On nearly a dozen-and-a-half weekends of the year, John Anglin, OFM, who recently turned 78 years old and lives in retirement at St. Anthony Friary in St. Petersburg, Florida, travels around the country. But these trips are hardly weekend getaways, as John explains in the latest installment of the video series, Aging with Grace.
“I have to say… I feel blessed at my age to be doing what I am doing, and to be reasonably healthy. In my senior retirement time, I’m quite busy!” John says in the opening of the July 2023 release https://youtu.be/iFRaGdJsupQ of the monthly video series produced by HNP’s Sick, Aged and Retired Directorate.
“One of the big things that I do 15 or 16 weekends a year, I travel to different parts of the country to preach on behalf of an organization called Unbound. It’s a lay-run and lay-founded organization… a highly-regarded charity that needs priests like me to go around the country and preach for them. Almost 93% of the money they raise goes to program support; they sponsor needy children and adults,” he explains in the opening of his narrative, Aging with Grace, A Moment With… John Anglin.
“I was inspired to do this because I was at a conference in Chicago a few years ago, and [Unbound representatives] were recruiting preachers. It rang a bell with me right away because of my years in Bolivia, [where] I had seen much poverty, and recognized this as a program that was doing something concrete to make a difference [in lives],” John continues in the video, which was recorded at St. Anthony Friary.
Unbound is an international nonprofit based in Kansas City, Kansas, grounded in the Gospel call of responding to the needs of the marginalized and vulnerable. Through one-on-one financial sponsorships, supporters help children, young adults, elders and their families in Africa, Asia and Latin America create paths out of poverty.
Traveling around the country to preach for the Unbound sponsorship program was right in John’s wheelhouse. For three decades, he was a member of the Province’s Ministry of the Word team, serving as an itinerant preacher, giving retreats and missions at more than 400 parishes throughout the United States and Canada. It led him to write a blog, The Wandering Friar, which also was the title of his book (Lantern Publishing Media) in which he shared stories of everyday people he met in his travels.
John, who joined the Franciscans in 1964 and was ordained in 1971, has lived a rich and fulfilling life in ministries that have included education, parish, formation, and mission service. He was a high school teacher, a formation director for young friars, and a missionary in Bolivia. Now, he’s enjoying “retirement” life in St. Petersburg, as he reflects in the video.
“I am very happy being here [at St. Anthony Friary]. I’ve been here for the last 17 years – most of those years [of course], I was not yet retired. I find this to be a very caring and supportive community. We’re all older – and people do get sick, they get ill. But here, it’s just a great spirit of helping each other out in whatever way it needs to be,” says John.
“It’s also a community that is active in ministry – even though [most of us] are retired! There is a good number of friars, including myself, who help out with Masses at local parishes. I do that in addition to my work with Unbound. Of course, we have a few men who are just not able to do any kind of active ministry anymore. But we all support each other and we enjoy being here,” John continues in the video.
“I am grateful to the Province. After almost 60 years as a friar, and over 50 years as an ordained priest, I have been blessed to be in different ministries and different communities. I can’t say that every day has been a bed of roses, but I can say I have no major regrets after all this time,” the septuagenarian says.
John concludes his narrative with some straightforward advice for friars approaching retirement age.
“When I was 65 or so, I looked at the fact that I [was] getting older. And I thought what my hopes would be as I grow older – facing limitations without giving up altogether, letting go emotionally and also materially what isn’t necessary anymore. So, I would recommend that friars sit down and make a life plan for themselves, but not something cast in stone, knowing that circumstances of life could change it – in my case, the pandemic,” says John.
“I never had COVID, but the pandemic certainly changed where things were going for me. At least have an idea, rather than all of a sudden finding yourself someplace and saying, what am I going to do now? Maybe sit down with someone you trust, and talk to them and work out a life plan for yourself,” he adds.
The SAR Directorate series highlights elder friars in short videos, anywhere from two to five minutes, during which they share their wisdom and personal stories and experiences about Franciscan life, vocation, ministry, and retirement. Matthew Pravetz, OFM, chair of the SAR Directorate, is producer of the video series, with Joe Juracek, OFM, serving as videographer, and Kevin McGoff, OFM, serving as videographer and editor.