Friars Visit Franciscan Roots in Italy

F. Edward Coughlin Around the Province

ALLEGANY, N.Y.  —  As part of the Grace of Our Origins process, nine friars from Holy Name Province traveled to Italy last month to visit a variety of sites important to our Franciscan heritage. We were especially delighted to be able to visit the Church of Aracoeli and to have an extended visit at St. Isidore’s with a great lunch included. Both places played such an important role in the friars coming to found St. Bonaventure College and the fraternity that grew into both Holy Name Province and Immaculate Conception Province.

The friars who participated in the May 18 – 29 La Verna Pilgrimage were Brian Belanger, John C. Coughlin, David Hyman, Gregory Jakubowicz, Jacques LaPointe, Daniel Murray, Ronald Pecci and Raymond Selker.

The group flew from New York to Rome.  Among the many places they visited were :
쳌œ St. Isidore’s, the Irish Franciscan College
쳌œ Santa Maria in Trastevere
쳌œ St. Francis de Caravita
쳌œ Church of Aracoeli
쳌œ Greccio
쳌œ La Verna
쳌œ San Damiano
쳌œ Basilica of St. Clare
쳌œ Basilica of St. Francis
쳌œ Carceri
쳌œ Bagnoregio
쳌œ OFM Curia

The Grace of Our Origins proces is a three-year program in preparation for the 800th anniversary of the approval of the Rule of St. Francis. The program invites friars to both ceelbrate the gift of our Franciscan vocation and to consider our evangelizing mission in the contemporary Church and world.

Other than our luggage arriving late on the second day, things went smoothly and some of the meals were truly outstanding. The Belvedere in Greccio and Il Fumatori in Bagnoregio competed for first place. The Sunday evening visit with Joseph Rozansky, who works in the Order’s office of Justice, Peace,  and Integrity of Creation, provided a great opportunity to learn more about his work for the Order and life in Rome.

Several friars provided their observations about the trip.

“I had never been to continental Europe before so, at my advancing years, this was extraordinary.  I had to be prodded, cajoled, almost bought, to do this, but I did it,” David Hyman said. “Now, I’m ready to do it again.

“I was impressed with Rome. There are few ostentatious cars and virtually all homes speak of having learned to live happily with limits of space. As for the Assisi and our trips to Greccio, the Carceri and La Verna, it was a constant reflection back to the 13th century. Now it is mine to reread the life of Francis.  At last I can put him in context.”

“We also visited the birthplace of St. Bonaventure, or what remains of it. It is a dramatic visit to a few remaining buildings on a pinnacle of land surrounded by a ravine of considerable proportion on every side. So much history, some of it lost with the ravages of time.

“The best part was that we had Ed giving us lectures and power point presentations that provided depth to all the visits on our Franciscan journey. Just reflecting back on all this is giving me a hankering to return,” wrote David.

Ronald said, “the highpoint of the trip for me was after the pilgrimage was over and the others went back to the United States, I stayed on for three more days and I went to Sicily, to my maternal grandfather’s village in southern Italy. That was an experience that I will never forget. I really found St. Francis there more than I did in Assisi. The people were wonderful and I was there for two big religious feasts.”

The next La Verna pilgrimage is scheduled for October 2008.

 — Br. Ed is vice president for Franciscan Mission at St. Bonaventure University and professor at the Franciscan Institute.