Joe Juracek filming Emmet Murphy for a future episode of “A Moment with…” (Photo courtesy of Paul Chelus)

New Video Series Showcases Aging with Grace

Jocelyn Thomas Friar News, Home Page – News

A video series featuring the Province’s senior friars is making its debut this summer. Produced by the HNP Sick, Aged and Retired Directorate, the series – called “A Moment with…” – is designed to introduce younger friars to senior friars they may not have met, and to give the subjects of the videos the opportunity to share how they are aging with grace.

Each presentation is planned to be informal and short – two to five minutes in length.

The first video features Thomas Hartle, OFM, a resident of St. Anthony Friary in Butler, New Jersey, who joined the Franciscans in 1975. In addition to serving as the assistant for the Poor Clare Nuns of Holy Name Federation, a role he has held since 1989, Tom conducts pilgrimages to Italy and leads retreats and days of recollection on Franciscan themes.

In the video, Tom, a native of western Pennsylvania, gives a lively synopsis of his life and attitude – noting that his friar life has provided lots of laughter, joy, and good times.

“The Franciscan journey is an adventure in love,” says Tom, who served for nine years as pastor of St. Anthony of Padua Parish in Butler, adjacent to the friary where he currently lives. “My life could not have been any happier. As I look to the future, I am hopeful.”

The concept for the video series was the creation of David Convertino, OFM, the directorate’s liaison to the Provincial Council.

“The videos produced in the HNP Development Office appeal to viewers everywhere, so I felt offering videos about friars for friars would be effective in bringing their life and vocation stories to our communities,” said David.  “I think everyone will enjoy seeing the friars of other generations relate their Franciscan stories and I know they will be inspired by these great men who have contributed so much to our Province.”

It was during conversations at directorate meetings that the idea for recording and launching this video series arose, said Matthew Pravetz, OFM, chair of the SAR Directorate who has lived in Butler since last fall as the parochial vicar of St. Anthony Parish.

Several members of the SAR Directorate – including Joe Juracek, OFM, who does the videotaping, and Kevin McGoff, OFM, who edits the recordings – are producing the series they have nicknamed “friar vignettes.”

“Some of the reflections may be humorous, others sobering, but they all will be valuable to the rest of us in some way. We may even experience a bit of envy when we see how gracefully our senior friars are aging,” said Kevin.

“The collected wisdom and experience of our senior friars is astounding,” he added. “The video presentations give the rest of us an appreciation of those men who have lived and served the Franciscan dream for many years.”

At most of its meetings, the SAR Directorate devotes a portion of the time to a casual presentation by a senior friar who describes his life and shares recollections in a segment called “Aging in Place with Grace.”

“These senior friars’ discussions are helpful. They tell us how their lives are and we are often encouraged. ‘Aging in Place with Grace’ has been a wonderful vehicle for sharing,” said Matthew. “Though these friars are with us for only a few minutes, their input is very valuable. The goal of these sessions and of the videos is to look back. We have seen many videos of younger friars. Now it is time to capture the ideas of seasoned friars.”

“They’re a wonderful way of introducing older friars to younger friars,” said Tom. “These days, because the formation students are in Maryland, Chicago, and California, we don’t have much contact with younger friars. It’s hard for us to meet them and vice versa. This distance was accentuated by the pandemic.”

Directorate members envision the videos, which will be posted on the “SARHNP YouTube channel,” being used in a variety of ways – individually and in group settings, either casual or formal. They recommend the videos be used at house chapters, community prayer, and personal prayer. The videos can also be shown to groups outside of Holy Name Province.

“These videos will be a good way to reach out to friars of other provinces,” said Tom. “They will help members of the other five provinces – with which Holy Name is working toward a singular province – to get to know us.”

“The house chapter idea is meant to be simple and very flexible. Any number of scenarios are possible given the friars’ penchant for creativity,” said Kevin. “I think that local friar communities will end up deciding for themselves how to best watch the videos.”

Kevin, who noted that Joe has a keen eye for which friars will work well in the video presentations, said members of the directorate collaborate on potential candidates before proceeding with production.

“I think that any friar who can speak clearly and has some interesting thoughts – especially if he fits the  description of ‘senior’ – is a candidate for this video series. Although our first few subjects were from St. Anthony Friary in Butler, we plan to broaden the circle in the coming months,” said Kevin. “All of our subjects have been enthusiastic and very cooperative and willing participants. We are grateful to them.”

Matthew said that the wisdom of the older friars penetrates the viewing screen.

“Besides diminishing cases of the common cold and seasonal flu, COVID-19 precautions seemed to have helped camera-shyness. As a result, the enthusiasm of the participating older friars in this vignette project is a breath of fresh air,” said Matthew. “You have no idea how energized the friars are when asked to participate. They feel important because they are important. They feel good about doing this.”

The directorate team is planning to release one video every month, with the geography of the featured friars expanded as the project progresses.

“We are going to go to some of the long-term care facilities,” said Kevin, noting that videos of a few friars have already been produced.

The friars involved in the production process of the senior friar video project have assorted talents and experiences. Joe is pastor of St. Anthony Parish, Kevin has spent many years involved with music, and Matthew is a clinician who retired last year after spending 40 years teaching at New York Medical College in Valhalla, New York.

Joe said he has found the experience of videotaping the vignettes extremely gratifying.

“I am moved by the friars’ reactions to being asked, and by the thoughtful insights that are shared. After each recording, I feel like we had a moment together that is touching and real,” said Joe.

The SAR Directorate, which includes another subcommittee of clinicians, guardians, and nurses who discuss health situations of specific friars, will next meet at the end of the summer.

Jocelyn Thomas is director of communications for Holy Name Province.

Editor’s note: In 2017, a video series called “A Friar Life”  was produced by Casey Cole, OFM.