Francis Medal Presented to Mystery Players Leader

Jocelyn Thomas Around the Province

NORTH CALDWELL, N.J. — For her Franciscan spirit, ministry to youth, care for the poor and suffering, and service to the Ministry of the Word and the Franciscan Mystery Players, Francis Pompei, OFM, presented the Province’s Francis Medal to Joy McDonald this weekend. He honored her at a Mass at Notre Dame Church here in North Caldwell, where she works as associate pastoral minister for youth.

Francis, who lives in Buffalo, N.Y., has known McDonald since the 1970s when they attended school together. McDonald has been involved with the Ministry of the Word and the Franciscan Mystery Players since the late 1980s. She was a speaker with the Simon Peter Fishing Co., a traveling group of lay speakers with friars, presenting evening and days of recollection to young and old. The Fishing Co. was created by Roderic Petrie, OFM, and directed by Francis as part of the Ministry of the Word’s partners-in-ministry, said Francis.

McDonald, who lives with her husband James and three children — Grace, Brandon and Shannon — in North Caldwell, has given countless youth and adult retreats with Francis over the past 30 years. “Her Franciscan spirit and love for the poor and suffering has led her to bring hundreds of teens and young adults to spend a week each year helping those suffering from Hurricane Katrina, including working with Habitat for Humanity,” Francis said. “This coming summer, she will be traveling with the youth of her parish to assist those still lacking the necessities of life and suffering from Hurricane Sandy.”

Fourteen years ago, McDonald requested that Francis, author and director of the Franciscan Mystery Players, start a mystery play group in her parish. Together with Francis, McDonald “not only has established the Mystery Play ministry, but has infused it with a Franciscan spirituality,” Francis said. “Hundreds of teenagers have been touched by Jesus and deepened their faith in the Lord because of the Franciscan Mystery Play ministry and prayer.

“Joy, like St. Francis, has been given that wonderful gift to lead people to and experience Jesus’s love for them, especially young people,” he continued. “The Francis Medal truly confirms what she has demonstrated for many years, and that is her Franciscan spirituality. Her very name, Joy, announces what she has and continues to bring to thousands of people — the joy of St. Francis.”

Earlier this year, the Francis Medal was given by the friars of two parishes — St. Paul Parish in Wilmington, Del. and St. Mary’s Parish in Pompton Lakes, N.J. —  to several parishioners. Neil O’Connell, OFM, of New York City, also presented the Francis Medal earlier this year to a layperson retiring from Manhattan Community College, where he serves as campus minister.

The Province’s Francis Medal was established in 1998 by then Provincial Minister John Felice, OFM, Recipients are people who have displayed an extraordinary contribution to the advancement of the values and ideals of St. Francis.

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