Province Celebrates the Life and Ministry of St. Francis of Assisi

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October is always an especially poignant month in the Province, a time when we stop to reflect on – and honor – St. Francis of Assisi.

Commemorations of the saint by the Province’s churches and ministries included everything from Blessings of the Animals to Transitus services to Francis festivals.  Here are a few examples of some of the ways in which we celebrated.

St. Francis, Triangle, Va.

Horses from the nearby Quantico Marine base were a welcomed addition to the church’s Blessing of the Animals.

In addition, Claire Hoagland, SFO, coordinator of Volunteer Ministry, said the Transitus service “was absolutely beautiful,” attended by parishioners, Secular Franciscans and friends from the fraternity in Fredericksburg. Also attending, according to Hoagland, were Franciscan friars and Dominican sisters who recently moved into the area to staff the yet-to-be-named new Catholic high school. Frank McHugh, OFM, planned and presided at the Transitus, with Judi Ryerse, SFO, as narrator.

On Oct. 4, the church held a Mass in the Park at the Locust Shade Park Amphitheater, and celebrations of the Feast of St. Francis were part of all weekend Masses. On Oct. 7, Christopher VanHaight, OFM, discussed, “The Human St. Francis.”

St. Anthony Shrine, Boston
In addition to the usual activities, as a special gift to friars for Francis Week, benefactors Terry and Sherry Kirkman, assisted by Diane and Charley Monaghan and Debbie and Jim Foster, treated them to a two-hour cruise aboard their boat.

On Oct. 1, a mini-bus met the friars in front of the Shrine and drove them to the waterfront. After everyone was on board, the boat set sail, with friars being treated to appetizers, a surf-and-turf dinner, and desserts. Before the main course, David Convertino, OFM, invited everyone to the top deck for a blessing for the Fosters, who celebrated their 30th wedding anniversary.

St. Joseph, East Rutherford, N.J.
The parish approached its Transitus service as a drama, with parishioners playing the parts, according to Jeremiah McGinley, OFM, who attended the St. Joseph service. “It seems peculiar that we Franciscans commemorate the passing (Transitus) of Francis from this life to eternity with Jesus Christ,” he said. “We celebrate it with imaginative creativity. Francis was the first who really gave true meaning to the cliché ‘He loved life.’ But he also knew that the only way he would be in the company of the God he saw reflected in this life was through the mysterious thing called death.”

As the service began, members of various parish societies entered the church in procession, accompanied by an excellent choir. The first to ascend the podium was Lady Pica (Francis’ mother). She gave a motherly reflection on Francis. Next, Lady Jacoba spoke of her visit to Francis in her need. Then came Clare, sharing her recollection of Francis, and then Br. Leo. The drama was enhanced by the choir, which sang as a responsorial “we remember…” in between each speaker’s reflection. Joseph Juracek, OFM, read the Gospel and gave a brief homily, in which he compared Francis to Jesus. Francis brought Jesus to his society, as Jesus brought the love of his father to his time, he said.

At the end, the congregation placed candles before a Francis statue, while “Canticle of the Sun” was sung. Also attending were: Joseph Hertel, OFM; Ray Selker, OFM; Brian Cullinane, OFM; Thomas Kelly, OFM; Paul Sinnema, OFM; Patrick Kelly, OFM; Jeremiah McGinley, OFM; Cassian Miles, OFM; and Octavio Duran, OFM.

St. Francis of Assisi, Manhattan
Several events were held at the Province’s West 31st Street church.  On Wednesday evening, the Transitus was observed.  It was a commemoration that  Timothy Shreenan, OFM, said was described by many friars as “the most beautiful ever held here.”  Among the participants and the assembly were a variety of groups including secular Franciscans from the parish’s fraternities, friars and parishioners of Holy Name Church on  96th Street, and pastors of churches on Manhattan’s West side.  The homily was preached by Stephen Mimnaugh, OFM, who spoke about “What Makes Us, as Franciscans, Different.”

The Feast of St. Francis was commemorated at a 5:30 Mass at which Jerome Massimino, OFM, was principal celebrant.  Daniel Kenna, OFM, of Holy Name Church on West 96th Street, gave the homily.   Friars from both Holy Name and All Saints Churches on East 129th Street attended both the Mass and a dinner that followed.

Immaculate Conception Church, Durham, N.C.

On Oct. 4, the parish community hosted an ecumenical prayer vigil for peace in the Middle East.  In addition to prayer, the vigil provided a forum for a reflection on economic, social, and political factors that had been a catalyst for violence in the Holy Land, a reflection on the U.S. policy in the region, and our own Franciscan involvement in the Holy Land, according to Jacek Orzechowski, OFM.   “The participants from our parish were happy to be able to do that in the context of our Provincial pre-emptive peacemaking proposal and the feast of St. Francis, “ Jacek said.

Local news coverage  of the  prayer vigil can be found on this link

Jacek also reports that a new ministry group called “Bridges of Hope” was formed a few months ago at Immaculate Conception Church.  Its main purpose is to reach out in solidarity to the Christians in the Holy Land through specific initiatives carried out in collaboration with the Holy Land Christian Ecumenical Foundation.

St. Bonaventure University, Allegany, N.Y.
Michael Calabria, OFM, blessed folks attending the Transitus service at St. Bonaventure University. Other celebrations included a Feast of St. Francis Mass on Oct. 4 with Peter Schneible, OFM, as the celebrant.

Siena College, Loudonville, N.Y.
A blessing of animals  was held during the college’s family weekend  Sept. 28 – 30. In photo, William Beaudin, OFM, is shown with the llama belonging to a student’s family.  On Oct. 4, fireworks lit the sky above the campus.