Province Commemorates St. Francis

Jocelyn Thomas In the Headlines

Friars Anderson SC

The friars of Anderson, S.C. — Steven Kluge, Henry Fulmer, Ignatius Smith and Gerald Hopeck — blessed dogs, hedgehogs and other creatures on the feast of St. Francis. (Photo courtesy of Julie A. Gibson.)

Ministries around Holy Name Province embraced the spirit of St. Francis as they celebrated his feast day this past week. The saint was commemorated through a series of exhibits, fairs, lectures, animal blessings, prayers, Masses and the traditional Transitus ceremony, used to commemorate Francis’s death on Oct. 3, 1226.

“The spirit of St. Francis is the spirit of peace,” said Pius Liu, OFM, of Taiwan, in an email message. “The spirit of St. Francis is the spirit of the Gospel, the spirit of the Gospel is the spirit of Jesus. Thus the spirit of St. Francis means that St. Francis almost lived up to the authentic spirit of Jesus regarding his relationship with God, people and the universe.”

This message was echoed in a feast day letter from the General Minister and his Definitors to the Order. “Let Us Live as Missionary Disciples of Christ” calls Franciscans back to their roots, deep in the Gospel message.

“The seraphic father St. Francis was pure Gospel transparency and lived the primacy of God and the primacy of a life with mind, heart and body turned essentially to the Gospel,” they wrote. “For this reason, he is considered the poor one of Assisi and brother to all. If we, today, want to be true brothers and authentic minors, we are called to move from appearances to the pure and simple efficacy of Gospel transparency.”

Friars and their partners-in-ministry recognized the feast with an assortment of activities, some lasting more than a week.

Among the most familiar — and most photographed — is the blessing of animals. Nearly every parish, from New England to Florida, offered an opportunity for pets to be blessed by a friar. Some of the sites that posted photos on social media included Boston, Long Beach Island, N.J., and Athens, Ga.

Parishes and colleges celebrated joyful Masses on the weekend of the feast. At the historic St. Francis of Assisi Church on West 31st Street in New York City, the 5:30 p.m. Mass was packed with Franciscan-hearted people. A video was shared on the Be A Franciscan Facebook page.

Provincial Minister Kevin Mullen, OFM, who celebrated the Mass, had delivered a message to the friars on Oct. 3, the previous day. “I give thanks to the Lord for you and the witness that you give to living the Gospel,” he wrote. “Please continue to pray for one another, to pray for the Province, the Order and the Church, and to pray for our world, which is in need of God’s healing grace, to bring true justice and peace to all.”

Seasonal Festivities
Festivals were held at several parishes, including Raleigh, N.C., and Triangle, Va.

St. Francis of Assisi in Raleigh held the annual Francis Fest on Oct. 5, an event that was described as “amazing,” in a post on the parish’s Facebook page. “Thank you to all of you for helping to make this one of our best celebrations ever.” The festivities included multicultural food, music and games. Steven Patti, OFM, pastor, was photographed participating in a hockey sports challenge.

Some ministries offered special programs featuring friars from other Provincial locations.

At St. Francis of Assisi Church in New York City, Daniel Riley, OFM, of Mt. Irenaeus in Western New York, spoke on Sept. 29 about the environment in a talk titled “The Paper Cup Lifestyle: Are We Living in a Throw-away World?” Several days later, Robert Lentz, OFM, of Silver Spring, Md., spoke about St. Anthony and unveiled a new icon.

Gene Pistachio, OFM, of St. Anthony Shrine, Boston, presented a reflection on “The Challenge of Encounter Between Francis and the Sultan” on Oct. 6 at the Catholic Center of the University of Georgia. He helped his audience consider “what this encounter 800 years ago might tell us about the Christian and Muslim culture clashes of our time,” according to the Facebook announcement. The college also held a dinner and silent auction to benefit the Province’s skilled nursing facility.

Maryland resident Jacek Orzechowski, OFM, past chair of the HNP Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation Directorate, presented homilies on Oct. 5 at St. Mary’s Church, Pompton Lakes, N.J., which hosted a Care for Creation fair that day. Jacek spoke about the need to take care of the earth, a mission to which parishioners showed their dedication at the recent People’s Climate March.

Neil O'Connell

Children from St. Joseph of the Holy Family Church in Harlem, N.Y., learned about the Franciscan habit from Neil O’Connell. (Photo courtesy of Neil.)

The Sunday before the feast, Neil O’Connell, OFM, visited classes at St. Joseph of the Holy Family Church in New York City, where he is director of religious education. He told the story of St. Francis and explained the Franciscan habit.

“The students were fascinated with the hood of the habit and enjoyed finding out that the Franciscans have been wearing ‘hoodies’ for more than 800 years,” Neil said. “The catechists invited students to come forward and try on the hood.”

On Oct. 4, Neil celebrated the church’s 9 a.m. Mass. After the homily, he blessed the animals who accompanied their human partners to the Mass.

“The occasion was an instant realization of the biblical ‘peaceable kingdom’ with dogs, cats, birds and even turtles getting along with one another,” he said.

Campus Events
Schools — including the two Province-sponsored colleges — offered varied activities for their students.

Outside Albany, N.Y., Siena College held several events during Francis Week. They included a blessing of animals, an opening ceremony for a new student lounge and a Mass for the Feast of St. Francis.

In Western New York, St. Bonaventure University hosted a week of Francis-inspired events from Saturday, Sept. 27 to Oct. 5. Francis Di Spigno, OFM, executive director of university ministries, said the yearly observation of Francis Week is to honor St. Francis as a teacher who has much to teach us.

“St. Francis of Assisi is by far one of the most recognizable saints we have,” he said. “Everyone loves St. Francis. Francis Week is our celebration of a man who lived more than 800 years ago, that brings to life his message.” The festivities are described in a news release.

In South Carolina, Robert Menard, OFM, and the campus ministry of Clemson University, held a Spirit of Assisi prayer program on Oct. 6. Information is published in the Oct. 5 issue of the “This Week at CSA” e-letter.

Jocelyn Thomas is director of communications for Holy Name Province.