Five Friars Commemorate 65th Anniversary of Profession

Jocelyn Thomas Friar News

CALDWELL, N.J. – A quintet of friars renewed their vows exactly 65 years to the day of professing their first vows as Franciscans. On August 13, Julian Davies, OFM, Hugh Hines, OFM, Bernardine Kessing, OFM, Emmet Murphy, OFM, and Benedict Taylor, OFM, were feted during the daily morning Mass in the chapel at St. Catherine of Siena Nursing Home.

The jubilarians celebrating 65 years of vows: (l-r) Ben Taylor, Bernadine Kessing (seated), Emmet Murphy, Julian Davies, and Hugh Hines. (Photo courtesy of Jim McIntosh)

The jubilarians had no difficulty in filling the large chapel with friends, friars, caregivers, and members of the Dominican Sisters of Caldwell – all of whom turned out to celebrate the 65th anniversary of the profession of this distinct fraternity.

Provincial Minister Kevin Mullen, OFM, presided at the Mass and received the jubilarians’ renewal of vows. After the Mass, the honorees and guests gathered in fraternity for a celebratory lunch reception.

“The jubilarians and guests came from near and far to celebrate this special occasion,” said Bob Frazzetta, OFM, guardian of St. Anthony Friary in Butler, New Jersey, who provided the music liturgy at the Mass.

Julian traveled 150 miles from Siena College just outside of Albany, New York, while Hugh trekked from St. Anthony Shrine in Boston, Massachusetts. Emmet made the short trip from the friary in Butler and Ben traveled over the George Washington Bridge from the Bronx. Bernardine didn’t have to worry about getting stuck in traffic; he lives at the St. Catherine nursing home, a place he has called home since Holy Name Friary in Ringwood, New Jersey, closed this spring.

“It was a real joy to commemorate the 65th jubilee of these friars,” Kevin said. “Gathering, praying and celebrating in fraternity with the broader community is a Franciscan attribute – but this was exceptional because of the milestone and meaning for this group of friars. We live in fraternity, and support and celebrate one another as brothers, no matter how many miles separate us, and whether we live in skilled nursing care facilities or Province friaries.”

The jubilee celebration was the third major event held this year by the friars at St. Catherine of Siena, according to Robert. The first was a memorial Mass in April for Alexander Di Lella, OFM, who passed away at the facility on March 27 – and the second was earlier in the summer in celebration of the feast of St. Catherine of Siena.

The five jubilarians professed their first vows on Aug. 13, 1954, in Paterson, New Jersey, just 10 miles from the nursing home where the commemorative Mass and renewal of vows was celebrated. The group professed their final vows as Franciscans on Aug. 20, 1957, in Allegany, New York, at St. Bonaventure University, to Provincial Minister Celsus Wheeler, OFM. All were later ordained into the priesthood and served in diverse ministries.

Festive Celebration
With more than 30 friars taking part in the recent celebration, including many from Butler and other communities in the New Jersey and New York area, several expressed joy over catching up with classmates and seeing others with whom they had lost contact over the years.

The friars who gathered for the jubilee celebration at Caldwell Hall. (Photo courtesy of Jim McIntosh)

“Seeing my classmates all together again was great. We were all glad that Peter Macaluso, a former friar who left before solemn vows and a long-time parishioner at St. Anne’s Parish in Fair Lawn, was there with his wife,” said Julian, who gave accolades to Bob for doing a great job with the music selections at the Mass.

“At the luncheon, I met a Dominican sister just a couple of years younger than me – and [the small world that it is,] it turned out that we both came from the same parish, Our Lady of Lourdes, in Utica, New York, and she lived just a block from my house,”  Julian continued. “Everything about my visit – including transportation from Siena and back, and my stay at the Butler friary – was very pleasant.”

Bernardine was equally thrilled to see his classmates and was especially grateful for the large turnout of guests who came to celebrate with him and his fellow jubilarians.

“I couldn’t believe how many friars showed up,” said Bernardine, who has lived at St. Catherine of Siena for five months. “Everyone raved about the jubilee. It was wonderful. I enjoyed reuniting with my classmates, who I don’t get to see very often. It was also nice of the Dominican sisters who live at the motherhouse in Caldwell to join us.”

Benedict, too, was deeply moved by the number of guests who filled the large chapel – not only friars and members of the Provincial administration but also the facility’s caregivers and Dominican sisters.

“Our Provincial delivered a wonderful homily noting the union of the Dominican sisters and Franciscans during their elder years. But as always in our society, I was very aware of my African-American presence,” said Ben. “I felt the grace of achieving 65 years – something that neither my poor deceased parents nor my sister, brothers, and I would have thought possible in the 1940s and 1950s.

“I [am so grateful] to our Province, as well as to Ralph Perez for allowing me to still work,” said Ben, referring to the director of Create, Inc, the not-for-profit social services initiative run by Perez, who Ben met many years ago.

Diverse Ministries a Common Thread
The jubilarians share a common thread of numerous and diverse ministries over their 65 years of profession. Julian, who spent the past 50 years at Siena College as a philosophy professor and also served as a department head, retired in 2015 and has since served as a cruise ship chaplain.

St. Catherine of Siena Convent where the friars live on the campus of Caldwell University. (Photo courtesy of Jim McIntosh)

Hugh, a native of Schenectady, N.Y., has worked in academic and pastoral settings – as a high school teacher, and in several roles at Siena, including professor, assistant to the president, and president. He also served as assistant director of pre-novitiate formation and his pastoral ministries included assignments at Holy Name and St. Francis of Assisi parishes in New York City and the Shrine on Arch Street.

Bernardine, who was born in Cincinnati, Ohio, and grew up in Elmira, New York, spent his Franciscan life primarily in Western New York, Massachusetts, and New Jersey in education and pastoral ministries – including parishes in Olean, New York, and Butler and Fair Lawn in New Jersey. He also served as guardian of St. Anthony Residence, the Province’s former dwelling for senior friars in Boston.

Benedict, who grew up in Jersey City, New Jersey, has spent more than half a century helping the marginalized in New York City. After his first assignment at St. Francis of Assisi Church on West 31st Street, Ben founded Project CREATE in 1967 in Harlem to respond to the needs of families facing challenges of addiction, unemployment, and homelessness.

Emmet, who grew up in Cambridge, Mass., had assignments in both the South and the Northeast, which included St. Francis Inn in Philadelphia (of which he is a founder), and St. Catherine, St. Anthony and St. Mary parishes in Ringwood, Butler and Pompton Lakes, all in New Jersey, as well as Immaculate Conception and St. Francis of Assisi parishes in Durham and Raleigh, North Carolina.

Earlier this summer, the friars of the Province honored seven friars who in 2019 are marking 50 and 25 years since their first profession.

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