Jubilarian Profile: Emeric Meier Commemorates 50 Years as a Friar

HNP Communications Friar News

This is the sixth in a series of profiles of friars commemorating anniversaries of profession in 2013. The previous issue of HNP Today featured Michael Madden, OFM. All are welcome to the Province’s annual jubilee celebration Mass which this year will be held June 20.

BOSTON — Golden jubilarian Emeric Meier, OFM, looks back fondly on a ministry devoted to education — teaching homiletics and speech, and spiritual direction — a rewarding vocation that has been spent largely at St. Anthony Shrine on Arch Street.

Emeric’s love for educational ministry began in 1970 while he was earning his own master’s degree in religious studies at The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. “I handed in my last paper on a Thursday and went to Boston on Monday,” the affable friar recalled with a chuckle.  When asked about his good sense of humor, he quickly retorted, “You’ll have to ask the congregation about that.” But he added, “After 50 years, you’d better have a sense of humor.”

Once in Boston, he immediately enrolled at Emerson College, where he pursued a degree in speech and drama. With his background in theology, speech, and homiletics, Emeric is known around the Province for giving an effective sermon.

Teaching Homiletics
With very clear diction and attention to just the right words, he recalled recently how he came to become a friar, and why homiletics — applying the principles of rhetoric to public preaching — is important today.

“I’ve tried to instill in people that God isn’t boring and neither should you be. I’ve tried to teach people to communicate with conviction and to recognize that there has to be a certain amount of connection to people.” One of his philosophies as a priest is to understand what people’s needs are, and to “not answer the questions that people aren’t asking.”

In fact, he said he is just about the only friar in Holy Name with such a unique educational background in homiletics, public reading, and liturgical celebration.

Unlike many friars who grew up in religious homes and attended Catholic schools, Emeric’s Swiss family was not especially devout. He was studying physical education at Seton Hall University in South Orange, N.J., a Catholic school, when he was first around priests and considered religious life.

“Seton Hall was the first Catholic school I attended,” said Emeric. “All of a sudden, I was around all these priests, spending time in chapel and in religious exercises. I was about to try out for the basketball team when I thought, ‘I’ll give religious life a try.’”

“From courses in basketball, football and baseball, I went to studying Latin, Greek and French,” he said with a smile.

Admiring the Franciscans
While Seton Hall was a diocesan college, Emeric liked the idea of the Franciscans because the life of St. Francis intrigued him. His connection to the Franciscans was ironic, he said, since, although his parents were not religious, they did baptize him at St. Ann’s Church, a former Holy Name parish in Fair Lawn, N.J. “It’s strange in some ways,” he added, “being baptized in a Franciscan parish and all.”

From his humble idea of “giving a try” to becoming a friar, Emeric is marking half a century as a Franciscan this summer.

After graduation from Ridgewood, N.J., High School, near Teaneck where he grew up, Emeric studied at Seton Hall and then at St. John’s Mission Seminary in Arkansas.

In 1961, Emeric entered St. Joseph Seraphic Seminary in Callicoon, N.Y., and was received into the Franciscan Order at St. Raphael’s Novitiate in Lafayette, N.J., in 1962.  He professed his first vows as a Franciscan in 1963, and completed his undergraduate education at St. Francis College in Rye Beach, N.H., earning a B.A. degree from St. Bonaventure University. Emeric professed final vows in 1968 and graduated that same year. He earned a master’s degree in theology from Catholic University. 

After completing his own studies, he was assigned from 1971 to 1974 to teach homiletics at the Washington Theological Coalition in Washington, D.C., later called the WTU.

In 1974, after leaving the Coalition, Emeric was assigned to the Province’s novitiate team in Brookline, Mass., and spent the next four years working with the men in formation there.  He laughs to think that some of his students at the WTU and the Province’s novitiate — including David Convertino, OFM, Kevin Mullen, OFM, and John Ullrich, OFM — have since been his guardians at St. Anthony Friary.

Emeric said he likes to hear from former students. He recalled: “I received a rare telephone call recently. The man left a message and said, ‘I was a novice in 1976 when you were in Brookline and I’m a lector now and I want to thank you for your guidance.’ ”

It was during this time on the novitiate team, he said, that he also developed experience in spiritual direction, studying under a Carmelite priest. Some of the friars, he added, would send their parishioners to Emeric for spiritual direction, and he embraced the opportunity with the same passion he had for his other ministry. The Carmelite was an expert in Jungian analysis, the interpretation of dreams, and Emeric learned this skill well.

At the shrine, where he has worked for 36 years, he gives spiritual direction, trains the lectors, and still enjoys celebrating Mass. He describes this unique blend of ministry as “movement outward and inward.” “The first part of my ministry was spent moving outward — preaching — now, it is movement inward with the dream analysis. I’m involved with the inner life of people.”

He also enjoys writing a monthly article on Franciscan spirituality for the shrine’s bulletin. Emeric likes to stay active by walking three to eight miles a day, and, he said, he enjoys a good novel every now and then, as well as reading professional materials. The jubilarian, whose one sister lives in Alaska, said he likes to take trips and spend time outside.

Inspiring Communicators
Emeric would like to be remembered in this life, he said, “as someone who inspired some of the people that I had come in contact with to be better communicators.”

The best part of being in Holy Name Province, he said, is the opportunity to switch ministries. “Most people can’t do that because they’re raising families, etc.  A lot of people are stuck in jobs and can’t get out. Friars can turn on a dime and go in a new direction. There’s a lot of variety in ministry today.” Emeric said he has enjoyed being in one location, serving several roles.

“I’m fortunate that everything I was trained for, I got to do.”

To celebrate his jubilee, he plans to renew his vows and participate in the Province and shrine celebrations.Emeric and his seven classmates will be honored at the June 20 jubilee celebration St. Francis of Assisi Church in New York City.

— Wendy Healy is a Connecticut-based freelance writer and frequent contributor to HNP Today.

Editors note: Emeric recently appeared in a Franciscan Challenge video, which was filmed at Arch Street and produced by the shrine’s development office.