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Friar News Briefs

The updates below describe activities of Holy Name Province friars, featuring celebrations, presentations, and ministry events. For more information, email the friars, contact the HNP Communications Office, or visit links to the parishes and organizations mentioned.

To provide news briefs for future articles, email information to communications director Jocelyn Thomas at communications@hnp.org. The next issue of the HNP Today newsletter is scheduled for publication on Oct. 9.


Basil Valente, OFM, has been busy participating in two vocation conferences in Illinois. From Sept. 5 to 9, he and the other English-speaking Conference OFM vocation directors gathered in Mundelein, at the Joseph and Mary Retreat House. The conference includes a diverse group of friars from provinces around the world, including Canada, England, Ireland, Lithuania, Malta, and the United States. “The purpose of the ESC Vocation Directors’ gathering is to encourage, support and enliven each other in our global vocation work and, at the same time, work to bring about renewal and fresh impetus to the witness of the Friars Minor around the world,” said Basil in a post on the Be A Franciscan Facebook page. In addition to their time at the retreat house, the friars listened to keynote presentations by Dan Horan, OFM, at the Chicago Theological Union, and Sr. Debbie Borneman at the National Religious Vocation Conference headquarters, also in Chicago.  This week, from Sept. 9 to 13, Basil — who has served as the Province’s vocation director since 2014 — is participating in a vocation “mega-conference” organized by the Capuchin Franciscans at Techny Towers Conference and Retreat Center in Northbrook.

A flyer for Angel Vasquez’s new barber shop at SBU. (Image courtesy of St. Bonaventure University)

► Student friar Angel Vazquez, OFM, has opened a barbershop at St. Bonaventure University in Western New York. He welcomes students and staff members to stop in for a cut, free of charge. The shop, which is open daily, is located in the Reilly Center. It is one of several ministries that Angel, who professed his first vows in 2016, will serve during his one-year internship at SBU.

► St. Anthony of Padua Parish in Greenville, South Carolina, was featured in an Aug. 18 article in the Greenville News, which is part of the USA Today Network. The article focuses on the long and storied history of the parish, located in one of Greenville’s historically poor neighborhoods and operated by the Franciscans of Holy Name Province since 1939. Titled “Greenville history: In good times and bad, St. Anthony’s has endured,” the article cites the many successes of pastor Patrick Tuttle, OFM, since his arrival more than a dozen years ago. In part, the article says: “Since Father Patrick Tuttle came in 2006, galas and celebrations have raised money for projects including filling book bags with school supplies for local children, walking for the homeless, and repairing and renovating 13 neighborhood homes.” The article goes on to say that much of the recent progress, including the purchase of a school bus and completion of anew $5 million school has been extraordinary. “Now with more than 1,200 members, a sparkling new school with a huge gymnasium, a playground and recreation center, the biracial St. Anthony’s community is poised between its tradition of African-American spirituality and its increasing white membership, its old and poor black neighborhood, and encroaching gentrification,” the article said.

► On Aug. 28, Jacek Orzechowski, OFM, and Ignatius Harding, OFM, were among several hundred people who gathered in the city of Takoma Park in Montgomery County, Maryland, on the anniversary of the 1963 March on Washington. Jacek came from Silver Spring, Maryland, and Ignatius made the trip from Triangle, Virginia, to be part of hundreds who turned out in opposition to the detention of immigrant children in Takoma Park and elsewhere across the country.

Dan Nelson with Klaire, one of his llamas. (Photo courtesy of Dan)

► Last month, Daniel Nelson, OFM, showed two of his llamas at the New York State Fair Llama Show in Syracuse, N.Y., where his three-year-old female llama, Klaire, placed second in the medium wool female category, and his 15-month-old male, Lucca, placed first in the yearling suri wool male category and later received the reserve grand champion award in the overall suri wool male class. The show ran from Aug. 21 to 24. Dan, a professor of psychology at Siena College in Loudonville, New York, has been raising and training llamas for the past five years. He boards them at a local farm in nearby Ballston Spa, New York, where tours of the farm and hikes with llamas on wooded trails are offered to the public.

► A new book by Kevin Mackin, OFM, titled “Get Thee Behind Me, Satan: Rejecting Evil,” offers a unique and reader-friendly look at Church history, biblical sources, and understandings of Satan, exorcisms, the Kingdom of God, faith formation, and keeping the devil away. Kevin draws on his experience as a priest, and as a college president and professor, to share religious studies as a helpful and practical guide for preachers, catechists, and laypersons. His book can be used as a companion to Pope Francis’ book on rebuking the devil, according to Kevin, a resident of St. Anthony’s Friary in St. Petersburg, Florida, who serves at St. Raphael Catholic Church and is a chaplain for the St. Pete’s Police Department.

► An essay by Paul Keenan, OFM, titled “My Franciscan Journey” was published in the summer issue of The Anthonian Franciscan. In the essay, Paul describes his family life, education and the jobs he held before joining the Franciscans. He also writes about the friars he met at St. Francis of Assisi Church in New York City while he worked at a hospital. The parish and its people played an important role in his life, according to Paul, who is stationed at Assumption Parish in Wood-Ridge, N.J. “I had the honor of ministering there in my first year of Franciscan formation, and later spent my internship year before solemn profession learning from great Franciscans – Fathers Robert Gavin, OFM, Patrick Fitzgerald, OFM, and Felix McGrath, OFM, all who have gone home to the Lord,” Paul said.

► On Sept. 8, Brian Jordan, OFM, concelebrated the Mass before the annual Fr. Mychal Judge 9/11 Walk of Remembrance in New York City with Fr. James Hansen of the Diocese of Rockville Centre, N.Y., who presided.  The event takes place every year on the Sunday before the 9/11 anniversary to honor those lost in the terrorist attacks of 2001. During the walk, participants stopped at firehouses and police precincts, where Christopher Keenan, OFM, who succeeded Mychal Judge, OFM, as chaplain of the FDNY, and others led prayers. Mychal, who is considered the first certified casualty of the attacks (his body was the first carried from the scene), was fatally struck by debris from the collapsing south tower while tending to the injured in the lobby of the north tower. Photos taken during the walk can be found on the Facebook page of Mychal’s Message.

Lalo (second from left) with the Provincial Minister of Togo, center.. (Photo courtesy of Lalo)

Lalo Jara, OFM, spent a week in Fontaine, La Victoire, Haiti, last month with 12 parishioners from St. Camillus Parish, Silver Spring, Maryland. The trip was part of the St. Francis Builds Program. “We spent a week teaching and sharing time with the students from St. Gabriel High School and with the orphanage in the village,” Lalo said. Photos taken during the trip (and previous visits) can be found on the Facebook page Saint Francis Builds of the Saint Camillus Church in the  Archdiocese of Washington. Earlier in the summer, Lalo, who has been stationed at St. Camillus since 2015, visited Africa. He was invited by the Sopkolie family – friends who are like family to him. “I spent my three weeks of vacation in Togo, Ghana, and Benin,” said Lalo. “When I was there, I had the opportunity and blessing of meeting the provincial minister of the Province of Togo, and also the Poor Clares. I had a wonderful experience in Africa. During my four years at St. Camillus, I have grown to appreciate the African culture — its traditions and spirituality. To be in Africa was an amazing experience. I lived and experienced what Africa is. I felt the love of its people, culture, and church. I could see the struggles but also the joys that my brothers and sisters from these countries experience.  I am beginning to understand the African parishioners of St. Camillus. For them, it was very important that I visited their countries. They felt very proud and included that a friar who is not African went to their countries.  I am of Latin American background but I have found roots in Africa.”

► A new opportunity for public witness to our faith has been launched at St. Francis of Assisi Parish in New York City. Friars and laypeople are welcome to join St. Francis Walks, which enables them to participate in events to fight diseases such as AIDS, Alzheimer’s, breast cancer and multiple sclerosis. Those interested in joining should contact Julian Jagudilla, OFM.

► Sept. 1 marked the start of the annual ecumenical “Season of Creation” observance, which lasts through Oct. 4, the feast of St. Francis of Assisi. It is a time set aside for Christians to reflect on the state of creation through prayer and action, according to Dan Horan, OFM, who wrote about the topic in a recent column for National Catholic Reporter. In his column, Dan says that climate change is the most important life issue today and provides an opportunity to focus attention on the most fundamental issues of justice and peace, particularly as they pertain to an ethical commitment to life issues. “In recent decades there has been some nasty infighting among Catholics who argue about which life issue is the most important, especially in guiding one’s political choices. Some groups say abortion is the single most important life issue,” Dan writes. “Others say euthanasia or assisted suicide. Still others say that we cannot single out one such issue but recognize that as Catholics we must maintain a consistent ethic of life.”

(l-r) Richard Flaherty, Don Patton, and SBU president Dennis DePerro. (Photo courtesy of “Bonaventure, The Magazine of St. Bonaventure University”)

► When Dan Patton needed tuition assistance to continue his studies at St. Bonaventure University, Richard Flaherty, OFM, intervened with the financial aid office. Patton went on to graduate in 1995. As a way of repaying that kindness and friendship, Patton and his wife, Gayle, recently established the Fr. Richard Flaherty OFM Endowed Scholarship Fund to honor the friar who became a mentor, father figure and friend. Richard, who served at SBU from 1983 to 2003 in campus ministry and as athletics department chaplain, was deeply touched by the gesture, which he said will help a lot of students. In a recent article in Bonaventure magazine, Patton said, “To have Fr. Rich in my life with all that he taught me is a special thing. I don’t think people realize the influence of the brown robes on campus. The friars are the lifeblood of Bona’s.” The student and the friar stayed in contact long after Patton graduated, with Richard officiating at the Houston, Texas, couple’s wedding in 2002, and baptizing their oldest son, Brady, in 2004. A list of the more than 30 friars for whom SBU scholarships are named is included in the summer 2019 Bonaventure magazine.

Chris Dunn and the YouFra at their welcoming ceremony. (Photo courtesy of Chris)

► After a year of meetings and reviewing Franciscan themes, the Franciscan Young Adults of St. Mary of the Angels Parish in Anderson, South Carolina, held a Rite of Admittance on Aug. 12, according to Chris Dunn, OFM, who is a parochial vicar at the parish. The ceremony and a reception that followed were held in the parish hall. “The YouFra group prepared for the ceremony by making a pilgrimage-retreat to the nearby Monastery of Saint Clare the week before,” Chris said. “The friar community, the secular Franciscan fraternity, and family and friends welcomed this first group of 14 teens. They now look forward to next year when they will make their promises as members of the new St. José Sánchez del Río YouFra fraternity.” YouFra is a journey of fellowship, faith-sharing and Franciscan spirituality for young people attracted by the life of St. Francis and who are seeking to deepen their relationship with God and their understanding of self, others and creation.

Michael Calabria. (Photo courtesy of Octavio Duran)

Michael Calabria, OFM, is in Istanbul, Turkey, celebrating the 800th anniversary of St. Francis’ encounter in 1219 with the Sultan al-Malik al-Kamil. The OFM Special Commission for Dialogue with Islam is commemorating the important occasion from Sept. 9 to 15.   In addition to members of the Commission, which is headed by Michael, attendees include some 20 friars, Franciscan sisters, and laypeople from 10 countries.  “The participants are viewing and discussing the 2017 docudrama“The Sultan and the Saint,” and its reception in different cultural contexts,” said Michael, who is the director of the Center for Arab and Islamic Studies at St. Bonaventure University. They are also listening to presentations by Franciscan scholars Michael Cusato, OFM, and Gwenolet Jeusset, OFM, as well as writer Paul Moses, who authored The Saint and the Sultan, published in 2009, according to Michael. Attendees are visiting historic sites in Istanbul, including Hagia Sophia, the mosque of Suleyman I, and the Kalenderhane church where the friars resided during the Latin occupation of Constantinople. The week will conclude with an interfaith prayer service featuring Melevi dervishes, and an appreciation of the historical and contemporary significance of the two religions. In his role as general assistant, Michael offers guidance to the administration of the Order of Friars Minor on interreligious dialogue with Islam and promotes activities designed to encourage interaction.

► On Aug. 20, the novices at the interprovincial novitiate participated in a Rite of Divestiture. Michael Blastic, OFM, a member of the novitiate team, described the ritual as an opportunity “to take time to look at one’s life and ‘set aside’ or ‘divest’ oneself of what one no longer needs, what one wills to do without, what may be part of a former way of seeing oneself or others, habits, conveniences, customs, attitudes, things, etc.” The progress of these novices, who were formally received in Denver, Colorado, on Aug. 1, can be followed on the Facebook page of the Franciscan Interprovincial Novitiate.

 Topics that will be featured in future issues of this newsletter include:

  • Commemorations of the feast of St. Francis
  • Receiving of Franciscan habits by the novices

— Compiled by Jocelyn Thomas

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