January 7, 2016



Pakistani friar Bernard Bhatti leads Alex and Vince through a Christian neighborhood in Karachi.Concern for creation
in Pakistan

(Provincial Councilors Fr. Alex Kratz and Br. Vince Delorenzo are in Pakistan through Jan. 12 to visit the friars and attend their annual assembly.)


The urgent nature of the Pope’s encyclical on care for creation was brought home in the first days of our visit to Pakistan.

The Annual Assembly of the Custody of St. John the Baptist began here in Karachi at the motherhouse on Tuesday, Jan. 5, with the theme “Laudato Si: We care for our Common Home, Mother Earth.”  Gathered were some 46 friars, including 12 young men in initial formation, two friar-bishops and the Archbishop of Karachi.  We began with an inspiring Opening Prayer in chapel based on our caring for creation theme; it included the charming and uplifting local Pakistani music and final recitation of the Canticle of Creation.

The Archbishop of Karachi, His Excellency Joseph Coutts (who knows ALL the friars), gave some insightful opening remarks about the importance of “caring for creation” in Pakistan.  Since I already had my own notes on the encyclical, Custos Yusuf Bagh and I were able to put together a Power Point presentation, and I then shared some thoughts about the encyclical.

As a first-time visitor who has just walked Polluted water in the streets of Karachi.Bernard and visitors at the home of a family that owns a concession stand/store at St. Philip’s Parish, adjacent to the motherhouse.Alex addresses theAssembly.through one of the Christian neighborhoods along with Vince Delorenzo and Bernard Bhatti (who served with us in Jamaica), I can see the true urgency of the Pope’s call to an “integral ecology” and cultivating “ecological virtues” in light of the uncollected trash and widespread pollution of water.  In the Diocese of Hyderabad, according to friar-Bishop Samson Shukardin, various strains of hepatitis are spreading because poor people have only stagnant, polluted water to drink.  “Water justice” and caring for Sister Mother Earth takes on a new perspective and vital urgency in a developing country like Pakistan where the poor have few options and when an integrated approach with comprehensive solutions (Laudato Si, 139) are lacking.  Undertaking an “environmental impact assessment” (ns. 80, 89) and an authentic “environmental education” that always maintains a transcendent perspective can be a distinctive contribution that the Catholic Church but especially the friars make to interreligious dialogue here in Pakistan; it can benefit the many poor from all religious backgrounds.

Focusing on the many young men in the first few rows of the assembly, I shared with them that they will be the examples and educators of the future, and others will be looking at them for guidance and wisdom.  The brothers certainly embraced this collective presence as we concluded the opening evening with a rousing rendition of the Italian Laudato Si song sung by the men in formation.

Home for Christmas: There was standing room only for Gregg’s funeral at St. Mary Parish in Bloomington.

A wish fulfilled


On Christmas Eve, Fr. Gregg Petri was feeling impatient.  “Why can’t I die?” he complained to Fr. Ric Schneider.  “Be patient, you will,” Ric assured him.  The next day, on Christmas afternoon, Gregg passed away peacefully at Heritage Health Nursing Home in Normal, Ill.  He was ready, willing, even anxious, and went home for Christmas.

Fr. Frank Jasper and I joined the local friars and parishioners as Gregg’s body was welcomed at St. Mary Parish in Bloomington on Tuesday, Dec. 29, by a full church. During the rite of reception Ric choked up as he remembered how Gregg was a good friar, a good priest, a good man who will definitely be missed.  Ric commented on the extraordinary care that Br. Kevin Duckson offered by taking Gregg regularly to the doctors, often several times a week, without complaint.

His brother Darrel Petri said that Gregg “taught him how to die.”  He also joked about the lack of Gregg’s computer skills, and how he once teased him about the ghost of a sister who roamed the second floor of the old convent.  Gregg moved his office to the friary after that.  His brother Nick remembered all the visits the family made to Duns Scotus, Oldenburg, and St. Leonard.  Gregg always accepted people “where they were,” while his niece Laurie Snodgrass mentioned how proud he was of all the nieces and nephews and their families; “you would think he was the grandparent,” she said.

Clockwise from top left: Gregg at a Hispanic celebration; the blanket displayed at the funeral; Gregg with students at Cathedral High in Gallup in the 1960s.Gregg’s Aunt and Uncle, John and Ann Petri, will be celebrating their 70th wedding anniversary this summer, and were especially disappointed that Gregg will not be able to preside at the celebration.  Gregg was particularly close to them, often visiting and bringing them communion.  Numerous parishioners testified to his pastoral care.  One woman who was not able to receive communion shared that she really felt the Lord’s presence when Gregg blessed her as she came forward.  Another was touched by his comment during confession that “all is forgiven.”  Another stated how “generous” he was with the use of oil during the anointing of the sick, which brought murmurs of agreement from the congregation. Gregg loved to go out for breakfast and even scheduled the Cursillo Mass time so that could happen.  He founded the Spanish Cursillo in the Peoria diocese.

Hispanic ministry was Gregg’s first love, and the Hispanic community was present in force, and in fact prayed all through the night.  Deacon Jose Montenegro shared that one time Gregg described himself as having “green eyes, white skin, but a brown heart.”  While the Knights of Columbus stood at attention during the evening, they prayed the rosary, litanies, and sang Hazme un Instrumento de tu Paz and Noche de Paz.  Several gave testimony to Gregg’s ministry; one invited un applauso in his honor, and the church responded.

Bishop Daniel Jenky came to the bilingual funeral Mass along with about 12 local clergy and led the final commendation, thanking the friars for their service at St. Mary’s and throughout the diocese.  The combined choir (9 a.m. Mass, 11 a.m. Mass, and Hispanic choir) led a standing room only crowd in Spanish songs that Gregg had chosen.  In his homily, Fr. Neri Greskoviak shared how Gregg was “interruptible” and ready to serve even when he was weary.  Gregg was truly “missionary” just as Jesus was “missionary” to us.  He confirmed that Gregg had really entered fully into the Hispanic culture, even as he retained his Germanic background.  Neri suggested that Gregg fulfilled Pope Francis’ challenge to “smell like our sheep.”

In the vestibule was a lap blanket Gregg often used when he napped; on it was the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe.  Mary enveloped him in her care, and the blanket often at his feet was like Mary at the foot of the cross of Jesus.  Neri began and ended his homily the way Gregg always began his liturgy: “It is good for us to be here today, and to share the fruit of the Word, and the fruit of the Eucharist.”  He echoed Gregg’s regular prayer for immigration reform in our country.  Singing Psalm 23, a large crowd followed Neri to the gravesite at St. Joseph Cemetery, where Gregg was laid to rest with other friars buried there. His family and friends returned to the parish for a grand lunch.

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For us, Mary is an icon of how the Church must offer forgiveness to those who seek it. The Mother of forgiveness teaches the Church that the forgiveness granted on Golgotha knows no limits.  Neither the law with its quibbles, nor the wisdom of this world with its distinctions, can hold it back. The Church’s forgiveness must be every bit as broad as that offered by Jesus on the Cross and by Mary at his feet. There is no other way.

– From the Holy Father’s sermon at St. Mary Major, where he opened the last Holy Door in Rome.

When we got word that Gregg Petri had entered Hospice care and would not be with us very long, I changed my visitation schedule for St. Margaret Hall in Cincinnati and drove to Bloomington, Ill., so I could see him before he passed away.  I got there on Monday afternoon, Dec. 21, and visited him with Neri, Ric, and Kevin.

Later in the evening I returned for a short visit just by myself.  The conversations were short because Gregg was tired and weak, but he was also alert, and maintained a sense of humor.  Gregg talked openly about his coming death.  He didn’t seem to be afraid, and he shared his readiness (even anxiousness) to meet the Lord.  He connected with the Advent spirit of waiting.  He talked of his joys and regrets.  He told me about how he prayed throughout his life, and how at this moment it was difficult to pray the same way, but he still felt very “prayerful.”  He reminded me of his funeral plans and asked if I could use some Spanish in the funeral.  I prayed with him and thanked him for his ministry and life among us.

I consider it a great gift for the few times when I have been able to talk so openly with someone who is preparing for death; it touches me very deeply.  It seems to me that Gregg’s death was not so much something that happened to him, from the outside, but something he did, from the inside.  His life was not taken from him; he handed it back to God.  I was also very grateful for the evident fraternal care that Ric, Neri, and Kevin gave him during his illness.  There were many trips to the doctor, and they even gave up their Christmas afternoon to be with him as he welcomed Sister Death.  I certainly feel some loss, but I feel much more gratitude for Gregg, Ric, Kevin, and Neri.

— Fr. Jeff Scheeler, OFM

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Patrick Wolterman, firefighterDec. 28, following the tragic death of firefighter Patrick Wolterman while battling a blaze in Hamilton, Ohio, Roger Bacon High School shared a remembrance of 28-year-old Patrick. It reads in part:

“The entire Roger Bacon community is saddened by the passing of Hamilton firefighter and Roger Bacon graduate of the Class of 2005, Patrick Wolterman.

“Patrick was a member of the 2005 varsity football team and was named a Greater Catholic League (GCL) Academic All-Star his senior year.  He is remembered fondly by his classmates like Phillip Cobb, who called Patrick ‘a genuine person who always wanted to help others – you could always count on him.  Pat was always determined and never afraid of a challenge.’

“Roger Bacon Principal Steve Schad said, ‘Patrick embodies the Franciscan values of service to others, compassion, humility and discipline that we strive to impart to all of our students.  He gave his life in the service of others – there is no greater expression of love.  We are proud of him and what he represents.’

“Patrick Wolterman is a shining example of a hero. To all the firefighters, police, first responders, military and the myriad of other individuals who risk their lives for us on a daily basis, we are grateful.”

  • “The children were amazingly attentive and had tons of questions,” Larry Zurek (back row) spoke to students at Our Lady of Lourdes in Western Hills.Fr. Larry Zurek said of his visit to Our Lady of Lourdes Elementary School Nov. 4 during National Vocations Awareness Week. Larry was among several area religious whose presentations were noted in the January issue of The Catholic Telegraph (online at thecatholictelegraph.com). “The guests spoke to students about how they came to discern their own vocations and about what their respective congregations or ministries do for the world,” according to CT. “It dawned on me that, unlike my experience where I had Franciscan sisters teaching me from K- 8, most of these kids have never met a religious sister, brother or priest,” Larry told us. “After my experience at Our Lady of Lourdes, I attended an evening supper at the Newman center at St. Monica/ St. George.  I asked these college students if they knew or ever met a religious, other than the friars there, and nine out of 10 said they hadn’t.  Our sphere of influence has diminished greatly over the years and yet religious life has the power to awaken something in the heart of one seeking to do God’s will in their life.”
  • Also in that issue of the Catholic Telegraph was a report on St. Monica-St. George’s solar panel and lighting conversion project: thecatholictelegraph.com. SMSG has raised more than $100,000 in pledges toward the $173,000 energy overhaul.
  • Friars gathered Wednesday at St. Mary Cemetery in St. Bernard for the burial of Fr. Bernardin Schneider’s ashes. Bernie died Jan. 8, 2015, but “partial remains were unexpectedly brought to us recently by someone who attended his funeral in Tokyo last January,” according to Fr. Jeff Scheeler.
  • For ideas for observing the Jubilee Year of Mercy. Fr. Henry Beck suggests visiting the website of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, usccb.org. Henry also shared a link from Br. Roger Lopez to a number of books and pamphlets from amazon.com. “These are published by the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelization (Amazon). Some titles here are: The Works of Mercy, The Psalms of Mercy, The Parables of Mercy, etc. They look good also. Finally, I have just started to read a book called: The Church of Mercy: A Vision for the Church by Pope Francis (Loyola Press, 2014). The opening pages speak so well of Pope Francis’ vision that the Church receive and then extend ‘the caress of the mercy of Jesus Christ’. There is also another book that looks very good.  It is called The Works of Mercy: The Heart of Catholicism by Fr. James F. Keenan, SJ (Sheed & Ward, 2008). May it be a year full of mercy and loving-kindness for all of us.”
  • For all things Spartan, check out Roger Bacon’s Spirit Shop, now on Facebook at: facebook.com
  • St. Aloysius Parish shared some beautiful photos on its Facebook page of the Archdiocesan Chorus of Detroit performing at the Solemn Mass of the Epiphany of Our Lord at St. Peter’s Basilica, celebrated by Pope Francis, at facebook.com
  • Check out this post on the US Franciscans Facebook page, “15 Important Days of the year for Franciscans,” detailing 15 days of the year that hold special significance: usfranciscans.org
  • Monday afternoon Pope Francis made a surprise visit to Greccio, Italy, and met with the local Franciscan community, according to Vatican Radio. “The town is well known as the place where, in December 1223, St. Francis set up the first crib scene. …The tradition continues in the same hillside cave which has become a popular local shrine, and visitors can also see the monastic cell in the nearby convent where St. Francis slept. During the brief visit Pope Francis spent a few moments in silent prayer at the shrine, visited the adjacent Church and had lunch with the local bishop Domenico Pompili. He also greeted a group of some 70 young people who were taking part in a pilgrimage to Greccio.”
  • For the first time, Pope Francis has announced his monthly prayer intentions via video at: youtube.com. The intentions are available in video format through a project developed by the Pope World Prayer Network (Apostleship of Prayer).

Feeding the hungry in D.C.

The greenhouse that supports the lush gardens at the Franciscan Old greenhouse at the Franciscan MonasteryMonastery in Washington, D.C., is also an important source of food for those in need. Produce from the greenhouse goes not only to the monastery kitchen, but to local convents and DC Central Kitchen, which provides 5,000 meals a day for the homeless in the nation’s capital. Last year the Franciscan Monastery Garden Guild, which cares for the grounds and the greenhouse, donated nearly 6,000 pounds of fresh produce to local convents and soup kitchens. They’d like to do more. A much-needed renovation of the 100-year-old greenhouse, which operates on 1920s technology, would turn it into a year-round operation. The goal of a fund-raising campaign is $632,000. According to the monastery’s website, “The new ‘year-round’ greenhouse will also help the Garden Guild to expand its field trips, workshops and educational outreach programs.”  To learn more, watch their video at facebook.com or visit agoodcause.com.

—Toni Cashnelli