Friars Commemorate Profession Jubilees

Jocelyn Thomas In the Headlines

NEW YORK — Eight Holy Name Province friars were honored June 24 to commemorate their golden and silver jubilees of religious profession. The event included a Mass at St. Francis of Assisi Church on West 31st Street here and a reception in San Damiano Hall.

Provincial Minister John O’Connor, OFM, celebrated the 5:30 p.m. Mass, assisted by Christopher Coccia, OFM, of Western New York. Friends and relatives of the six attending friars came from out-of-state to celebrate the honorees.

Those celebrating 50 years of profession were:
· David Bossman, OFM, of New Jersey
· Louis McCormick, OFM, of Western New York
· Michael McDonnell, OFM, of New York City
· Nathanael Necaster, OFM, of Boston
· Thaddeus Sapio, OFM, of South Carolina

Celebrating 25 years of profession were:
· Lawrence Hayes, OFM, of Maryland
· Gene Pistacchio, OFM, of Boston
· Peter Schneible, OFM, of Western New York

Two of the friars, Thaddeus and Lawrence, were unable to join their classmates for the festivities.

In his homily, John thanked the friars for their ministry and contributions.

He also said that, as the General Minister has reminded them, “We’re called to leave everything and to bring healing, liberation and justice to people we encounter. These friars have spent time in many places in the valley. In all places, they help others feel the Good News of the Gospel, helping people put back together the pieces of their lives. Their many years of fraternity in ministry help us know that God makes us, that God loves us, and that God will care for us.”

Diversity of Ministry
The friars celebrating milestones this year have a variety of experiences. Their specialties include education, retreat ministry and parish work, among other ministries.

“The diversity of ministries is busy, but very rich, and adds much quality to my time of prayer and contemplation,” said Gene, stationed at St. Anthony Shrine in Boston. “I am very grateful to be a part of such life-giving ministries among my brother friars and the people of God.”

Gene’s priority is spiritual guidance, helping people clarify their relationship with God and to discern God’s presence in everyday events. He is also a part-time regional vocation director for the Province in New England, and Ecclesiastical Assistant for the U.S. Zone of Secular Inistitute of the Missionaries of the Kingship of Christ, where he moderates retreats and assists in its formation program.

At the shrine, Gene teaches postulants and supports ministry to the homeless. In addition to presiding at the Eucharist and celebrating the Sacrament of Reconciliation, he participates in “Just Matters,” a group that explores the moral and spiritual implications of Catholic social justice teaching. He offers reflections during the shrine’s Advent program, takes part in adult education, and assists with an annual or biannual parish mission.

David, Peter and Louis have devoted their ministry mostly to teaching. David is a professor in the Graduate Department of Jewish-Christian Studies at Seton Hall University in South Orange, N.J. Peter teaches biology at St. Bonaventure University in Allegany, N.Y. Louis taught math at Bishop Timon-St. Jude High School in Buffalo, N.Y., for 24 years before moving to Holy Peace Friary at Mt. Irenaeus Franciscan Mountain Retreat in Western New York 18 years ago.

Nathanael, a native of western Pennsylvania, spent most of his life in education, working for 28 years at Christ the King Seminary in Allegany, N.Y., and East Aurora, N.Y. He currently lives at St. Anthony Residence in Boston.

Lawrence, Michael and Thaddeus serve in parishes. Lawrence is at St. Camillus Church in Silver Spring, Md., Michael is at Holy Name of Jesus Church in New York, and Thaddeus is at St. Mary of the Angels Parish in Anderson, S.C.

jubileeChoosing Franciscan Life
As the friars celebrated their years with the Province, they looked back on how they came to know the Franciscans and to join religious life.

Peter, who attended Rome, N.Y., Catholic High School, said his introduction to the Franciscans began as a youth, and many influences, mostly in and around St. Bonaventure University, led him to join the Order.

“My aunt is a Franciscan Sister of Allegany and is still going strong at 95,” Peter said. “I have been blessed to have her at their motherhouse within a mile of me at St. Bonaventure for the last 23 years. I was also taught by the Allegany Franciscan Sisters at St. Mary’s in Rome.”

Peter attended St. Bonaventure from 1969 to 1973, and was influenced by the ministry of several friars, including the late Gervase White, OFM, as well as Conrad Harkins, OFM, and Hugh Eller, OFM. “While walking through the friary to attend Mass one Sunday during my senior year, I picked up a piece of vocation literature. Being a pack rat, I still had that application when my interest in a religious vocation returned at the end of my graduate studies in 1979. When I sent the completed form to the Province’s Vocation Office, they asked me where I had obtained such an old version.”

Peter said he enjoys his work and life on campus. “As a teacher, I delight in the moments when the light goes on in the mind of a student,” he said. “That experience can carry me through months of drudgery, correcting papers and lab reports.”

He said he is continually surprised when former students contact him at an alumni reunion or ask him to perform wedding services. “Recently, a former student with whom I had no contact for eight years, asked me to officiate at her wedding. When I asked her why she thought of me, she said it was because of the way I treated her in a class during her freshman year.” He has baptized the five children of another former student.

Peter also has been a minister-in-residence in the student residence halls for about 10 years. During summer vacations, he enjoys hiking and backpacking, including trips around the United States, Canada and Scotland with other friars.

After all these years, Louis said he is still amazed at our awesome God. “As I think about 50 years as a Franciscan, my main reaction is wonder and awe at God’s grace and goodness which has made that possible. Each year, the life gets better while the body finds it harder to keep the same pace.”

Louis, shown in photo above, said there are many good things to reflect on during his life. “God has acted so often in my life through the people who have been part of it.”

Louis was introduced to the Order when his family moved from Waverly, N.Y., to Olean, N.Y., near SBU, just three months before his high school graduation.  He said in addition to exposure to friars in Western New York, he found his contact with students in the Sodality of Our Lady at the Jesuit-run University of Detroit where he had studied changed his thinking from being an engineer to becoming a Franciscan. “We can always see God’s action in our lives looking backwards,” he said.

Gene, a native of Rhode Island, said he was led to join the Order by “a combination of persons who radiated a virtue or charism in a personal manner.”

He was first inspired by Kenneth Dorr, OFM, who was working at St. Francis Retreat House in Rye Beach, N.H., and encountered Gene at a retreat in the late 1970s. “He inspired me by his gentle and fatherly presence.” Later in his teen years, Gene reflected on St. Francis of Assisi by reading his original biographers like St. Bonaventure and Thomas of Celano. “I wanted to share in that dream by giving my heart to God as Francis did.”

Gene also credits the Franciscan Missionaries of Mary in North Providence, R.I., including several specific sisters.

He adds: “The gentleness of these Franciscan sisters and the inviting, warm, hospitable Franciscan friars, with their love for God and his people, shone through their deeply human personalities. As a result of my association with the Franciscan family, I began to relate deeply with Francis’ love of creation, as well as his care for the vulnerable and outcast. I was totally enamored by Francis’ intense relationship with God as he became an image of Christ in his time. If my Franciscan friends could enjoy a deep satisfying and joyful life of ministry, following in the footprints of Christ, then I, too, desired to serve and to develop an intimate union with God as Abba. These Franciscan friends soon became my family.”

Satisfaction and Gratitude
Nathanael, too, has been enamored of the friars’ humanity.

“Our prayer life is the root of our Franciscan life,” said Nathanael, who plays piano and organ. “I also like the variety of personalities in our Province. Friars never lose their individuality. I am so happy that I’ve come this far.”

Louis agreed. “Franciscan life has been a blessing for our world for 800 years. For those who live it and experience it, that Franciscan journey continues to be a blessing, because it brings us into the joy, peace, and freedom of the people of God. What a wonderful experience to share.”

But perhaps Gene sums it up best. “May God continue to deepen the mystery and joy of the Franciscan way for the next 25 years and beyond. This jubilee is a time to give thanks for the many blessings we have received in Franciscan life, and to look forward to the future with hope and joy.”

— Jocelyn Thomas is director of communications for Holy Name Province.