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.
Loading ‘Josey’ the van is a science and an art.
Now in its seventh year, the Get Kids to School program in Negril, Jamaica, is making sure 150 children have the uniforms and supplies they need to attend basic, primary and high schools.
On Sept. 4, the first day of school, “Our way-too-small bus was packed; we made three runs to and from school,” reports Fr. Jim Bok. He’s praying for a bigger Coaster bus for the program, overseen by Rotarian and volunteer Joan Cooney.
Would you like to support the Get Kids to School program? Visit our Donation Page and write-in Get Kids to School in the comments box. Or contact Friar Works Co-Director Colleen Cushard at 513-721-4700 Ext 3219 or email: email@example.com
Friar student is getting grounded in real-life law
In the real world of lawyering, you put on a suit, go to court and try to resolve conflicts. That’s exactly what Br. Michael Charron is doing this summer.
For Michael, a student at Appalachian School of Law, interning with Judge Amy Searcy has been a revelation. Since May he has assisted with cases at the Hamilton County Court of Domestic Relations in downtown Cincinnati. After one year of school Michael is immersed in the deep end of an emotional pool of litigation known as family law. The atmosphere in child custody hearings, divorce proceedings and domestic abuse cases is so intense that boxes of tissues are standard issue at tables for both plaintiffs and defendants.
Fortunately, “I’m pretty good at containing my emotions,” says Michael. After a rough day he goes home to the community at St. Clement. “If friars ask me, ‘What did you do today?’, I’ll say, ‘We had a hard case.’”
It’s a learning experience for both the friar and his boss. This is Michael’s first internship, and “I’ve never as a judge had an intern before,” says Amy, appointed to her post by Gov. John Kasich in May 2014 and elected to a full term that November.
But they have a lot in common: Both of them are grounded in prayer.
Asking for help
For the past two years Amy has worshipped with friars and the community at St. Anthony Shrine in Mt. Airy. Most weekdays she’s there before work for the 7:30 Mass. “It starts my day when I’m focused on asking God to help me take care of folks,” she says. “As I enter this courtroom, with its sadness and upheaval, if I come in centered and grounded, I’m reminded I’m not here alone.”
One day in the Shrine parking lot, Fr. Frank Jasper asked if she would consider taking Michael on as an intern. She answered, “Absolutely”, and later admitted that part of her motive was selfish. The Judge is pursuing a Master of Arts in Theology from Franciscan University of Steubenville, Ohio, and thought, “Michael can help me with this.”
But first he had to look like a lawyer. “Not my favorite part of the job,” he confesses, walking through the gold-plated doors of the Art Deco courthouse – it’s the old Times-Star building – and flapping the lapels of the dapper gray suit he’s wearing on this sweltering summer day. Before he arrived, “I kind of expected a more formal atmosphere,” having spent his first year in law school dealing with Contracts, Property, Civil Procedure, Torts and the like. But in Domestic Relations Court, “You’re not dealing with a contractor who didn’t fix a roof right,” Michael says. “You’re dealing with people.”
The typical intern is a writer, researcher and observer. “I started out watching everything going on and learning the different departments,” he says. Adds Amy, “It’s not just to help me. Seeing how a judge makes decisions should make him a better lawyer.”
After three months at the courthouse, “I see that family law and ministry kind of go together,” Michael says. “I’m really impressed with Judge Searcy’s understanding that people are people; they’re not used to being in a courtroom. I feel like she’s a really good servant. She kind of puts herself in their shoes.”
Those shoes belong to people of all cultures, faiths and economic backgrounds. Whatever the issue, “Nobody in the court system is happy to be here,” says Amy. “I call the courthouse ‘The House of Pain’.” Many cases revolve around kids, and “I’m required to make all decisions in the best interests of children.” Whenever possible, “That means letting people come to their own conclusions.” To make that happen, “You have to take a step of faith toward each other.”
There is no typical day in court. “We try to have hearings Monday and Tuesday morning,” she says. “Tuesday at 1:30 I do sentencing. I might send someone to jail” for non-payment of child support. “Wednesday and Thursday are custody trials. Friday we do overflow or write decisions. I take a lot home.”
Summers are always busy. “There are kids visiting one parent who don’t want to go home. And lots of people move in the summer when one parent gets a job offer out of town.” Hard to believe, but “I’ve had people fighting over payment for dental work or whether a kid can go to camp.” She has heard her share of shouting. Recently after letting a couple vent, her response was, “Do you hear what you just said?” On days of high drama, “I compartmentalize. I’ll take all the sadness and pain and hurt and put it in a box – then make a decision. Personally, I have to increase my time in prayer at home.”
A trial is the last resort once you’ve exhausted every other option, she says. That’s why the Dispute Resolution Department was created – to give folks room for discourse in a neutral atmosphere before a third party. “The mediator has to say, ‘What you’re saying is valid; now listen to what he’s saying.” After sending Michael to several of those sessions Judge Amy discovered, “He has a skill set that lends itself to mediation and helps people resolve problems.” In ministry as a friar, “That’s something he could offer a parish.”
Michael finds it fascinating. “In mediation you have these couples who don’t like each other. It’s interesting to hear both sides of the story. When children come in, it’s interesting to see their demeanor change.”
Sitting at trials, he has seen the best and worst in people. Some lawyers are less than scrupulous. And some parents choose winning at any cost – hiring a lawyer, going to court, spending a fortune – over the needs of their children. “Most people get married and have decent marriages,” Michael says. “Some get divorces and do that amicably. There are people who end up here. I tell myself these are the exceptions rather than the rule.”
Does being a friar make him a better intern? Humility helps, he says. “I don’t think I’m better than anyone else. No matter how small a job is, they’re all significant. I wouldn’t think I was better than anything the Judge has asked me to do.”
This is Michael’s last week at work; Monday he starts his second year of law school in Grundy, Va. Judge Amy hates to see him go. “I will miss him dearly: his calmness; his openness; his steadiness. I trust him to give his unbiased views. I could rely on him and know his reaction will not be judgmental or tainted with emotion.”
After this summer “I think I’d be more confident in a courtroom,” Michael says. “Every time I see lawyers arguing, I kind of think to myself, I don’t know everything they’re doing. But I think I’m capable of that.”
This fall he hopes to take a workshop certified by the Ohio Supreme Court and become a professional mediator. “I could start mediating disputes right away,” while he’s still in school. In the future he intends to help marginalized people, whether that involves immigration, criminal defense or family law.
“I’ll keep thinking and praying,” he says. “I’m sure I’ll land in a good spot.” Part of being a Franciscan is “trying to make peace. Even though it’s kind of forced in the courtroom, this is a place where peace is made. I think this is a good place for friars to be.”
This story first appeared in the SJB News Notes August 10, 2017 by Toni Cashnelli
The two new faces in the Vocation office are Fr. Page Polk, OFM, Director of Vocations (left) and Fr. Richard Goodin, OFM, Assoc. Director of Vocations (right). The Vocation office is located on the grounds of the St. Anthony Shrine in Cincinnati, OH.
Fr. Page hails from Dallas, Texas while Fr. Richard was born and raised in Lebanon, KY. Yes, there is an abundance of that wonderful “southern drawl” in the Vocations office now.
Fr. Page also serves on our Provincial Council. He recently served as part of an Inter Provincial team of three asked by the seven Provincial Ministers to research the process for revitalizing and restructuring Franciscan life in the United States.
Fr. Richard served at Holy Family Parish in Galveston, Texas prior to coming to Cincinnati in July. When Richard was in formation and ready to take his vows, he was one of the four friars that came up with the idea of the 300 mile walking pilgrimage to the Franciscan Monastery of the Holy Land seeking to emulate the wanderings of St Francis. It’s a great story if you have not read it yet.
Both men are filled with enthusiasm and wonderfully creative ideas. They are available and eager to speak with and answer questions for anyone interested in becoming a friar.
“We want to measure success not by number of accepted applicants but by the quality of our pastoral care of all the men who contact us who need help discerning God’s call in their lives. And when God does call one of them to become a friar minor-boy, oh boy are we ready to help them do just that!” says Fr. Richard.
Welcome Fr. Page and Fr. Richard.
For more information email them at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Or visit: http://franciscan.org/become-a-friar
Follow Franciscan Vocations on social media:
Fr. Carl Langenderfer spent the last 12 years at St. Anthony Friary and Shrine, first as formation director for the Postulants, then as Guardian and Director of the St Anthony Shrine. On July 1, Fr. Carl packed up his car and headed for his new ministry at Holy Family Church in Oldenburg, Indiana.
He served in Oldenburg 40 years ago when he was just a kid. The first weekend of his new assignment, he walked all over town checking out the beautiful flowers and gardens that grace each yard. It’s a beautiful little town. Even though he is going to miss his friends in Cincinnati, he is looking forward to meeting the parishioner and making new friends.
Meanwhile at the St Anthony Shrine, the transition was less difficult than these things can be. Everything is in good hands. Br. Norbert Bertram is the new Shrine Guardian. He was always so involved with all of the everyday details of the Shrine that it made perfect sense that he would be the next Guardian. He was Fr. Carl’s right hand man. Brother Norbert says, with a smile “all I need to do is to figure out who will be my right hand man and everything will be great”. Brother Norbert will take care of all the needs at the Shrine which includes continuing to light candles for your intentions.
Take a 360 degree virtual tour of the Shrine here.
Bestselling author Robert Ellsberg to speak at St. Anthony Shrine
Please join the Franciscan friars on Wednesday, July 19 at 7:00 PM, as Franciscan Media hosts an evening with Robert Ellsberg at the St. Anthony Shrine in Mt. Airy.
The bestselling author and editor of Orbis Books will discuss his upcoming book, The Franciscan Saints.
Light refreshments to follow in the friary dining hall.
Details and RSVP at : http://info.franciscanmedia.org/ellsberg
Or call 513-721-4700
In 1987, Fr. Joe Rayes, OFM wrote a book called Living Religious Vows, but what impressed people the most was that he lived what he preached. Fr. Joe was a passionate man proud of his Lebanese heritage. He gladly proclaimed the mercy of God to all. He was a friar for 56 years and died at the age of 76 in 2007.
Recently Dan Nolan, a former friar began working at the front desk here at the friary. He is a joyful and fun loving person willing to help with absolutely everything and anything. One morning Dan started telling me a story about when he lived with Fr. Joe in Houma, Louisiana. Dan tells me that he would jokingly say that he loved to preach the Gospel, but really had only three themes in his homilies: 1. God loves us beyond all understanding, 2. God loves us beyond all understanding, and 3. God loves us beyond all understanding. The Gospel or “good news” for Fr. Joe was all about God’s love.
Not more than a few minutes later, I received a gift on line from a man named Rudy that wrote in memory of Fr. Joe Rayes in the comments section. I sent an email to thank him and mentioned that coincidently we had just been having a conversation about Fr. Joe.
He sent an email back to me. It was so touching that I asked him if I could share this with all of you. His second note said simply “Anything to honor Fr. Joe”. His email is below:
I learned much about God from Fr. Joe during the time he was my spiritual director in the late 1980’s while serving as Director of the Lumen Christi Retreat Center in Houma, LA. The wisdom of Joe Rayes taught me that:
· God is a God of surprises.
· God is slow, but he is always on time.
· God draws straight with crooked lines.
· We must waste time with God and those we love.
· Each of us is a mixture of mud and gold.
· We each have weeds growing amongst the wheat of our interior lives.
· The road of life is hard for everyone; but have faith because . . .
· We are all on a pilgrimage to God.
· The kingdom of God is in the here and now.
· All are called.
· Live in the present moment.
· Discernment is essential to decision making.
· Prayer is the way to God.
· Have faith: to desire is to obtain; to aspire is to achieve.
· With God all things are possible.
Joe Rayes had a profound impact on my life.
Thank you Rudy for allowing us to honor Fr. Joe with your beautiful tribute!
I am told that if Fr. Joe were here to read the above passage, he’d likely be a little embarrassed. He signed the letters OFM behind his name; Order of Friars Minor. To be “Minor,” to be lesser, to be a servant, and to be humble. Fr. Joe lived his life with Franciscan joy and humility.
The iconic images of St. Francis made by artist Sr. Kay Berger, OSF, were modeled after Fr. Joe including this drawing of St. Francis praying.
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: