U.S. Friars Appointed Missionaries of Mercy and Other News from the ESC

Maria Hayes Franciscan World


Priests and penitents during confessions during the “24 hours for the Lord.” (Photo courtesy of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of New Evangelization, Vatican State)

The following is a monthly compilation of news from the website of the English-speaking Conference of the Order of Friars Minor, comprising provinces from Canada, England, Ireland, Lithuania, Malta and the United States.

Next month, two friars from St. John the Baptist Province will be commissioned by Pope Francis as missionaries of mercy. At the recommendation of their Provincial Council, Fathers Page Polk, OFM, and Larry Zurek, OFM, will serve as two of 100 priests in the United States and 800 worldwide who will be “a living sign of the Father’s welcome to all those in search of his forgiveness,” according to the Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelization.

SJB News Notes, the province’s newsletter, states that the two friars will receive the pope’s mandate and will be sent forth on Feb. 10, Ash Wednesday, during a celebration at St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. The missionaries should be “inspiring preachers of Mercy; heralds of the joy of forgiveness; welcoming, loving and compassionate confessors who are most especially attentive to the difficult situations of each person,” according to the Pontifical Council.

The missionaries will be invited by their diocesan bishops to preach missions or “facilitate specific initiatives organized for the jubilee, with particular attention given to the Sacrament of Reconciliation. The Holy Father will grant these missionaries the authority to pardon even those sins reserved to the Holy See.”

Other recently-announced news from the English-speaking Conference includes   the elections of two new provincial ministers. St. Barbara Province, based in California, appointed Fr. David Gaa, OFM, and St. Casimir Province in Lithuania appointed Fr. Algirdas Malakauskas, OFM. A biography of Fr. David was published in a previous HNP Today story.

Fr. Algirdas has served as Provincial Vicar of the province for the past three years, as well as the pastor of a parish. He professed solemn vows in 2001 and was ordained to the priesthood the following year.

The Province of St. Casimir is based primarily in Lithuania, but also has a monastery and guesthouse in Kennebunkport, Maine, in the United States, as well as parishes in Toronto. There are 37 solemnly professed friars in the province, one of 15 entities comprising the English-speaking Conference.

Other news from the ESC includes:

  • The inclusion of the John Paul II Newman Center at the University of Illinois, staffed by the SJB Province friars, and the Newman Center at Louisiana Tech University in Ruston, La., staffed by Sacred Heart Province friars, on a list of the “50 Best College Newman Centers” compiled by Best College Reviews
  • The retirement of Fr. Hilarion Kistner, OFM, 86, of St. John the Baptist Province, who edited Sunday Homily Helps, a resource produced by Franciscan Media, for 30 years
  • Pope Francis’s visit to the crèche in Greccio

— Maria Hayes is communications coordinator for Holy Name Province.

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