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Ministry of the Word Friars Look Back Over 2012

The season of Advent is busy for all HNP ministries, especially the Province’s Ministry of the Word members. As Christmas draws nearer, one can find these friars giving parish missions and retreats around the nation to help prepare the minds and hearts of people for the birth of Jesus Christ.

This month, Kevin Cronin, OFM, of Butler, N.J., has been “preparing the way of the Lord.” First, he gave a retreat at Our Lady of Mercy Church in Flushing, N.Y. Then he traveled south to give another retreat at St. Vincent De Paul in Wildwood, Fla., from Dec. 8 to 13. There he preached at 11 weekend Masses with collaboration from John Anglin, OFM. One week later, he returned to the tri-state area to lead a retreat at St. Catherine of Siena Parish in Mountain Lakes, N.J.

After presenting two Advent evenings in Buffalo, N.Y., where he is stationed,Francis Pompei, OFM, traveled to New Jersey last week with one of the Franciscan Mystery Players groups, part of the program he launched more than 25 years ago. The Clayton, N.Y., players presented “The Birth of Jesus” at St. Matthias Church in Somerset (shown in photo behind image above). Next month, Francis has two confirmation retreats scheduled.

In Western New York, the friars at Mt. Irenaeus are holding several Christmas services at the retreat center in West Clarksville. Recently, the friars held their annual Mountain Auction fundraiser for the center’s operating expenses and endowment. Daniel Riley, OFM, guardian of the Mountain community, was “blown away by the support.”

In North Carolina, the St. Francis Springs Prayer Center where Louis Canino, OFM, is director has hosted several Advent programs, including an afternoon of Taize music and prayer, an overnight retreat, and an afternoon of prayer and a special music concert. A new chapel is under construction at the center, which has posted photos of the construction on its Facebook page.

As 2012 comes to a close, Ministry of the Word friars are reflecting on some of the year’s activities and sharing their plans for 2013.

Connecticut to the Caribbean
Earlier this year, Raphael Bonanno, OFM, of Boston, celebrated his golden anniversary as a priest, and as the year progressed, he showed no signs of relaxing.

During the summer, Raphael held two men’s retreats at the Malvern Retreat House outside Philadelphia. He also gave three Franciscan Missionary Union mission appeals in Connecticut.

The last few months of 2012 brought a change of scenery to Raphael, who traveled to Hawaii in October to assist a busy parish while its pastor went to Rome for the canonization of Sr. Marianne Cope, OSF. In November, he traveled with 19 pilgrims to Europe, visiting places like Fatima, Portugal; Lourdes, France; and Montserrat and Barcelona, Spain. This month, he is serving a chaplaincy on a cruise ship that will sail through the western Caribbean.

During Lent next year, Raphael will hold missions in Cape Cod, Mass., Norwichtown, Conn., and at Navajo missions in Gallup, N.M.

Workshops and Missions
Although Peter Chepaitis, OFM, still isn’t able to return to his home in Middleburgh, N.Y., which suffered damage during 2011’s Hurricane Irene, he feels hopeful that it will be ready for reoccupation in January 2013.

“Despite the work and chaos involved with being ‘in exile’ and moving to a new residence and ministry site, Bethany Ministries has done four parish missions in 2012 — in Buffalo, West Winfield, Fishkill and Saugerties, N.Y.,” Peter said. Bethany Ministries already has two missions scheduled for 2013 — one in Sacramento, Calif., and one in Milford, Pa., for five parishes.

“In addition, I was on a team for a men’s Cursillo in October and have been covering for priests in the Albany Diocese almost every weekend,” Peter said. “From July 1 to Nov. 5, I was the only resident priest in Schoharie County and was called upon for ministry to the sick and dying regularly as well as for weekend Masses.”

Peter has also been running a bi-weekly prayer service and presentation for the Knights of Columbus in Delanson, N.Y., where he is chaplain.

In August, Peter and Sr. Anna Tantsits, IHM, held a combined celebration of his 40th anniversary of ordination and her 50th anniversary of profession with their families in Wappinger Falls, N.Y., at the Monastery of the Poor Clares. They had another celebration for the people of the area where they live at Our Lady of the Valley Parish in Middleburgh.

In the spring, Peter and Sr. Anna will conduct two all-day workshops on preparing and leading prayer services for the Kateri Institute, which trains lay leaders in the Albany Diocese.

Ministry in Rural New York
Prior to Advent, Kevin gave a mission at St. Francis Xavier Parish in Narrowsburg, N.Y., recognizing its 150th anniversary as he preached at all the weekend Masses beginning on Sept. 22, as well as at Masses Monday through Wednesday.

This year, his missions focused on “awakening our faith in these challenging times,” the theme for the Year of Faith. They center on “the basic Gospel eternal themes of love, peace and healing, and, during Advent, with the special focus of preparing for a spiritual Christmas, preparing the way for the birthday of the Lord.”

In late October, the Ministry of the Word friars were “invading Sullivan County” in New York, according to Kevin. He and Daniel Lanahan, OFM, both gave missions the week of Oct. 23 — Kevin in Callicoon, N.Y., and Daniel in Yulan, N.Y. He filled in for Charles O’Connor, OFM, pastor of Holy Cross Church in Callicoon, while Charles went to Buffalo to visit his mother for her 90th birthday.

While in this rural area of New York, Kevin had an experience that meant a great deal to him. One morning, he received a call at 9:15 requesting a priest for a benediction. The NYPD was having a meeting at 10 a.m. and their chaplain was at a funeral.

“I told them why I came at such short notice. After thanking New York’s finest for their courageous and dedicated work, I told them I was from the same order as St. Francis on 31st Street and our other churches in New York City, and that I was from the Bronx and Queens,” Kevin said. “After some applause, I told them my father, John Cronin, had been a NYPD detective in Harlem for 20 years and my brother, John Cronin, was a detective for 20 years in Hempstead, Long Island, and my brother-in-law, Ronnie Kopp, was a N.Y. transit cop for 20 years as well.

“I was swamped with people who knew of or knew personally my father, brother, and brother-in-law. I am so proud and so glad I answered the call to give a blessing to the fraternal order of police from the state of New York,” Kevin said.

Downed trees and gas lines caused by Hurricane Sandy delayed one of Kevin’s missions at Our Lady of the Magnificat Church in Kinnelon, N.J. Roughly 250 people attended the opening night when the retreat finally took place two weeks later.

In the beginning of November, he conducted a mission to more than 300 children at a grammar school in Garnerville, N.Y. There, he talked “about the good news of Jesus and Francis to them. Many friars were asked for at this mission. There were lots of alums from Bona’s and Siena, as well as people who know friars on Long Beach Island, N.J.”

Digital Evangelization
“Traveling and preaching were put on hold because of my knee replacement,” said William DeBiase, OFM, of Philadelphia. He has been devoting the extra time to writing. Recently, William published his first e-book, “Hoping With God,” a series of short reflections on God. “In a world full of injustice and violence, it is easy to despair,” reads the book’s description. “But Fr. William assures us there is hope — hope in God.” He has also written several articles for The Cord, a quarterly journal produced by Franciscan Institute Publications.

William is continuing to use social media, including Facebook and Blogger, for evangelization. “It’s a lot of fun, even if most times I feel like I haven’t got the foggiest what I am doing,” he said.

Once a month, William preaches for Food for the Poor. “These are great opportunities not only to help Food for the Poor but also to give a mini mission,” he said.

In February, William is leading a mission in St. Petersburg, Fla., and will give more during Lent.

“None of the above taken individually is that time consuming, but added together they certainly make life full,” William said.

Information about the friars of the Province’s MOW program appears in the recently-published 2012 edition of The Provincial Annals. The reports were written by Kevin and Raphael.

— Maria Hayes is communications coordinator of Holy Name Province.

Editor’s note: The HNP Communications Office welcomes updates from Ministry of the Word members about their activities throughout the year. Another update about MOW friars will be published in the Provincial newsletter during the 2013 season of Lent.