Province Honors 15 Friars at Jubilee Celebration in Manhattan

Jocelyn Thomas In the Headlines

NEW YORK — Holy Name’s friars marking silver and golden jubilees of profession of vows in the Franciscan Order this year celebrated the occasion with a Mass and dinner on June 21 at the Church of St. Francis of Assisi on West 31st Street.

The evening brought together friends, relatives, colleagues and friars from throughout the United States and abroad to commemorate 15 friars marking 50 and 25 years of religious lives who, as Provincial Minister John O’Connor said in his homily, represent a variety of backgrounds.

“They are educators, artists, pastors, councilors, missionaries, a university president and they have ministered to many people all over the world for many years,” John said.  “The friars we honor have shown compassion in their service, and humility in their ministry and leadership.”

John told the congregation that when they professed their vows, the friars had made a commitment based on four Franciscan characteristics – gentleness, humility, evaluation and compassion. The best ministers, he said, are wounded healers.” John reminded the large, diverse group in the pews that “to deal with the big picture is to deal with the little pictures, or small things in life. Little steps and little gestures are the way to make big changes.”

John thanked the friars and said, “May God continue to bless you with his many blessings.” He congratulated the men who were then greeted with enthusiastic applause.

Assisting at the Mass, which included a renewal of vows by members of the jubilee classes of 1957 and 1982, were Provincial Vicar Dominic Monti and Jerome Massimino, pastor of St. Francis Church. Paul Santoro, Christopher Coccia, and Linda Bethel gave readings.

The celebration was a collaborative event. Timothy Shreenan, St. Francis’ director of liturgy and communications, prepared the program; Michael Harlan, secretary of the Province, developed the invitation; and the Province’s Office of Communications designed it.

“We tried to involve all the jubilarians in some aspect of the Mass, including serving as ministers of the Eucharist,” Timothy said.

Music at the special Mass was prepared by the Church of St. Francis Music Ministry under the direction of Gwendolyn Toth, who played the organ. Nell Snaidas served as cantor, while James Miller played cornetto and trumpet.

The friars who were commemorated for 50 years of service were:

Romuald Chintsky of Loudonville, N.Y.
Christopher Coccia of St. Petersburg, Fla.
Cornelius Conti of St Petersburg, Fla.
Vincent DePaul Cushing of Silver Spring, Md.
Mathias Doyle of Boston, Mass., who recently served as a delegate general in India
Justus Fazier of Boston
Vincent Grogan of Butler, N.J.
Leonard Lencewicz of Tampa, Fla.
Thomas McGowan of Boston
Bernard Splawski of Margate, N.J.
Valerian Vaverchak of St. Petersburg
Stanislaus Widomski of Japan

Friars commemorated for 25 years were:
David Haack of Allegany, N.Y.
Paul Santoro of Boston
Allen Weber of Allegany, N.Y.

Twelve of the friars being honored sat at the altar during Mass under The Great Mosaic, a historic piece of art that shows members of the Franciscan Order honoring the Blessed Mother under the title of Queen of the Order of Friars Minor.

The support of the friars for their brothers was evident during the event; a festive feeling was in the air.

Approximately 150 people gathered after the Mass for a celebration in the recently-opened friary on West 31st Street. A preprandium was held on both an outdoor patio and in the community room, but dinner was moved inside when a sudden storm hit. Though the event organizers had planned for an al fresco meal, they made efficient last-minute adjustments to seat people inside.

The dinner was served by friars and staff members of the church. Attendees spread out over all areas of the room; the entry way, bar, library, dining room all became venues for conversation and celebration.

Guests admired the furnishings that were carefully selected and arranged by the friars to accommodate both their daily life as well as large events such as this one.   This was the first provincial event held in the new St. Francis of Assisi friary.

“We had not had a provincial celebration of jubilees in New York for many years,“ Timothy said. “I’m so glad that we survived the rain that night.”

The next major provincial event planned for the church is the solemn profession of vows on Sept. 15 in which five friars will be professed.

—  Jocelyn Thomas is the Province’s director of communications.