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Looking at Life Through the Lens of Joy

June 25, 2014

By Fr. Mike Johnson, OFM

Johnson blog imageWhen I was in Bolivia a few months back, I was sitting in a café with a friend, talking about God knows what. At one point during the conversation I noticed that I was doing all the talking — and was quite animated about it — and he was just sitting there, smiling.

When I asked ’”What are you smiling about?’’ he answered: “You. You seem really happy, almost joyful.”

Walking home afterwards, I wrestled with what my friend had said, and decided that he was right. Joy was what I was feeling. But the question was, why?

After prayer the next morning, I reflected on what joy had looked like the previous ten days. The following is a partial list:

  • Joy is getting into a water balloon fight during Carnival and rediscovering why Jesus urged us to be childlike.
  • Joy is being in line on Ash Wednesday and having the ritual and the music move me to tears.
  • Joy is sitting down and sharing three meals in a day with the same people and to laugh at table.
  • Joy is going to the movies, leaving its selection to others, and then laughing hysterically through a film I never would have chosen.
  • Joy is realizing that someone dropped everything to help me and I never even had to ask.
  • Joy is watching Animal Planet with the brothers and rediscovering a sense of wonder and awe about creation and the Creator.
  • Joy is seeing the punk teenager with the spiky hair, with too many piercings to count, walking arm-in-arm with his mother, shattering my stereotypes.
  • Joy is visiting an old friend, now in her 80’s, and seeing the joy in her eyes that she was remembered.
  • Joy is prayer surrounded by 20 other brothers at 6:30 a.m., praying in a language that speaks to the heart.
  • 141_4191Joy is having three little children follow me down a dirt road and summon up the courage to ask for my blessing.
  • Joy is having a brother invite me on a hike, and, while listening to him speak eloquently about his understanding of Franciscan humility, minority and ministry, being reminded of why I came to this life.
  • Joy is having a passing bus splash muddy water on my newly hand-washed pants and laughing about it.
  • Joy is sharing a glass a wine with an old friend and have him pour out his hopes and dreams for his children.
  • Joy is discovering that, in spite of my brokenness, God somehow used to me to make a difference in the lives of others.

Read more…

St. Anthony of Padua: Worker of Wonders in Word and Deed

June 17, 2014

By Fr. Russell Becker, OFM

St. Anthony of Padua Holding Book“The Church proclaims the Paschal Mystery achieved in the saints who have suffered and have been glorified with Christ. She proposes them to the faithful as examples, drawing all to the Father through Christ; and through them, she pleads for God’s favor.” (Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, 104)

This quote from the Second Vatican Council reminds us of the traditional esteem with which the Church holds the holy men and women who have gone before us. We celebrate the saints because they give us the courage to believe that living by the Gospel is not impossible, but very possible. On June 13, the whole Church joins the Franciscans in keeping the feast of St. Anthony. He is beloved by so many because of all that he did in his very short life. Because he was a preacher who made people’s hearts stir, like Jesus did, and his preaching was confirmed by marvelous deeds in a way similar to the Lord, he is called the Doctor of the Gospel. When people came in contact with St. Anthony, they began to know the Gospel because of his preaching and his life. He made Christ visible to them and recognized as the One worthy of being followed:

Christ is our way in example, truth in promise, life in reward; a way that is straight, a truth that does not deceive, a life that never ends.

In his preaching, following in the footsteps of St. Francis, Anthony proclaimed the Good News. As he went about, he reminded people that God hears their cries for help, that all are called to be faithful followers of the Lord, and that we serve the Lord most particularly in caring for the poor. Read more…

My First 24 Hours

June 5, 2014

By Br. Casey Cole, OFM

Casey Cole in Camden

One of the bright spots of Camden: statue of the first man to reach the North Pole.

Vacation is over and it’s on to the next thing: summer assignment at St. Anthony of Padua Church in Camden, N.J. If the first 24 hours here are any indication of how the summer is going to go, it’s going to be a full summer.

I hit the ground running the moment I got here last night: after evening prayer, the four resident friars and I went out to dinner and an Italian ice where, despite being in the next town over, we ran into two of the Franciscan Volunteer Ministers living near the church as well as a handful of parishioners. I spent the rest of the night unpacking my things and rearranging my room, and it was on to the next day.

Morning prayer started our day at 8:10 (a welcome change from 6:50 during the school year) followed by a scheduling meeting with pastor Fr. Jud Weiksnar, OFM,  and a walk around the neighborhood. Besides coordinating a community garden across the street, St. Anthony’s is highly involved in the development and safety of the adjacent park. With the student leaders, the community has orchestrated the cleanup of the park, the painting of the benches and trashcans, and most recently, the addition of lights and the removal of a rundown tennis court for more green space, a process that we were thrilled to find had started today. Read more…

We Are In Need of a Good Shepherd

May 16, 2014

By Br. Casey Cole, OFM

This weekend I was in Raleigh, NC giving a reflection for Vocation’s Sunday and Franciscan Formation weekend as an attempt to raise interest in and support for the friars, the shepherds of so many. I ask that you take these petitions seriously, that you may follow Jesus more closely and in return, share with others what Jesus has given you.

Without a shepherd, the sheep are lost.

Without a shepherd, the sheep are lost.

Sheep are interesting creatures. Born without horns, claws, strength, speed, or really any way of defending themselves, the only thing sheep have is each other: when frightened, they clump together as a giant flock protecting each other through a strength-in-numbers technique. Their instinct to look to one another for safety is the very thing that keeps them safe; unfortunately, and quite ironically, it’s also their greatest danger. Sheep are natural followers, having no instinct whatsoever to lead. When clumped together, any movement from the heard is interpreted as a sign of leadership and the rest blindly follow along. It’s no wonder, then, how sheep have been known as entire flocks to walk right off a cliff.  In turkey a few years back, 1500 sheep ran right off a cliff, one after another. How could an animal be so stupid, we wonder. They act without thinking, are often lost or confused, and go with the crowd because they’re afraid to be different.

You wouldn’t happen to know of any other animals like this, would you? I wonder… Have you ever intended to do one thing and ended up doing another; got distracted with what you were doing, went with the crowd, and ended up somewhere you never wanted to be; have you ever been tempted to do things that were not good for yourself or others, led astray by something or someone that didn’t care about you? We can be just like the sheep sometimes, can’t we, wandering through life looking for help in all the wrong places.

We are a people in need of a Good Shepherd, someone to guide us and protect us. Read more…

Holy Week – A Week of Memory

April 17, 2014

By Fr. John Anglin, OFM

Holy Week Graphic from Fr. John Anglin's BlogA number of years ago, at one of the rare times in which Holy Week and Passover did not come together, I had the privilege of being invited to share one of the nights of Passover in a Jewish home. To say the least it was quite an honor for me and they likewise were delighted to have a Catholic priest at their table. One of the key moments of the night comes when the youngest child asks the oldest family member, in the case the grandfather, “Why is this night different from any other night?” I was told that often the answer is read from a script, but with this family the grandfather gave an impassioned and heartfelt rendition of the story of Moses leading the Israelites out of Egypt and into freedom. He then explained that this is a time to remember that great event, not to remember in the sense of looking back, but to remember in the sense of allowing the freedom given to his people by God back then to come alive in their hearts today. He said that the Passover was not just an event that took place thousands of years ago, but one that continually takes place today. Read more…

My Franciscan Journey

April 10, 2014

By Br. Paul O’Keeffe, OFM

Br. Paul O'Keeffe, OFM, enjoys a moment with members of St. Anthony's Youth Group during his missionary work in Africa.

Br. Paul O’Keeffe, OFM, (in red shirt) enjoys a moment with members of St. Anthony’s Youth Group during his missionary work in Africa.

My Franciscan journey began with a trip to Italy that my parents gave me as a high school graduation present. I grew up with images and statues of St. Francis all around me at home and at the Catholic School I attended. Yet, like many people, I had little knowledge of who St. Francis was, save for his love of animals and brown robe. My high school trip to Italy included a visit to Assisi. The tour guide’s brief comments about this city’s most famous son inspired me and I went away with a strange feeling as if I had come home, even though I had never been to Assisi before.

Years later, while still in college I had the opportunity to go on a summer mission trip to Guatemala led by a friend from my home parish. My friend had joined a new type of organization that was founded to train and support lay people on mission in the Franciscan tradition. My summer spent in Guatemala exposed me to Franciscan values in action: love and service to our fellow brothers and sisters, the challenges of living a simple life, with all the richness and difficulties of living and working in a multi-ethnic, multi-aged community. This also gave me the courage to follow a call to go on mission long-term. Read more…

Formation Update: ‘The Habit Doesn’t Make the Franciscan’

March 24, 2014

By Br. Abraham Joseph, OFM

The novices at the Franciscan Interprovincial Novitiate of the United States OFM provinces are roughly halfway through their yearlong stay in Burlington, Wis. In the reflection below, Holy Name Province’s student friar, originally from Haiti, writes about the novitiate’s activities these past few months.

Br. Abraham Joseph, OFM, far left, enjoys the beauty of Burlington, Wis., with two other friars at the Franciscan Interprovincial Novitiate.

Br. Abraham Joseph, OFM, far left, enjoys the beauty of Burlington, Wis., with two other friars at the Franciscan Interprovincial Novitiate.

“L’habit ne fait pas le moine.” I often hear this saying in my native country. The moral is that appearance does not show the true person. These words literally mean: the habit doesn’t make the monk or the Franciscan.

After seven months in this interprovincial novitiate, it is quite clear that being a friar is much more than wearing a brown habit. It is about accepting a form of life that connects both the material and the spiritual dimension of a person. To help the novice understand the depth of the Franciscan tradition, the program offers a variety of courses, workshops and activities.

In November, the novices started the hermitage weekends. We observe St. Francis’s rule for hermitage during that time. A maximum of four brothers go to a remote and quiet place. Two of them act like Mary, spending the time praying and meditating. The others act like Martha, taking care of temporal affairs: cleaning, cooking, and running errands. Each of us had a chance to go; we always return transformed by the experience. This way of doing hermitage combines the need for solitude with the support of the brotherhood.

… being a friar is much more than wearing a brown habit. It is about accepting a form of life that connects both the material and the spiritual dimension of a person.

Read more…

Kensington Friars Serve Dignity with Dinner

March 19, 2014

By Dan Geringer

Br. Fred Dilger, OFM, ministers to guests of St. Francis Inn in Philadelphia, Pa.

Br. Fred Dilger, OFM, ministers to guests of St. Francis Inn in Philadelphia, Pa.

Fred Dilger was a big-time residential designer in Manhattan and Atlanta when, he said, “You get to the end of the rainbow and you ask, ‘Is this all there is?’ I wanted something more.”

Seven years ago, he found that something. He suddenly gave up his career and all his worldly possessions to become a Franciscan friar in Kensington, Pa., living among and feeding the poor.

At St. Francis Inn, the core team of Franciscan friars, nuns and lay staff served 151,699 hot meals last year to the neighborhood’s most desperately poor men, women and children. “We physically keep people alive,” Dilger said, cooking beef stew for the nightly dinner crowd of 400 at the inn on Kensington Avenue near Hagert Street.  “I don’t think I’m going to transform everyone we serve by teaching them to play the violin,” Dilger said, smiling, “and then, of course, seeing Meryl Streep play me in the movie. It’s not about Hollywood-style transformation,” he said. “It’s about filling empty bellies.” Read more…

Formation Update: Postulants Visit New York, New Jersey Ministries

February 28, 2014

By Fr. Ronald Pecci, OFM

Postulancy is a unique year in the journey to Franciscan life. During this first stage of formation, men live in community at Holy Name College in Silver Spring, Md., to acclimate to the rhythms of religious life. They also travel throughout the province to meet our friars and learn about our varied ministries, and attend a number of workshops and retreats.

Pictured, from left to right: Deivis, Aaron, Daniel, vocation director Fr. Brian Smail, OFM, Christian, Javier and Fr. Stephen Mimnaugh, OFM, parochial vicar, during a visit to St. Francis of Assisi Church in West Manhattan.

Pictured, from left to right: Javier, Deivis, Aaron, Daniel, postulant director Fr. Ron Pecci, OFM, Abel and Christian during a visit to St. Joseph Renewal Center on Long Island.

Our current postulant class is comprised of six men — Javier Del Angel de los Santos, originally from Mexico, Daniel Bennett, who hails from Florida, Deivis Daza Noya, a native of Colombia, Abel Garcia, from El Salvador, Christian Seno, originally from the Philippines, and Aaron Van Patten-Steiger from Kentucky. Following are highlights of the group’s activities during the winter months so far.

The morning after preparing Thanksgiving dinner for the community at Holy Name College, the postulants traveled to Mt. Saviour Monastery in Pine City, N.Y., to share the first week of Advent with the Benedictine monks of that monastery. They followed the monastic schedule for six days, learning under the direction of Br. Michael Reyes, OFM, to “quiet” themselves.

After returning to Silver Spring for two weeks, they had their first break to visit their families.

The postulants visit St. Francis of Assisi Church and friary in West Manhattan. Pictured from left to right are: Deivis, Daniel, vocation director Fr. Brian Smail, OFM, Christian, Javier and Fr. Stephen Mimnaugh, OFM, parochial vicar of the parish.

The postulants visit St. Francis of Assisi Church and friary in West Manhattan. Pictured from left to right are: Deivis, Daniel, vocation director Fr. Brian Smail, OFM, Christian, Javier and Fr. Stephen Mimnaugh, OFM, parochial vicar of the parish.

The new year brought the Formation Intersession Program, an annual gathering of men at all stages of formation, with presentations on Islam by Provincial Vicar Fr. Dominic Monti, OFM, and Fr. Michael Calabria, OFM, of Washington, D.C.

Immediately after the intersession, the postulants went to St. Anthony Friary in Butler, N.J., using that as a home base, as they traveled to meet the friars and learn of the ministries in northern New Jersey. These included Holy Name Friary in Ringwood, St. Mary Church in Pompton Lakes, St. Anthony Church in Butler, and St. Bonaventure Church in Paterson. The men also traveled to  the friars’ plot in Holy Sepulchre Cemetery in Totowa, N.J.

A trip to New York City included visits to St. Francis of Assisi Church, the Provincial and Development Offices, and St. Francis Friends of the Poor Residences for formerly homeless people with mental illness — all on the West Side of Manhattan. In addition, the group took in the Cloisters Museum in Fort Tryon, where they were led by Christian, who is halfway through his master’s degree in art history.

A fun outing to Rockefeller Center in mid-town Manhattan.

A fun outing to Rockefeller Center in mid-town Manhattan.

Of course, no trip to the “Big Apple” would be complete without some sightseeing, and the postulants had fun checking out various “tourist traps.” All of this was “topped” by the gracious hospitality and generous encouragement of the retired community in Butler.

After a few weeks back home in Silver Spring, Fr. Dominic visited the postulants to present a lively workshop on the history of Holy Name Province. Only days later, the student friars had the opportunity to meet Fr. Thomas Kornacki, OFM, of Bolivia, who offered a presentation on the history of our Bolivian mission.

In early February, the postulants participated in a workshop on “Inter-Cultural Community Living,” sponsored by the Religious Formation Conference at St. Joseph Renewal Center in Brentwood, N.Y. Patrick Keyes, CSSR, who completes his doctorate in inter-cultural studies at Fordham University in May, led the program attended by 64 religious men and women in formation and their formators.

The postulants attend a Franciscan Community workshop at the Franciscan Interprovincial Novitiate in Burlington, Wis.

The postulants attend a Franciscan Community workshop at the Franciscan Interprovincial Novitiate in Burlington, Wis.

The workshop, which gave the men information and a sense of fraternity, was particularly relevant given that multi-cultural classes have become standard in religious communities in the United States. The majority of religious men and women in attendance were foreign born, and 16 countries of origin were represented. As mentioned earlier, our postulants represent four countries of origin besides the United States.

During their stay in Long Island, the postulants went out to dinner with Fr. Ron to celebrate Daniel and Abel’s birthdays.

Finally, the postulants joined postulants from other provinces in the U.S. at the Franciscan Interprovincial Novitiate in Burlington, Wis., for a Franciscan Community workshop on human sexuality and chaste celibacy, given by Br. Sean D. Sammon, FMS.

Fr. Ron PecciFr. Ron is the province’s director of postulancy. A personal reflection of his journey to Franciscan life can be found on the Friar Stories page of the HNP website. The above images originally appeared on the Postulancy of the Franciscans of Holy Name Province Facebook page.

More information about the postulants and other HNP student friars can be found on the Meet Our Student Friars page of the vocation website, 

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