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Fr. Cliff Hennings, OFM

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Why follow St. Francis?

“I wanted to live this Gospel in a way that was full of life, full of joy, that was exciting,” says newly ordained Fr. Clifford Hennings, OFM, in the video above.

Fr. Clifford was ordained a Franciscan priest in August of this year. St. Monica-St. George in Cincinnati is his first priestly assignment where he serves as associate pastor.   St Monica-St George serves the needs of the University of Cincinnati through campus ministry. As part of Fr. Cliffs role as associate pastor, he is involved with the students and enjoys working with them on spiritual direction, adoration, group faith discussions and more.

He also served several parishes in the Southern USA and across the Midwest while preparing for the priesthood. He is especially fond of his time working in the 9th ward New Orleans, LA. He currently resides at St. Anthony Friary and Shrine.

The video above, Why follow St. Francis?, is the first in a series of video interviews of Fr. Cliff and Fr. Roger Lopez, OFM, produced by Franciscan Media .


logoInterested in following St. Francis too?  Learn more at the Be A Friar page at the website for The Province of St. John the Baptist.  Or email Vocations Director Fr. Luis Aponte-Merced, OFM, at:

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Feast of St. Francis 2016

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The Pet Blessing at St. Francis Seraph Church in Cincinnati was beautifully captured by Franciscan Media in the video above, “St. Francis Feast Day Pet Blessing.”

View photos of Pet Blessings around the province on our Flickr page.

Free Vet Clinic and Pet Blessing Photos from around the Province on Flickr

On October 4, we celebrated the feast of the founder of our Franciscan Order, St. Francis of Assisi.

Francis is the patron saint of pets and ecology. Many creatures, great and small, received a special pet blessing while others participated in nature walks and outdoor activities since St Francis was also a major proponent of nature.


In the video below, Fr. Greg Friedman, OFM, explains the Franciscan tradition of Pet Blessings.

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Is it a lack of faith if we worry?

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Fr. Jim Van Vurst, OFM, gives advice for this common stressful concern.

Fr. Jim Van VurstThe question above is one that I’m sure many good and faithful Christians may have asked themselves. The logic that raises its head at times of serious stress is that “If I had faith (or “more faith”) I would just put things in God’s hands and go about my business.” Once again, simple logic does not always apply in our relationship with God. But let me answer the question above with a very direct answer. “NO!!! It is not a sign of a lack of faith when we worry!”

The reason is that true faith is NOT centered in our feelings and emotions but rather in our heart which is the deepest part of our being. Every person on earth knows that you don’t control or stop the experience of emotions by an act of the will. For example, if you are about to undergo serious surgery for cancer or tricky triple by-pass heart surgery, the most normal thing in the world is for our emotions to ramp up and let themselves be known and felt. Actually, it is the emotions that warn that we, or our loved ones, may be in danger. And if we actually know the danger, e.g. the surgery mentioned above, then emotions of fear and worry are the way the body was created to act. Fear can impel us to avoid certain dangers … except if there is no way to avoid this serious surgery or situation.

We can be most grateful for the experience of Jesus in the Garden of Olives at the time of his approaching passion. Yes, Jesus was divine and yet experienced his life through his human nature. And he faced a horrible future. Remember Jesus had seen Roman executions and realized what he would face since he knew once arrested he was already a convicted and doomed man. But notice what Jesus himself experienced. Was it worry? You bet it was and you can include fear also. And it came to the point where he asked Father to “let this suffering pass him by!” And his fear was so great that Luke, the physician tells us that “His sweat became drops of blood.” (Lk. 22:54) Does not mean Jesus was weak?  Surely not. It does mean and reassures us that Jesus knows our own human experience, both of joy but also of fear and worry. In the end, Jesus was brave but that bravery should never let us conclude that the scourging and prospect of the nails in his hands and feet were not a frightening prospect.

You can be sure that any martyr will experience fear and yet determine in his will and intention he will follow the circumstances that lay before him. We do the martyrs a real disservice if we minimize their struggles and their human fear of what lay ahead of them. After all, there is no mother or father who loves their children who has not experienced worry and lost sleep over them as they grew up and begin to make their own choices, friends and practices. That’s part of the experience of parenthood.

What is the answer? One … is not to treat the natural fear and other emotions as a sign of lack of faith. Second, as Jesus did, continue to pray and assist those loved ones though they may make the worry worse by refusing assistance or help.

Actually, to pray and trust in God in the midst of fearful and worrisome feelings is a sign of great faith itself.

AnthonyYou 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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Fr. Mark Soehner to give Year of Mercy talk

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Celebrating Pope Francis’ Jubilee Year of Mercy

Mercy is very dear to Franciscans, in fact in some ways, it is our vocation.  An early life of St. Francis, called the Legend of the Three Companions, described our way of life this way:

This is our vocation:  to heal wounds, to bind what is broken, to bring home those who are lost. In other words to be merciful.

We friars thank you for your many expressions of kindness and mercy toward us, and we pray that this year will be a time when you come to know once again the mercy of God.  We thank you for helping us proclaim this great gift, and to continue healing, binding wounds, and welcoming people home.  May God give you peace!

Fr. Mark Soehner, OFM, concludes our series.
Wednesday, November 2, at 7:00 pm
St. Anthony Shrine, 5000 Colerain Avenue, Cincinnati, OH  45223

Light refreshments will follow.
To RSVP please contact Fr. Dan Anderson at:  or call 513-721-4700.

Did you miss the first two Year of Mercy presentations?  Click the photos below to watch videos of Fr. John Quigley,OFM, and Fr. Larry Zurek,OFM, give their talks at the Shrine.


Fr. John Quigley’s talk, “Mercy – The Force of God Awakens in Us”


Fr. Larry Zurek’s talk at the Shrine, “The Mystery of Mercy”

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A roadside angel named Anthony

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Never fear, St. Anthony is here!

I was on a short trip to a casino and my car broke down.  I’ve always had a special devotion to St. Anthony.  I was standing along side the road, looking at my car and wondering what to do.  I had no cell phone.

casino_tony_no-marks_crop_vign-200I said a short prayer to St. Anthony and this young couple pulled up in a beat up truck.  At first, I was scared.  Then he said he could help me.  He introduced himself, his name was Tony.

They gave me a ride and pulled my car.  Later they took me home.

Thank you St. Anthony, I love you!


Ps – Always grateful!
Here’s my donation to St. Anthony bread.

AnthonyWe’d love to hear your St. Anthony story too. Use our Contact Page or Email: 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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Doubting your faith

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Fr. Jim, Can you help me deal with doubts that sometimes pop into my mind about our Catholic faith? I always feel uneasy.  Louise
Fr. Jim Van Vurst

Fr. Jim Van Vurst

Dear Louise,

I’m more than happy to help you because you are surely not the only one who, from time to time, struggles, “With doubts that sometimes pop into my mind.” Let me reassure you that it is important to understand that these “popup doubts” in no way are true doubts about your faith. In fact they are normal and indeed tell me that you are actually an intelligent person of faith.  Our faith is filled with mystery. But we have to remember the best definition of what a mystery is: “It is not that about which we know nothing. Rather it is just that about which we don’t know EVERYTHING.”

And it is the nature of our mind to be constantly busy, thinking, figuring out, weighing alternatives, questioning and yes, even doubting. That’s what the mind does … that’s how God made our minds and intellects. We simply want to know more and more as we go through life and with knowing comes questioning and wonderment.

Now, I’m assuming from your question, you are fearful of having doubts about your faith. And let’s face it, our faith covers a lot of territory.  And much of what our faith is concerned with is embracing in trust the very mysteries of God, of Jesus, of creation, of life and of judgment. And we may think that if we are true believers, we would never have any questions or doubts. Not true! In fact asking questions or talking about a doubt is just a sign that we are, in fact, thinking and acting as mature adults.

Doubts such as: “Is that host really Jesus?” or “Can I be sure my past sins are forgiven?” are not uncommon doubts at all. When such thoughts come, try to understand what is going on inside you. It is just normal questioning and wonderment. But it is also an opportunity to say to the Lord, “Yes, I believe and I trust. You are mine and I am yours and that is all that matters.”

Understanding the loving and good God who made us and Jesus who died for us can really give a tremendous sense of confidence and reassurance. God never wants us to fear him because there is nothing to fear. Doubts, fearful thoughts are just a reminder of our wounded humanity and that God is always loving us.

May God bless you,
Fr. Jim Van Vurst, OFM

St AnthonyYou 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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Br. Michael Charron, OFM, starts law school

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Br. Michael Charron, OFM

Br. Michael Charron, OFM

Br. Michael Charron has been attending the Appalachian School of Law (ASL) for about a month now.  ASL’s mission is to produce lawyers with a sense of professional responsibility who will become leaders in their communities beyond just talking about the law to actually experiencing it through an emphasis on practical skills and an externship program.

Br. Michael spent the last seven months in Mexico learning Spanish.  He is grateful now that he does not have to work so hard at understanding or being understood but it is coming in handy in his new surroundings.  He’s already used it to order dinner at a Mexican restaurant but he knows there will plenty more opportunities to hone his Spanish speaking skills.

He is excited about spending the next three years in Grundy, Virginia. The classes are small (about 40 students) and the school requires community service.  “I’m most interested in the CASA program which would allow me to be an advocate in court for an abandoned, abused, or neglected child.  I am hoping to do my required externship this summer with a local legal aid group,” says Brother Michael.

The only thing that is a little different right now is not living in fraternity.  “It’s just weird.  That is the only way I can describe it.  I miss praying and eating with the friars.  Simply being together for better or worse has been the norm and it is strange not having it.  I miss simply being with other friars,” says Michael.  He plans to stay in regular contact with many of his brothers that are only a couple of hours away and is determined to stay as connected fraternally as possible.

Br. Michael Charron enjoys a good laugh with fellow friars Br. Colin King and Fr. Roger Lopez

Br. Michael Charron enjoys a good laugh with fellow friars Br. Colin King and Fr. Roger Lopez

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Br. Mark Gehret, OFM, moves to Mississippi

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Br. Mark Gehret, OFM, receives a blessing from the New Orleans Poor Clares

Br. Mark Gehret, OFM, receives a send-off blessing from the New Orleans Poor Clares

“I thanked the Lord for bringing me to this rural place.”

Br. Mark Gehret, OFM, left New Orleans, Louisiana bound for Greenwood, Mississippi on August 3.  As you might expect after a total of 12 years in New Orleans, he was filled with mixed emotions.  There had been so many good relationships in New Orleans over the years and a very connected friar community. On the other hand, he was looking forward to his new adventure.

Br. Mark Gehret

Br. Mark Gehret

After getting settled in, Fr. Mark began working with a fine young maintenance man taking care of the friary, church, school, and convent.  Fr. Mark loves being in a rural area again having grown up on a farm.  He spent Labor Day working as a volunteer at a property on the other end of town where they are erecting a shrine to Our Lady of the Delta. He was able to use his electrician skills to help wire up the fountain where the statue of Mary is in place.

“Just tonight during my prayer time, I thanked the Lord for bringing me to this rural place and with the friendly people who live here, and for being able to use my trade skills. Growing up on a farm is paying off, says Br. Mark.

There has also been great sadness in the community during Mark’s short time in Mississippi.  The community was dealing with the murder of two sisters who spent decades helping the needy.

Br. Mark never met Sr. Paula Merrill or Sr. Margaret Held.  But a few weeks ago, he came to know them through the grief and pain that has united the community they served.  As nurse-practitioners, the two Sisters were the sole health care providers for 25% of the people of Holmes County, Mississippi. They were found stabbed to death in their home in Durant. A suspect was arrested but the motive for the murders is unclear.

Mark was among the mourners at the wake and memorial Mass. “The mood was mostly shock,” he said. “Why would somebody do this to two such good people who helped so many?” And their patients are wondering, “Where are we going to get health care now?”

“Why this horrific crime happened is anyone’s guess,” said Father Gregory Plata, OFM, at the nuns’ funeral service. “However, I truly believe with all my heart that Sister Margaret and Sister Paula would tell us that we still need to keep on loving.”

Fr. Greg Plata, OFM, at the Memorial Mass for the slain Srs. Paula Merrill and Margaret Held

Fr. Greg Plata, OFM, at the Memorial Mass for the slain Srs. Paula Merrill and Margaret Held

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St. Anthony shines a light

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I was shocked!

St. AnthonyI always hung my gold chain with the Blessed Mother medal on the little lamp on the table.  One morning it was not there.  My husband, son and I looked for three days and it was nowhere. 

This sounds silly but I finally in desperation asked St. Anthony, “Why won’t you bring it back to me as you loved the Blessed Mother so much.”

The next day I looked and saw a glint of gold on the lamp.  There it was.  I was in shock as I had dusted the lamp and it was not hanging there.  Only three of us in the house and none of us had found it. 

St AnthonyI have Protestant friends who call me and ask that I say my prayer when they can’t find something.  He does not always answer.  Sometimes it takes a year or so.  But this is God’s will. 

I have a special devotion to St. Anthony as my birthday is his feast day.

–M in PA

More notes of gratitude and prayers requests to St. Anthony

I love St. Anthony. He helps always.


I have loved St. Anthony since I was in college back in the dark ages, while doing research for a paper, I found a section on him and when I saw “Special Saint of the Scatterbrained,” he was my special friend since!


When we moved to a new house I misplaced my St. Jude statue. I prayed to St. Anthony for two years to no avail. I decided there must be some Saint rivalry but, at last, I took a box out of the bottom of a closet and, you guessed it, my St. Jude statue was there. Thank you St. Anthony, you have never let me down.


Please accept my enclosed check in gratitude to St. Anthony.  I left my purse in a drug store.  It was found (thanks to an honest person) with everything intact.


St. AnthonyWe’d love to hear your St. Anthony story too.  Use our Contact Page or Email: 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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Getting Kids to School in Jamaica

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Students and parents stand in front of Josey the school van with Fr. Jim Bok, OFM, outside St. Anthony's Kitchen

Students and parents stand in front of Josey the school van with Fr. Jim Bok, OFM, outside St. Anthony’s Kitchen

Facing our future with hope

Because of the generosity of our donors, kids that would not have been able to attend school are gearing up for another year.

September 6th was the first day of the new school year in Negril. As usual, St. Anthony’s Kitchen was the gathering place to collect their lunch money, taxi fare, eat breakfast, get school supplies, and of course, get words of encouragement from Fr. Jim Bok, OFM.  Prior to this, Get Kids to School assisted (working with parents) in outfitting and supplying 250 children with the necessities for the start of school (uniforms, shoes, school supplies, fees, etc.).

During the 2015–2016 school year, Get Kids to School financially assisted 200 children and served breakfast to 70 kids each morning.  In addition, 50 students were transported to school via the bus, Josey.  This year Josey (a too small 15 passenger van) is making three trips to and from school to accommodate the children needing transportation.

“As a kid I remember a TV commercial reminding me that “A mind is a terrible thing to waste.”  I’ve never forgotten it.  Thank you United Negro College Fund.  I have seen far too many wasted minds—and lives—for lack of education—often because a mom doesn’t’ have $1 or $2 a day.  We do what we can do with the help of benefactors.  “Facing Our Future with Hope” is the title of my Franciscan province’s vision statement.  It is a living vision which I totally embrace and which I want for our children—A Future with Hope” says Fr. Jim.

Fr. Jim Bok~
You can donate to the missions in Jamaica or any of our ministries at our Donation Page.
Keep up with the students on the St. Anthony’s Kitchen Facebook page.
Fr. Jim Bok, OFM, is the pastor of Mary, Gate of Heaven in Negril, Jamaica

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