NEW YORK — Seven friars marking their 25th and 50th anniversaries of profession this year were honored last week at the Province’s annual jubilee Mass. The men, who traveled to New York City from various states along the East Coast to celebrate their Franciscan heritage, were praised by Provincial Minister Kevin Mullen, OFM. He celebrated the Nov. 12 Mass at St. Francis of Assisi Church on West 31st Street before the jubilarians and other friars, friends and family.
“We celebrate and give thanks for our brothers who have lived the Franciscan life for 25 and 50 years,” said Kevin. “They have learned and we have learned from them. Our response should be gratitude to God that they have had the willingness to serve.
“This celebration is a time to pause and look back, but most importantly, it’s a time to begin again,” he continued “I’d like to suggest that the departure point is the same place as 25 and 50 years ago – the willingness to live the Rule of St. Francis. The Rule is to live the Gospel; that’s what they pledged years ago, and that’s what these men will continue to do.”
Experience and Wisdom
Kevin’s word’s emphasized the importance of hands-on ministry, a theme repeated by Pope Francis during his homilies.
“St. Francis called the Rule a holy activity, not just words on a page,” he explained. “It’s meant to be lived and shared with the Rule. This holy activity has been manifested in your (the jubilarians’) lives. Holy activity is the work of the Holy Father. It is important to live the Gospel and to know Christ. Continue to let your lives speak the word of God.”
In his homily, Kevin focused on the importance of experience. “The culture in which we live puts emphasis on youth. We’re continually challenged with the idea that new is better. We want to always be on the cutting edge. However, we know that experience is a practical wisdom. It is experience in life that gives one confidence.”
The jubilarians renewed their vows, together reciting the prayer:
Today, we your sons
renew and re-dedicate ourselves
to the call you have given us.
We renew our profession of the Rule of our father Francis
and we ask your help
to continue to live the life of the Gospel with obedience to your Spirit and your Church,
with poverty that imitates the life of your son and his holy mother
and with chastity that frees us
to love you and your people
with unmeasured love.
The friars marking 50 years since their first profession were John Anglin, OFM, of St. Petersburg, Fla., a member of the Province’s Franciscan Ministry of the Word; Brice Leavins, OFM, administrator of Our Lady of Lourdes Parish in Providence, R.I.; and Richard Mucowski, OFM, pastor of Assumption Parish in Wood-Ridge, N.J.
The friars marking 25 years were Thomas Conway, OFM, director of St. Anthony Shrine in Boston; Francis Kim, OFM, a native of South Korea who operates a farm in western New Jersey; Patrick Tuttle, OFM, pastor of St. Anthony of Padua Church in Greenville, S.C.; and Jud Weiksnar, OFM, guardian of St. Patrick’s Friary in Buffalo.
After the Wednesday evening festivities, the honorees expressed their gratitude for the jubilee celebration.
“It was great to be with the other jubilarians, and it was very impressive how well prepared the liturgy was, including Fr. Kevin’s homily, and how nice the reception was afterwards,” said Jud. “My guests from Camden loved it, and so did I.”
Patrick said, “The highlight for me was singing ‘Leaning on the Everlasting Arm’ after Provincial Kevin Mullen encouraged us to not rest on our accomplishments, but rather, to begin again. I will have to rely on the everlasting arm of Jesus to greet the future. Priestly ministry is a growing challenge as our Catholic numbers in the South grow so substantially.
“The 4 a.m. wake-up was well worth the effort, as I later was able to watch the eyebrows of parish administrator Mary Corner rise to try to see skyscrapers, fancy lights and storefronts readied for Christmas,” Patrick added. “What a gift we received with accommodations and food and Franciscan family. We arrived Wednesday and left Friday, having seen 15 New York City attractions.”
He continued, “It was a special joy also to catch up with Richard Birchard who seriously considered joining the friars with me while at Siena College,” said Patrick. “As we talked, he shared that he has a son now graduated from Cornell University. I tried not to feel old.”
“It was great to celebrate the milestone with the friars, my family, my friends and some former classmates,” said Brice, adding that health issues prevent him from frequent travel. “When I would see ‘JO’ — signifying 50 years simply professed — after a name in the Provincial directory, I thought they were old. Now, I know so,” he said with a smile.
Kevin thanked the many people at St. Francis Parish who organized and were part of the special Mass, mentioning the music ministry and the ushers. Before concluding Mass, he acknowledged the jubilarians. “Thank you for what you do for the Province and for the Order.”
After the liturgy, friars gathered with friends and relatives at a reception in the Province’s nearby San Damiano Hall.
Photos taken at the 2014 jubilee Mass can be found on the Facebook page of St. Anthony’s Guild.
— Jocelyn Thomas is director of communications for Holy Name Province.