Cardinal Bernadin Lecture Series Includes Charles Miller

Jocelyn Thomas Around the Province

NEW YORK — The  quarterly Cardinal Bernardin Series for Clergy, an educational program offered for nearly 20 years at St. Francis of Assisi Church on West 31st Street for clergy in the tri-state area, begins this month, featuring, among others, the parish’s Charles Miller, OFM, a spiritual guide and social worker.

Four lectures, also open to all friars, will take place from February through December.

Charley’s program, scheduled for April 16, is a presentation on “Praying from the Dark Side,” a program that discusses praying from “where we are,” whether angry, sad, ashamed, lustful, or whining. “It is easy to pray when we feel peaceful, loving, grateful, but what about the rest of the time?” asks Charely. “What do we do with the dark hours that don’t quite merit the grand title of ‘dark night of the soul’?”

Charley’s advanced education was earned at the Institute of Spirituality and Justice in the Bronx, and at the Shalem Institute in Washington, D.C.

The first Bernadin program takes place on Feb. 19 with Fr. Jimmy McCaffrey, OCD, the Oxford, United Kingdom-based Carmelite, who will discuss Eucharist, prayer and ministry. The Sept. 24 program will feature Msgr. Peter Vaghi, pastor of Little Flower Parish in Bethesda, Md. Fr. Peter, who is also a lawyer, will discuss spirituality and Mary. On Dec. 10, Fr. Jack Martin, of the Archdiocese of Newark, N.J., will present.

Each Tuesday program, held in San Damiano Hall on West 31st Street, begins with 10:30 a.m. prayer, followed immediately by introductions and the speaker’s presentation, said Kevin Tortorelli, OFM, who organizes the series. The speaker begins about 10:45 a.m. or so, he added. “There is ‘coffee and ‘ for people arriving from 9:30 a.m. on.”

The Cardinal Bernadin Series for Clergy was initiated at St Francis of Assisi Church in 1995 by John McDowell, OFM. The series began as an outreach of the friars to the clergy of metropolitan New York and is named for “a much beloved man, Cardinal Joseph Bernadin, who ordained a number of the friar priests and who was affiliated to the Province,” said Kevin.

Kevin asks that priests planning to attend any of the programs register by emailing him at

Through the years, the series has invited about 70 speakers covering a wide range of topics such as spiritual direction, mental health, and parish reorganization. 

Speakers usually give more than 20 minutes to questions and observations, said Kevin. “When I ask the clergy what do they like most about the program, they often answer, ‘lunch.’ and the chance for them to enjoy each other and offer support to each other,” said Kevin.

“The number of clergy is frankly diminishing, which I think is a factor of the greying of the clergy,” said Kevin.   “We are fortunate to be advertised in a new initiative of the Archdiocese of New York and the Dioceses of Brooklyn and Rockville Centre called Cor Jesu, which is a program of clergy continuing education.”

“The single largest task in looking after the series lies in identifying and inviting a prospective speaker. Suggestions are always welcome.”

— Jocelyn Thomas is director of communications for Holy Name Province.