SJB Friars Reach the Finish Line: Assisi

Rebecca Doel Franciscan World

CINCINNATI — Nearly one year ago, St. John the Baptist provincial minister Fr. Jeff Scheeler, OFM, challenged the members of this Midwest province to take a “virtual province pilgrimage” to Assisi.

Fr. Jeff’s suggestion followed a review of the province’s Health & Wellness Survey.

By the end of 2010, the idea took shape. The members would collectively walk 4,751 miles — the distance between Cincinnati and Assisi — by June 12, 2011, Pentecost Sunday.

More than a week before their deadline, the June 2 issue of SJB News Notesproclaimed: “We made it!”

Fr. Jeff wrote: “Together we have exercised our way to Assisi. We have walked or jogged on treadmills and sidewalks (some even used walkers!), we have hiked through the woods, and swum the waters, maybe not in the Atlantic, but in swimming pools.”

Over the course of six months, 31 walkers — including a friar from Our Lady of Guadalupe Province, several staff members and an affiliate — accumulated 5,746 miles for “Walking to Assisi.” Fr. Robert Bruno, OFM, topped the list with 634 miles.

“In this project,” Fr. Jeff said, “it was not so much the destination as the journey that mattered. We walked together, even if virtually, for our health and well-being.”

And Fr. Jeff doesn’t see the journey ending just yet. He’s compiled a short list of places the Assisi walkers could head next: Jersualem, Baghdad, Kabul, Afghanistan, or Karachi, Pakistan. “So where do you want to go next?”

Student friars from the province made the front page of The Washington Post in August 2009 when they arrived in Washington, D.C., at the end of the 300-mile pilgrimage that began in Roanoke, Va.

On Aug. 10, leading up to World Youth Day, two of those men — Br. Joshua Van Cleef, OFM, and Br. Clifford Hennings, OFM — will join Br. Timothy Lamb, OFM, in walking the Camino Inglés, the 68-mile route blazed by pilgrims from northern Europe who traveled to Spain a thousand years ago. According to the June 9 issue of SJB News Notes, Brothers Cliff and Josh were chosen “at random from among those who expressed an interest in attending World Youth Day.”

Other recent issues of SJB News Notes included reports on simple profession, the feast of St. Anthony and friar graduations.

— Rebecca Doel is communications coordinator for Holy Name Province.