Franciscan Influences: Four Decades of Spirituality and Compassion

Jacqueline Lanzillo Features

The author with Kevin Kriso, OFM, and Joe Kotula, OFM, during a recent visit to Mt. Irenaeus for a trustees meeting (Photo courtesy of Mary Schlosser)

This essay is part of a series about aspects of the Franciscan message that partners-in-ministry find compelling. The previous reflection was written by a former Franciscan Mission Service participant who also served as a Franciscan Volunteer Minister. Below, a St. Bonaventure University graduate, who volunteers her skills to lead the Mt. Irenaeus fundraising efforts, describes why she appreciates the lessons that the friars have taught her – to slow down and to listen.

 My good Franciscan journey began when I stepped foot on the campus of St. Bonaventure University in Western New York in the fall of 1980. Although raised in a devout Catholic family, I had not attended a Catholic elementary or high school, so being in a community with a strong Franciscan presence was new to me. I will never forget the sunny day while walking on campus when a friar stopped to say hello. What seems so normal to me now was so unique back then. Imagine, a friar – in a brown robe – taking the time to welcome me! The act of kindness shown by Daniel Riley, OFM, not only made me feel welcome in a new place, but it also began my journey to learn more about the way of St. Francis and to become a part of this new faith family that I treasure to this day.

The author with Daniel Riley, OFM, during his jubilee celebration at the Mountain in 2016. (Photo courtesy of Jacqueline)

Most compelling about that special experience was the genuine care and concern the friars had for us as students. We learned by watching how the friars, in the spirit of St. Francis, lived their lives — hospitable, humble, compassionate and kind. There was a sense of learning from one another – no judgment, a way to feel safe and open to hearing God – and no matter where or when, a greeting from them would create a special break from the clamor of the day. Each friar, in his unique way, took the time to get to know us and, like loving family members, they continue to remain a part of our lives.

Kindness of Men in Brown
The positive influence that the Franciscans played in our college years continues for our family and many of our fellow classmates. My husband David, a 1984 SBU graduate, my daughter Victoria, SBU ’15, and I continue to seek out this Franciscan manner of life and ministry. Most often it is our journey up a mountain to a wonderful place – Mt. Irenaeus, the Franciscan community in West Clarksville, N.Y., independent of St. Bonaventure University — that serves students from St. Bonaventure and those from other colleges and the community.

Several years ago, we fondly recall celebrating our daughter’s 16th birthday by attending a Bonaventure basketball game and then, the next day, going to Mt. Irenaeus for Mass with six of her friends — many of whom had never been to a Catholic service. They still remember with fondness that day, that Mass and the kindness of the “men in brown” as they called them.

Over the last several years, I have been blessed to be able to give back by serving on the board of trustees of Mt. Irenaeus and as chair of the Mountain’s development committee. My family, friends and I witness the genuine simplicity, compassion, prayerfulness and hospitality shown by the special men who live there. Fr. Dan, along with Joe Kotula, OFM, Kevin Kriso, OFM, and Louis McCormick OFM, lead by example, showing kindness and love to all who visit. There, we learn from one another – students, visitors and friars alike. Amidst the beauty of the Mountain, where all are welcome in this special place in nature and reflection, people gather to build on their relationships with Christ and take this message and way of life into their daily world.

Journey of Justice, Love and Peace
The spirit of Francis has repeatedly touched our lives through the positive influence of the friars. As I often talk about our special Franciscan family, I can’t help but reflect on the simple act of kindness and love shown to me by the friars and staff of Mt. Irenaeus when my father passed away two years ago. From visitation to the funeral, the friars in “brown robes” took the time to travel to Buffalo to help me and my family through our time of grief. My dad would have loved and appreciated the care the friars showed our family that day, and that they still show.

We continue to seek ways to carry out this Franciscan tradition in the communities where we serve and volunteer, and to also be involved in the Franciscan way of life – whether it be attending Mass at St. Francis of Assisi Church in New York City while visiting our daughter, or celebrating Christmas Eve at the Mountain, or gathering together with our Franciscan family during a Mountain on the Road event in the Rochester, N.Y., area, where we live.

Especially at this critical time in our world, where there is a lot of “noise,” the presence and relationship my family has had throughout the years with the friars have taught us to slow down, listen, and take in the words of St. Irenaeus — “that the glory of God indeed is a human person or ‘humankind’ fully alive!”

Whether at home or at the Mountain, our living Church embodies a good journey of justice, love and peace. As living stones, we try to carry the message to the outside world guided, by the positive influences of our dear family of Franciscan brothers.

— Jacqueline Lanzillo, a 1984 graduate of St. Bonaventure University in Allegany, N.Y., is a member of the Mt. Irenaeus Board of Trustee. Since 2015, she has served as chair of the development committee which includes chairing the online Mountain Auction for four years. Lanzillo lives in Victor, N.Y., with her husband David and dog Sammy.

Editor’s note: Laymen and women who are interested in writing an essay for this Franciscan Influences series are invited to contact Jocelyn Thomas in the HNP Communications Office at

Related Links

“Mt. Irenaeus Hires First Executive Director” – May 16, 2016, HNP Today

“Daniel Riley Marks 40 Years as a Friar” – April 6, 2016, HNP Today

“Mt. Irenaeus Celebrates 30 Years, Looks to the Future”Nov. 6, 2015, HNP Today

Mountain Auction Marks 14th Anniversary with New Location” – Nov. 13, 2014, HNP Today

“Seasonal Reflection: St. Irenaeus” – June 20, 2012, HNP Today