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Sheltering Fire Victims and Other ESC News

During the Christmas season, San Damiano Retreat in northern California hosted people who were displaced by the Camp Fire.

The following descriptions summarize news from the English-speaking Conference of the Order of Friars Minor, comprising provinces and custodies from Canada, England, Ireland, Lithuania, Malta, and the United States. Follow the ESC on Facebook  for up-to-date information throughout the month. The November ESC round-up  featured the priestly ordination of two Sacred Heart Province members.

► St. Barbara Province’s San Damiano Retreat in Danville, Calif., provided shelter during Christmas week to victims of the Camp Fire in northern California, which burned for nearly three weeks in November 2018. The services and guest reactions were prominently featured in media reports, among them ABC News.  A comment on the San Damiano Retreat Facebook page captured the overall sentiment of guests. It said, “Good people make San Damiano a good place and the idea that all are welcome makes it inclusive to all. Francis would be proud.”

► The work that the friars of St. John the Baptist Province are doing in Detroit, Mich., was described in an article titled “The Friars Next Door,” published on the Franciscan Media website. Last month, News Notes, the newsletter of St. John the Baptist, featured the impact being made by St. Anthony Center in Cincinnati. In its Dec. 11 issue, Fr. Mark Soehner, OFM, provincial minister, said, “In Over-the-Rhine (a neighborhood in downtown Cincinnati), we see the Good News in action every day – a stone’s throw from our own Franciscan Motherhouse.” With several diverse social service agencies offering help for the body and spirit, the newsletter article cites impressive statistics about the number of people reached by this ministry in its first year of operation, including 67,484 meals served and 716,355 diapers distributed for 1,700 infants and babies.

The 88-year-old St Francis Friary in Burlington, Wis.,  has been closed.

► This past fall, the Assumption BVM Province administration made the decision to close St. Francis Friary in Burlington, Wisc. Originally opened in 1931 as a residence and college for friars of Assumption Province, the building was designed after the Spanish missions of California with its distinct yellow bricks and red-tiled roof. An addition was constructed on the south side of the building in the early 1950s to accommodate a large increase in vocations, allowing for more living space as well as gathering rooms, a new library, and science labs. Since its discontinued use as a friary and college, it served as a retreat center, housing for victims of Hurricane Katrina in 2005, and as the interprovincial novitiate from 2011 to 2017. Future plans for the friary and its entire parcel of property are being discussed, according to Fr. James Gannon, OFM, provincial minister. Since 1993, friars of Assumption Province have been living in a building adjacent to St. Francis Friary. The province is now publicizing the fundraising efforts for Queen of Peace Friary, a retirement home in Burlington that was built 25 years ago. According to a recent post on their Facebook page, Assumption Province said, “We are raising money to remodel the showers and make them barrier free. By doing this, we will make them safer and hazardous-free for the senior priests and brothers. Your generosity and contributions would be much appreciated.

► Immaculate Conception Province reported in its December newsletter that the site of its former parish on 151st Street in the Bronx, N.Y., Our Lady of Pity, is being converted to affordable housing through an initiative of the Association of New York Catholic Homes. According to documents on the website Welcome2TheBronx, the proposal includes two buildings of 212 total apartment units with a common courtyard.

► Across the Atlantic, a friar of the Province of Ireland was publicized by several media outlets. The Irish Catholic, the main Catholic publication in Ireland, and The Clare Champion, a daily newspaper, paid tribute to Fr. Cletus Noone, OFM, of the Province of Ireland. He is the oldest broadcaster in that country and one of the oldest radio voices in the world. At age 86 hosts the cleverly titled “Noone at Night,” an hour-long radio program that features music, talk and simple reflections. He has been on the air waves for 30 years, 15 of them on his Noone at Night show.

► Friars from the English-speaking Conference participated in the
24th Conference of the Parties (COP), which was organized by the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in Katowice, Poland, from Dec. 3 to 14. More than 30,000 delegates from the governments of the parties and civic leaders gathered to discuss, negotiate and decide issues related to the environment and climate change.

► Although not all directly related to the OFM English-speaking Conference, Franciscans made news globally. One report, aired Dec. 5 on WKBT-TV in LaCrosse, Wisc., announced the official transfer of ownership of the Mayo Clinic Health System-Franciscan Healthcare to Mayo Clinic. On Nov. 28, the Evening Echo in Cork, Ireland, published a story titled “Franciscan Well Celebrates its 20-year Journey from a Microbrewery Into One of the Country’s Biggest Beer Producers.”

Jocelyn Thomas is director of communications for Holy Name Province.

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