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Profile: Anthony LoGalbo Marks 50 Years as a Friar

This is the third in a series of profiles of friars commemorating their anniversaries of profession this year. The 2017 silver and golden jubilarians will be honored in June at a Provincial Mass. The previous newsletter issue featured Eric Carpine, OFM

BOSTON, Mass. – Landing roles in theatrical productions at the Olean Community Theatre in Western New York when he was assigned to St. Bonaventure University, is as close as Anthony LoGalbo, OFM, got to the bright lights of Broadway. As far as he’s concerned, it was close enough.

It was a great way to break the routine, exercise his vocal chords (he’s known to break into song at the drop of a line), and touch the broader community with the Franciscan spirit.

Although lauded for his performances in shows such as “42nd Street,” “Hello, Dolly,” and “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum,” Anthony’s life has been anything but scripted.

Theater wasn’t even on the radar while he was growing up in Buffalo, N.Y. In fact, Anthony — who is usually called Tony — seemed more likely to become a third-generation LoGalbo to inherit the family’s butcher and Italian specialty shop, just as his father did from his father. Although he worked there on weekends, Tony’s parents had other plans for him and his sister.

“The family business wasn’t an option. They wanted us to pursue our own interests,” said Tony, who is celebrating 50 years as a professed Franciscan friar this year, and since 2015 has been stationed at St. Anthony Shrine in Boston.

He was raised in a family that wasn’t particularly pious but attended Mass every Sunday. He went to Catholic grade school at St. Teresa’s in south Buffalo and to Bishop Timon High School, which was operated and staffed by Franciscan friars.

By junior year, the Franciscan influence had him contemplating religious life. But two close friends from the neighborhood had as much to do with his discernment as the friars themselves.

“The three of us were inseparable. We’d sit around talking about our faith and religious vocation whenever we were together,” Tony recalled, noting that one became a diocesan priest in Johnstown, Pa., and the other a member of the Franciscan Friars Third Order Regular in Loretto, Pa.

“We inspired and encouraged each other,” he said. “We all made it, but we just took different routes to get here.”

Formation and Ministries
Tony entered the two-year, pre-novitiate program for Franciscan lay brother candidates in Croghan, N.Y., in 1964. Two years later, he was received into the Franciscan Order at St. Raphael’s Novitiate in Lafayette, N.J., where he received his habit. He made his first profession there in 1967.

Tony lived at St. Francis College in Rye Beach, N.H., while attending Merrimack College in Andover, Mass., graduating in 1971 with a bachelor’s degree in English – the same year he made his solemn profession at his hometown Buffalo parish.

He moved to the Franciscan parish of St. Elizabeth of Hungary in Denver, Colo., where he taught religious education while also attending the University of Denver, graduating in 1972 with a master’s degree in library science.

Assigned to Holy Name College in Washington, D.C., from 1972 to 1983, Tony served as librarian and later as a member of the formation team for the simply professed friars. During this time, he also attended Creighton University in Omaha, Neb., where he obtained a master’s degree in Christian spirituality.

Tony then volunteered for the Province’s mission in Brazil, serving in the towns of Porangatu and Pires do Rio. In addition to parish work, he used his experience to conduct retreats for young Brazilian men in formation.

After three years in Brazil, Tony returned to the States in 1986 to be closer to his ailing mother and was assigned to St. Anthony Shrine, where he helped to establish a satellite office of the HNP Franciscan Missionary Union to raise funds to support mission projects and the work of friars.

Anthony celebrates his birthday in Porangatu, Brazil, in 1985 (left) and standing on the  steps of Friedsam Memorial Library at St. Bonaventure University in 1992 (Photo courtesy of Anthony)

In 1988, Tony began a 19-year ministry at St. Bonaventure University where he was appointed librarian of the Franciscan Institute – an education, publishing and research center of the Franciscan Order that also houses the most extraordinary collection of Franciscan materials in North America, ranging from medieval manuscripts, scholarly works and foreign language collections.

Tony, who helped to establish a Franciscan library at the cooperative Franciscan theology school in Nairobi, Kenya, by sending duplicate books and written treasures to his counterparts in Africa, also taught Institute-sponsored courses in Franciscan medieval studies and spirituality at St. Bonaventure.

HIV/AIDS Task Force
After the passing of the Ryan White Comprehensive AIDS Resources Emergency Act – named in tribute to the Indiana teenager who contracted the disease through a tainted hemophilia treatment – Tony saw an opportunity to provide care, treatment and education to HIV-stricken individuals in Cattaraugus County, N.Y. In conjunction with the local health care and social services community, he helped establish an HIV task force that would enable the county to secure funds for this purpose.

“The Ryan White law made funding available to counties across the state, which was especially significant to economically depressed, rural areas like Cattaraugus – which couldn’t address the HIV/AIDS epidemic because urban areas got the financial attention,” Tony explained.

During his time at St. Bonaventure, he took a sabbatical, studying at the Franciscan International Study Centre in Canterbury, England.

In 2007, Tony was assigned to St. Francis of Assisi Parish in New York City to serve as director of the Center for Franciscan Spirituality and Spiritual Direction. Along with three other friars and a nun, he provided spirituality workshops for religious orders and also taught a course in spirituality for adult laity.

“Spiritual formation for laity has been a primary focus of my ministry,” Tony said. “It’s a challenge to incorporate Gospel values into our own lives – how do we deal with secularism and materialism, war and peace, and poverty and other issues?”

He believes one of the most unique aspects of Holy Name Province is that “it truly embraces the laity as partners in ministry. The Franciscans have recognized this untapped resource, identifying laypeople whose talents and input help in our ministry as friars.”

Franciscan Legacy
In 2011, he went to Holy Name College in Silver Spring, Md., for a repeat assignment, serving in several positions (assistant director, guardian and director of post-novitiate formation) over a more than four-year period.

“Working with candidates in formation has kept my vocation in the forefront because it guarantees the continuity of the Franciscan legacy to the next generation. Having mentors was important to my formation because I learned from their experience and saw their happiness in being friars,” said the golden jubilarian.

Tony remembers friars who were his inspiration, among them the late Giles Bello, OFM, guardian of the pre-novitiate house and director of the brothers’ formation program, and Maurice Swartout, OFM, assistant director of the formation program, who helped in his formation. He also mentions Russell Becker, OFM, who is celebrating 50 years of profession and was a classmate at Bishop Timon High School.

In his current ministry at the church on Arch Street, Tony works with a men’s spirituality group, teaches adult formation religious education classes, staffs the front desk and serves as one of the friary’s unofficial mail clerks.

Despite a full schedule, he still finds time to listen to his impressive collection of soundtracks from Broadway musicals, going to the movies, reading and taking long walks.

For Tony, one of the most unique aspects of being a Franciscan friar is its simplicity. “That’s what struck me about the friars when I was in high school. They were very down to earth, very generous with their time and support, and always ready to help and provide direction to students, families and one another” – which seems to describe how Tony has modeled his life as a friar for the past five decades.

–   Stephen Mangione is a longtime writer and public relations executive living in Westchester County, N.Y.

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