Long-time Volunteer Receives Francis Medal

Johann Cuervo Around the Province


Francis Medal recipient Monica Kwiatkowski with Francis Pompei, Timothy Dauenhauer, Ron Pecci and Jud Weiksnar. The friar in the photo behind the group is the late Maurice Swartout, who worked with the medal recipient. (Photo courtesy of Jud Weiksnar)

BUFFALO, N.Y. — For her tireless work with the hungry and needy, as well as more than 20 years of service to her parishes, Monica Kwiatkowski was presented the HNP Francis Medal on Nov. 15 by Jud Weiksnar, OFM, and the friars of St. Patrick’s Friary in Buffalo.

“Over the last two decades, Monica has not been just a worker and generous volunteer, but a spiritual giant,” said Jud, guardian of the friary. “From running the thrift shop in the old Larkin Building, managing a model food pantry at St. Patrick’s, to volunteering for any and everything in her parishes, Monica has epitomized Franciscan values.”

As director of St. Patrick’s Food Pantry, Kwiatkowski along with the friars established a client choice setting that has fed more than 150 individuals per month. “Our clients are able to pick the foods they like. Hopefully, this helps their self-esteem, knowing that they now have a choice,” she said in an interview in 2013.

Over the years, Kwiatkowski has also worked with representatives from various health care and food service agencies to provide educational services and resources to clients.

In 2015, she happily shared with HNP Today that St. Patrick’s Pantry was able to provide their clients with a happy Thanksgiving due to the generosity of her community. “We purchased turkeys that will be given to all of our pantry clients along with all the trimmings that we receive from the food bank and also donations of food that we received recently from a parish that supports us yearly,” she noted. “Our clients will have not only a bountiful, but also a healthy, nutritional meal to share with their family or friends.”

“In addition to her involvement at St. Patrick’s, Sts. Rita & Patrick’s, and St. Clare’s parishes, more recently Monica has been dedicated to the Third Order,” Jud said at the Tuesday evening presentation. “As a Secular Franciscan, she keeps the Franciscan tradition alive in the face of fewer friars and religious sisters.  Faithful to the Divine Office, she sought out spiritual growth and it has been her strength when things aren’t going as she’d hoped.  It’s not just her tireless energy, but her prayerful presence and huge heart that make Monica a model Christian and Franciscan.”

Kwiatkowski’s first encounter with the Franciscans occurred when she met John Alderson, OFM, while attending bowling matches of her nephew Patrick. That introduction led to more and more involvement for her. As her former pastor at Sts. Rita & Patrick’s, Ronald Pecci, OFM, who also attended the presentation, said, “We became afraid to ask her to do something, because we knew she would always say yes. From helping with a Christmas toy drive to organizing a cookout for volunteers, Monica was there to help.”


Ron Pecci presents Monica Kwiatkowski with the Francis Medal. (Photo courtesy of Jud Weiksnar)

“Receiving this medal is a reminder of my commitment to those in need of physical, emotional and spiritual support that I can give them to the best of my ability,” Kwiatkowski said. “I didn’t think that by doing things everyday that were normal to me should be a precedent for receiving this great honor.”

Photos of the presentation to Kwiatkowski, which took place at Sts. Columba Brigit Church in Buffalo, are available on the Franciscan Ministries of Buffalo Facebook page.

As of the end of November, the St. Patrick Food Pantry is no longer operating at the friary at 102 Seymour Street. It will reopen at its new home at 1119 William Street, the first week of December.

The friars and their partners-in-ministry have provided assistance to the greater Buffalo and Western New York region since the middle of the 19th century.

The Holy Name Province Francis Medal was established in 1998 by then-Provincial Minister John Felice, OFM. Recipients are people who have displayed an uncommon contribution to the advancement of the ideals and values of St. Francis. In recent months, the medal has been presented by friars in Lima, Peru, Anderson, S.C., Pompton Lakes, N. J., Loudonville, N.Y., and Raleigh, N.C.

— Johann Cuervo is communications assistant for Holy Name Province.

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