Friar News Briefs

HNP Communications Friar News

The updates below describe recent activities of Holy Name Province friars. Many focus on how their lives and ministry work have changed since mid-March, when government officials of many East Coast states recommended, as a health precaution during the pandemic, that its citizens shelter at home and avoid large-group gatherings.

For details about any of the information, contact the HNP Communications Office or visit links to the parishes and organizations mentioned. To provide news for future articles, send an email to communications director Jocelyn Thomas at

From the Administration
Like many groups, the Provincial Council is now holding its meetings using Zoom conferencing. At their last monthly meeting, held March 23 to 25, the Council members focused their conversation on the COVID-19 pandemic – specifically, how friars are doing and how social distancing is affecting 2020 events. The Provincial Chapter has been postponed from its original date of May 31 to June 5. The traditional congressus will take place afterward, at which time new friar assignments will be determined. After deciding to meet weekly during the pandemic, the councilors held their following virtual meeting on March 31 – during which time they discussed the status of the Revitalization and Restructuring Process of the US-6 provinces, and announced a director for the new R+R office that will be established later this year.
During the last month, the Provincial Administration has distributed several informational documents to friars about avoiding sickness during the pandemic. HNP members can find them in the Friars-Only section of the HNP website.
The Provincial Office is operating with a smaller staff than usual at the Province’s New York City headquarters. As of March 23, when Governor Andrew Cuomo ordered all non-essential workers to not travel to their offices or places of employment, the lay staff members are working from their homes.

► Over the past few weeks, friars have been arranging to record and livestream Masses, reflections, and other prayer and worship services online, primarily through Facebook. Among them are John Aherne, OFM, Francis Di Spigno OFM, Emerson Rodriguez, OFM, and Gonzalo Torres, OFM, of St. Mary’s Parish in Pompton Lakes, New Jersey; Larry Hayes, OFM, Edgardo Lalo Jara, OFM, and Chris Posch, OFM, of St. Camillus Parish in Silver Spring, Maryland; Bill McIntyre, OFM, of St. Peter Claver Church in Macon, Georgia; Jacek Orzechowski, OFM, also in Silver Spring;  Tom Conway, OFM, and  Frank Sevola, OFM, of St. Anthony Shrine, Boston, Massachusetts, and Jim Scullion, OFM, of St. Francis of Assisi Parish on Long Beach Island, New Jersey. Several lighthearted videos have been posted on the Facebook page of Holy Name Province. Recent ones include a video made by the friars in Durham, North Carolina, showing Mario Gomez, OFM, Hugh Macsherry, OFM, and Chris Van Haight, OFM, reading a book, and, from Santa Barbara, California, a video of five friars at the inter-provincial novitiate dancing .

► A popular tradition took place this winter at St. Mary’s Parish in Pompton Lakes, New Jersey – Irish step dancing. Unlike previous years, however, the series of step dancing classes taught by John Aherne OFM, was cut short because of social distancing regulations implemented by state officials to combat the spread of the coronavirus. An article about the classes was published in the March 12 issue of The Beacon, the newspaper of the Diocese of Paterson.

► In the past three weeks, John Anglin, OFM, has published several posts on his blog, “View from a Window.” John lives at St. Anthony Friary in St. Petersburg, Florida, and is a member of the HNP Ministry of the Word. His recent blog posts are titled “Untie Him – Lazarus Called Forth from the Tomb,” “A Different Kind of Lent,” and “Coronavirus: A Big Challenge.”

Peter Chepaitis, OFM, and his ministry partner, Sr. Anna Tantsits, IHM, have released a new issue of their Bethany Ministries newsletter. The January 2020 issue includes information about their 2019 ministry activities, as well as how they have kept Bethany Ministries active via virtual platforms. “We continue to have ‘remote’ prayer meetings for our 11th step contemplative prayer group on Mondays through emailed reflections, texts, and conference call meetings,” Peter explained. “The members vary in their tech know-how. One participant is over 80 years old and doesn’t have a computer or a cell phone. We have gathered prayer group participants from Middleburgh, Schoharie, Canastota (near Syracuse) and even from Kentucky, and it has been working.” The prayer group had a virtual birthday party last week to lift the spirits of one of its members, who Peter said “was really feeling down because his job as a social worker was changed to taking care of mental hospital residents transferred from Staten Island to upstate.”

Julian Davies, OFM, editor of The Provincial Annals, encourages friars to submit their contributions for the next issue. May 1 is the deadline for receiving reports about ministries around the Province for the 2020 edition.

►On March 30, Javier Del Angel De Los Santos, OFM, launched a new online biblical ministry titled “Verbum Dei” to share the Gospel message. During Holy Week, he is offering an online retreat in Spanish, commenting and meditating on the Gospel of the day. The retreat can be viewed on Verbum Dei’s Facebook page and YouTube channel. Javier, who professed his solemn vows as a Franciscan in summer 2019, lives at St. Anthony Shrine in Boston.

Richard Flaherty OFM, of St. Anthony Shrine, was interviewed for an article published recently in the Boston Globe. Titled “Virus’s long reach imposes a heart-wrenching isolation on all of us,” it describes the reactions of people in,” the article presents what life has been like during this pandemic from the perspective of several local residents – including a hospice physician, a seventh-grade student and Richard, among others.  In the article, Richard, who is shown in a photograph standing behind a glass door of the Shrine, says he asks God during daily prayer what he should do if he is called to the bedside of a person dying of coronavirus.  The author of the article talks about this struggle that all priests are facing. The article says, “To go would be a risk not only to his (Richard’s) own health, but that of the other friars (at the Shrine).  To go would be to accept a two-week quarantine, during which he would not be able to go to the bedside of another.  To stay away would be unthinkable.”

Kevin Mackin, OFM, of St. Petersburg, Florida, has posted several entries on his blog, “My Franciscan Journey.” The recent posts, all related to the Easter season, are titled “Paradox of Palm Sunday: Triumph and Tragedy,” “Distant Yet Together,” and “Looking Beyond Appearances.”

► “What a Joy it Is to be a Bonnie With You” is the title of a message from Russel Murray, OFM, that appeared in the most recent issue of St. Bonaventure University’s publication for alumni and friends. Appearing in the winter 2020 issue of Bonaventure magazine, Russel began his message, “Something wonderful happened to me on Aug. 19, 2019. I became a Bonnie.” He goes on to describes the “new ring” he is adding to his life as a Franciscan friar, and the values that guided St. Francis of Assisi as well as the university where he works as vice president for mission integration.

► A series of videos about the artwork of Michael Reyes, OFM, have been posted on the FriarWorks and St. Anthony’s Guild Facebook pages. Michael, who lives at St. Francis Friary in New York City, is working toward a master’s degree in fine arts at the New York Studio School.

Angel Vazquez was featured in the SBU magazine. (Graphic courtesy of the Bonaventure magazine)

► An article about Angel Vazquez, OFM, was published in the winter 2020 Bonaventure magazine of St. Bonaventure University, where he is spending a year completing an internship as part of his Franciscan formation. Titled “Guardian Angel,” the article describes his work as a barber and the path that led him to friar life. The two-page article, accompanied by photos, shows Angel plying his trade at SBU’s Reilly Center. Angel is a Siena College graduate who professed his first vows in 2016.

Jud Weiksnar, OFM, and St. Columba-St. Brigid Parish in Buffalo, New York, where he is pastor, was mentioned in a recent article about Holy Roll – a new take on the tradition of visiting seven churches on Holy Thursday that began at the parish in 2017, when a parishioner came up with the idea. At the conclusion of the Mass of the Lord’s Supper, parishioners hop on their bicycles and visit seven churches on or near the East Side of Buffalo for a few minutes of silent prayer. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, this year’s Slow Roll has been cancelled. “We will miss doing the Slow Roll this year on Holy Thursday,” said Jud, who expanded the activity to Monday nights in the summer and is hopeful that it can be resumed when social gathering restrictions are lifted.

Topics planned for upcoming issues of the HNP Today newsletter include:

  • Maintaining fraternity and community spirit with social distancing
  • How schools and instructors are managing during the pandemic
  • St. Francis Builds trip to Puerto Rico in January

The next newsletter issue is scheduled for distribution on May 13.

 — Compiled by Jocelyn Thomas