Franciscan Influences: Feeling the Glow of Family and Spirituality

Diane Monaghan Features

This is the 12th in a series of essays by the Province’s partners-in-ministry. The last installment, by Ben and Gladys Whitehouse of Raleigh, N.C., appeared in the Nov. 23 issue of this newsletter. 

Below, a staff member of St. Anthony Shrine, Boston, reflects on the impact the friars have had on her family and on her perspective. She also describes her gratitude for learning the meaning of Franciscanism.  

When my husband, Charley, and I first moved to Boston in 2003, our lives were shattered and broken in so many ways. We were struggling to deal with the horrific death of our beautiful son, Paul, who died on Thanksgiving night in 2002 by suicide.

Life that year was bleak indeed on many levels — no family nearby, no friends nearby, no apparent reason for getting out of bed in the morning. Our only other child, Beth, had recently moved to California. Our overwhelming feeling … We are parents no more. The identity we had embraced and loved so passionately for so many years since the day Paul was born was no more.

But then we met the friars. I will never forget the first time Sr. Marie Puleo, MFIC, introduced us to David Convertino, OFM, and John Maganzini, OFM. It was in the beautiful friary chapel on Arch Street before a memorial Mass she had arranged for Paul. At that Mass, Fr. David welcomed us, not only to the friary, but also to the friar community, as family. I thought it strange at the time, but I have since come to know that the open arms of Fr. David and Br. John are routine among many Franciscans.

Beginning the Healing Process
At about the same time, I began spiritual direction, or companionship, with Sr. Marie. In trying to cope with my son’s death, I had previously read many books and gone to many therapists, psychiatrists, and support groups … all to no avail. With Sr. Marie and her constant focus on the spiritual perspective of the grieving process, I was finally able to begin my healing process — and even share my sessions vicariously with my husband.

In 2007 when I was diagnosed with breast cancer, I immediately turned to the friars who again embraced me with open arms and many prayers. I remember looking at the clock every morning at 8:30 a.m. and physically feeling the power of their morning prayer.

Fast forward several years later to 2009 and I found myself proposing a new ministry for grieving parents to Fr. David and St. Anthony Shrine, a ministry that would focus on the spirituality of the grieving process for parents whose children had died. I believed that if it helped me, it would definitely help other parents deal with this dreadful situation. Thanks to the vision of Fr. David and Br. John, this very Franciscan ministry is now on the verge of expanding significantly, not only outside of Boston, but also outside of New England.

Sharing Meals
Like an onion, with many layers visible only as, one by one, they are peeled away, my relationship with the Franciscans continues to grow. I now work full-time in the development office of St. Anthony Shrine. Up until recently, my family and I shared almost every holiday meal with the friars in the friary, and we count many friars as our closest, dearest friends. In fact, Br. John Maganzini is the godfather of our first-born grandson, Luke Paul.

Recently, my husband and I had the privilege of joining members of the Siena College community in a pilgrimage to Assisi. Our pilgrimage was truly “transformational” in every sense of the word. While there, we celebrated our 40th wedding anniversary, and Kevin Mullen, OFM, presided at the renewal of our vows. Months later, as I remember the first time I walked into the Church of San Damiano and looked up at the Cross or trudged up and down the steep, winding streets of Assisi, or felt the very real presence of St. Frances in the Portiuncula, I still feel the glow of the spirituality of that holy ground. In fact, our most recent grandchild, who was born in October, has a middle name with an Assisi connection. It is Chiara, Italian for Clare.

Overall, I thank God every day for the privilege of knowing the friars and of learning the true meaning of Franciscanism.

— Diane Monaghan has served as development director for St. Anthony Shrine since February 2006. The above photo shows the author with John Maganzini and her two grandchildren. 

Editor’s note: The HNP Communications Office welcomes essays from lay men and women around the Province for publication in future issues of this newsletter.