This is the final article in a series of profiles of Holy Name Province friars marking major anniversaries as Franciscans in 2015. The last article featured Khoa Nguyen, OFM, of Cromwell, Conn. Chris and the other jubilarians commemorating 50 and 25 years of profession were honored by the Province in June.
WILMINGTON, Del. — Christopher Posch, OFM, “loves, loves, loves” his work.
The director of the Office of Hispanic Ministry for the Diocese of Wilmington celebrated 25 years as a friar this summer. Seventeen of those years have been spent serving the Hispanic community.
Although Chris’s current role isn’t located at one of Holy Name Province’s ministries, he keeps close ties to the Province by living at St. Paul Friary and assisting the friars at St. Paul and St. Joseph parishes in Wilmington, as well as serving as a site supervisor for the Franciscan Volunteer Ministry.
For six years, he chaired the Province’s Hispanic Ministry Committee, known for organizing vocation retreats and two massive encuentros attended by more than 1,800 laypeople and friars.
Chris grew up in a Catholic family in Plainview, N.Y., the eldest of four children, but his only familiarity with St. Francis, he said, had been with a cookie jar shaped like the saint or a statue in the birdbath. He had never met a friar and was drawn to religious life after attending a retreat in his early 20s.
He attended to Manhattan College in New York City, earned a bachelor’s degree in computer science and religious studies, and was teaching at a Catholic high school on Long Island when his life was forever changed. At 24 years old, he participated in a Catholic young adult retreat and saw the movie “Brother Sun, Sister Moon” about St. Francis’ life. It was then that he decided to follow in those footsteps.
Not knowing how to join the Order of Friars Minor, he looked up “Franciscans” in the Yellow Pages and found a phone number for Holy Name Province. The vocation director at the time, Kevin Cronin, OFM, answered the phone and invited Chris to learn more about the friars.
A Heart for Service
This call to religious life didn’t surprise his family, because Chris had always a heart for service. At age 22, he began volunteering at a soup kitchen on Long Island and joined a community that hosted more than 20 guests a night at Hospitality Inn. When many Salvadorans started seeking shelter during the turbulent 80s, the community opened Msgr. Romero Inn.
He became a postulant in 1988 and was received into the Order of Friars Minor one year later, professing first vows in 1990. Desiring to learn more about Hispanic cultures and language, he went to Bolivia for a year in 1992 with classmate William McIntyre, OFM. While abroad, he lived with Ignatius Harding, OFM, and remembers “Iggy” as an influence on his life.
After returning from Bolivia, Chris and other Holy Name College friars served coffee to immigrant day laborers waiting for work in Silver Spring, Md. Chris and Jud Weiksnar, OFM, began a series of pastoral visitations and weekly home Bible studies, and co-founded the Langley Park Catholic Community for residents of a large apartment complex home to thousands of immigrants from El Salvador and Guatemala. As a student friar, Chris also spent two summers at St. Anthony of Padua Church in Camden, N.J., which also has a large Hispanic population.
He professed solemn vows in 1994, and after earning his master’s in theology from the Washington Theological Union, was ordained a priest in 1995 at St. Anne Church in Fair Lawn, N.J. He says he prefers to be known as “brother” instead of “father,” in keeping with St. Francis’s idea that friars are called to be “lesser brothers.”
Following ordination, Chris returned to St. Anthony Church in Camden as a member of the pastoral team. He enjoyed his three-year assignment celebrating Mass, working with the parochial school, and fulfilling other responsibilities associated with parish ministry. It was during his time in Camden, that friars, Secular Franciscans, and lay leaders, established St. Francis House, a ministry for those infected with HIV, and an English as a Second Language program to reach out to the immigrants who were arriving from Mexico to work in the local restaurants. The parish held special weekly Monday night Masses to accommodate the schedules of this population.
A Call to Hispanic Ministry
In 1998, Chris was asked to move to Wilmington, where he assisted in preparing the fraternity for when the novitiate moved there from Providence, R.I., in 1999.
Chris also began serving on the Wilmington Diocesan Hispanic Ministry Team, covering the state of Delaware and the Eastern Shore of Maryland, near the Chesapeake Bay. This area, he said, is popular with migrant workers and immigrants from Central America, and the need for Hispanic church ministries is great.
Workers fill jobs in the crab industry, on local mushroom farms, in vegetable canneries, and at several chicken farms and processing factories in this area, he said. Chris oversees 20 churches with Hispanic ministries, which he has either started or for which he has trained lay leaders to nurture and build. “My job is to support local parishes.”
“When I started, there were only eight parishes with Hispanic ministries,” he said with a smile. “Now there are 20.” Chris’s work — serving as Hispanic ministry chaplain at six parishes, two prisons, and two migrant camps, visiting all 20 parishes, doing needs assessments, and finding and training leaders in a mobile school of formation — keeps him on the go. He laughingly calls himself a vago, the Spanish word for hobo or wanderer, an itinerant preacher.
He is also asked to intercede on immigration problems, instances of ill people with no insurance, and issues associated with workers being far from home. “I get a lot of phone calls. I can’t respond to all of them, but I try to connect people with the services they need. I help connect the dots.”
Every parish in the Wilmington area could use a Hispanic ministry program, he said, but finding people to staff them “is the hard part.” Often, several parishes will coordinate programs, and Chris considers himself a “catalyst,” helping parishes make connections and find resources.
How does he do it all? “The spirit moves me,” he says. “The Hispanic community is so faithful and inspiriting, and I get so much in return.”
Living near the seashore is a bonus for Chris, who loves the beach. He likes to spend time reading, praying and being in the sun on the Chesapeake Bay. He also enjoys playing guitar, singing, and writing letters to friends and people in prison.
The jubilarian said he likes to visit family, and goes home to Long Island every few months. Chris said: “During our jubilee celebration, my family experienced the personal welcome of many friars and commented that there was so much joy in the room, that the friars are really happy. I’ll always remain grateful to my family for giving me roots, to the friars for giving me Francis and brotherhood, to the so-called lepers who witness self-sacrifice and utter dependency on God, and to our Most High and Glorious God who has showered me with abundant blessings.”
— Wendy Healy is a Connecticut-based freelance writer.
- “Seasonal Reflection: Fourth of July and Immigration” by Christopher Posch, OFM — July 4, 2012, HNP Today
- “Spanish Vocation Retreat ‘An Explosion of Faith, Fraternity and Great Joy’” — Sept. 11, 2013, HNP Today
- “Advocating for Immigration Reform” — April 24, 2013, HNP Today