Celebrating Franciscan Life and Ministry

Jocelyn Thomas In the Headlines

NEW YORK — With an uplifting Eucharist, impressive turnout of guests, and delicious meal, the Province recognized 11 friars who reached milestones of religious life in 2013. The friars gathered June 20 on West 31st Street to honor those marking golden and silver anniversaries of profession.

The evening celebration began with Mass at St. Francis of Assisi Church and concluded with a reception for the jubilarians, and their families and friends in San Damiano Hall. Provincial Minister John O’Connor, OFM, who presided and preached at the Mass, said: “We celebrate the heritage of St. Francis. These days, because of the pope choosing the name Francis, this heritage is getting a lot of press. What is that heritage? Franciscans are about three values: poverty, humility and simplicity.

“Many generations of seekers have experienced the humility and simplicity that was Francis,” John said in his homily. “This is the charism that these jubilarians live. They’ve done it in a variety of ways and in a variety of places. They’ve done it in ministries to the poor, in rural areas, to student friars, and at parishes.”

Heritage and Renewal
During the Mass, the honorees, members of the classes of 1963 and 1988, prayed together a renewal of vows. Eight friars marked 50 years since they professed their first vows as friars and three commemorated 25 years.

Friars marking golden jubilees this year are Louis Canino, OFM, Bernard Creighton, OFM, John Felice, OFM, Richard James, OFM, Michael Madden, OFM, Emeric Meier, OFM, Michael Putich, OFM, and William Scully, OFM.

Those marking 25 years of profession are Henry Fulmer, OFM, William Herbst, OFM, and Barry Langley, OFM.

John thanked the pastor of the historic church where Mass was celebrated, Andrew Reitz, OFM, as well as others who were involved in arranging and leading the celebration. They included Christopher Coccia, OFM, who served as deacon, Timothy Shreenan, OFM, master of ceremonies, and musicians Meredith Augustin, Liam Mulligan, and Jared Lamenzo.

Other friars who participated in the ceremony were Provincial Vicar Dominic Monti, OFM, and the Province’s general visitor Fr. Melvin Jurisich, OFM, who concelebrated the Mass with Andrew and John. Fr. Mel celebrated his golden jubilee this year.

Praise and Gratitude 
The honorees, who currently live in six states, said they appreciated many aspects of the festivities.

The jubilee celebration “was a great success,” said former Provincial Minister John Felice, who joked that he was leery of the day. “Fifty years of anything makes me nervous.”

“It was good to see classmates who had not been together since our 25th anniversary, when we had a cookout on the roof at 31st Street,” he added. “We were not much worse for the wear … older, grayer, but in very good spirits. The kitchen staff at 31st Street did a great job, and family, friends and all who shared the day had a wonderful time.”

The Province’s jubilee celebration was beyond my expectation,” said Louis, who ministers in Stoneville, N.C. “The Eucharist was uplifting, the turnout of friars was moving, and the sumptuous banquet that followed to honor the jubilarians was unbelievable. I know all of us jubilarians are grateful to the Province for honoring us and for the energies spent in making the jubilee celebration one so special and memorable.”

Bernard, of Butler, N.J., said, “each element, in Missa et Mensa — at Mass and at table — demonstrated a perfectly-planned event. The organist and choir lent a heavenly aura, while the friars and guests sang with gusto. John’s homily inspired the attendees. The reception had such a variety of food and drink to delight guests from near and far. Reunion with classmates and friars from around the Province gave a special joy. May we all have many more happy years.”

Boston resident Emeric called the event “wonderful,” and said he enjoyed “seeing friars and classmates I had not seen in years.” He also enjoyed Mass in the St. Francis Church main sanctuary. “Our 25th celebration was in the friary chapel. I had spent a summer at 31st Street years ago and so the comparison was quite striking.”

William Scully of Narrowsburg, N.Y., said: I was very moved by the jubilee Mass and the celebration that followed.  Both were outstanding. I was especially glad to see my classmates, some of whom I haven’t seen in nearly four decades. It was a wonderful and beautiful celebration. The music was fantastic and the food superb.”

Michael Putich, of Buffalo, said that after the celebration, he is rethinking the things left to do on his bucket list. 

Provincial Secretary Michael Harlan, OFM, who organized the jubilee celebration — from the mailing of the invitations and arranging lodging for guest friars to the planning of the refreshments — said that next year’s celebration will be held during the 2014 Provincial Chapter.   “This was the seventh jubilee celebration which I had the responsibility of organizing. They’re always very joyful.”

“Like our solemn profession celebrations, this is another great event to look forward to each year,” Michael added. “It is wonderful to have friars, family and friends come together to celebrate with our ‘brother jubilarians’ who have lived the Franciscan life for 25 or 50 years.”

— Jocelyn Thomas is director of communications for Holy Name Province. Octavio Duran, OFM, provided photos from the event.