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Friar News Briefs – September 2020

The updates below describe recent activities of Holy Name Province friars. They highlight their personal projects as well as events at ministry sites.

For details about any of the information, email the friars, 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 communications@hnp.org.

From and About the Administration
Recent Provincial Council meetings have focused on reflective discussions on several topics – among them an article from America magazine, “The Melting Pot is an outdated image of America,” and the report of general visitor Stephen O’Kane, OFM. The Councilors are planning to issue a formal response and action plan after their Sept. 30 meeting based on the suggestions offered by the general visitor. Another topic of discussion was the two-day visit to Assisi that Pope Francis will make on Oct. 3. Provincial Minister Kevin Mullen, OFM, said he is hopeful that the encyclical letter “Fratelli Tutti” (“Brothers and Sisters All”) – which the pope will be signing – will provide a new path for overcoming divisions that exist in the world. Kevin is planning to invite several friars to read the encyclical immediately upon its publication, and then ask them to produce homily outlines that friars throughout the Province can utilize on the three Sundays preceding the national election. On Sept. 8, Kevin’s Provincial Minister report, normally presented at the Provincial Chapter, was released by email to HNP friars. As part of its planning for the next three years, the Provincial Administration has asked that friars complete and return by Sept. 21 a form indicating which of the five Provincial directorates and 13 committees they have interest.

► Is God calling someone you know to be a Franciscan? If so, Basil Valente, OFM, suggests that he register to “attend” the virtual “Come and See Vocation Retreat” being held via Zoom conference on Sept. 19 at 1 p.m. Eastern Time. Participation is limited, according to Basil, HNP’s vocation director, who said the dynamic retreat – led by Casey Cole, OFM – will provide a glimpse into friar life for those interested in a Franciscan vocation. To register, contact the US-6 OFM Vocation Office at 800-677-7788 (ext. 345), or vocation@usfrancsicans.org.

Tito Serrano, OFM, was welcomed to his new home at Siena College in Loudonville New York, in an Aug. 10 post on the college’s Facebook page that read: “Please welcome Br. Tito! He’ll be supporting Saints via the Damietta Cross-Cultural Center, Sr. Thea Bowman’s Women Center and the Chaplain’s Office.” What caught the attention of readers was the accompanying photo – Tito buzzing around campus on a skateboard – in his Franciscan habit and sneakers.

David Convertino, OFM, and the HNP Development Office staff produced a video of a prayer service developed by Jim Sabak, OFM, that was emailed to all HNP friars so that they could participate in the Aug. 31 Province-wide special day of prayer for the 36 brothers who died since the 2017 Provincial Chapter. The deaths of these friars would have been observed at the Province’s 2020 Chapter, which was cancelled because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Instead, the Province celebrated the lives of these 36 friars in this unconventional and unprecedented way. Earlier this year, the Province designated May 19 as a “Day of Prayer in Time of Pandemic.”

Jacek Orzechowski, OFM, encourages friars and partners-in-ministry to view and share the video “2020: A Franciscan Moment,” produced by the Franciscan Action Network. Jacek and five others in the video address the importance of voting, and call for an end to division and polarization. They emphasize that morality, integrity, and compassion should be considerations when choosing candidates who will lead the country. FAN, the 12-year-old organization consisting of representatives from many Franciscan entities, plans to release additional videos in this series.

► In response to the killing of George Floyd in May and the Black Lives Matter protests that followed, several friars and an HNP staff member created a seven-week anti-racism program that enabled young adults to identify their own implicit biases, and learn more about white privilege and systemic racism, and their effects on various societal institutions. The program was conceived by Paul O’Keeffe, OFM, who was challenged to take action after having a discussion with a Black friend about racism and the Black Lives Matter protests. “As we spoke, I asked him, ‘What do you expect me to do as your friend?’,” said Paul. “He told me, ‘You can educate people. White people need to be educated.’” Paul invited John Aherne, OFM, Jay Woods, OFM, and HNP’s director of marketing, Maria Hayes, to join the project. Together, they created the curriculum with the goal of providing participants with tools to allow them to continue to educate themselves and take action beyond the program’s conclusion. “This program showed that it is possible to have intelligent, reflective, instructive conversations about race,” said John. “It can be a very difficult topic to discuss, but we provided the space for people to enter into conversation without feeling threatened, allowing them to have difficult conversations about a difficult topic, conversations that will lead to personal growth.” Twenty young adults from parishes in Boston, New Jersey, and New York City participated in the program, which ran from July 9 to Aug. 20. “I hope that people gained a better sense of self-awareness, and the desire to act,” said Jay. “I hope that they realize that even if they feel shame or guilt, that they don’t allow it to paralyze them – that instead, they are encouraged to act and to be better advocates.” Jay, John, Maria, and Paul plan to evaluate the success of the program and explore the possibility of offering it again this fall.

Friars greet students at St. Francis of Assisi School in northern Virginia on the day it opened for the semester.

John O’Connor, OFM, John Alderson OFM, Henry Fulmer, OFM, and Ignatius Harding, OFM – along with faculty and staff at St. Francis of Assisi School in Triangle, Virginia – rolled out the welcome mat to students on Aug. 26 to kick off the 2020/21 academic year. Many coronavirus-related precautions were set up to ensure that the school community remains safe and healthy, according to John, pastor of St. Francis of Assisi Parish. John said that the expansive facilities allow for social distancing and other classroom protocols – which has enabled St. Francis to start the year with full on-site learning. He said that the school experienced its largest enrollment in years for the new session. As with many schools around the country, all students will have their temperature checked daily before they enter the building, according to John, who said that students are required to wear face masks, and faculty members are required to wear masks and face shields. “The parents seemed delighted to have their children once again in classrooms, as there were big smiles all around,” said John.

► A video featuring Roberto Gonzalez Nieves, OFM, archbishop of San Juan, Puerto Rico, was posted on the Facebook page of the Franciscan Action Network on Sept. 12.  In it, Roberto urges Puerto Ricans in the States to remember their families and their homeland this election season.

Daniel Nelson, OFM, has been approved to begin studies in the analyst training program of the New York-based Jungian Psychoanalytic Association, an educational community of analysts that present programs and research on the creative understanding and applications of Carl Jung’s work. Daniel will continue his teaching responsibilities as a professor of psychology at Siena College in Loudonville, New York. After he completes this rigorous four-year program, which includes course work, supervised clinical practice, and personal psychoanalysis, he will receive certification as a Jungian psychoanalyst.

Kevin Mullen, OFM, was interviewed on Sept. 11 by News10 in Albany. In a piece titled “Local heroes among first responders on 9/11,” the Provincial Minister, who has been living at the Siena College friary during most of the pandemic, shared personal reflections about Mychal Judge, OFM, the first recorded casualty of the attacks on the World Trade Center 19 years ago.

Charley Miller, OFM, of Silver Spring, Maryland, stepped down last month from his position on the interprovincial postulancy team. He began a new ministry as part-time chaplain and member of the spirituality team at Saint Luke Institute, a private mental health education and treatment facility in Silver Spring. He will continue to live at Holy Name College.

Kevin Mackin, OFM, of St. Petersburg, Florida, offers “a way forward on Christian unity” in his new book, “Christian Unity – The Next Step ‘That They May All Be One,’” published by WestBow Press and available on Amazon. The former Siena College president shares his studies on recent Church history and theology, declaring that the time is right for more real-world Christian collaboration and service, internal reform, and a third ecumenical council. Information about other books and articles that Kevin has written can be found on his website FatherKevin.com.

William McIntyre, OFM and Casey Cole, OFM, both stationed at St. Peter Claver Parish in Macon, Georgia, were quoted in an article about the feast of the parish namesake that was published in Southern Cross, the newspaper of the Diocese of Savannah. During the Sept. 9 feast day Mass, Casey encouraged parishioners to move out of their comfort zones to help those in need, just as St. Peter Claver lived his life. “There’s a call for us today to have empathy,” Casey said. “St. Peter Claver was a man who didn’t just imagine the poor, but in fact went to the new world himself and experienced the indignities they went though. That man had empathy. We are looking for the next St. Peter Claver.” Most of the feast day celebrations at the church and parish school were virtual via Facebook and Zoom because of the ongoing pandemic, according to Bill, pastor at St. Peter Claver, who told the newspaper that “hopefully next year we can celebrate in a bigger and better way,” but for now the reflections on the life of St. Peter Claver would be virtual on the parish website.

► A book of poems by Stephen Kluge, OFM, was released last month. The 120-page softcover book, titled “From a Parish Priest: Poems by Fr. Stephen Kluge,” can be purchased through Amazon. Although the word “poems” appears in the title, Steve says, “These reflections in verse – I dare not call them poetry – are my attempt to put into words what I have experienced and how I have responded to the glory of God shining through the world. As a Franciscan, I believe that we are called to pray with our eyes opened onto the word, added Steve, who is marking 25 years as a friar this year, and who recently moved to St. Francis of Assisi Parish on Long Beach Island, New Jersey.

Daniel Horan, OFM, kicked off a monthly lecture series on Sept. 8 for the International Thomas Merton Society with a presentation titled “Thomas Merton and Black Lives Matter: Spirituality and Racial Justice for Our Time.” A week earlier, he led a presentation for Emory University’s Aquinas Center. In addition, Dan has written two columns for National Catholic Reporter – “The heresy of oversimplified Christianity” (Aug. 19) and “This ‘Season of Creation’ demands attention to environmental racism” (Sept. 2). In the second article, Dan writes, “In [the pope’s encyclical] Laudato Si’, Francis echoes the insights from activists and scholars of environmental racism: The human environment and the natural environment deteriorate together… He sees this intersection between those he calls ‘the excluded’ and environmental degradation as a life issue, explaining that the poor and marginalized of the world are the ones most impacted by the devastating consequences of climate change and pollution.” 

► Kevin Cronin, OFM, of Butler, New Jersey, celebrated the Aug. 11 feast of St. Clare in the diocesan parish of Saints Philip and James in St. James, Long Island, where he provided pastoral services during the entire month of August. Kevin is well known among parishioners because he has led Lenten missions and retreats at the parish for many years as a member of the Province’s Ministry of the Word. He also presided last month at a day of recollection for Secular Franciscans at Tabor House, a retreat center in Oceanside, New York, that provides spiritual programs for people of all religions.

► The annual “Night of Stars,” one of the biggest fundraising initiatives of the year sponsored by the Province’s Development Office, is going virtual – for now, according to David Convertino, OFM, executive director of development. Like every other major event, the in-person “Night of Stars” gala had to be postponed because of pandemic-related restrictions. Instead, says David, “we are inviting guests to join us for an online evening of entertainment” – called a “Night of Stars Reunion” – on Sept. 28, from 6 to 7 p.m. EST, when “attendees” can meet Province friars and enjoy performances by popular Broadway stars. The invitation says, “Get comfy in your favorite chair, grab a cocktail, click on the link, and join the party!” Consider this virtual event as the appetizer to the in-person “Night of Stars” that has been rescheduled for April 19, 2021. Details are available at OnlineNightOfStars.org.

Thomas Conway, OFM, announced on Aug. 30 that St. Anthony Shrine in Boston, where he is executive director, would not be reopening its building this month as previously planned. In a Facebook post, Tom described the announcement as “disappointing, yet unavoidable.” He said that the friars at St. Anthony had been planning to reopen the Shrine on Sept. 8, “but circumstances created by the ongoing global pandemic require us to extend the closure at least through the fall. We plan to reevaluate the situation around Thanksgiving.” In a detailed explanation, Tom explained the decision behind keeping the building closed to worshippers and pastoral programs and activities longer than planned – including the fact that the average age of the 26 friars who live at 100 Arch Street places them squarely in the high-risk category for COVID. But the announcement wasn’t without some good news, according to Tom, who said, “We have found alternative ways to do all of our non-sacramental work. Spiritual direction, the food center, counseling, 12-step groups, addiction counseling, homeless outreach, and many other services have all continued despite the building being closed. The friars continue to have Mass in community every day, and on Sundays and Holy Days we are livestreaming those Masses on our Facebook page. Unfortunately, we aren’t able to offer the sacrament of Confession, as at this point, we feel that it carries too many COVID risks.”

John Anglin, OFM, has been posting entries on his blog, “A View from my Window.”  In a post titled “Returning God’s Gift,” he describes a friar who recently died – Valerian Vavercheck, OFM – and how his quiet life touched many. “At a time when the Church is judged solely on the basis of bad things done by priests and religious, I think that it is important to note that countless thousands of priests and men and women religious continue to live and work quietly to share God’s love,” wrote John. “I thank God for the gift of Val and am glad to share in our effort to return him back to our loving and merciful God.” In another post, “Light in the Darkness,” John describes some “rays of sunshine that he notices in the world.”

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

  • Diaconate ordination of two HNP friars
  • Departure of friars from parishes in Wilmington, Delaware, and Wood-Ridge, New Jersey, as well as from St. Francis Chapel in Colonie, New York
  • Renovation of St. Anthony of Padua Friary in Butler, New Jersey

The next newsletter issue is scheduled for distribution the week of Oct. 12.

— Compiled by Jocelyn Thomas

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