Friars Reflect on Summer Experiences

HNP Communications Friar News

In the past few months, friars have taken trips and summer holidays for a variety of reasons, including leisure, education, and Franciscan business. From Africa to Australia, they attended a seminar, visited a monastery, facilitated a chapter and enjoyed time to refresh their minds and spirits. HNP Today asked friars to share their experiences and thoughts on their recent travels. Below are responses from several.

Bede Fitzpatrick, OFM, Franciscan Chapel Center, Tokyo
I spent my month vacation in Western New York, visiting friends and family. I spent weekdays at St. Bonaventure University, and weekends at my brother’s home in Ellicottville. I also have a sister nearby and many nephews and nieces. My great-grandparents on my father’s side were parishioners at Holy Name of Mary Church in Ellicottville when the friars arrived in 1855. They used to say Mass at the home of my great-grandparents on my mother’s side. The coolness and beauty of the Cattaraugus hills were a great relief from the sweltering heat of summer in Tokyo. I especially delighted in the daily prayer, preprandium and supper with the friars at St. Bona’s. I stayed long enough to see the students come back with all their vigor. I hope, God willing, to return again next summer.

Thomas Hartle, OFM, spiritual assistant, Poor Clares; St. Anthony Friary, Boston
I was invited by the Franciscan Missionaries of Mary in the Province of Ethiopia/Kenya to facilitate their provincial Chapter. The Chapter was held in Ethiopia, several hours south of Addis Ababa, at the Gighessa Pastoral Center near Shashemene. There were 27 sisters participating in the Chapter, three of whom were American. The province consists of FMMs from 20 countries and the sisters are engaged in health care, education, promotion of women, and faith formation. In addition to the business of the Chapter, I visited some of the places where the sisters minister and saw firsthand the work they do.

Russel Murray, OFM, assistant professor of systematic theology, Washington Theological Union 
From July 5 to 13, I was among the 60 Lutheran, Reformed and Roman Catholic scholars, pastors and church-workers who participated in the 44th International Ecumenical Seminar at the Institute for Ecumenical Research in Strasbourg, France. The title of the seminar was “Mission & Ecumenism in the Global Village: 100 Years after the Conference of Edinburgh.” The Institute for Ecumenical Research was established in 1965, under the auspices of Lutheran World Federation, to assist Lutheran churches in its theological engagement of the ecumenical movement.

From Aug. 4 to 8, I visited Blue Cliff Monastery in Pine Bush, N.Y., with Robert Struzynski, OFM. Blue Cliff is a Buddhist community in the tradition of the Vietnamese zen master Thich Nhat Hanh. The purpose of our visit was to engage members of the monastery’s monastic and lay community in an inter-religious “dialogue of life,” especially exploring the resonance we felt between the spiritualities of our respective traditions that call upon us to be instruments of compassionate peacemaking in our world today. This dialogue was enhanced by our participation in a retreat offered at the monastery, in which more than 300 people from various religious traditions were present. The dialogue concluded with a commitment to exploring opportunities for its continuation later in the coming year.

James Vacco, OFM, instructor of theology, St. Bonaventure University, Allegany, N.Y.
I spent my summer assisting at a parish of Holy Spirit Province in Sydney, Australia. It was interesting, and this year — because of the length of time and being in a parish — gave me a much better taste of Australian life. It also gave some insight into the religious (or lack of) demeanor of the populace. There are many parts of the experience that I’m still processing, especially the very secular nature of the Australian people, in general, and how so many don’t have religion on their radar screen. The friars I met were all so welcoming, and those I lived with in Paddington made me feel very much a part of the community and their province.

souzaSome of my most memorable experiences from my time in Australia were with the choir at St. Francis Church in Paddington whom I befriended early in the summer. Their 20 voices at the 10 a.m. choir Mass sounded like 120. The liturgy was as sophisticated as at the Washington National Cathedral or the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. The choir membership reflects the idea that “everyone is welcome” at St. Francis. Doctors, lawyers, professional singers, theologians and street people (who live in a nearby shelter and worship at St. Francis) join together to lift their voices.

I also had many encounters this summer that made me think, “The world is getting smaller.” One night at dinner, the vocation director for the Australian Province told me he had met a friend of mine at a meeting of the St. Vincent de Paul charities. The friend turned out to be Katie Scholl, a classmate and friend of mine when I was studying at SBU, who now lives outside of Sydney. In the course of her conversation with the friar, she told him she went to Bonaventure, and he told her that a friar from SBU was spending the next few months with them. It all just fell together. I was able to meet her family and spend a couple of afternoons with them.

Then, while visiting Katoomba — the Australian Grand Canyon — in June, I ran into the parents of a student I had in one of my classes six years ago at SBU! It turns out that the mother also played golf with my aunt and her sisters. Now, who would have thought that all the way in Australia, on a rainy day at a remote tourist attraction, I would have this close of a Western New York connection. The world really is getting to small!