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Spartan living in Africa

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Br. Tim Lamb

Br. Tim Lamb (third from right, back row) with men in formation.

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.

Africa_ 3 girlsThe 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:

AFrica_ Tim_ Vince• 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?

Africa_childWould you like more information about how you can help our efforts in Africa?  Email friarworks@franciscan.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.
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See more photos of Br. Tim and his ministry on our Flickr page.

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The friars make their own soap and ride bicycles to school and ministry.

The friars make their own soap and ride bicycles to school and ministry.

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More than one St. Anthony story to tell.

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Great Wall Jen & Dad

The Great Wall of China is the backdrop for this photo of Mary Beth’s husband Jack with their daughter Jen who was teaching in China at the time.

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.
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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.
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This statue of the Blessed Mother lights up to alert the South Jersey community of a successful organ transplant surgery.

In honor of all organ donors and to raise awareness of the need for organ donors, Our Lady of Lourdes Medical Center lights (in green) the statue of the Virgin Mary atop the hospital each time the Lourdes transplant team performs an organ transplant.

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.

OLO LourdesAfter 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!!

Mary Beth

St AnthonyWe’d love to hear your St. Anthony story too. Use our Contact Page or Email: mailto:shrine@franciscan.orgor 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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Hearing St. Anthony

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St AnthonyPaul heard, “Stop and get out of the vehicle.”
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I wasn’t going to explain the check, but I changed my mind.

The $100 check is what I promised St. Anthony if he would help me locate my wedding ring.

We flew in from New York City on a Saturday evening and after unpacking, visited our local pub for some dinner.  As soon as we were seated at a booth, I noticed my ring was missing.  My wife started backtracking the day, but I told her it was recent.

I have a habit of twirling my ring on my finger, so it was either in my car, or fell off while unpacking within the last hour.  I’ve lost weight lately, so it’s a bit looser.  At least in was in Macon I thought.

I told her what to order for me and went outside to search my vehicle.  I work in law enforcement so I have a very bright flashlight.  Nothing inside the vehicle, nothing visible under or around it.  It was parked on an incline, so if the ring rolled away… it could be in a grate.

Ring_EDIT 300After a thorough search, my wife said we would just replace my ring.  I have worn that ring for almost 25 years, every day and I wanted THE ring.  I got online and found a prayer to St. Anthony.  We prayed it in the restaurant and I promised I would send $100 to St. Anthony Shrine if we located the ring.

After eating, we jumped in the vehicle and I started backing out.  Something told me to get out my bright flashlight and I did, shining it in the empty space.  I could see what looked like a silver pop top or something, but my ring was gold.  My wife said “see anything?” and I said no.

I put the vehicle back in reverse to leave when someone told me to STOP right there and get OUT of the vehicle.  I just had to exit the vehicle.

My wife said what are you doing, there’s traffic back there.  I put the transmission in Park anyway and jumped out, switched on my light and what looked like a pop top – was my RING.  Unbelievable.  It took me a minute to get the car back in the parking space as we realized what had just happened.

Paul

St. AnthonyWe’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. You can donate to St. Anthony Bread or any of our ministries at our Donation Page.

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Resources for your journey through Lent

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Lent

Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent, is March 1.
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The Friar Works office is once again offering a free pocket-size booklet from the editors of St. Anthony Messenger magazine: Lent with St. Francis, 2017: Meditations and Prayers for Each Day of Lent.

Lent bookletIt is a collection of prayers and reflections to assist you each day on your Lenten journey adapted from Peace and Good: Through the Year with Francis of Assisi by Fr. Pat McCloskey, OFM. ©2014 Franciscan Media

NOTE: If you are currently on our mailing list, you received one with your January newsletter.

If you are not on our mailing list or would like an extra copy for yourself or a family member or friend, please send an email to friarworks@franciscan.org with your POSTAL mailing address and we will get one to you right away as long as our supply lasts.

Offer good only in the United States and Canada.  For other countries, send us an email and we’ll send you an electronic copy.

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Franciscan Media publishes several books to guide you on your journey through Lent.  We listed just a few of their titles below.  Visit their Lent Collection page.

Sensing GodSensing God: Learning to Meditate During Lent, by Laurence Freeman.

Many people feel drawn to what meditation offers (quiet, reflection, stillness, time alone with God), but few have tried it. Some Christians even feel that they shouldn’t meditate. In Sensing God, monk, priest, and spiritual teacher Laurence Freeman may just change some minds. And so will the Holy Spirit, Freeman says – if they begin to meditate for a few minutes each day.

A practical introduction and guide to this ancient Christian practice, Sensing God includes easy-to-follow instructions, guidance and support, as well as 46 enriching daily reflections on the Gospels, highlighting their meaning and continued relevance for living today.

Laurence Freeman, OSB, is a Benedictine monk and director of the World Community for Christian Meditation (WCCM)

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Lent PopeThe Hope of Lent: Daily Reflections from Pope Francis, by Diane M. Houdek

With prayer reflections drawn from the words of Pope Francis, this Lenten companion helps you prepare for the Easter season. With Scripture citations for each day of the season, selections from the pope’s writings, and ways to bring the pope’s message into your life on judgment, justice, forgiveness and mercy, The Hope for Lent will lend a moment’s meditation to discover the extraordinary in the ordinary, to be surprised by God’s mercy when we least expect it.

Diane M. Houdek is the author of The Joy of Advent, Pope Francis and Our Call to Joy, Lent with St. Francis, and Advent with St. Francis. She is the digital book editor for Franciscan Media.

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Teresa-21Lent with Saint Teresa of Calcutta: Daily Meditations, Heidi Hess Saxton

“Thoughtfulness is the beginning of great sanctity,” observed Mother Teresa, one of the most beloved Catholic women of all time, popularly acclaimed a saint in her own lifetime. This small book of daily reflections for Lent and Holy Week celebrates the humility, charity and devotion of Saint Teresa of Calcutta.

Lent with Saint Teresa of Calcutta offers a short Scripture passage for each day, a brief meditation with a quote or story from the life of this remarkable woman, plus reflection questions and a short prayer to begin or end the day. Read alone or with a small group, this is a helpful resource for reflecting upon the mercy of God—and modeling the generous heart of this saint from Calcutta in our own lives.

Heidi Hess Saxton is a Catholic editor, wife, and mother, and is author of several books.  Heidi is editorial director of Servant, an imprint of Franciscan Media. She writes for adoptive, foster, and special-needs families at “A Mother on the Road Less Traveled.”

Visit Franciscan Media’s Lenten Collection for these and more resources.

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What is salvation?

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'Crucifixion and Saints' by Fra Angelico (1441-1442) Public domain

‘Crucifixion and Saints’ by Fra Angelico (1441-1442) Public domain

Fr. Jim Van Vurst, OFM, answers the question of salvation
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Fr Jim Van VurstFrom time to time in talking with good and faithful people, I realize they have a basic misunderstanding about “salvation” and “how it works.” By that I mean, many people grew up thinking that they were in charge of their salvation and unless they were successful in living virtuously they were in serious difficulty … not “good enough” to be saved. Many concluded that God’s requirement was perfection or near-perfection! We might say, “Well, good luck with that!”

But let me explain a truth that is so very important and yet one so many misunderstand. The basic truth is that JESUS IS OUR SAVIOR. It’s not us! Paul’s letter to the Hebrews states it very clearly in Chapter 2 when he reminds his Jewish converts that Jesus became human “like his brothers in every way … [to] free those subject to slavery all their life.” What that really means is that the battle we face in life is NOT about our fight with Satan. That would be no contest really. Satan is a fallen angel and there is no one trickier than he.  The battle between good and evil over Satan was won by Jesus when the Son of God became human and in a sense said to all of us, “Just get behind me, my brothers and sisters, this is MY battle and I will win this battle for you.”  And he did just that as he laid down his life on the cross for all of us. Satan surely tested Jesus all through his life and you can be sure that he tempted Jesus as he suffered on the cross. But Jesus’ act of love on our behalf totally defeated Satan once and for all. Remember after the fall of Adam and Eve God promised a woman (Mary) would bear a Son (Jesus) and they would crush the head of Satan (Gen 3:15). That’s exactly what he did.

Our Lord Jesus Christ by James Tissot (1836-1902) Public domain

‘Our Lord Jesus Christ’ by James Tissot (1836-1902) Public domain

What this means is that, in fact, we and all of God’s children have been redeemed. Jesus has won and Satan has been crushed.  Now, I can understand that we might wonder as to why living a good life is not easy if indeed we have already been redeemed by Jesus. Well, the answer is because of the first sin by the first humans. Since the beginning of humankind all God’s children have been born wounded.  We don’t need proof of that if we look at what is happening (and has been from the beginning) around the world. We know that, too, from our own experience of failure in our lives. That’s what call the human condition … and the expression is, “we are wounded.”

But never forget that Jesus is the Savior and like the Good Shepherd he is, saved us. We can imagine Satan exulting as Jesus was taunted and tortured and nailed to the cross. Satan thought he had finally won his battle with Jesus. But Satan faced the terrible truth the moment Jesus gave up his spirit and as a faithful son to his Father, prayed, “Father, it is finished.” At that very moment Satan came to realize that it was Jesus who had won and he had lost the battle completely and totally. And that means that all humans never have to battle Satan.  Jesus did that as only the son of God could.

But what about us? Don’t we have to be perfect and sinless to be saved? No, not at all, and it’s not even possible for us. Jesus asked us to love God and love our brothers and sisters sincerely and as best we can. But we are never perfect … it is not possible. That’s Satan’s temptation for us … “to be perfect” because then we think we are gaining God’s favor. No, that was Jesus. And simply said, the best way to love Jesus is by loving one another.  Now isn’t that much simpler? Yes, Jesus is our Savior and our shepherd. We try to be his sheep who follow.

Fr. Jim Van Vurst, OFM

handsYou can share your prayers with us and our online community at our Prayer Page.
Pray for others who have also posted their needs and concerns at View Prayer Concerns.
St. Anthony was devoted to prayer to the Lord, read his words at St. Anthony Prayers.

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Navy Veteran Frank Silva Pledges 10% of Estate to Franciscans

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Frank Silva

Frank Silva serving in Vietnam in the early 1970’s

What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas… Not as far as Las Vegas resident Frank Silva is concerned.
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The retired U.S. Navy Petty Officer, who has lived in Las Vegas for the past 24 years, is not sure how an appeal from the Province of St. John the Baptist made it to his mailbox 15 years ago.  But he is quite willing to share that it had its desired effect, and why.

Frank Silva today in Las Vegas

Frank Silva today in Las Vegas

The appeal rekindled his childhood appreciation for the work and humility of the Friars.  He became both an annual contributor to the Province and a legacy donor; he now plans to leave 10% of his estate to the Province through his Will.

“My grandmother belonged to Holy Family Parish in Albuquerque, where I grew up,” he said.  “It was part of the Province of St. John the Baptist at the time.  Francis was my baptismal name, and St. Francis was my patron saint, so I always had a devotion to him.  As a kid, I admired the friars.  When I got that first request I thought, ‘Let’s do this.’”

He likes that the Franciscans help poor people, providing them with education, food and shelter.  “The money goes directly to people in need,” he continued.  “And the Franciscans show so much humility.  That’s important to me.”

Another formative influence on Silva was the U.S. Navy.  He enlisted when he was eighteen.  “I joined the Navy because I didn’t want to go to Vietnam.  The funny thing is, after my first duty assignment and “A” school [which teaches you the skills you need to do your job], they sent me to the Mekong River to repair river boats for a year.  I grew up really fast.”

Frank's beloved dog Spike

Frank’s beloved dog Spike

After Vietnam, he was home ported on the East Coast, including Boston and Naval Amphibious Base Little Creek, in Norfolk.  “I saw the world before I was twenty-three,” Silva said.  After active duty, Silva spent 20 years in the Navy Reserve.

He credits his Navy training for jumpstarting his civilian career.  Two years after joining Public Service Co. of New Mexico (PNM) in 1974 as an apprentice, the superintendent of System Operations offered him a position as a System Operator, “I told him there were other apprentices years ahead of me and that journeymen wouldn’t be happy.  He said the reason he picked me was because I was Navy trained.  I will never forget that.  I can’t say enough about my experience with the Navy and what it did for me.”  After 11 years with PNM he worked for Arizona Public Service, Plains Electric G&T and on to Nevada Power Co. (NV Energy) where he retired after 17 years.

He enjoys walking his little dog Spike and his hobbies… He plays softball twice a week year round, running model trains (N-Scale), yard work and reading.

FrancisIf you would like to learn more about leaving the Franciscans in your estate plans visit our Leave a Legacy page.  Contact Friar Works Co-Director Colleen Cushard at ccushard@franciscan.org  or call her at 513-721-4700 ext 3219.

 

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The Christmas that almost wasn’t

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Volunteer Tom Grassa, Sr. Francesca, and Br. Al Mascia filled the Care'avan with hundreds of useful items to be turned into CarePax and distributed on the streets of Detroit

Volunteer Tom Grassa, Sr. Francesca, and Br. Al Mascia filled the Care’avan with hundreds of useful items to be turned into CarePax and distributed on the streets of Detroit

You think I’d know better by now.
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2017 marks my tenth year living and serving in Detroit and I love it more than ever! Not surprisingly the Christmas season is especially compelling around here given both the great need and generosity of the locals.

CarePax filled and ready to be distributed to those in need.

CarePax filled and ready to be distributed to those in need.

Yes, there are countless poor and homeless to be sure but there are also many caring and generous souls who help us friars brighten the lives of those we serve especially Christmastime!

Then why was I so worried we wouldn’t be able to cheer as many spirits as we’d hoped to this ninth Christmas of mine in Detroit? Well, to make a long story short, I had just filled the Song and Spirit Care’avan with hundreds of giving tree items like gloves, warm hats, hand warmers and toe warmers; stuff that would soon be sorted by kind-hearted volunteers, turned into CarePax and distributed on the streets of Detroit the days before and immediately following Christmas day itself. That’s when it happened; the last of the remaining, operational door handles of the Care’avan cargo bay fell prey to the inevitable destiny of Michigan vehicles: rust!

There it lay on the pavement having done its duty for well over 275,000 miles! While I had no doubt that we would eventually be able to rescue the contents of the Care’avan from their lock-up, the question remained would we be able to do so in time for Christmas which was fast approaching?

"Angel" Greg Allen saved the day!

“Angel” Greg Allen saved the day!

I mean, there was a lot of repackaging left to do!

Well, suffice it to say that angels come in many shapes and sizes and this one happened to be wearing a grey Carhartt jacket and blue beanie! Yes, our very own Greg Allen who now lives with us friars having spent over two years living on the streets himself, came to the rescue and—in MacGyver-like fashion—saved the day!

Once again, things worked out perfectly no matter all my fretting. After all these years witnessing such just in the nick of time God-Moments, well, you think I’d know better by now!

Thank you all so much for helping us friars spread joy at Christmas as well as all throughout the year!

Gratefully,

Bro. Al, ofm

+ Would you like to support our ministries for the poor?  Your donations to St. Anthony Bread go directly to serving their needs.  God bless you!
A Friar Helper sorting hats, gloves and useful items to be put into CarePax.

A Friar Helper sorting hats, gloves and useful items to be put into CarePax.

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St. Anthony’s Quad Beer

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St. Anthony's Quad beer

Fr. Frank Jasper (left) prays while Fr. Carl Langenderfer blesses the beer mash that will become St. Anthony’s Quad with brewmaster Josh Elliott and Brett Kollmann Baker of Urban Artifact Brewery.

St. Anthony Quad Beer Release Party
on Fat Tuesday, February 28
4 PM Doors Open
5 PM Fr. Carl Langenderfer blesses the beer
and Renegade Streets Eats food service available
Jazz Renaissance (New Orleans style) begins at 8PM

All are welcome!

Visit the Facebook Event page to RSVP and more information
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The article below was first published on August 9, 2016

It may be worth a double take when you see a Franciscan friar in habit visiting a local brewery and blessing the beer.   About a year ago, we were approached by one of the owners of Urban Artifact, a local craft brewery located in Northside, Ohio.  Brett Kollmann Baker was inquiring about how we might collaborate to raise money for our ministry and mission.

St. Anthony's Quad beer

Urban Artifact

The St. Anthony Shrine is located in the neighborhood (less than two miles away) and the community-minded owners wanted to create a unique platform to help those less fortunate.  The Urban Artifact taproom is located in the former St. Patrick’s church built in 1873. So the idea of creating a special St. Anthony’s Quad beer was born. “Being a community minded steward is doing good and giving back when you can.  In that regard, we related closely to the Franciscan friars and their mission.”

This was certainly an intriguing idea and peaked my interest.  Yes, it is different but then, times are different.  Many organizations are looking for ways to educate younger people about their mission.  The Franciscans are no different.  The meeting was set.  Fr. Carl Langenderfer, Shrine Guardian and Fr. Frank Jasper, Vicar had the difficult task of tasting some of the beers.

But back to Urban Artifact. How do they harvest wild yeast?

It was really interesting even for me. Full disclosure, I am not a beer fan (yeast allergies) and certainly did not know anything about what it takes to brew a beer.  As enthusiastic brewmasters, they explained the fairly complicated process. We kicked around some ideas and decided to go for it.  We liked the idea that Urban Artifact makes flavors that are unique and true to the area.

St. Anthony's Quad beerThe first step was to place twenty-eight jars covered with cheese cloth and filled with unfermented beer around the Shrine property for about 14 hours to catch the wild yeast.  Once collected, it then is left to sit for three months.

On May 16, Brew Day, Fr. Carl prepared a very fitting blessing while Josh Elliott, the brewmaster allowed Fr. Carl and Fr. Frank to help pour ingredients into the mash for the appropriately named St Anthony’s Quad beer.

The St Anthony Quad beer is a Belgian style quad currently aging in wine barrels from Napa Valley.  Fr. Carl goes down to check on it every now and then and has been very pleased with the progress.  Once the beer is ready for tapping, we’ll have a release party with proceeds going to our ministry and mission.  In addition to the keg, they will also bottle the beer for people to buy as gifts or to take home and enjoy.

We hope you will join us. Cheers!

Read Fr. Carl’s Beer Blessing.

To learn more about and get directions to Urban Artifact, click here.

St. Anthony's Quad beer

Brewmaster Josh Elliott and Brett Kollmann Baker of Urban Artifact.

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Fr. Mark Soehner, OFM – A Franciscan Reflection on the Year of Mercy

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Message of hope, faith, and mercy resonates
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Tricia Griffith settles into a pew for a presentation by Fr. Mark Soehner.

“This guy is so wonderful I’m recording him,” says Tricia, who hears Mark preach when she attends Mass here at St. Anthony Shrine. Tonight’s topic, mercy, has drawn a large and diverse audience.

Boy ScoutsIt’s not surprising that members of the Sunday community would be here for the Nov. 2 talk, last in a series of three given by SJB friars for the Year of Mercy. What’s surprising is the two rows of Boy Scouts on the opposite side of the chapel. On the advice of Fr. Kenan Freson, who subs at the parish, chaperone Toni Schneider brought the 25 young men from St. Bernard’s of Taylor Creek as part of their “Ad Altare Dei” faith formation program.

Another attendee whispers to a trio of women in the row behind her: “How do you know Mark?” Their responses: “From when he says Mass on Tuesdays”; “He was our parish priest for years”; and, “He’s got the Spirit for sure.”

Introduced by Guardian Fr. Carl Langenderfer, Mark launches into an animated presentation, “A Franciscan Reflection on the Jubilee Year of Mercy”, with themes so relatable that even the Scouts listen intently:

  • “God doesn’t love you because you’re good. You’re good because God loves you.”
  • “Mercy doesn’t come to us all pretty. It comes to us when we need it.”
  • “Before teaching the commandments of God, we need to talk about the God of the commandments….God seen as an unforgiving tyrant or benevolent Santa Claus.”
  • “When our resources seem inadequate, it’s time we go to a deeper well.”
  • “To be rich in mercy is not to be stingy in any sense.”
  • “It’s a lot easier to judge than be generous.”
  • “When we receive mercy we want to give it away.”
  • “What if we lived our lives in gratitude and had a revolution of tenderness?”
  • “We can give regular doses of mercy with simple words like, ‘Forgive me.’ ‘I’m sorry.’”

Fr. Mark SoehnerMark recounts his adventures with the Walking Friars and their 2009 trek across Virginia. Mercy and generosity were offered in abundance in unlikely places from unexpected sources. “Isn’t God good?” he says, and everyone agrees.

Mark gives Pope Francis the final word, paraphrasing a sentiment that seems obvious but bears repeating. “Everything the Church says and does should be seen as merciful.”

Judging by nods of appreciation, the gift of mercy has been gratefully accepted.

Year of Mercy presentations by Fr. John Quigley and Fr. Larry Zurek can be viewed on our YouTube page.

This article first appeared in the SJB News Notes

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Chinese mission welcomes friars

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houston_4kids_600

Our newest parish Ascension Chinese Mission in Houston
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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.

Fr. Bonaventure Huber with his new parish

Fr. Bonaventure Huber with his new parish

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.

Fr. Joe Hund with parishioners

Fr. Joe Hund with parishioners

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.

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