MOW Friars Preach Digitally and On the Road

Roy Gasnick, OFM Features

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — With the new fall parish mission season in full swing, the Ministry of the Word (MOW) team in the South is using digital media to enhance its in-person preaching. Before beginning their 27 speaking engagements for the 2009 to 2010 season, the MOW friars launched several digital methods of communication allowing them to reach people, via computer, in their homes or offices, day or night — adding a whole new dimension to preaching the Gospel message.

John Anglin, OFM, co-director of the Province’s MOW, has recently set up a YouTube site after creating a blog earlier this year. Between the two, visitors can find an assortment of information, resources and reflections. John’s blog offers links to the YouTube site as well as to affiliated Web sites including those of the Province and the Franciscan Action Network.

Currently, John has made eight videos for the YouTube site. In the not-too-distant-future, he will be joined by fellow MOW team member Martin Bednar, OFM, who has been rehearsing before the camera with the hope that he, too, will be comfortable with this form of communication.

Embracing New Media
John blogs regularly as “The Wandering Friar,” with both personal observations and Franciscan reflections. The blog can be accessed by going to the Our Friars section of and clicking “Blogs by HNP Members.” John joins another MOW member, William DeBiase, OFM, of Philadelphia, who also maintains a blog. William’s blog, “Franciscan” also features podcasts.

In addition to offering information about the goals of the Franciscan Ministry of the Word, preaching parish missions, days of recollection and retreats, the MOW site also provides a schedule of events and information about friars who speak Spanish and Portuguese.

Over the coming months, the friars in the southern branch of the MOW, based at St. Anthony Friary in St. Petersburg since 2006, will be preaching in Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Arkansas, Kentucky and, with the northern branch of MOW, in New York, New Jersey, Maryland and Connecticut.

The 27 speaking engagements of John, Martin and Roderic Petrie, OFM, include 14 English-speaking parish missions, six bilingual missions, three Spanish-speaking missions, and three holiday parish assistances. In addition, John and Martin represented the MOW on Oct. 24 at the Province’s Encuentro Franciscano. 

Their 2009 season began Sept. 26 and will end on April 4, 2010. As for next summer, it’s a rare parish that books a mission after Easter, so the MOW friars concentrate on retreats or assist parishes in need of substitute priests during vacation time.

Concern for the Poor and Hispanics
John, coordinator of the southern MOW team, said the team has a particular interest in poor parishes and in bilingual churches.

“About one-third of the missions we give are in small, poor, rural parishes. We know that we will not cover our expenses in preaching a mission in such a parish. But we never turn anyone down. The donations we get from the large, affluent parishes more than make up for the poorer parishes. Besides that, there’s usually more excitement in preaching a mission in the poor parishes. We often get more than 50 percent of the Sunday Mass attendance. That’s fantastic, when compared to the much smaller percentage of attendance we get from the big parishes.”

Bilingual parishes are challenging, said John. “The parish usually has separate Masses and other events for the Hispanics and the Anglos. In our missions, we make a real attempt to bring the two groups together. We split the groups and preach for about an hour, one group in Spanish and one in English, but then we bring both groups together for about 15 to 20 minutes. It allows the Spanish-speaking parishioners to have equal representation and the English-speaking members to see the Hispanics as an essential part of the parish.” 

However, the challenges are outweighed by the rewards. “There is a real social action dimension taking place there,” John added. “On the one hand, we do challenge the Hispanics not to isolate themselves, but to actively involve themselves in the total parish. On the other hand, we get some people who resent the Hispanics. For example, one woman came up to me and said, ‘Father, you know a lot of these people are illegals.’ I simply replied that they were not illegal Catholics, and that’s all that counts.”

Whether they are online or in person, speaking in English or other languages, the friars of the Province’s Ministry of the WOrd are communicating their message.

Left to right in the photo above are Martin Bednar, Roderic Petrie and John Anglin.

— Fr. Roy, a staff member at St. Anthony Friary in St. Petersburg, is the founder of HNP’s Communications Office. Information from and about members of the Ministry of the Word in other states is welcomed by the HNP Communications Office.