Provincial Leaders Visit German Friars

Jocelyn Thomas In the Headlines

FULDA, Germany — Provincial Minister John O’Connor, OFM, and Dominic Monti, OFM, Provincial Vicar, represented Holy Name Province last week at the closing ceremonies of the nearly 500-year-old province of St. Elizabeth of Thuringia in central Germany.

They extended greetings and best wishes from the friars of Holy Name Province and “expressed appreciation for what the Fulda province had done by sending so many exemplary friars in mission to the United States to help establish our Province,” said John.

John and Dominic had met Fr. Hadrian Koch, OFM, provincial minister of St. Elizabeth Province, when he came to the United States in fall 2008 for a joint meeting of the English-speaking Conference with the members of COTAF — Conference of Tran-Alpine Franciscans — to which the Fulda Province belongs. 

Fr. Hadrian — accompanied by Fr. Markus Laibach, OFM, secretary of COTAF — spent several days at St. Francis Friary in New York; Dominic and the late John Piccione, OFM, also took the German friars to visit a number of other houses of the Province. At that time, Fr. Hadrian informed John and Dominic about the closing Chapter of Mats and invited them to attend. 

After arriving in Frankfurt on the morning of April 8, John and Dominic went to the Franciscan retreat house at Hofheim, outside Frankfurt, to join the closing ceremonies of the Chapter of Mats of the Franciscan Province of St. Elizabeth of Thuringia, concluding its illustrious history.

The afternoon was devoted to celebrating their history with a slide show of important moments. The province, comprised of roughly 95 friars, was founded in 1523 and, as of July 1, will join with the other three OFM provinces in Germany to form one new province of approximately 380. 

Celebration of History and Contributions 
John greeted the chapter on behalf of friars of Holy Name Province, and Dominic then made a brief historical presentation, thanking the friars of the Fulda province for their “great contribution” to Holy Name Province. Roughly 90 friars of the Province of St Elizabeth died as members of HNP — 65 who were among the founding members of Holy Name Province in 1901 and later approximately 25 skilled lay brothers who were recruited between 1920 and 1935 to work in the United States, said Dominic. The last of the Fulda friars, Agapitus Rothmann, OFM, died in 2001.

Fr. Hadrian celebrated a Transitus service to thank God for the province’s history and to ask God’s blessings on the future of the new province.

The service was very moving, said John, adding: “The provincial spoke words of gratitude and challenge to his friars as they move forward to join as one with the other three provinces of Germany. At the end of the service, the provincial vicar, Fr. Cornelius Bohl, OFM, gave a beautiful tribute to Fr. Hadrian’s leadership on behalf of the entire province.” The day ended with a festive meal, attended by several of the friars’ partners-in-ministry. “All in all,” John said, “it was a great day.”

GermanyVisits to Ministries and Cultural Sites
On Friday, after the closing Mass, Fr. Hadrian and Fr. Markus — who is also guardian of the Hofheim house — took John and Dominic on a tour of some of the province’s ministries, as well as sites connected with the life of St. Elizabeth, patroness of the province.

“We traveled up the Rhine Valley to a pilgrimage shrine at Marienthal, which the friars staff,” said Dominic. “We then went to see the striking Romanesque cathedral in Limburg before heading to the province’s motherhouse in Fulda. ” Fulda is the largest community in the province, with approximately 25 friars, about half of whom are in the infirmary there.

On Saturday, Fr. Hadrian and Fr. Markus took John and Dominic to the city of Eisenach, in the former East Germany, to visit the Wartburg, a castle that was home to St. Elizabeth for most of her life. “On the way back, we stopped to see Point Alpha, a critical spot where American and East German troops faced off during the Cold War, until the fall of communism in 1989,” Dominic said.

On Sunday, John and Dominic joined Fr. Hadrian in celebrating the 9 a.m. Mass at the monastery church in Fulda, and then went on to the historic city of Marburg, where St. Elizabeth spent her last years serving in the hospital she founded, and where she was buried. Afterwards, John and Dominic arrived at Grosskrotzenburg, not far from Frankfurt, where the friars conduct a combination middle and high school for over 1,300 students.

“Our visit was a wonderful opportunity to deepen fraternal relations, and also to appreciate the many ways in which the Fulda province has contributed to the life of Holy Name Province. Experiencing their strong fraternal life is to understand better the traditions which have shaped Holy Name Province so deeply,” said Dominic.

On Monday, John went on to Ireland where he is currently participating in the spring meeting of the English-speaking Conference; before Dominic returned to New York, the two German friars took him to visit the historic city of Bamberg in Bavaria, the region where his German grandmother’s family lived. There they stayed overnight at the famous shrine of the “Fourteen Holy Helpers,” staffed by the friars of the Bavarian province.

— Jocelyn Thomas is director of communications for Holy Name Province.