NEW YORK — Saturday’s dreary weather failed to squelch the festive feeling on West 31st Street as friars and supporters gathered to commemorate the 90th anniversary of St. Anthony’s Guild.
“We don’t come here just to remember the past. We come to gain strength and insight from Scripture, from the Eucharist, and from each other,” said David Convertino, OFM, executive director of the Guild, in his homily. “The Guild’s members have helped the friars fulfill their mission and ministry.”
Through an exhibit of historic memorabilia, a Mass and luncheon, the Province commemorated friars’ rich history of service. The events were held on March 29 — the anniversary of the day the Guild was established in 1924.
Ninety years ago, the ingredients to build the organization were, according to David: one famous saint named Anthony, one kitchen table, 10 members gathered around it, one Franciscan province that needed financial help, and one friar with a vision and a motto that was, “Why ask one person for $10,000 when you can ask 10,000 people for $1?” Today, the Guild still has one famous saint named Anthony, no kitchen table, 80,000 members gathered together and one Franciscan Province of the Holy Name that needs financial help. Together, members’ many small donations become one great contribution to the friars’ mission.
David, shown in photo, described what St. Anthony’s Guild has been doing for nine decades: “uniting those who help educate young friars for ministry, assist in providing care for our elderly and retired friars, and serve as trusted supporters of the poor and desperate who came to the friars for assistance.”
The Franciscans are very fond of St. Anthony’s Guild, said David, who has led the organization since 2011. “We have loved it for 90 years, and we still love it. We love the people who made it special. As Catholics and Franciscans, though, we are also a people with a story, a story that is moveable, a story that is not bound to one place or one generation.”
The Mass was celebrated by Provincial Minister John O’Connor, OFM, at St. Francis of Assisi Church, where the sanctuary was decorated with banners depicting the Guild’s history.
Participating in the Mass were Kevin Mackin, OFM, director from 1988 to 1996, as well as Christopher Coccia, OFM, Thomas Cole, OFM, and Ed Chaudron, the Guild’s assistant executive director. Music was provided by Meredith Augustin.
At the conclusion of the Mass, the Provincial Minister recognized two longtime employees of St. Anthony’s Guild — Robert Baard and Joan Gruber — with the HNP Francis Medal.
After Mass, friars and guests enjoyed a luncheon in San Damiano Hall, decorated with a display of historic photos and memorabilia, and with an area resembling an office of the 1920s. The exhibit, called “A Walk With Us Through Time,” was created by Fred Dilger, OFM. Photos and information about the six friars who have directed St. Anthony’s Guild were included. These leaders, in addition to David and Kevin, were Joseph Hertel, OFM, who lives in St. Petersburg, Fla., as well as the late John Forest Loviner, OFM, who founded the organization, Salvator Fink, OFM, and John Piccione, OFM.
“I was very pleased with the way everything went. It was a wonderful celebration,” said David, adding that Octavio Duran, OFM, is producing a video of the day’s festivities that will be distributed to Guild members.
Information about the Guild and other fundraising entities affiliated with Holy Name Province can be found on the Support Our Work page of the HNP website. Updates about St. Anthony’s Guild can be found on its Facebook page. Images portraying the variety of Provincial ministries can be found on the cover of the winter 2013-2014 issue of The Anthonian, the Guild’s magazine.
— Jocelyn Thomas is director of communications for Holy Name Province. Photos from the Mass are provided by Octavio Duran, OFM.