A memory of Christmas Past
Obie and Mae Parker! They gave me a great opportunity to demonstrate Christmas hospitality at an age in my young life when I had little notion of such a thing. What was under the tree, gift-wrapped and bearing my name, was uppermost. Sure, the entire Christmas season, well, at least the first 10 days or so getting us into the new year, was filled with church celebrations, festive food, gift exchange, playing in the snow while shivering in the cold whiteness, and family visits. It was a great time to be a kid (mid to late 1950s) and absorb life experiences by the gallon.
Of all the Christmas festivities, the events of visiting relatives, traveling from house to house, and receiving guests in our home remain most vivid. For me the most touching visit came when our elderly neighbors, Obie and Mae, made their annual trek – a few steps journey next door – into our festively decorated living room to be seated, welcomed, and wished the very best of the Christmas season. Handshakes, hugs, and tender kisses were freely given and received. Obie and Mae had no children, and appeared to be in their late 70s or beyond. Well goodness, at my age of 10 or so, everyone appeared ancient, or at least nearly ancient. Obie and Mae were Father and Mrs. Time to me. They moved slowly and cautiously, bearing smiles and an inner joy and happiness that I couldn’t miss. I loved them for being our neighbors, pretty much along in their senior years. We were their family, in a way, looking out for them.
My dad would give Obie a carton of Winston cigarettes, which he enjoyed while listening to the radio. Our houses were so close we could hear Obie’s loud comments to news or his favorite White Sox during the baseball season when windows and doors were wide open, welcoming the summer breeze.
My mother so graciously and tenderly shared a little gift of an apron or some such thing with Mae. Then we proceeded to talk about how quickly the year was coming to a close, and what a good president we had in Dwight Eisenhower, or surely the ensuing year would find the White Sox beating out the Yankees for the American League pennant (happily fulfilled in 1959!). As my parents served refreshments, we kids had to stay in the room and visit with our guests. By then we had opened our presents, bringing delight to Obie and Mae, as they watched us play.
Looking back, it reminds me of Abraham’s and Sarah’s experience of the three angels who came by after a long journey and depended on nomadic hospitality for survival in the desert land. Mid-December in northwest Indiana is nowhere near desert conditions, but genuine hospitality and neighborliness are crucial to survival of another sort. In my Christmas days of long ago, Obie and Mae Parker were perhaps angels in disguise, looking for refreshment, companionship, family, and acceptance – all food for life that should grace every Christmas table.
If you have your own tale or memory of Christmas presence (and presents too, that’s just fine), take time to share it with someone. Perhaps you too, at Christmas, have unknowingly entertained angels. God has been known to come caroling with songs of joy and hope, and even to “sit a spell” in one’s living room and visit. “Here I stand, knocking at the door. If anyone hears me calling and opens the door, I will enter his house and have supper with him, and he with me” (Rev.3:20.) Receive God’s gift of Christmas, and … expect a visit! A Blessed Christmas to you!
With a backpack full of prayers
Br. Michael Radomski shoulders his backpack, steps out into the Detroit sunshine – and stops in his tracks.
“First, we pray,” he says, then asks the Almighty for wisdom to help those in need. For the next two hours he will seek them out on streets and in parks, offer them a sandwich and encourage them to talk.
On behalf of St. Aloysius Neighborhood Services, friar Michael is channeling God’s love to the reclusive homeless, those too skittish or embarrassed to say, “I’ve lost my way.” A member of the parish’s Backpack Ministry since 2008, he is there, he says, “to be present to people” who are sad, vulnerable, alone and afraid.
Just listening doesn’t sound like much. But to those who have nothing, it means everything.
Michael’s roomy red backpack is stuffed with gloves, wool caps, t-shirts and hand warmers, all in demand on this bright but brisk afternoon. He fills a collapsible wheeled crate with bottled water and sandwiches donated by local parishes. “We try to have PB&J and some sort of meat sandwiches. If there are extras left over, we sometimes go to the library and pass them out to patrons who are homeless. Today we have homemade cookies, praise the Lord!”
The route he takes varies, “depending on the needs that present themselves. It’s not so much about giving out stuff as being available. We don’t preach to them. We’re there to pray with or for them.” In a world that is often indifferent or disdainful, “It’s a chance to affirm their dignity. They don’t often get that.”
Everyone has a story. “Many have had a difficult life,” derailed by drugs, mental illness or a dysfunctional family. “We have certain regulars we’ve gotten to know and have seen for years,” then, out of the blue, “They’re suddenly gone, off the map, and we don’t know why.”
Walking in groups of two or more, “We try not to let bad weather stop us,” Michael says of St. Al’s 25 backpackers, most of them lay volunteers who come once a week. “If it’s not nice for us, it’s not nice for the folks stuck out there, either.” The worst day ever? “Oh gosh, when the snow was up to our knees.” They actually found people waiting for them along the route. “Warming centers are great, but when we go out in the cold and snow, those we minister to have a sense that they really are loved.”
There’s a strategy to this, he says. “You approach people who are loners, less likely to go to a shelter. We try to give them the ‘once-over’” to find those truly in peril. “Our priority is those who don’t have the safety of a warm apartment to go to each night.” Since backpack supplies are limited, “We try to explain that we’re holding tight onto items for people in dire situations. It’s a tough thing to do, but it’s a necessary thing to do.”
Michael heads north on Washington Boulevard, sidetracked by an unshaven senior sitting in the median of the street. He hails the friar, introduces himself as “John” and holds out his hands. John not only needs gloves, he needs help putting them on. “I had a stroke,” he says. Michael fishes a pair of gloves from the backpack and tugs them over the man’s gnarled fingers. “We’ll keep an eye out for a pair of mittens that would be easier,” he promises John.
“Brother Michael!” he hears, and turns to spot a friend. “Carla, you doin’ all right?” he asks a smiling, white-haired woman with a walker. She turns down a sandwich, preferring to catch up on the news while a small crowd gathers around them. Soon they are engaged in a lively conversation. “We often have a good time when we go out,” Michael says. “It’s a joy to meet people like Carla who are filled with joy” despite their circumstances.
At a construction site, a guy with a street-cleaning machine wants to talk. After being paroled from prison, the man spent four years looking for work. He would like to pray and give thanks with a man of God for the positive turn his life has taken.
Michael says his habit is rarely recognized. “Most of the time people are like, ‘What are you dressed up for?’ Most of them just know we’re ‘church guys’.”
Up the street, he turns into Grand Circus Park. A dozen men are sitting around the drained fountain, hip-hop vocals blaring in the background. Faces registering anger, boredom or hopelessness, they come to life when Michael walks into view. “When we get to a certain part of a park, they come from other parts,” he says. “It’s like they have antennae.”
A short queue forms quickly. “Got any socks?” a young man asks. Michael pulls out half the contents of his backpack before announcing, “There are no socks.”
“I’m allergic to peanut butter,” says another when he’s offered a sandwich. “What about chocolate?” Michael says, offering a cookie. These guys may be hungry, but they don’t seem destitute. Scanning the park, Michael points to a bench across the way. “That man is homeless. He’s wearing a coat that folds out into a sleeping bag.”
A middle-aged man named Aaron comes forward, face contorted in pain, and says he needs to pray. A dam of despair breaks loose as Michael petitions God, with Aaron sobbing, clinging, sinking to his knees. For the next few minutes there are no answers, only questions, but it’s obvious that this desperately sad soul has found comfort and catharsis. He wipes his eyes, gets to his feet and stumbles away.
“There are a lot of them like that,” according to Michael. “It’s hard to say, ‘My time’s up. Gotta go.’ You just can’t do that.”
Alone and confused
A bearded man with a finger wrapped in bandages wanders by looking so dazed that Michael is concerned. “You got a place to stay tonight?” he calls. “On the road,” the man says in heavily accented English. An immigrant from Nepal, he is alone in America.
“What do you believe in your God?” he suddenly asks Michael. “God loves you and me” is the friar’s response. “Some say Allah, some say God the Father; it’s all one God.”
For the next half-hour while the man sits quietly on a curb, staring blankly with his upturned hands on his knees, Michael is on his cell phone, trying to find lodging. Coming up empty, he scribbles a list of names, places and phone numbers.
“I wish there were more I could do for you,” he says, handing them over. “I will hold you in my heart and pray throughout the night. God will look out for you. Place it all in God’s hands.”
Armed with a bag of hand warmers, mittens, sandwiches, and directions to a shelter, the man sets off across the park. “I feel so unable to help in any way,” Michael says. “It aches to not know what happens to them. That’s the only part of this ministry I don’t like.”
Some days, there are rays of hope. “Periodically we meet somebody who is back, better, who has a house and has found work. One such person is Angelique, a young, timid woman who was ever gracious and appreciative” of the help she received. “She kind of disappeared for a while. Then one day we were out and someone called, ‘Hey guys! Hey, St. Aloysius!’ It was Angelique,” greeting them with a smile and a hug. “She got a home, lined up a job and got her life back on track. It was wonderful to see.”
With his load lightened, Michael heads for St. Aloysius and his other duties. He will be back here next week, praying for more happy endings.
This story first appeared in the SJB News Notes and Franciscan.org
The Lord is with Thee
On July 19, 2017, newly ordained Fr. Colin King joined fellow Franciscans Fr. Jim Bok, Br. Chris Meyer and Fr. Saleem Amir at our Jamaican mission, where together they are focusing on education and community building with ministries such as St. Anthony’s Kitchen and the Get Kids to School program. Fr. Colin and Fr. Jim primarily live and work in Negril, while Br. Chris and Fr. Saleem live in Savannah-la-Mar. Br. Chris works as the Communications Director for the Diocese of Montego Bay. Fr. Saleem is the pastor of parishes in Savannah-la-Mar and Orange Hill.
Even though Fr. Colin has only been pastor of two parishes on the island for a short time, he has already been a blessing to many. His witness and priestly presence recently prompted an unlikely person—a prostitute struggling to raise her baby—to privately seek out Fr. Colin and request that he baptize her son into the Catholic Church. Fr. Colin did so with much joy, noting that it was a powerful moment to have her child received into the Church.
“Just being present and approachable is so important,” Fr. Colin says, “as well as conveying mercy and steadfast compassion while walking with people on their unique journeys to meet God wherever they are. I’m so grateful this mother felt comfortable enough to come and talk to me.”
This includes sharing in the people’s joy as well as well as in their sorrow, as Fr. Colin points out. He has already presided at a funeral for a young mother of only 25 years old, who tragically died while giving birth to her second child.
“It’s very sad, and it’s been a very hard time for the family and for the community,” Fr. Colin says. “One of the most important things I can do for them is to be present and available.” In conjunction with their pastoral duties, the friars work to combat the many educational challenges students and families face in Jamaica with the Get Kids to School program.
“There are many obstacles for kids regarding school here, “says Fr. Colin. “These are fairly rural areas with families living in poverty. On the hills there is no natural water source and people have to collect rainwater and harvest it. We try to help parents and children however we can with uniforms, school supplies, food, and transportation.”
In spite of the many obstacles, both children and parents often show an inspiring amount of willpower and determination. One teenage student takes three taxis for a total travel time of one hour and a half just to get to school (not including the return trip). She’s doing well and she is one of the top performers in her class.
The friars make it a priority to support the schools directly as well. The schools are in urgent need of resources, as one doesn’t have electricity and there is no public transportation. Fr. Colin meets with the principals in his role as Chairman of the Board of three Catholic schools. In partnership with the schools, they are trying to find ways to offset food costs, allocate current resources, and find new resources.
In order to reach as many people as possible, the friars also teamed up with Food for the Poor, locating families within their parishes who need the most urgent help. One goal they share is to help families become self-sustainable so they can eventually support themselves. A recent project provided a family with chickens and helped them set up a coop.
Our friars are doing God’s work in Jamaica. Five days a week, the St. Anthony Kitchen provides breakfast to around 60 children each morning and lunch to about 110 adults every afternoon. The Get Kids to School program offers children hope for a brighter future by investing in their education. And each day, our friars bring faith, hope, and love to the people of one of the poorest countries in the Caribbean.
“May the coming Advent Season be a time of joyful anticipation & hope.
–SJB Provincial Minister Fr. Mark Soehner
Join the Franciscans in your journey through Advent to the birth of our Savior.
The first day of Advent is Sunday December 3. The editors of St. Anthony Messenger magazine have created an Advent booklet to fit in your pocket. ‘Wait in Joyful Hope: Daily Reflections for Advent with the Blessed Mother’ is free.
Just send your name and address to firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll mail you your copy today.
Offer valid in the US only. If you live outside of the US, contact us for the electronic version.
“Lessons & Carols”
We need a Savior to be born into our world and into our hearts.
Join Shrine Guardian Br. Norbert Bertram, OFM, and the Franciscans at the National Shrine of St. Anthony for:
“Lessons & Carols”
Sunday, December 10
It is a program of six scripture readings and Advent carols sung by the choir and the congregation that are meant to help us prepare for Christmas.
A Franciscan Christmas
Nativities from around the world, a Dickens Christmas village, a running model train and much more await you at “A Franciscan Christmas” at the Christian Moerlein Event Center.
Special events include Saengerfest Choirs, a visit from Santa Claus, and an Open House with the friars.
November 24 – January 1, 2018
Stop by St. Francis Seraph Church and say hello to the sheep, goats, and donkeys who greet you as you enter the courtyard. Relax by the fountain and meditate on the Holy Family at this outdoor nativity display.
November 24 – January 6, 2018
For unto you a child is born
Bring your friends and family to ‘A Franciscan Christmas’ in historic Over-the-Rhine in Cincinnati. Enter the courtyard of St. Francis Seraph Church on the corner of Liberty and Vine to meditate on the Holy Family or pet the goats, sheep, and donkeys in this Live Nativity.
‘A Franciscan Christmas’ continues at the nearby Christian Moerlein Event Center. You’ll see a Christmas Creche display featuring nativities from around the world. Fr. Joachim’s model trains, a Dickens Christmas village, a huge Santa Claus display, and lots and lots of decorated Christmas trees with comfortable chairs where you can sit and enjoy a beverage or food from the Christian Moerlein Taproom.
Dates and Hours for the Live Nativity in the St. Francis Seraph Courtyard:
Thursday November 24 – Saturday, January 6, 2018
1:00 PM – 7:00 PM Daily
Dates and Hours for ‘A Franciscan Christmas’ at Christian Moerlein Event Center:
Friday November 24 – Monday, January 1, 2018 when the Christian Moerlein Taproom is open for business.
Wednesdays 4:00 PM – 10:00PM
Thursdays 4:00 PM – 10:00 PM
Fridays 4:00 pm – Midnight
Saturdays Noon to Midnight
Sundays Noon – 7:00 PM
December 29, 6:00 PM – Open House! Celebrate the Christmas Season with the Friars. Light refreshments served.
Donations are welcome for the support of St. Francis Seraph Church and School.
St. Francis Seraph Church, 1615 Vine St., Cincinnati, OH 45202 (at the corner of Liberty and Vine)
Click here for Directions.
Christian Moerlein Event Center, 1621 Moore St., Cincinnati, OH 45202
Click here for Directions.
Charitable gift annuities provide donors with an immediate tax deduction, guaranteed fixed payments for life, and the satisfaction of providing future support for the Franciscans. As annuity rates are based on the age of the person establishing the annuity, older donors benefit from higher rates. Gift annuities can provide payments to one or two people, either jointly or successively.
The minimum amount required to establish a gift annuity benefitting the Franciscan Friars of St. John the Baptist Province is $20,000. Gift annuities can be funded cash or stock. If funded with stock held for more than one year that has increased in value, donors will bypass a significant portion of the capital gains tax.
Here’s an example:
Mary Richards, age 75, establishes a $20,000 gift annuity. Based on Mary’s age, the annuity rate will be 5.8%. Mary will receive an annual annuity payment of $1,160 for life, regardless of how long she lives. $875 of Mary’s annuity payment will be tax-free until 2029. She will also receive an immediate tax deduction of $9,154. Upon Mary’s passing, whatever remains in the annuity account passes to the Province of St. John the Baptist.
For more information about gift annuities, without obligation, contact Colleen Cushard, Co-Director of Franciscan Ministry & Mission, at 513-721-4700 or email@example.com .
Friars tell why they chose to follow St. Francis in a series of videos.
“I felt a sense of being home,” Fr. Colin King says of his decision to join the Order of Friars Minor.
“I fell in love with Franciscan community when I was in high school and made a trip to the Franciscan Seminary,” says Fr. Greg Friedman
“Who am I as a child of God? Who is God asking me to be?” were the thoughts going through Fr. Cliff Hennings’ mind as a young man discerning his life’s calling.
“You need to discern what you feel called to, drawn to, by the God who sustains your life at every second of your life,” advises Fr. Bob Bruno on finding one’s vocation.
“When I visited the Franciscans something clicked,” says Fr. Roger Lopez of his search for the right fit in his vocation search.
“My experience from the very beginning was great. And so I was happy to continue the journey and commit my life to it,” says Fr. Jim Bok of choosing the life of a Franciscan friar.
“Follow your dream. If you feel a call, talk to someone about it. And be persistent in following it and finding out the truth if this is the vocation for you,” advises Fr. Robert Seay to men considering a religious life.
How do people discern their calling? Fr. Richard Goodin, Associate Director of Vocations, shares his dreams of helping people walk across the bridge of discernment.
Would you like to talk with us about how you can become a friar?
Contact Fr. Page Polk, OFM, Director of Vocations at firstname.lastname@example.org
or Fr. Richard Goodin, OFM, at email@example.com
Vocations office: 513-542-1082 or 800-827-1082
Learn more online at: franciscan.org/become-a-friar
Love pours forth
“They’re real for the kids,” Fr. David Moczulski says of the dozens of stuffed animals he blessed this week at the chapel of the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth, Pa. The children were from the Vincentian Preschool. “They were excited to talk about their animals and give me their names.” David is an old hand at this; he’s been blessing stuffed animals since his first assignment.
The Franciscan Monastery to the Holy Land in Washington, DC, held its annual ‘Blessing of the Animals,’ Saturday September 30. See more photos on their Facebook Page.
Dennis Foley covered the event for WTOP which includes lots of photos. See more.
On Sunday 122 dogs, 29 cats and one rabbit and one bird went to church and came out the better for it. For the seventh year St. Francis Seraph in Over-the-Rhine hosted Pet Health Day, sponsored by United Pet Fund to benefit animals living with people of limited means. Thanks to generous donors and volunteers, the pets received checkups, flea treatments, food and vaccinations at no charge. Each year the event, coordinated by Dr. Zeke Zekoff of Towne Square Animal Clinic in Blue Ash, takes place on the Sunday closest to the Feast of St. Francis. More photos on their Facebook Page.
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.
Will You Remember Our Retired Friars?
Do not cast me aside in my old age; as my strength fails, do not forsake me –Psalms 71:9
As friars we dedicate our lives to proclaiming the Gospel in the Franciscan spirit, living with and for the poor, promoting justice, peace, and the care of creation. We spend our lives of poverty in service and in prayer. Even after a lifetime of active service to God and others, we don’t retire to a life of leisure—we work in whatever capacity we are able to for as long as our minds and bodies allow. Of the 99 friars who are over the age of retirement, more than half are still ministering in various capacities. Many are well into their eighties, yet they still celebrate daily Mass (some with the help of a walker!), as well as volunteer at local soup kitchens, serve as hospital chaplains, and hold administrative roles like I do as the Co-Director here at Friar Works!
Province Nurse Michelle Viacava manages the healthcare for all of the 133 friars of St. John the Baptist Province, but she works mostly with retirement-age friars, since healthcare needs and health issues naturally increase with age. In doing so, she’s gotten to know many of our elderly friars on a more personal level.
“The older friars are very appreciative of all I do for them,” she says. “Unlike most of society, they don’t have spouses or children to help them to remember appointments or to accompany them to surgeries, so that’s one area where I am able to step in.”
Michelle is happy to fulfill these roles and more, often lunching with them between taking vitals and bloodwork, and chatting with them whenever she gets the chance. She loves to hear about all of the people they’ve helped in various capacities throughout the years.
“They are all just wonderful,” she says. “They are very respectful and so full of wisdom. I might be helping them with their healthcare needs, but they have helped me along my faith journey.”
Michelle is one of the people making sure our aging friars get the emotional and physical support they require, but financial assistance is, of course, needed as well to continue caring for them. In addition to Michelle, Br. Jerry Beetz works to assist the needs of the friars already in nursing facilities.
Would you consider remembering our senior friars in your financial giving? Your charitable contribution comes at a time when our elderly friars need it most, after many years of faithful service. It says “thank you” to them for all they’ve done and continue to do. The quality care your gift provides helps bring comfort and peace to them in their old age.
Your gift also goes twice as far with gift matching from the Jasper Foundation! For nearly a decade, the Jasper Foundation has graciously offered us a $10,000 challenge grant for donations offered through this appeal! This means that your $50 gift becomes $100, and your $100 gift becomes $200, and so on. If you are considering giving, this is truly an excellent time to do so. Due to your generosity, we’ve met and exceeded this challenge every year since 2009, and we’d love to keep with this tradition!
We are so grateful for any tax-deductible contribution you can make, and it is our privilege to remember you in our prayers. May God bless you for your generosity. Thank you for supporting our Franciscan mission.
Peace and all things good,
Fr. John Bok, O.F.M., Co-Director
Please give to our senior friars on our Donation Page.