Fr. Ronald Pecci, OFM
A native of Brooklyn, N.Y., Fr. Ronald Pecci, OFM, a Franciscan for nearly 17 years, is in his eighth year as pastor of Sts. Rita and Patrick Church, Buffalo, N.Y., where he also directs the local Franciscan Volunteer Ministry.
A few times, Br. Methodius Tokar, OFM, allowed me to accompany him to his bee hives and explained what he was doing. Most often I just watched from a safe distance. I was fascinated by this quiet, humble Franciscan, as well as by his bee colonies and how he tended them, often without mask or gloves.
In fact, I was fascinated with the whole of St. Bonaventure University where Br. Methodius lived and worked while I was a student. Those brown-robed friars infused the place with the gentle and loving spirit of their founder, St. Francis of Assisi.
It was the Franciscan spirit that brought out the good in me and so many other people and helped us to care for each other. During my junior and senior years, I volunteered at a school for mentally and physically challenged children. This taught me as much as any of my academic classes. I knew that I would have compassion for the students, but I didn’t expect to love them as much as I did. It was like I was more complete being with them. This experience helped prepare me for later ministries as a Franciscan friar.
After graduation, I went to the West Coast and found a job as a medical technician. In my spare time I did volunteer work with a group of religious men who served the homeless and destitute. It was a deep learning experience of the dignity of people and how irrepressible the human spirit is.
Job and personal success seemed to be mine, but something within me was not settled. A weekend retreat seemed like a good idea. A smiling man in a brown Franciscan habit came out to welcome me. From then on, I knew where my place was.
A year later, I entered Holy Name Province’s affiliation program. I felt certain that after becoming a priest I would join the ranks of the school men of the Order. But the friar who had guided me in California told me to promise myself that I would work in a parish for a time. I avoided it until my deacon year, when I went to serve at St. Bonaventure Parish in the town of Allegany, a mile down the road from the university.
What I expected to be a mundane year turned out to be the most exciting year of my life. I loved parish work! What diversity! I had opportunities to teach children and adults and to learn from the sages of the parish community. Each day was different, a hundred new challenges.
My first assignment after being ordained a priest allowed me to continue my love affair with parish ministry for two years. Then I was asked to work in the vocation ministry of the province in 1985, an opportunity to tell other people of the happiness of Franciscan life. This is certainly something worth promoting, so it was a ministry I enjoyed, seeing many fine young men join our fraternity.
It has become obvious to me that the wonderful example of my parents, faithful people who encouraged their six children and joyfully made countless sacrifices for us, has had a profound effect on me. I take great delight in encouraging young people and often make personal sacrifices of time, effort and resources for them. It never seems to cost me anything. Working with the Franciscan Volunteer Ministry for the past six years has been a great joy. It gives me an opportunity to directly promote the Franciscan spirit to people who are often hungry for it.
Now as I look out my friary bedroom window, I’m amused and grateful for God’s call. I think of the Allegany foothills that I only infrequently visit, St. Bonaventure University whose ranks I shall never join, Southern California — the job and life I left there, and the parish work that I find so incredibly grace-filled.
And I look out at my own bee hives, thinking of the people I’ll make happy with gifts of honey, like Br. Methodius did. And the wonder on the faces of the young people who are curious about the bees, who like to watch me work their hives — though from a safe distance.
— This essay was written while Fr. Ron was pastor of Sts. Rita and Patrick Church, Buffalo, N.Y., in 1995. It appeared in the March, 1995 issue of The Anthonian.