow friar Fr. Joe Hund were treated to a lively celebration dominated by three languages—Mandarin, Cantonese and English. The Chinese choir led the traditional singing. Monsignor Daniel Scheel received Bonaventure’s profession of faith and his pledge to serve his people as their shepherd.
Following the Mass the parishioners provided a dinner and entertainment by the pre-school, the grade school, the youth group and the seniors. A young girl played a traditional song on the zither and a boy played another stringed instrument that I had never seen before.
The Mass and reception let Bonaventure and Joe know what they would experience as they move into this new ministry. The congregation is really diverse with people from mainland China, Singapore, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Vietnam, Mexico, the Philippines and Cleveland. After the reception I was talking with a girl and her brother, 4 and 5 years old. They switched effortlessly between Spanish, Mandarin and English. They were kind to me and spoke to me only in English.
Ascension Parish orients its activities to families. Young people are active in every part of the parish, with special emphasis on religious education and group activities.
The mission was established in 1991 and numbers 417 families. The whole parish plant showed the pride people take in their church and their dedication to their faith.
Bonaventure and Joe face challenges in setting up a new friary and adjusting to a new community. “I am so grateful to our Province of St. John the Baptist for being open to this multicultural ministry to our very diverse congregation,” Bonaventure said. It is already very clear how much the people appreciate and value the Franciscans. Everyone wanted to talk with Bonaventure and Joe.
If any of you are traveling through Houston, take time to check out our newest parish and visit with Joe and Bonaventure. Click here to view their website.
More photos on our Flickr album.
This story originally published in SJB News Notes.
Advent begins Sunday November 27
St. Teresa of Calcutta, or Mother Teresa as most of us call her, had a great deal of wisdom to share. The editors of St. Anthony Messenger magazine have created an Advent booklet to fit in your pocket, ‘Advent with St. Teresa of Calcutta, Daily Prayers for Each Day of Advent,’ to guide you in your journey to Christmas.
The first day of prayers:
“It is now the moment for you to wake from sleep.” –Romans 13:11
Mother Teresa had special concern for beginnings. She would ask prayers for those who were just starting their work with her because every beginning is filled with challenges. For her, the answer to these challenges was prayer, of course, but also courage.
As we begin our reflections for this holy season, we know that each day will bring crosses we con’t yet imagine. But with prayer, courage, and a willingness to always begin again, we can welcome a new season of Advent into our lives.
“I was glad when they said to me, ‘Let us go to the house of the Lord!'” –Psalm 122:1-2
To receive your free booklet, send your name and address to firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll mail you your copy today. Or call Colleen Cushard at 513-721-4700 ext 3219.
Offer valid in the US only. If you live outside of the US, contact us for the electronic version.
Learn more about Mother Teresa and the Franciscans.