April 27, 2017
Why I became a brother
(In honor of the inaugural Religious Brothers Day May 1, we asked five friars what it means to be a Franciscan brother.)
The role has grown
Br. Jerry Beetz, OFM
(Jerry is Associate Director of the Office for Senior Friars in Cincinnati.)
Sylvan MetzPius HendricksThe Man Who Had Everything Hands for Christ
I became attracted to the many ways brothers could serve in the Church and the friar community – and that they were not restricted to sacramental ministry or teaching.
Today the role of the brother has grown, as we can now serve in roles of leadership in the community and in parishes, as well as developing new forms of witness and evangelization in the world.
As I move from midlife to becoming a senior member of the province, I am discovering a new spirituality of aging that is helping me renew my commitment to being a brother who walks with those who were mentors to me in the past and to witness to the power of the resurrection in their lives.
Br. Michael Charron, OFM
(Michael is a student at the Appalachian School of Law in Grundy, Va.)
I knew about brothers before I became one. My family was friends with religious brothers and sisters. My contact with them was personal, compared with the more formal relationship with my parish priests. The sisters’ work with the poor impressed me at a young age.
When I discerned religious life it was much more about living it than what I would do. Questions about what I would do came later, especially because initial formation took time and the “Can I live this life regardless of what I do” questions were what the friars encouraged us to discern. Discernment was and is always about being a friar, so I didn’t discern priesthood much until the formation team asked me at the end of novitiate. I was always more drawn to being a brother. At this point, I believe being a priest would get in the way of what God is calling me to do.
What do brothers do? Just about anything. When guys join the friars, they bring their talents to the table.
When it comes to doing, the “lay” in “lay brother” really shines because brothers are not much different than other men in the world who work. We do all kinds of things. Given our calling to Catholic religious life, a church-related job is highly likely, but not necessarily so. Brothers are pretty unique, rare and obscure. How could we not be, if people have to ask, “What do brothers do?” of guys who tend to work all the time. I think the real question people want to ask is, “What is a brother?”
I like that question better because it is more about who I am, compared with what I do. I’m a religious brother. I’m a Catholic who prays and asks God all the time, “Now what?” I’m a Catholic who is baptized and asks Jesus all the time, “So what?” I act on those answers. It led me here. Let’s see where it leads me next. If I do anything, I hope what I am will cause others to ask themselves the same and seek answers in light of their faith from the Holy Spirit in the community around them.
I was always interested in the law. I was trained as a paralegal prior to joining the friars. I’m building on that experience by going to law school and hope to use the law to help the poor.
Unfortunately, I have to live outside community to go to school. Living alone has made me much more grateful for the friars and I realize how much friars have influenced me, mean to me, and enrich my life.
Br. Kevin Duckson, OFM
(Kevin works with Secular Franciscans and is Mr. Fix-It at St. Clement Friary in Cincinnati.)
A year out of high school when I first entered the Order, I visited St. Leonard College and got to see how friars lived. I saw them living a simple life of prayer, in community and fraternity. I saw how Brothers Felix Blake, Francis Williams, Marian Battaglia and Louie Lamping were about fraternal service to their community. They went about their business doing tailoring and cooking and taking care of the farm and the grounds.
I became a brother because I enjoyed the variety of jobs, the outside stuff, the simple life of working with my hands. The term “fraternal ministry” covers a lot of things. It means working within the community and the friary. At St. Francis Center I did all kinds of maintenance and I took care of the senior friars. At St. Mary’s in Bloomington I enjoyed my ministry of service as a sub-cook, doing maintenance of the grounds, the cemetery, electricity, plumbing, heating and air conditioning, and again taking care of senior friars. I loved their stories about times of the past in missions, their joys and sorrows and dreams of the future.
Being somewhat retired, I especially enjoy having time for prayer for our friars and for vocations. Reflecting on my 50 years as a Franciscan brother, I continue to pray and trust in the Lord.
Br. Michael Dubec, OFM
(Michael, a former Provincial Councilor, provided parochial assistance in Hazard, Ky., before starting his current sabbatical.)
Becoming a Franciscan Friar occupied my early plans in life. A relative who was a lay brother struck a chord with me, as he on his own invited me to consider a life in the manner of St. Francis of Assisi. Being an ordained priest did not hold much appeal for me in my formation years, but becoming a brother reverberated deeply within.
To be a brother meant both living in a community of friars (some ordained, others by choice), and feeling a relationship to all living things. Somehow in God’s mysterious design that is what I wanted in life.
I’m still becoming a friar-brother. I don’t know when it will end, but I’m certain I will be among the first to know about it!
Br. Mark Ligett, OFM
(Mark works in Retreat & Fraternal Ministry at St. Francis Retreat House in Easton, Pa., and is Regional Fraternal Animator.)
When I entered the first grade of St. Mary Elementary School in Middletown, Ohio, I came face-to-face with the first nun I had ever laid eyes on, Sr. Mary Dorothy Spaeth. Dorothy was a Sister of St. Francis from Oldenburg, Ind. On that day I fell in love with the “Oldenburgers” and with St. Francis. She taught us a song entitled Are We Not Franciscans All with the refrain, “Oh, how privileged! Oh, how wonderful! To be children of St. Francis.” I knew then, at that very early age, that I wanted to be a happy, joy-filled person like Dorothy.
I continued to be taught by the Oldenburg Sisters, but it was not until I was in the fifth grade that I first met a friar, and that was newly ordained Ric Schneider…Fr. Theodoric, back then! He visited our parish and school and I saw in him the very same joy I had seen in the Oldenburg Sisters. My desire to be a Franciscan continued to grow, but I did not believe God was calling me to priestly ministry. It was about then that another Oldenburg Sister, Sr. Rose de Lourdes, told me about the life of the lay friars, and I realized that was the life for me!
Now, many years later, I have come to see that whether priest or lay-friar, we are all Franciscan brothers. Being a brother to one another and to everyone we meet is the heart of our vocation. Oh, I have heard the stories of how many of the early lay-friars experienced Franciscan life as “second-class citizens”. I lived in some of those times myself; but I also know that our province of St. John the Baptist was a leader in advancing the life of the lay-friar by providing quality formation and bringing about an end to “classes” within our Franciscan family.
BY FR. MARK SOEHNER, OFM
PHOTO BY TONI CASHNELLIAl Edmunds at his desk at Duns Scotus Friary
On Easter Monday, the friars of Duns Scotus Friary in Berkley gathered to honor three people who have given so much to our community: Dawn Pulcer; Hana Yono; and Al Edmunds. Dawn and Hana each contributed by keeping our chapel supplied with fresh flowers, providing a Sunday meal when we all were dragging into the friary after a long Sunday, and being generous benefactors to us at many of our ministries. Al Edmunds was honored with the special “Francis Medal” after serving for more than 20 years in various capacities with the friars.
PHOTO BY MARK SOEHNER, OFMAlex Kratz, Mark Soehner, Mike Lenz, Al Mascia, Hana Yono; seated, Al Edmunds and Dawn Pulcer (Michael Radomski was away) Br. Al Mascia
“I was really surprised, and I really appreciate it,” Al says of the Francis Medal that now sits on his desk. “I’ve been working with Fr. Mark for a long time, and when Br. Al came along we started making Friar Lights candles.” Al also acts as porter for the many visitors who come to Duns Scotus Friary and the Song and Spirit Institute for Peace. “People tell me their problems and I try to be a confidante.” In addition, “I’ve got a prayer list, and I pray for people every day. It makes me happy to help others along the way.”
At 85, Al Edmunds continues his dynamic presence and ministry. We were glad to honor him with our prized medal, and hope for many more years of collaboration.
BY TONI CASHNELLI
PHOTOS BY TONI CASHNELLIOn the Catholic Center roof: Tony Stieritz, Al Hirt, Matt Kolbinsky and Robert McCracken
At least one parish isn’t letting it go to waste.
Last year St. Monica-St. George in Cincinnati installed 119 solar panels on the roofs of its Catholic Center and garage. In a press conference on Monday, the Archdiocese encouraged other faith communities and homeowners to jump on the energy-saving bandwagon.
In observance of Earth Day on April 22 and the People’s Climate Rally on April 29, they invited the media to see how one parish has shown its care for creation – and is saving money in the process.
“A year and a half ago we held a press conference to celebrate Laudato Si,” Pope Francis’ urgent plea to protect our planet, said Tony Stieritz, Catholic Social Action Director for the Archdiocese of Cincinnati. That’s when Pastor Al Hirt outlined SMSG’s ambitious plan to reduce its carbon footprint by harnessing solar power and replacing its lighting with long-lasting LED bulbs.
Solar power is worth celebrating.
“From the moment the panels were energized, we’ve been saving money,” said Al. In the last eight years the average electric bill for the parish was $28,000. This year, with solar power and LED savings, the projected bill is $12,000.
“If one church can take this simple measure, think of what 10 churches, 20 churches can do,” Al said. “If more and more of us do that, we reduce our consumption of fossil fuels and help the planet,” particularly the population most affected by energy-wasting practices, the poor. “We’re not just lowering our electric bill. Think of what it might mean to our common home.”
With 211 parishes in the 19-county Archdiocese, the savings could be staggering, said solar contractor Matt Kolbinski of PRO Lighting and Solar Solutions, LLC. Recapping the project and its challenges, he called SMSG “one of the most progressive parishes in the Archdiocese.” Rob McCracken of the Greater Cincinnati Energy Alliance Project congratulated Al and the parish for taking the lead in the solar movement. “Solar can work,” he said – especially in Hamilton County, which has logged more solar installations than any county in the state.
Al invited guests to join him on the roof of the parish center to get a closer look at solar technology. For those who dared, the steep climb straight up a scary series of narrow rungs was worth it. “They can withstand 120 mile-per-hour winds and golf ball-sized hail,” Matt said of the solar panels laid out in rows atop the center. “There are no moving parts. Everything is remotely monitored.” All pretty impressive.
BY FR. FRANK JASPER, OFM
Francis and the Wolf Sr. Kay Francis
I first met Kay Francis at Bishop Luers High School in Fort Wayne, Ind., where I taught for a short period. Other friars worked with her for years and they developed deep friendships. Fr. Joseph Rayes invited her to teach the novices at Oldenburg and there she became even more intimately involved with our province. She attracted people to her artistic world and folks felt right at home in her cluttered setting. You could tell everything was a “work in progress.” She would sketch effortlessly as she talked with people. Her studio was always a hub of activity with people coming to inspect her latest creations.
Trained at the Catholic University of America and the University of Notre Dame, Kay Francis loved sculpture the best, but she also excelled at metal working, water color, pastels, pencil, charcoal and tapestry. She’d use whatever materials were at hand to create something imaginative and beautiful.
Sr. Kay Francis Berger, OSFHer main themes involved St. Francis and St. Clare. We accused her of putting her friend Joe Rayes’ nose on Francis. She never denied it. But, her images of Francis and Clare became iconic in the Franciscan world and are still used regularly. As Kay Francis became more arthritic, it was difficult for her to work the clay and so she concentrated on water colors and tapestries. As her disease progressed, the hands and feet of Francis became more distorted, reflecting her own changes.
Frs. Michael Chowning, Carl Langenderfer and Rock Travnikar commissioned Kay Francis to do works at their parishes—murals in the parish hall, Our Lady of the Mines and large sculptures for a mausoleum. Her artistic works reside all across the country.
After a long struggle with dementia, Kay Francis died at Our Lady of Angels Nursing Home in Joliet on April 14. Good friend Sr. Joan Clare Wisner, OSF, predicted that day because of Kay’s great love for the Crucified. At her funeral on April 18th at Our Lady of Angels, her artwork played a prominent role.
Kay Francis was truly a gift to the Church and to the Franciscan world. Even though she is no longer with us, her classic art will remain as a tribute to her love of nature and especially to her love of Francis and Clare.
Last September I attended a Contemplative Eldering Workshop sponsored by the Trappists at Mepkin Abbey in South Carolina. The workshop opened for me new pathways of seeing and understanding my own aging with an invitation to be an active part of the Sageing of America program. It also gave me the desire to offer a contemplative eldering retreat here at St. Francis Retreat House in Easton in 2018.
In preparation for this, I just read a wonderful book entitled Vesper Time: The Spiritual Practice of Growing Older by Frank J. Cunningham, published by Orbis Books (available online). Frank is a retired university writing instructor as well as the former editor and publisher at Ave Maria Press, Notre Dame, Ind.
In this book, the author approaches aging through five “lenses”: Memory; Intimacy; Diminishment; Gratitude and Acceptance. I found it to be an amazing resource for reflecting upon my own life, past, present and future and curiously, it seemed to give insight into the renewal and restructuring we friars are going through at this time. You might find it helpful, too.
–Br. Mark Ligett, OFM
Jeff is packing things up.In view of the upcoming transition in Provincial leadership, I have started to clean out my room and office, spending a couple of hours here and there, going through files and stacks of paper. I have shredded all the Council minutes I kept going back to 1996 and notes from many meetings I have attended along the way. I have copies of various resources that were sent out to the friars in recent years. (I should say I had them, since they have now found their way to file 13!)I have way too much stuff, and keep things way too long. I have books and notes from past ministerial experiences. I guess holding on to them gives me some sense of security. I keep them thinking that sometime they might be useful, but in truth I have not looked at them in years. I have gifts and trinkets that were given to me at various times, and these bring back fond memories. I have way too many clothes, and plan to get rid of some of them in the coming months as well.I am trying to divest and simplify, with gratitude for the experience or relationship hidden in what I throw or give away. There is a freedom in letting go, yet it is hard to live the life we promised, living sine proprio. These are good days to renew my trust that the goodness of God will sustain me wherever I go! The transitions we friars experience individually (and communally) are indeed challenging, but are also our friends. — Fr. Jeff Scheeler, OFM
Send comments or questions to: firstname.lastname@example.org
2014 • Third Quarter
2014 • Fourth Quarter
2015 • First Quarter
2015 • Third Quarter
2015 • Fourth Quarter
2016 • First Quarter
2016 • Third Quarter
October 13, 2016
October 27, 2016
November 3, 2016
November 10, 2016
November 17, 2016
December 8, 2106
December 21, 2106
December 29, 2106
2016 • Fourth Quarter
When I was growing up I knew that there were brothers serving in the Church, but they were often looked upon as those who “could not make it in the priesthood and so settled for a lesser vocation.” Then when I was in the 8th grade, two Franciscan brothers from our province, Sylvan Metz and Pius Hendricks, came to St. John the Baptist School in Harrison, Ohio, and spoke about their lives as brothers. They showed us a movie, The Man Who Had Everything, and gave us a booklet called Hands for Christ.
PHOTO BY MARK SOEHNER, OFMAlex Kratz, Mark Soehner, Mike Lenz, Al Mascia, Hana Yono; seated, Al Edmunds and Dawn Pulcer (Michael Radomski was away)When I was pastor of St. Aloysius in the ‘90s, Al began to help with sandwiches for the homeless, then became the regular maker of the oatmeal at 4:30 a.m. so we could open the doors at 5 a.m. After I left Detroit in 2008, Br. Al Mascia employed Al’s various skills as a helper in his setup for concerts, for helping in the new Canticle Café, and taking baked goods and coffee to the streets. Al Edmunds then moved with Al Mascia to the new Duns Scotus Friary when it was just in its infancy.
PHOTOS BY TONI CASHNELLIOn the Catholic Center roof: Tony Stieritz, Al Hirt, Matt Kolbinsky and Robert McCrackenMore energy from the sun falls on the earth in one hour than is used by everyone in the world in a whole year.
Solar power is worth celebrating.They not only made it happen, they did it without touching the parish budget. The $160,000 energy-saving project was funded completely by donations from parishioners. Propping a solar panel in back of the church as a yardstick of progress for its “Brother Sun Campaign”, the pastor urged everyone to pitch in. Religious ed kids held bake sales, raising enough for half a panel. University of Cincinnati students donated funds to buy several.
Francis and the WolfEven though her studio was cluttered with easels, half-finished projects, driftwood and scraps of paper with sketches, Sr. Kay Francis Berger, OSF, produced magnificent works of art for her community, the Church and the Franciscan world. Kay left us with a lasting legacy when she died on Good Friday in Joliet, Ill., at the age of 83. She was a member of the Sisters of St. Francis of Mary Immaculate.