March 12, 2015

(How did you celebrate your birthday? Max decided to hike Blue Mountain Peak, the highest mountain in Jamaica at 7,402 feet.)


March 2, after our cluster meeting, Jim, Louie, Tom, Blane and I went to the Pushcart Restaurant on the Negril cliffs to celebrate my 69th birthday. Patrick Montine and Brandon Newland, our new Franciscan Mission Service lay missioners, joined us. Dani Andreotti, a 24-year-old medical student from Houston who was visiting Blane, also joined us for supper.

During the table conversation Dani mentioned that climbing Blue Mountain Peak was on her “bucket list,” things she wanted to do before she died. We friars commented that we of the older generation should be the ones with a bucket list, not her at 24.

I knew that Louie had been wanting to see Blue Mountain for a long time. Brandon and Patrick were interested, too. So we decided to go to Kingston on Thursday, stay overnight at Whitfield Hall (elevation, 4,000 feet), leave early on Friday morning for the hike to the peak, and return to Savanna-la-mar on Saturday in time for Sunday Masses.

The adventure begins

We left Sav at 9 a.m. Thursday morning and arrived at the remote rural village of Mavis Bank at 3 p.m. The old Land Rover from the Whitfield Hall coffee plantation [they grow the famous Blue Mountain Coffee] was waiting to ferry us up the mountainside to the farm hostel.  Only a Land Rover

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Birthday wish: a walk in the clouds

Above, looking out from the highest point in Jamaica; left, Max Langenderfer.

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could pull the steep dirt lane up the mountainside. The house is from the early 1900s with bunk beds in the bedrooms, kerosene lanterns, barely running water, and a Rasta cook. We had a good chicken and rice supper and arranged for a 4 a.m. breakfast.

We were on the trail by 5 a.m. headed for Jacob’s Ladder, a series of steep switchbacks through the coffee plantation. It was cool and cloudy with a full moon occasionally lighting the way. We reached Portland Gap around 7 a.m.

We began the second ascent through more forests and more switchbacks.  The trail was well graveled in places and very rocky in others. Occasionally we had beautiful views of Morant Bay along the southeast Jamaica coast.  Most of the time we were in the clouds with a strong wind from the north coast side. The last stretch from picture rock to the peak was rugged with some wash outs. The ferns and tropical rainforest foliage were lush from lots of moisture.

Top of the world

The peak was a swirl of wind and clouds. The survey marker stone had disappeared. A dilapidated shed was full of trash. I soon headed down to the picture rock while the others were eating their sandwiches. It took some shouting and searching before we found one another again.

At 10 a.m. we started down again. I took my time on the way down while the others went ahead.  The sun came out after Portland Gap and the afternoon scenery for the last third of the hike was spectacular. I crept slowly into Whitfield Hall at 2:20 p.m. After a cup of fresh brewed Blue Mountain Coffee we had another adventurous ride down the mountainside lanes in the back of the Land Rover.

I think we all enjoyed the adventure. The Blue Mountain Peak hike is one of the more well-known tourist attractions in Jamaica.  Sharon Merrill and I made the hike to the peak in 2012. Sharon had gotten quite sick from dehydration and the food. However we had had a great adventure on the rugged trail.  On this hike three years later I was the slowest and on the way up felt like I was too old for this type of trail. But I thoroughly enjoyed the solitude and the scenery on the way down.

Above, Brandon Newland, Dani Andreotti and Patrick Montine; right, Louie Zant pauses along the trail.

Francisco Ó Conaire, OFMBlessings for St. Patrick’s DayPHOTO BY WOLFGANG SAUBER/WIKIMEDIA COMMONSImage of St. Bridget at Our Lady and Saint Non’s Chapel in Wales.


What do we do on St. Patrick’s Day? March 17 will be my first St. Patrick’s Day in Ireland since 2007 when I spent a few years here after finishing in the JPIC Rome office.

Until more recently, St. Patrick’s Day seems to have been celebrated with much more enthusiasm by those of Irish ancestry, including our fellow Irish in the USA, than by those here at home. However, the Irish don’t like to miss an opportunity to celebrate; so many public activities are organized around the country, including religious ceremonies, parades, sports events, concerts, Irish dance and music gatherings, etc. There will be a big parade here in Dublin and many smaller parades around the country.  Unlike the friars in Cincinnati, we have not managed to organize a Franciscan float. Hopefully, that could be a possibility for another occasion. It is a bank holiday. Many will also go abroad taking advantage of the long weekend. We expect many visitors from other countries.

We have two Masses here in our Dublin friary in the morning. We will have a meal and time together in the evening. Later I will go to my mother’s house, so my sister can take a break and celebrate with her friends. Our mother, in her 93rd year, is doing very well and still manages to stay in her own home.

This reminds me of a prayer from St. Bridget of the Gael which is one of the Celtic prayers of protection. Through these prayers the people invoked God’s protection and imagined God’s encircling presence around them; a circle of light and grace, warding off all harm. This prayer is uniquely expressed in St. Patrick’s Breastplate. However it is also expressed in a prayer attributed to St. Bridget. Seeing that we just celebrated International Women’s Day last Sunday, and in honour of all the women who have protected us and loved us during our lives, I share this prayer with all of you, members of St. John the Baptist Family.

I arise today
Through a mighty strength:
God’s power to guide me,
God’s might to uphold me,
God’s eyes to watch over me;
God’s ear to hear me,
God’s word to give me speech,
God’s hand to guard me,
God’s way to lie before me,
God’s shield to shelter me,
God’s host to secure me.

–St. Bridget of the Gael

I would like to wish all the friars of the Province a very happy St. Patrick’s Day.  I carry very fond memories of my time with you during visitation. Thanks for your kindness. I will finish with another famous Irish blessing, which I am sure many of you know well:

May the road rise up to meet you,

May the wind be always at your back,

May the sun shine warm upon your face;

The rain fall soft upon your fields.

And until we meet again, may God hold you in the palm of His hand.

New owners are sold on former friaryLeft, Maynard Tetreault celebrates the sale of the former St. Anthony Friary (above).


A couple from South Hurst, Texas, with ties to the area have purchased the former home of St. Anthony of Padua Friary in Uniontown, Pa. “Their dream that they would love to see happen is that they could use it for a bed-and-breakfast one day,” says Shelley Sharp, the real estate agent (with Howard Hanna) for the 11,000-square-foot house and four-acre property.

Greg Dayton, who bought the house with wife Janis, has relatives on the same street as the friary. “He wants to retire back home,” says Shelley. “I showed it to them back in July or August and they kept thinking and dreaming and finally, thank goodness, it was available when they were ready for it. They never thought they would get to own an estate that grand. They’re very excited about it.” The closing took place March 5.

Dubbed Elmcrest when it was built in 1911 and later known as the Playford Estate, the house withstood the coal boom, the Great Depression, a tragic murder-suicide and almost a quarter-century of neglect before it was purchased in 1955 by the Most Holy Savior Commissariat and re-named St. Anthony of Padua Friary. According to a 1981 newspaper interview with former resident Fr. Matthew Brozovic, “Their primary apostolate has been the proclamation both in English and Slovak in the Franciscan tradition the length and breadth of the Diocese of Greensburg.”

The house was a home for the friars and a weekly worship community until June 2013, when Fr. John Joseph Gonchar and Br. Bill Spond, the last two residents, departed. Initially Fr. Maynard Tetreault, Provincial Building Coordinator, sought a non-profit buyer for the property. “St. Vincent de Paul had a number of different possibilities [for use] and worked on it very assiduously,” he says, but the sale never materialized.

This week Maynard, who is recuperating from surgery in Galveston, celebrated the sale with a special meal prepared by Fr. Richard Goodin. The accompanying photo shows “the very, very broad smile on my face,” Maynard says.

Shelley says the new owners will do basic updates but expect to make no major changes to the house or its architecture.

“It’s too beautiful to do anything to. It’s a grand place. It’s a piece of Uniontown history as well.”

Mark Ligett in Easton, Pa., and Jerry Beetz in Jackson, Ky.

  • “We tend to be the ‘forgotten’ class,” Br. Mark Ligett says of the anniversary he shares this year with classmate Br. Jerry Beetz. March 25, the Feast of the Annunciation, both friars will celebrate 40 years of solemn profession. Sept. 5, 1967, Jerry and Mark arrived at “Saint Joseph’s Brothers School” at St. Anthony Friary in Mt. Airy, along with 22 other postulants.ᅠ “You know, the two of us should have made final profession three years earlier,” Mark says, “but, because both of us left the community for a short period of time (I transferred to Gethsemani!), the General Definitory ‘took away’ my three years of temporary vows and made me renew them for one additional year beginning in 1974.ᅠ So our professions are only counted from 1974.ᅠ Jerry and I both know and celebrate those extra three years.ᅠ They were very real and even though they may have canonically been taken away, no one can really take them away from us!” The friendship the pair forged early on has been a blessing for both. Of Mark, Jerry says, “His best qualities are his musical ability, his sense of humor and his storytelling ability.” In Southeast Kentucky, “Jerry’s work with the poor in Jackson paralleled my own ministry in Harlan, and he always understood just what I was dealing with,” Mark says. “I have always felt genuine love and support from Jerry...a love and support that continues to this day.”
  • Fish fries at St. Mary of the Angels are a popular topic on New Orleans newscasts. Last week Fr. Dennis Bosse was interviewed by two TV stations: WGNO-ABC (archived at: Fridayfishfry ) and WLAE public TV (airing today at 7:30 p.m.; check for archives).
  • Friars and Poor Clares say they were inspired and energized by a talk given Wednesday by Cardinal Oscar Andres Rodriguez Maradiaga, SDB, at the Athenaeum in Cincinnati. Cardinal Rodriguez, Chairman of the Council of Cardinals advising Pope Francis, spoke about “The Joy of Consecrated Life: New Wine in New Wineskins” as part of the celebration of the Year of Consecrated Life. A video of his presentation was posted by the St. James Project at: Church. (Click On-Demand.)
  • Fr. Greg Friedman talks about the importance of Lent in a video series from the Franciscan Monastery of the Holy Land. Hear his reflection at: Constantcontact. Greg recently shared a link on his Facebook page to a story about how to respond to panhandlers; it was written by a student from the University of Cincinnati. Find it at: Panhandling

Bubs Kindt with fraternity brothers at Bockfest.

Above, their guests at dinner; below, Larry Dunham and baker Br. Max at the Monastery.

Good food, good friends

Since the 1990s, the Monastery of the Holy Land has invited neighbors and friends to a pasta dinner several times a year. Despite the nasty weather, last week’s dinner of the year went on as planned, with pasta donated by a caterer and dessert cakes baked by resident Br. Max, who also runs the monastery gift shop. “It is primarily meant to be a ‘friend-raiser,’ with an emphasis on welcoming our neighbors here in the Brookland part of D.C.,” says Fr. Greg Friedman. “The Knights of Mt. St. Sepulcher, who are a fraternal/service group here, are also involved in helping.”

 In Cincinnati, last week’s Fish Fry to benefit St. Francis Seraph School got a boost in business from Bock Fest, the all-things-beer festival centered at Christian Moerlein’s Event Center near the school and parish in Over-the-Rhine. Saturday, St. Francis Seraph Ministries added a sandwich booth manned by members of the University of Cincinnati’s Sigma Alpha Epsilon (SAE) Fraternity and soup kitchen director Bubs Kindt. It’s the same fraternity that volunteers on Fridays at the soup kitchen and pitches in whenever extra help is needed, says Bubs.

Left; Carlo Shivel on the Galveston ferry; below, cleaning up the gravestones in Southfield; right, Dan Barrett at the Christian Service site in Shreveport.

Past meets present in journey of discovery

Top left, Jonathon Douglas at the friary in Lafayette, La.; above, with Al Mascia in Berkley, Mich.




What kind of adventures have you been on recently?  The postulants this year are five men who are on a year-long adventure, punctuated with actual road trips to get to know our province better.  While we cannot visit all the friaries in the province, we have gone to a variety of them in two different areas.

Our first visit in September was to the Northern Kingdom, visiting St. Aloysius Friary, Transfiguration Friary and the new Duns Scotus Friary.  In our travels there we stopped at the old St. Francis Seminary, St. Leonard College and Duns Scotus College, and at Old St. Mary’s where friars had a parish in the late 1890s.  In the Northern Kingdom we helped out in some of the ministries that the friars were actively involved with:  the various food pantries in inner-city Detroit, the Franciscan Outreach Program at Transfiguration, and the Care’avan and new healing ministry emerging out of Duns Scotus Friary.  We cared for the graves of our friars at Holy Sepulcher and visited the Capuchin Center where the Venerable Solanus Casey is buried.

Our second visit was from Feb. 18-March 2, visiting the Southern Kingdom.  We were treated to great hospitality in all the friaries of New Orleans, Lafayette, Galveston, Shreveport and Ava.  The postulants were amazed at the variety of styles of parish and outreach that each of these gave.  Each postulant could see their particular gifts utilized in a number of these friaries.  They wondered when they could begin their Supervised Time in the Province (STIP), or whether they could complete their postulancy at one of these friaries.

First there is a novitiate to discover, which will provide its own adventure.  We leave Saturday (March 14) for a visit to Burlington, Wis., for our Celibacy Workshop with Br. Sean Sammon, FMS.  There we reconnect with the other postulants from the six provinces, whom we met for the first time at a Profiling Workshop last October with Tim Lamb.  Adventures in the Northern and Southern Kingdoms might help you to remember your own experiences there – and to pray for these young postulants as they begin their Franciscan journey.

It pretty much happened accidentally, but my Lenten practice has turned out to be “cultural.”ᅠ Earlier in the year, my housemate, Al Hirt, and I talked about doing some more things together in the course of the year.ᅠ So two weeks ago we attended a free opera (Alcina) put on by the students at the University of Cincinnati’s Conservatory of Music.ᅠ Last week we attended their delightful production of Peter Pan.ᅠ This weekend we are attending the Cincinnati Symphony.ᅠ (I won free tickets through WVXU, our local NPR station!)ᅠ Last evening I attended a talk on Dante’s Divine Comedy which was presented as part of UC’s Chair of Catholic Studies.

It might seem like an unusual Lenten practice, but as I reflected upon this unusual abundance of cultural events, it struck me as a good opportunity to step out of the usual hum-drum and appreciate the beauty of this wonderful world.ᅠ I sometimes forget about the beauty and get focused on the ugly.ᅠ There are so many talented and gifted artists and musicians who manifest the beauty God has put into the world, and it is good to be in the presence of such beauty. Such beauty can have a powerful effect upon the soul, and lead one deeper into the experience of God.ᅠ “You are Beauty,” Francis said in his Praises of God, and in his Life of St. Francis, Bonaventure wrote,ᅠ“In beautiful things he saw Beauty itself and through his vestiges imprinted on creation he followed his Beloved everywhere, making from all things a ladder by which he could climb up and embrace him who is utterly desirable.”ᅠ On second thought, maybe this has not really been a bad way to prepare for the Beauties of the Paschal Season.


— Fr. Jeff Scheeler, OFM Email To a Friend