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

October 12, 2017

High school was never like this


PHOTOS BY TONI CASHNELLIAbove left, with a resident; above right, Once home to students, it now houses seniors.; above, for Reynolds Garland, Don Holtgrewe and Dominic Lococo, part of the attraction is green space and wildlife.Fr. Reynolds Garland still has the 26 Rules of Discipline from St. Francis Seminary.

“I observed all of them all the time,” he says solemnly, then adds, “Fat chance.” He had a little trouble with No. 12: “Students must proceed in silence directly to the dormitory after night prayers and remain there until the morning bell.” Reynolds was never good at staying put or staying quiet.

Fast-forward 65 years, and he’s back at the scene of the crime. Reynolds is one of three SJB friars who live in the former high school, opened in a bucolic setting in 1924. In 2000, the old seminary in Springfield Twp. was converted into Mercy Community at Winton Woods, a residence for seniors, and since then, a couple dozen brothers have spent their golden years here.

The largest community of friars numbered eight a few years ago. Now there are three, with Br. Dominic Lococo and Fr. Don Holtgrewe in close proximity to Reynolds, whose first-floor apartment was once the school’s recreation room. He shares the space with Mentone II, his petite, mop-haired Shih Tzu.

Now octogenarians, the friars still banter like high school students with priest Reynolds, nicknamed “magpie”, relentlessly kidding Dominic about his non-ordained status. “Can you imagine?” he says, feigning shock. “My Local Minister is a Brother!”

Over lunch at Bob Evans, they talk about life away from mainstream ministry.

The friars on their patio with Mentone II“I love it,” says Don, who moved to Mercy 10 years ago. “I don’t have any troubles. I think the best thing is you can do what you want to do,” which means more time for prayer and reflection.

Reynolds has been here “a couple of years, but I don’t consider myself retired,” since he and Don are responsible for five Masses a week.

“They say it’s the ‘golden years’, and I really believe it,” says Dominic, a five-year resident. “I wake up and say, ‘I’m glad I’m alive.’”

Day by day

For Reynolds, moving here was an easy choice. “You can have dogs,” and that was paramount.

Don checks out the activities board in his building.“There’s a certain amount of independence,” says Dominic, who keeps a journal, works on nature sketches and sings with the community chorus, Gil’s Golden Voices. He advocates for JPIC issues with his pen and his presence, rallying for the rights of immigrants. “Dom is always on the run,” Don says.

The friars cook for themselves in compact kitchenettes. “We all do our own thing,” Don says. “I cook whatever is in the icebox,” a term that speaks of a certain age.

For exercise, Reynolds walks his dog around the grounds and plays Sitting Volleyball. Fellow player Dominic kids, “He always says ‘I’ll get it’ and never moves.”

Don elaborates, “It’s for us older people,” but thinks “It’s not really volleyball if you’re sitting down.” He prefers tennis.

All three still drive, but Dominic is the go-to guy for most outings. “He is really good with directions,” Reynolds says. “Dominic usually drives because he knows where he’s going,” Don adds.

That sense of direction brought him to the friars.

Path to the province

One of Dom’s sketchesWhen Dominic graduated from high school in Louisville in 1950, “I didn’t want to go to college. Then I was drafted into the Army. They already had two of my brothers. I was thinking about becoming a friar, so I checked out churches every day.” As a student preparing for ministry, he was granted a D-IV exemption, sparing him from the Korean War. “It was providential.”

Asked why he’s a Franciscan, Don says, “I was born into a friar community,” St. Bonaventure in Cincinnati. He attended Roger Bacon High School, then earned a degree in political science. “I lived with the Jesuits [at Xavier University], but I didn’t want to be a Jesuit. I come from a very poor family. I wanted to minister to the poor.” Before friar formation, college grad Don had to attend St. Francis Seminary for a year. It was “a little weird” being with the kids, he admits.

Reynolds grew up in Charleston, S.C. “I never saw a Franciscan until I went to the seminary. In  Reynolds with Rules of Disciplinethe fourth grade they showed an old Italian movie at the Cathedral grade school.” Afterwards, “All I could think about was Francis of Assisi.” At the seminary, he did his best to observe those 26 Rules. But at night, he confesses, “I would slip down to the basement into the kitchen to make a sandwich.” The punishment? “If you were bad you had to write the Rules five or 10 times.” When he moved to the novitiate, “I got real holy.”

Now, he says, “I’m back here where I went to high school seminary many years ago.”

Reversing roles

But instead of being students, they’re the teachers. At this age and in this place, they have the opportunity “to tell people what the Lord has done for us, and what we can do for him,” says Don. He can take his time writing homilies, poring over the liturgical aids to which he subscribes. “I want to be sure I’m saying something they’ll understand and can take home with them,” he says of his listeners.

Back home from lunch, the friars are asked to pose for photos. Fetching their habits, they patiently move to several sites around the grounds.

There’s no hurry, Reynolds says. “We’ve got all day.”

Adds Don, “We’re not going anywhere.”

Guests enriched by time in Ava


Visitors enjoyed the setting and the serenity.In the past two months our Interprovincial Franciscan Fraternity in Ava, Mo., has hosted a number of guests. They say the experience has enriched their lives – and it has enriched our lives as well.

One recent week we were blessed with the company of two Franciscan friars, a Sister of the Congregation of Mary, Queen, and two ministers of the Church of Christ. They shared with us prayer, meals, and fraternity.

That our guest house was full capacity was not that unusual. What was unusual was the joy for all of us that in addition to our two resident friars we had two guest friars here at the same time for two months.

This was surely an ecumenical group with Br. Tom Gerchak, OFM, of SJB Province and Miguel Alcantar, OFM, of OLG Province here as part of their sabbatical in July 2017, with Tom staying until September. SJB’s Fr. John Joseph Gonchar, OFM, came in August for his retreat as did Sr. Jacinta Tran, the superior of the Congregation of Mary, Queen, for her retreat. Deron Smith, Pastor of East Sunshine Church of Christ, and one of his associates, Myron Mizell, joined all of us for a prayer experience.  We have asked them to share their impressions of the solitude, fraternity and beauty they found here.

We hope that other friars will one day be able to experience the richness that we friars at Ava wish to share.

Myron Mizell

I am not of the Catholic tradition but have been blessed by my short retreats in Ava.  The facility is much more than adequate and set in a beautiful part of the Ozarks.  The friars, Francis and Sean, are warm and gracious and have made me feel very welcome.  I have also been blessed by others on retreat as we shared meals and good conversation.  I consider this facility to be a great tool in God’s great plan.

Sr. Jacinta Tran, Sean Murnan, J.J. Gonchar, Tom Gerchak and Francis Wendling Br. Tom Gerchak, OFM

In July and August I was able to enjoy the quiet and peace of the natural surroundings at our House of Prayer. The friars are very hospitable, providing the meals and taking care of many of the daily concerns that make up so much of our regular lives. The library has a wealth of Franciscan and spiritual materials. If you are not finished with a book, you can sign it out to be returned later. I am grateful for this time for prayer, welcome, and support from the fraternity.

Sr. Jacinta Tran, CMR

I am grateful for the opportunity to make a five-day retreat at the Franciscan House of Prayer in Ava. Its surroundings are tranquil, peaceful and heart-uplifting. The simple lifestyle of the friars made me feel comfortable.  I especially loved the Blessed Sacrament chapel where one can look out to nature through the windows.

Fr. John Joseph Gonchar, OFM

Hospitality made the experience special, said Tom Gerchak, second from right.Jesus sent his apostles on a mission.  When they returned and reported their experiences, Jesus, realizing that they were tired, said to them: “Come away by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while.” (Mark 6:31)

I would definitely say that our House of Prayer in Ava, Mo., is a deserted place in the sense that it is quite isolated and very quiet and peaceful.  It is so quiet that I kiddingly say that you can hear the leaves falling from the trees.  I enjoyed my brief stay there, and would highly recommend it to anyone seeking such a quiet and peaceful atmosphere of prayer.  Several trails in the surrounding forest are an added attraction to help you experience God’s presence in nature.  It is a great place for meditation. Friars Francis Wendling and Sean Murnan, who look after the House of Prayer and its surroundings, are very gracious hosts.  Your time with the Lord will be greatly respected.   It will be an experience that you will never forget.  I know.  I’ve been there.

Deron Smith, preaching minister

When Jesus and the disciples had been ministering to the large crowds of Galilee, Jesus told the disciples to “come away with me to a quiet place and get some rest.” In today’s society, where rest, solitude, and silence are elusive, Our Lady of the Angels friary provides a quiet place to get away with God, to enjoy Him, listen to Him, and rest in Him.  Friars Francis and Sean are wonderful hosts, and the setting is beautiful and peaceful.

O Canada!

Sabbatical sights: Parks, postulants, pets


(This week Frank e-mailed “some random thoughts on my sabbatical so far.”)

PHOTOS BY FRANK JASPER, OFMPostulants Ted Splinter, Mark Wakely, Adrian Macor and Cody WiebeWhen I pulled into Mount St. Francis Retreat in Cochrane, Alberta, it was cold and rainy.  I didn’t have a good sunny day for two weeks.  However, the nasty weather provided some time for prayer, reading and reflection.

When the meteorologist predicted a few nice days in a row, I headed up to Banff and Jasper National Parks.  It was nice in Cochrane, but very cold and nasty in the parks.  The mountain in Jasper that was my goal had over a meter (about 40 inches) of snow, which closed the road for a day.  I later visited there and found about 6-7 inches of snow left, and lots of mud.  The positive results were that the storms put out the local forest fires.  As I returned to the retreat house, the sun came out and I had a glorious day driving through the mountains.

A pet blessing in Cochrane The postulants for Christ the King reside here and they are a solid group of men, eager to follow Jesus after the pattern of Francis.  They are:  Adrian Macor (37), a licensed electrician; Ted Splinter (32), owner and operator of a kitchen cabinet business with his brother; Mark Wakely (35), a prison guard; and Cody Wiebe (23), a professional mover (think, Two Men and a Truck).  They look forward to joining our postulants from Silver Spring at the novitiate in Santa Barbara next year.

Last week the provincial councils for the Canadian provinces met here to discuss their revitalization and restructuring.  Their process is simpler than ours with only two provinces.  However, they have two languages and needed simultaneous translation for those who do not speak English and French.  Their process seems to be moving smoothly and quickly compared to ours.  They anticipate restructuring in 2018.

The Canadians have an interesting perspective on our American president and his style of leadership.  They don’t hold that against me, though they do mock us regularly, especially in the political cartoons.

So far, my sabbatical has been relaxing and interesting.  I’m remembering all of you in prayer.

Stressed out? Get a grip!

Stress is a part of everyone’s life.  It can be a good thing: A little stress can heighten your senses and productivity.  However, too much stress can create or worsen physical and emotional problems.  Manage your stress levels through a healthy lifestyle and simple tension-reducing activities.

Try these strategies:

  • Talk things out.  Don’t hold in feelings of anger, joy, hurt, sadness, and excitement.
  • Exercise regularly.  Aim for 30 minutes a day, five days a week.
  • Eat right.  Foods high in protein, vitamin C, B vitamins, and vitamin A protect us from the effects of stress.
  • Do not use drugs, alcohol, or tobacco to cure stress. Tranquilizers and sleeping pills should be used only under a doctor’s care.
  • Develop a realistic, positive attitude.
  • Work at managing time efficiently.
  • Learn to unwind with music, meditation, or visual imagery.
  • Realize that every crisis gives you the opportunity to grow and learn.
  • Develop a support network of people you can count on for help.
  • Get enough sleep each night.

Quick ways to ease tension:

Get in a comfortable position.  To the count of 5, take a long, slow, deep breath.  Then exhale to the count of 5.  Imagine that you are breathing out excess tension and breathing in relaxation.  With each breath, say to yourself, “Relax.”  Repeat 10 times.

Massage your temples, shoulders, and neck.

Laugh away your worries.  Keep a collection of jokes or humorous articles handy to read and share.

Stretch away tension.  Do these simple exercises: Upper Back Stretch, Shoulder Rotations, Overhead Reach, and Waist Bends.  Yoga is also excellent. Happy stretching!

Michelle Viacava, RN

Province Nurse

Warning signs

Some signs of a stressful lifestyle are:

  • Skipping meals or eating on the run due to lack of time
  • Often feeling run-down and/or too tired to exercise
  • Frequent illness
  • Trouble falling asleep or staying asleep
  • Difficulty saying “No”
  • Eating, drinking, or smoking when you’re nervous
  • Feeling your life is out of control

  • Greg and students say their goodbyes.Against the perfect backdrop, 12 Assisi Scholars from Roger Bacon High School and four students from Immaculate Conception Academy in Oldenburg, Ind., posed for a group picture earlier today marking their final hours in Assisi. Fr. Greg Friedman accompanied students on their week-long pilgrimage to Assisi and Rome, the culmination of three years of a program for these high-achieving students. Wish you were there? Check out Umbria Webcam, live-streaming 24/7 from a street in Assisi at:
  • Fr. Mike Chowning shared this resource on the Pope and the Bishops’ Immigration and Refugee effort:
  • Secular Franciscans and others interested in Franciscan spirituality gathered last weekend at Quiet time during the retreat in EastonSt. Francis Retreat House in Easton for a weekend retreat on “Living Simply with St. Francis and St. Clare”. Br. Mark Ligett and Fr. Henry Beck helped with the logistics, welcomed the guests and planned the retreat and liturgies using readings from the Franciscan heritage. In addition to Secular Franciscan and Poor Clare speakers, a pilgrimage in slides was presented Saturday with commentary on Assisi, La Verna, San Damiano, and the Portiuncula by Diane Rice, a member of the Retreat Planning Committee. According to Henry, “It spurred in many the desire to go and visit Assisi.”
  • “I’m not on Facebook,” Br. Scott Obrecht said when we asked if he ever visited our province Facebook page. You don’t have to be part of the Facebook community to see the news, videos, photos and resources posted there. All you have to do is follow the link and start scrolling. Check it out at: Tip: You DO have to be on Facebook to leave a comment. In case you lose the link, the media box in each issue of News Notes will help you find our website, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube pages, as well as past issues of the newsletter.
  • After suffering great losses in World War II, Lithuanian Franciscans scattered throughout the world. Superiors of the Order commissioned them to serve in the United States. Eventually they reassembled to found St. Anthony Franciscan Monastery in Kennebunkport, Maine. On Oct. 1, Provincial Minister Algirdas Malakauskis of the Province of St. Casimir in Lithuania joined the friars in Kennebunkport to celebrate their 70th anniversary. Among the guests were ESC Definitor Caoimhín Ó Laoide, Provincial Minister Robert Campagna of IC Province, Provincial Minister Jim Gannon of ABVM Province, and 200 friends from around the country.

PHOTOS BY MARK SOEHNER, OFMVisiting Ricardo Russo in Santa FeI’ve been on the road in New Mexico for the past week. This is my first meeting with the English Speaking Conference of Provincials. And this time the ESC is also hosting the Minister General and his Definitorium.  I am learning quite a bit about how things are organized in this international body. We also had a few days before the larger meeting to discuss our path forward among the six provinces that will vote in May on whether to reconfigure ourselves into one province.  More on that will be coming after further clarification with Michael Perry.

Before these meetings, I was graced to have visitation with four of the five SJB friars working in the Southwest. I met first with Br. Bill Spirk, who is living at San Juan Diego Friary, an Albuquerque retirement house in the OLG Province.  Friars here are blessed with a large, spacious house, delicious cooking and a supportive community. Adjusting to life here, Bill is searching for some part-time ministry in the area.

I next met with Frs. Bruce and Bryant Hausfeld at their parish in Cerrillos, N.M.  They told me that friars from our province had been here for quite some time before the parish                       Bruce and Bryant Hausfeld at the friary inCerrillos.was returned to the diocese.  Fr. Donnan Herbe was the last friar in Cerrillos before the Hausfelds moved there.

Fr. Ricardo Russo met me at his home in Santa Fe.  When I arrived, he was working on an engine and emerged from under the hood. Santa Fe is surrounded by so much beauty. With Ricardo I watched a hawk being chased away from a crow’s territory. Ricardo is something of a visionary; he sees the occurrences of nature as signs of God – a bit like St. Francis!

My time with these brothers confirms that undefinable sense of brotherhood that connects each one of us.  And visitation opens me up to a new way of being with God – through these brothers.


— Fr.  Mark Soehner, OFM



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

PHOTOS BY TONI CASHNELLIAbove left, with a resident; above right, Once home to students, it now houses seniors.; above, for Reynolds Garland, Don Holtgrewe and Dominic Lococo, part of the attraction is green space and wildlife.Fr. Reynolds Garland still has the 26 Rules of Discipline from St. Francis Seminary.

One of Dom’s sketchesWhen Dominic graduated from high school in Louisville in 1950, “I didn’t want to go to college. Then I was drafted into the Army. They already had two of my brothers. I was thinking about becoming a friar, so I checked out churches every day.” As a student preparing for ministry, he was granted a D-IV exemption, sparing him from the Korean War. “It was providential.”

Office of Communications Province of St. John the Baptist