FRANCISCAN FRIARS Office of Communications Province of St. John the Baptist

August 24, 2017

Capturing the magic of Assisi

PHOTO BY Frank Jasper, OFMThe Basilica of St. Francis, with a statue of young soldier Francis in the foreground


Assisi – the home of Francis and Clare – a magical village clinging to the side of a hill.

I attended the Assisi Pilgrimage in June as the first segment of my sabbatical.  I thoroughly enjoyed the pilgrimage, although I have to admit, it wasn’t as striking for me as when I made it in 1974 in my idealistic 20s.

Being more mature and realistic, I approached the holy places in a spirit of prayer, focusing more on Francis toward the end of his life when he was struggling with the directions of the Order.  He and Br. Leo went off together to pray, trusting that God had something wonderful in store for them.

As I begin my sabbatical, people keep asking me, “What’s next?”  I tell them I don’t know, but I trust that it will be good.  In the meantime, I’m processing a “few” pictures that I took along the way.  Here’s a sample of my photos.

(Fr. Frank Jasper recently completed his term as Provincial Vicar for St. John the Baptist Province.)

Where were you when the lights went out?

PHOTO BY MARK SOEHNER, OFMJohn Barker viewing the eclipse in Wappingers Falls, N.Y.Fr. Tom Speier, OFM

I happened to be out at Lake Lorelei  for the eclipse.  It was a wonderful place to spend two hours watching the whole show in solitude and peace.  Only then did I realize I had two different friends around Greenville, S.C., where I could have watched the TOTAL ECLIPSE and the accompanying CORONA, etc. from their yards.  Bummer!

Fr. Richard Goodin, OFM

Returning to Cincinnati after mission appeals in Las Vegas Aug 19 and 20, Richard drove overnight to see the eclipse in its totality in Hopkinsville, Ky. There this Kentucky native was interviewed by a reporter from Catholic News Service about the experience.  “This is a once in a lifetime opportunity,” Richard said. “I like to brag I’m all things Kentucky. What better and more fitting place for this to be than in Kentucky?” Read the CNS story at:  Catholicnews.

Br. Mark Ligett, OFM

I am in Saint Louis, Mo., for my annual check-up at Washington University/Barnes Jewish transplant center!  Folks in St. Louis are going nuts over the eclipse because the path is right over this area!   There are buses everywhere marked “Eclipse” taking folks to viewing areas!

Fr. Dennis Bosse, OFM

Ninety percent of the sun was blocked by the moon this morning at the Red Canyon, Utah, segment of Dixie National Forest.

Fr. Henry Beck, OFM

Look at this lovely comment from Jeannie Panella, who is on our St. Francis Retreat House Board.  Jeannie just made the Assisi Pilgrimage this summer, and she is filled with the spirit of St. Francis and St. Clare. Jeannie wrote: “What a great day to be a Franciscan!  Brother Sun and Sister Moon are greeting each other once again!”

Fr. Ricardo Russo, OFM

“I was in the back yard,” Ricardo writes. “I have a bunch of bird feeders.” When the eclipse reached its height in Santa Fe, N.M., “The birds began to sing their evening song and were freaked. It was such a remarkable thing; I was just enamored with it,” so enamored that he sat down and composed the poem below.

A Good Friday at Noon

Eclipse on time, an eternal rhyme,

reminds us

of an earlier crime.

Moon dances, and plays for a month,

Sun laughs, and reflects the runt.

People gaze at a sun so bright,

but the moon reflects her shadow covering light.

What to do without a sun so bright,

and a moon to reflect its governing light.

Two become one in spectacular display,

and remind us of that, now be on your way.

Circles of life go and come,

opposites forever run.

Now light and dark meet

Eclipse at our feet,

consciousness weeps,

a light leaps.

–Fr. Ricardo Russo, OFM

Rock around the block


Sunday afternoon, July 23, Washington Boulevard was closed to traffic and open for fun as St. Aloysius and Our Lady of Good Counsel parishes hosted their annual ode to summer in downtown Detroit, the Block Party. Even the most rhythmically challenged were dancing in the streets when The Original Vandellas revived their legendary Motown hits. Planners encourage neighbors to become friends by providing free hotdogs, burgers, pop and ice cream, toys for the kids and health screenings by parish nurses. Fr. Loren Connell, pastor of St. Al’s, summed it up in the parish bulletin: “Wow! What a party!”

  • PHOTO BY SCOTT SLATTUM, OFMA calming influenceThis week in Phoenix, Ariz., friars from St. Mary’s Basilica tried to provide a calming presence in the midst of anti-Trump protests. “The basilica’s community served as a safety zone and peaceful presence,” according to a post on the Facebook page of St. Barbara Province. After police used tear gas and pepper spray to disperse the crowds, “Friars, the parish community and the Phoenix Urban Health collective helped provide water and treatment to those suffering” from its effects. “But some tear gas got into the friary,” according to St. Barbara friar Scott Slattum. “Our friars are still recovering from a burning sensation in their eyes, nose and throat. Keep praying for them, for Phoenix, and for our country.”
  • For this fall’s Duns Scotus Lecture at Catholic Theological Union, “We are delighted that Prof. Catherine Mooney from Boston College will be offering a free lecture on Clare of Assisi,” writes Ed Foley, Duns Scotus Professor of Spirituality. Prof. Mooney will present “Clare of Assisi: Stories of Sanctity for the 21st Century” at 4 p.m. Monday, Oct. 2, at CTU’s Academic and Conference Center.
  • A video snippet posted on the Facebook page for Mary, Gate of Heaven Parish in Jamaica shows Pastor Jim Bok walking across the porch. It’s a big deal for Jim, whose recovery from a broken leg has been pretty remarkable. “Today, six weeks after I broke my leg, I was permitted to walk on it,” he announced Aug. 22. “IT FELT GOOD! I’ll be ‘Rollin on the River, soon come!’” Watch the video at:
  • Caoimhin Ó Laoide and Michael Perry with U.S. ProvincialsResponding to the white supremacist march that turned deadly in Charlottesville, Va., the U.S. Conference of Catholic bishops has established an Ad Hoc Committee Against Racism. Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston says the committee will “focus on addressing the sin of racism in our society, and even in our Church, and the urgent need to come together as a society to find solutions.” The committee, which will be chaired by Bishop George V. Murray of Youngstown, Ohio, plans to release a pastoral letter on racism in 2018. According to the Washington Post, “The USCCB’s last major effort on racism in America was in 1979.”
  • The response from some friars was quick and positive. “Great news!” Fr. Jim Bok wrote after hearing that Provincial leaders meeting this week in Wappingers Falls, N.Y., voted unanimously to propose that six U.S. provinces become one. “We are finally getting on with it!” The resolution that the General Minister and Definitorium approve a process for reconfiguration will be placed before six provinces for a vote at extraordinary chapters in May 2018. The response to the news from Fr. Fred Link, SJB’s former provincial minister, was simply, “Praise the Lord!”

California novitiate welcomes 8 men

PHOTO BY DICK TANDY, OFMFront, Novices James La Grutta, Michael Cerretti, Luis Manuel Rosado-Colombani, Domingo Martinez, Michael Lomas, Jason Damon, Antonio Luevano, Troy Hillman; back, team members  Jeff Macnab, OFM,  Sr. Susan Rosenbach, SSSF, Michael Blastic, OFM, Kevin Schroeder, OFM BY FR. CHARLES TALLEY, OFM

On Aug. 21 some 30 friars, novitiate team members and staff gathered in the Friars Chapel at Old Mission Santa Barbara, Calif., to witness the reception of eight men into the interprovincial novitiate. The program was moved to California this summer from its previous location in Burlington, Wis.  The incoming novices represent Holy Name and St. Barbara Provinces.

The new novices from Holy Name Province are:  Michael Cerretti (29, Carey, N.C.), Jason Damon (23, Buffalo, N.Y.), Troy Hillman (24, Olean, N.Y.), James La Grutta (28, Goshen, N.Y.), Domingo Martinez (28, Aiken, S.C.), and Luis Manuel Rosado-Colombani (45, Villalba, Puerto Rico).  St. Barbara Province is represented by novices Antonio Luevano (28, Rancho Cucamonga, Calif.) and Michael Lomas (29, Cupertino, Calif).

Former Provincial Minister John Hardin welcomed the new novices and those assembled on behalf of the Province of St. Barbara.  John, who is also Guardian, introduced members of the local fraternity as well as members of the Old Mission staff and administration.  He thanked Jim Balsitis, Director of Facilities at the Old Mission, for overseeing – in record time – the extensive remodeling of the former Retreat Center into the new novitiate facility.  And he also introduced Monica Orozco, Executive Director, who welcomed the program saying, “Thank you for returning to what we were built for.”

Director of Novices Jeff Macnab (SB Province) spoke following Scripture readings by novitiate team member Sr. Susan Rosenbach, SSSF, and Phillip Polk (SB Province).

“Brothers, the novitiate is more than just you,” Jeff said. “…It’s a place to gather, to meet; a place of support, of hospitality.  Because the novitiate is one of the most sacred places that a province of the Order has.”  Jeff extended an invitation to professed friars to visit: “In the old days, the novitiate was a place that pushed you away. . . . You are invited to come to share our life, to share your life (with us). . .  You’ll ask, ‘Why do you have so many rooms?’  Well, we have a larger section of guest rooms.  It’s a symbol to let you know you are invited and welcome here.”

(A video of the event is posted at  Fr. Charles Talley is Director of Communications for the Province of St. Barbara.)

PHOTO BY MarK Soehner, OFMIn the chapel at Mt. AlverniaOn Monday about 40 minutes before the solar eclipse, the Provincial Council with Secretary of the Province Dan Anderson and CFO David O’Brien landed in Newburgh Airport in New York. We arrived at Mt. Alvernia Retreat House in Wappingers Falls, N.Y., just minutes before the eclipse began. There we dutifully passed around two pairs of ISO glasses that enabled a safe peek at the engulfing sun without retinal damage.  Because we were north of Cincinnati and the path of totality, we did not see the 100% experience.  But what a sight!

Our time together at Wappingers Falls has been packed with meetings.  We spoke honestly, even boldly, and then listened to others’ points of view. As you now know, we have decided to “place before our provinces for a vote at extraordinary chapters in May 2018 a resolution that the General Minister and Definitorium of the Order of Friars Minor approve a formal process to reconfigure their six existing provinces into one new province.”

I feel sad to be moving toward a future that might be the end of our province.  I am relieved and even excited that, after looking at actuarials and finances, we were able to unanimously agree to put forward this one-province option for our vote in May. Now we need to prayerfully consider this as we move toward that extraordinary chapter in May. There will be many opportunities in this coming year to do just that.  My hope is that we won’t merely gawk at this future as passive bystanders. Let’s pray for the Holy Spirit’s guidance.  Let’s ask for a total revitalization of our lives by the Holy Spirit. An eclipse reminds me that attitudes can block the life-giving Spirit.


— Fr. Mark Soehner, OFM



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FRANCISCAN FRIARS Office of Communications Province of St. John the Baptist

PHOTO BY DICK TANDY, OFMFront, Novices James La Grutta, Michael Cerretti, Luis Manuel Rosado-Colombani, Domingo Martinez, Michael Lomas, Jason Damon, Antonio Luevano, Troy Hillman; back, team members  Jeff Macnab, OFM,  Sr. Susan Rosenbach, SSSF, Michael Blastic, OFM, Kevin Schroeder, OFM BY FR. CHARLES TALLEY, OFM

Office of Communications Province of St. John the Baptist