Update From Interprovincial Contemplative Prayer Community in Missouri

Fr. Francis Wendling, OFM Franciscan World


Attendees at the Transitus service included, in front author Fr. Francis Wendling, on left, with Fr. John Joseph Gonchar and Br. Paul Belco and in back row, Br. Michael Dubec, Br. Austin Mysliwiec, Sr. Diane, and Fr. Sean Murnan. (Photo courtesy of Francis)

The Interprovincial Franciscan Contemplative Prayer Fraternity in Ava, Mo., offers a space for reflection and retreat. All are invited to visit Our Lady of the Angels Friary to spend time in the chapel, share meals with the friars, and enjoy the beauty of the surrounding landscape, which includes flowers, vegetable gardens, and hiking trails.

In this reflection, a St. John the Baptist Province friar who is also a member of the fraternity shares some recent activities at the friary, including last month’s St. Francis feast day celebrations.

AVA, Mo. — With Franciscans and friends of St. Francis, we had a wonderful celebration of the Transitus of St. Francis and Mass on his feast day, here at the Interprovincial Franciscan Contemplative Prayer Fraternity at Our Lady of the Angels Friary.

Our guests included seven Cistercian monks, formerly from South Vietnam and now living at Assumption Monastery here in Ava, as well as two Trappists from the monastery. We also had five hermits and one Benedictine sister from Nazareth Hermitage, who live next to the monastery, join us. Donna Haley traveled from Columbia, Mo., to provide organ music for the Transitus and the feast day Mass.

We were greatly pleased to have several other Friars Minor share the Transitus with our two core members, Fr. Sean Murnan, OFM, and me. Two friars from St. John the Baptist were present — Br. Michael Dubec, OFM, formerly from Hazard, Ky., who is now with us here in Ava for part of his sabbatical, and Fr. John Gonchar, OFM, who came from Pittsburgh for our Transitus and a couple weeks of retreat.

Driving all the way from Wisconsin were Br. Paul Belco, OFM, from Pulaski, formerly a core member here, and Br. Austin Mysliwiec, OFM, from Green Bay, both of Assumption Province. They will be with us for a month of a deeper prayer experience, enjoying this place of solitude, fraternity and beauty.

From the moment Br. Paul arrived, he put into practice what we all learn here, which is “Contemplation always leads to service.” He pitched in as if he had never left, sharing in the readings and singing in the Transitus, preparing food for our meals, even washing and ironing our purificators. Not only did he pitch in, he inspired the friars and other guests to tell stories of St. Francis’s life and death, by impersonating some of Francis’s early followers. With Haley at the organ and Br. Michael leading the singing, both at the Transitus as well as the feast day Mass, our liturgies were truly inspirational celebrations.

Mary, from South Vietnam, shows holding the basket of fish with Fr. Bruno looking on.

Mary, from South Vietnam, shows Fr. Bruno a basket of fish with the friars’ lease payment — $1. (Photo courtesy of Fr. Francis)

After the Transitus, we had a dinner with smoked trout donated by the Rockbridge Trout Ranch and smoked by one of our neighbors. Many of our guests came with salads and other dishes and desserts. During our dinner, all of our guests witnessed the friars give a basket of fish with a dollar bill to the Trappist monks in fulfillment of our lease agreement for this year. The smile on the face of Fr. Alberic, the superior of the abbey, receiving the basket of fish brought applause and laughter from our guests. Our lay guests, who come to spend time in prayer with us as well as share dinner at our table, are delighted to see the joyful and fraternal spirit of the friars.

This is the first time in the seven years that I’ve been here that we have had six friars joined together for our Transitus as well as remaining here for an extended time of a deep prayer experience. Since the beginning of our prayer fraternity, the friars have always wanted to have a core community of at least four men. It is also our desire for more friars to join us here for a shorter or longer time to experience a deep, rich and peaceful time of prayer in our fraternity.

We especially encourage friars who are planning a sabbatical to come here for part of their sabbatical as Fr. Michael is doing, and which many of you have done. All the friars of the Order are invited to come and spend a time of prayer and reflection with us.

Fr. Francis has been a member of the Interprovincial Franciscan Contemplative Prayer Fraternity in Ava, Mo., since 2009.

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