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Daily Reflections for Advent with the Blessed Mother

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Wait in Joyful Hope

Dear Friends,

We are happy to bring you the 2017 pocket book of daily reflections for Advent. This year, we honor our Blessed Mother with Wait in Joyful Hope, created by our friends at Franciscan Media.

Thank you for allowing us Franciscans to accompany you in your journey through Advent to the birth of our Savior. May this season of anticipation and hope prepare your heart to welcome the Lord with Joy!

Thanks for all you do for us. We are most grateful.

Fr. John Bok, OFM

AdventTo receive your free booklet, send your name and address to and we’ll mail you your copy today. Or call Colleen Cushard at 513-721-4700 ext 3219.

Offer valid in the US only. If you live outside of the US, contact us for the electronic version.

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Lessons & Carols at St. Anthony Shrine

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The St. Anthony Shrine choir

The St. Anthony Shrine choir

We need a Savior to be born into our world
and into our hearts.

Guardian Br. Norbert

Guardian Br. Norbert

Join Shrine Guardian Br. Norbert Bertram, OFM, and the Franciscans at the National Shrine of St. Anthony for:

“Lessons & Carols”
Sunday December 10
4:00 PM

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.

The service will be followed by light refreshments in the friars’ dining room.  All are invited.

Click here for directions to the Shrine.

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Older Adults Leverage Age for Greater Returns

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Planned giving 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.

Annuity rates 2017 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 .

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Friars share their journey

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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
or Fr. Richard Goodin, OFM, at

Vocations office: 513-542-1082 or 800-827-1082

Learn more online at:

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Pet blessings for the Feast of St. Francis

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Fr. David Moczulski, OFM, blesses stuffed animals at Sisters of Charity chapel.

Fr. David Moczulski, OFM, blesses stuffed animals at Sisters of Charity chapel.

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.

Monastery Rabbit CROP 600The 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.

Monastery Pet crop 600Dennis Foley covered the event for WTOP which includes lots of photos. See more.

Parrot 243 x 162

A stately Parrot

PInk Dog 243 x 162

Pretty in pink

Pint-sized pup

Pint-sized pup

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.

Br. Tim Sucher, OFM, with the doctors and volunteers who made Pet Health Day a reality.

Br. Tim Sucher, OFM, with the doctors and volunteers who made Pet Health Day a reality.

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Mourning Las Vegas

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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.

Flag half vert 250We 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 MinisterMcCloskey Las Vegas video crop 300 TExt

“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.

rlp-17-square-blue-theme 250 sqIf 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

Goodin Transitus homily 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.

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Finding St. Anthony stories

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St. Anthony is the patron saint of lost things. Last week, we asked our Facebook followers to share their St. Anthony stories of lost and found and still waiting.  Out of 89 responses, we chose a few to share with you.

St. AnthonyLynne – I don’t have a friend or foe that doesn’t know how important St. Anthony is to me – I have friends who aren’t even Catholic who call on St Anthony because I have proven thru my own prayers over and over that he helps everyone. Sometimes I have to tell myself oops.. I should ask God or the Blessed Mother for that not St. Anthony — he’s my first go to for everything — I thank him for good things and beg him for help — He rides shotgun in my car – in my purse, in my home – stands in my garden – he’s everywhere I am – I grew up in Chicago and he was my grandmother’s favorite Saint. Whenever we were off school on Tuesdays we had to go downtown with her to St Peter’s Church on Madison and LaSalle, for St Anthony novena mass. Then when I started working around the corner, I found myself going there on Tuesday’s for lunch for my own novena masses…He’s been a part of my life since — well let’s just say I can’t remember when he WASN’T in my life and I’m 63.

Cathy– sometimes I think St. Anthony is saying…not her again! I go to him for everything. He has helped me out many times!!

Julie – I taught many years! I had a habit of putting things down as I was teaching. Of course, when I needed it again I had no idea where it was!
praying handsI would ask the class to pray to St Anthony… and we would find it every time almost instantly.

Pamela – St Anthony is a very important Saint to me. I pray to him a lot. Sr. Rudina Rita taught us a prayer to St. Anthony during one of our Altar Society retreats: “Tony, Tony, turn around, something lost must be found.” This works more times than not, if I don’t find it at least I remembered to say a prayer to our Powerful St. Anthony, whom I love very dearly. Thank you for sharing other St. Anthony posts.

Katherine – I have many. I lost the diamond out of my ring (1.5K) I noticed it gone on Sunday night. We went back to the Church, knowing it could have been lost anywhere. We went into darkened Church Monday and looked under pews that we thought we had sat. My husband shone the light under the pew…and he found it.
Poor boxWe had promised St. Anthony $200 for the poor and were more than happy to give it to the priest. Same for my husband’s phone. And my daughter’s purse left while we were traveling. So many other times. I love St. Anthony.

Beverly – I worked with a wonderful nurse, Sister Norma. She was great at starting IV’s. We all called on her when we had a ‘difficult stick’. She would pray to St. Anthony for help in finding a vein. I sure do miss her.

Donna – My mom had a blessed St. Anthony medal. She was kind of partial to him for some reason. When my cousin Jackie & I were kids about 55 years ago, if she misplaced anything, she would stand w/ her arm extended in front of her and her index finger pointing straight ahead. She would then start turning around in a circle w/ her eyes closed while reciting “Tony, Tony, turn around. Something’s lost and can’t be found.” Whatever direction she was pointing in when the rhyme stopped, she’d begin searching for the lost item in that direction. Sometimes it worked — sometimes it didn’t.

Please join us in praying for Wera’s lost rosary. Read her story below:

Wera's lost rosary

Wera’s lost rosary

Wera – I lost an extremely Special Rosary almost a year ago. There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t think of it. I bought it when my father had a heart attack at the age of 88. My father passed the following year. The remains of St Theresa (one of my beloved Saints) toured our town in 2001. They said that anything that touched the box that her remains were in would become a Third Class Relic. I prayed and pleaded for so many causes, carrying that Rosary each day in whatever pocket I had. I had my Rosary over 20 years. I still have hope.
*Post your story or prayer for Wera’s lost rosary on our Facebook page or the Prayer page on this website.

We’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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The decisions of our lives

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Fr. Jim Van Vurst, OFM

Fr. Jim Van Vurst, OFM

One sure sign of growing into maturity is the willingness and ability to “take responsibility for our choices in life.”  Obviously, all of us are influenced by many circumstances, some of which are beyond our control. But as a young person grows year by year, there is an expectation that quick and easy excuses (“oh, I just forgot, etc.”) are no longer acceptable in a family. This maturity can differ from case to case but there comes a time and an age where the parent, and even society, say frankly, “No more excuses.”

There is no question that in the eyes of a young person, still under the guidance of parents at home, older children seem to have a lot more privileges. That’s true … but it is equally true that with privilege also comes the obligation to be accountable for our choices and their consequences.

That’s why for most young people a driver’s license is seen as the ultimate gift of freedom.  I remember when I turned 13, my dad used to allow me to “start the car.” Wow, what power!!! But eventually when I got my driver’s license at 16, I had arrived!! But, of course, that was just the start to growing up.

Child car Depending on circumstances, many would say that the transition was fairly smooth as we became aware that life is not always simple. Most teenagers try to find some kind of employment during the summers in high school. And as we grew older, we were in situations where we had to make more serious and responsible decisions in our lives. And in a sense once we faced those necessary decisions we knew there was a price to pay if they were bad choices.

The word “decision” itself is an interesting one since the word comes from the Latin “Decidere.” It means “to cut or to separate.” And the implication, of course, is that once you make a cut, a decision, you can’t “uncut” or “undecide.” It’s done. That is why, when people must make serious decisions with serious consequences, they often seek advice or counsel. Talking an issue over with another trusted person can help clarify one’s thinking when an important factor involved was not noticed until someone else caught it.

Now, considering the gospels and Jesus’ public life and ministry , we come to the realization that Jesus experienced, time and time again, a need to make decisions in his life, e.g. his choice of apostles,  or when to go up for the feast knowing he was facing a ton of criticism and personal attacks. The most significant choice he made was to follow his Father’s plan that resulted in his passion and death. Luke tells us that in the garden, Jesus’ sweat became drops of blood. Talk about pressure and tension and struggle!! But we know Jesus experienced his life in his human nature and not by just “floating through” his passion and death.

No one makes a perfect decision every time. We are prone to mistakes but can take some solace in the fact that even Jesus’ hand-picked apostles were not mistake-proof or clear-headed in their decision-making. But that fact does put us in pretty good company when faced with our own decisions.


Fr. Jim Van Vurst, OFM, has been a Franciscan friar for 64 years and a priest for 56 years. His background is in spirituality and psychology and counseling. He has published articles in St. Anthony Messenger, the Bible Today, and The Priest Magazine. Currently, he is assistant pastor at St. Clement Church in Cincinnati. On top of all that, he is just a really great guy!

If you would like to take advantage of Fr. Jim’s expertise or just need to ask him a question, email  All counseling will be confidential and done through email.

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$10,000 Jasper Challenge Matching Gift

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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

Nurse Michelle taking Br. Josef’s, 77, blood pressure during one of her visits.

Br. Gabriel, 84, still plays piano and sings beautifully at St. Anthony Shrine each week.

Fr. John Paul, 82, right receives the blood of Christ from Fr. Frank, 86.

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.

Fr. Tom, 85, Pastor, Holy Name Church, Cincinnati participating in the Red's Opening Day Parade.

Fr. Tom, 85, Pastor, Holy Name Church, Cincinnati participating in the Red’s Opening Day Parade.

Fr. Jeremy, 85, Associate Pastor at Church of Transfiguration, Southfield, MI, presiding at Mass.

Fr. Jeremy, 85, Associate Pastor at Church of Transfiguration, Southfield, MI, presiding at Mass.

Fr. Cyprian, 93, tooling around on his scooter at a recent Franciscan friar gathering.

“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.

Fr. Paul, 92, does Mission appeals each year for Food for the Poor.

Fr. Paul, 92, does Mission appeals each year for Food for the Poor.

Br. Marcel, 84, right, and Br. Gabriel, 84, during a break at Chapter.

Br. Marcel, 84, right, and Br. Gabriel, 84, during a break at Chapter.

Fr. Humbert, 87, presides at Masses at St. Anthony Shrine.

Fr. Humbert, 87, often presides at Masses at St. Anthony Shrine.

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.

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St Anthony helps relieve JoAnn’s panic.

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McDonalds cup St Anthony

JoAnn in California relies on St. Anthony

On a Wednesday of this year I had gone to a big box store for carpets.  I used my credit card.  Then I stopped in at a local McDonalds and purchased a senior coffee and paid with a credit card.  I then went on home.

The next day, Thursday, I had to pick up a prescription and went to pay with my credit card and could not find it.  Needless to say, I panicked and started to pray to St. Anthony.  I immediately went home to call the bank and explained what had happened.  They told me to put a temporary hold on the card as no one had attempted to use it.

Still praying I went to the last place I had used it, at McDonalds.  An honest person had turned it in the day before.

Thank you St. Anthony.

–JoAnn in California

McDonalds coffee Volk letter001 CROP 600

We’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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