For Immediate Release
CONTACT: Jocelyn Thomas, director of communications
CAMDEN, N.J. — June 29, 2015 — Br. Karl Koenig, OFM, a member of Holy Name Province, the largest community of Franciscan friars in the United States, is celebrating 50 years as a friar.
A native of Philadelphia, Br. Koenig converted to Catholicism while in high school. After graduation, he attended the province’s minor seminary in Callicoon, N.Y., and was received into the Franciscan Order in 1964. He made his first vows one year later and continued his education, first at the province’s formation house in Rye Beach, N.H., and then in Lima, Peru, where he professed final vows in 1969.
Br. Koenig decided to become a missionary after meeting another friar who had ministered in Bolivia. While in Peru, Br. Koenig began ministering to locals who were working as servants. He helped organize the workers, who lacked education, into a community. Opening a school was among his first projects, and he became fluent in Spanish.
“I was in Peru from 1968 to 1979,” he said. “I found it to be very interesting. We worked to get the house workers an education and to help them organize together to defend their rights. We were able to take a group of people who were marginalized and organize.”
When Br. Koenig returned to the United States, he was assigned to St. Bonaventure Friary in Paterson, N.J., where he gave retreats and led Alcoholics Anonymous workshops. During this time, he became involved with the local diocese and, because he spoke Spanish, was asked to co-coordinate the Hispanic apostolate, a position he held until 1981.
In 1982, he started working with the Paterson Diocese’s Straight and Narrow drug and alcohol program. Soon after, he began a 25-year period in which he lived outside of Franciscan community life. During this time, Br. Koenig worked with a federal medical program in the Philadelphia area, doing outreach to Hispanics with alcohol and drug issues, and became certified by the Centers for Disease Control to work with HIV patients.
He returned to the Franciscans in 2010 and was assigned to St. Anthony of Padua Parish in Camden, a heavily Hispanic community where he uses his Spanish-speaking skills. Br. Koenig, who has a variety of roles there, especially likes ministering with parents of deceased children, many of whom died because of violence. Br. Koenig also assists at Mass and at funerals.
He and other friars marking their golden and silver jubilees were honored by Holy Name Province during a Mass on June 24 at St. Francis of Assisi Church in New York City.
About the Province
Holy Name Province is the largest of seven provinces in the United States that belong to the Order of Friars Minor. With ministries in 12 states along the East Coast, its more than 300 Catholic priests and brothers serve in colleges, parishes, urban ministry centers and a wide variety of social ministries, as well as in overseas missions.
The Order, founded in 1209 by St. Francis of Assisi, commemorated its 800th anniversary in 2009. Today, St. Francis, whose feast day is Oct. 4, remains one of the most widely known saints, revered for his affection for nature and desire for respect of all people.
Questions and photo requests should be directed to Jocelyn Thomas, HNP director of communications, at 646-473-0265 ext. 321 or firstname.lastname@example.org.