ST. JOHN’S, NEWFOUNDLAND — Less than two weeks after professing solemn vows as a Franciscan, Francis Critch, OFM, was ordained a transitional deacon. This is standard in the formation process of a friar who is preparing to be ordained a priest. What was unusual is that the diaconate ordination took place in Canada, almost 2,000 miles from where Francis has been based for the last few years in the Washington, D.C. area. This enabled many of his Canadian relatives to attend.
“The diaconate was amazing,” said Frank, who was ordained Sept. 6 at St. Patrick’s Church in St. John’s, the city where he grew up, and an area with a Franciscan heritage.
Five friars traveled to this eastern-most point of North America to be part of this event. Brian Belanger, OFM, represented the Provincial Council, and the other friars were from various phases of Frank’s Franciscan life. They were Lawrence Anderson, OFM, of St. Mary’s Church in Pompton Lakes, N.J., where Frank interned; Kevin Downey, OFM, pastor of St. Francis of Assisi Parish in Triangle, Va., where Frank is currently stationed; Daniel Horan, OFM, who studied with Frank; and Brian Smail, OFM, the Province’s vocation director.
“Celebrating the diaconate with the friars made the day more powerful than I would have imagined,” said Frank. “Larry, Kevin, Brian Belanger, Dan, and Brian Smail gave life to the Franciscan presence and the recognition that the first Catholic presence in Newfoundland was Franciscans from Ireland. This was noted in Archbishop Martin Currie’s homily and gave weight to the importance of the Franciscans in the life of the Church in Newfoundland.”
The first five bishops in Newfoundland were Franciscans, added Frank. “I am grateful to the Provincial Administration for allowing my diaconate to occur at home. Archbishop Currie, the priests, and religious and laity of the diocese were so hospitable to the friars and open to this celebration within the archdiocese. There were many celebrations, and the friars were treated to many cultural foods and experiences, which made the whole trip enlightening and enjoyable.”
“It was a blessed time and one I am forever grateful for the presence of the friars and family celebrating this Franciscan journey,” Frank said. “What more could one ask for?”
The church was packed, said Daniel, in the Sept. 7 entry in his Dating God blog. “There were dozens of priests, and the five of us brother Franciscans present. The liturgy was very nice, as was the generous and local meal we had with the archbishop and his diocesan clergy before the Mass. Frank’s two older brothers also happen to be priests. The older of the two is a diocesan priest in St. John’s, and he headed the cooking crew for the great dinner. It seems that all the Critches are excellent cooks.”
The celebration took place “at a warm-in-spirit, cool-in-weather island,” wrote Daniel.
“Frank has a unique story,” observed Dan in a podcast recorded in Canada. “The music, accents and experience of the diaconate had a Celtic tenor,” he added.
A few days earlier, Br. Damian Park, OFM, who studied with Frank at Holy Name College in Silver Spring, Md., was also ordained a deacon. The Mass was celebrated Sept. 1 at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, the church where HNP friars are usually ordained deacons. Br. Damian is a member of the Korean Province of the Order of Friars Minor. A reception was held at Holy Name College, where Thomas Conway, OFM, is guardian.
On Nov. 3, Frank will be ordained a priest at an 11 a.m. Mass at St. Francis of Assisi Church in Triangle.
— Jocelyn Thomas is director of communications for Holy Name Province.