May 28, 2015

At Friars Club, Junior Dribblers learn that

Winning isn’t everything

BY TONI CASHNELLIJunior Dribblers brandish their trophies after the last game of the season at Friars Club.

Shaun Rice Jr. has wanted to play basketball “a long time, since I was little,” he says.

Six-year-old Shaun is less than 4 feet tall.  So by “little”, he means, “since I was 3 or 4.”

His wish was granted in March when his dad, Shaun Sr., brought him to Friars Club for Junior Dribblers, where wee ones learn the basics of a sport that is perfectly suited to their frenetic energy. But the main reason Junior came is because, “It’s fun to play.”

“Fun” best describes what happens on Saturdays from March through May. And it’s not confined to the 150 kindergarteners, first- and second-graders who pass, dribble, shoot and defend with surprising skill. Parents, coaches, even the refs who are run ragged seem to be having a good time.

“Hands up!” yells coach Tionna Jordan, hounding her players down the court at Friars Club during a recent Dribblers game. Hollering is the only strategy that works when other teams from Friars Club and Catholic inner-city schools are squaring off in the same facility at the same time. Add the blaring buzzers and the whooping parents on the sidelines, and the din is deafening.

You hear the standard cheers – “Rebound, rebound!”, “De-fense! De-fense!”– as well as supportive shouts such as, “Good job!” and “Good hustle!” Most of the players, bouncing up and down like the rainbow-colored basketball they’re pursuing, are oblivious to the scoreboard.

Game changer

“Winning is just a product of what we teach,” says Annie Timmons, Friars Club Executive Director. “At the end of the game some kids ask, ‘Did we win?’ They don’t even know. It’s not so much about the game as it is about life.” Of all the sports at Friars Club, “Junior Dribblers is probably my favorite thing to do. They love it so much. They work so hard.”

At this age, “There’s more innocence; the kids are just in it for the fun,” says Parrish Ozias, program director for the co-ed Friars teams. (David Routt of Friars Club coordinates teams from schools that are part of CISE, the Catholic Inner-city Schools Education Fund.) “They’re enthusiastic. They all play hard and want to do their best.” Gender isn’t an issue; the hard-charging girls are as tenacious as the boys.

“No one’s jaded yet. Winning and losing isn’t that important.” What IS important is the takeaway. Beyond the basics, “It teaches them teamwork, how to understand and cooperate with team members,” especially important for the “only-child” participants. Besides that, “It promotes good health as well. They burn off energy.”

Tionna’s job is to channel that energy into a cohesive unit. “You can’t be too nice or they won’t listen,” she says. A freshman at Roger Bacon High and a former Friars Kid, Tionna is one of 13 students recruited from area schools to coach the Dribblers. At twice-a-week practices, “They learn shooting drills, defense drills, offense, and we scrimmage with other Friars teams so they know what to expect” at Saturday games with CISE teams. Getting their attention is the hard part, Tionna says. After that, “They learn to do things so fast it’s surprising.”

In one season with Junior Dribblers, “He definitely understands the game better,” says Shaun’s dad, Shaun Sr. “His leadership skills have come a long way. He’s definitely playing again next year.” Junior says he’s learned “to go after loose balls and keep your eyes on the ball.” At this stage, “I think I’m doing good.”

Parent Desmond Fowler Sr. played basketball at the old Friars Club on McMillan. “I grew up around this,” he says. “Having my son here playing for Friars Club is a great tradition. He’s learning plays, the fundamentals of how to dribble the right way, how to look for teammates and play as a unit. It keeps them active. They’re making friends. For me, as a dad, it lets me watch my son growing up. I couldn’t ask for a better thing in life.”

PHOTOS BY SCOTT OBRECHT, OFMAbove, Tionna with her team; right, setting up the shot.Above, watching from the bench; right, Zyohn takes a free throw.Evenly matched

What they’re here to cheer is effort. In two periods 16 minutes long, the scoreboard reads “O-O” for long stretches – even with the basketball hoop lowered to 8½ feet. Of course, points are not the point. That’s fine with Parrish, who tries to level the field in forming teams. “We don’t want any team being better than any other,” he says. “We absolutely don't want that. We love it when the games are close."

But even at this age there are standouts. One of them is 5-year-old Zyohn Gillespie, a scrappy bundle of talent who is dwarfed by his teammates. Leaping and dribbling with the best of them, he shrugs off a scraped elbow from a collision with another player that knocks them both to the floor.  Zyohn reluctantly trudges to the sidelines to accept a Band-Aid, then rushes back into the game. He is promptly fouled, heads to the free throw line and – swoosh! – makes the shot. The crowd goes wild.

“They’re so eager to play,” says Tionna. “Right before the game I tell them, ‘Go in there and do your best. Have fun.’ I congratulate them even if they mess up. As I do that I see them get better and learn from their mistakes.”

When the game ends – Tionna’s team prevails, 4 points to 2 – players line up to high-five opponents. Wins don’t matter much; at the end of the season, they all get a trophy. “It’s not real competitive,” says Tionna. “When we lose they don’t cry. It’s just like another game.” She watches as her team begins to disperse. “I love working with them; they’re almost like my little brothers and sisters. I’m kind of sad the season is almost over.”

So is Shaun Jr. If he were not here, he says, “I’d probably be home playing video games.”

20 journeys that started with faith


“Fidelity” was the theme of the Jubilee homily. And it certainly applies to the 20 friars who were honored on Memorial Day at St. Monica-St. George Church in Cincinnati.

But how about another word:


Every adjective it implies – steadfast, tenacious, resolute – also suits the 20 jubilarians who celebrated milestones ranging from 25 to 65 years of service to God’s people. Faith inspired their journey, but perseverance made this day possible.

Illness (themselves or others) prevented Warren Zeisler, Joe Rigali and Bryant Hausfeld from attending. John Turnbull was there with his recently replaced knee. Distance couldn’t keep Paul Walsman, John Joseph Gonchar, Ed Gura and Dennis Bosse away.

Frank Geers represented all of them in his homily. “I’m honored to accept the privilege of preaching this jubilee,” he told the congregation. “I want to especially thank all those who voted for me.” He paused for laughter. “I received three votes – everybody else voted for themselves.”

Left & above, Frank Jasper presides at St. Monica-St. George.Above, Carl Langenderfer shoots pics from his Jubilarian pew; left, Jubilarians Tom Speier, Frank Geers and Ed Lammert.Today, he said, “We are celebrating the great virtue of fidelity – not so much your and my fidelity, but God’s fidelity. It is not because of what we have done through the years that we are here today, but because of what He has done in and through us. Somewhere along the line we have learned, and yet are still learning, that we cannot become holy by anything that we do. God is the sanctifier, the grace-giver.”

As St. Bonaventure made clear, “Our part in the start of the spiritual journey is the desire, the willingness to be changed.” Mary prayed in the Magnificat, “’He who mighty has done great things for me and holy is his name!’ Then in joy and gratitude she went to visit and help her cousin Elizabeth. The Lord has also done great things for us through the years. And in gratitude for God’s gifts we have used them to help others.”

At the dinner that followed, presider Frank Jasper introduced a video greeting Jeff Scheeler recorded before he left for the General Chapter in Assisi. “While I’m honored to be there, it surely would be wonderful to be with you,” Jeff said.

In addition to the traditional tributes, with some classic black-and-white photos, there was a new feature this year: a Friars Trivia quiz featuring Jubilarians. Nobody got all 20 questions right, but Pat McCloskey came the closest with 15 correct answers. His prize was a candle from Assisi and $25.

If there was a prize for perseverance, it would have gone to John Turnbull, who made it to the Jubilee a month after knee surgery. Asked about the impact of the Mass and the accolades, John said he was thinking about one thing: “How blessed we’ve been.”

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A most memorable meeting


Left, Jeff Scheeler is greeted  by Pope Francis; below, Jeff congratulates new General Definitor Caoimhin O’Laoide; right, the Pope welcomes friars; below right,  Cardinal Peter Turkson.ESC PHOTOSThere’s no doubt that the highlight of the General Chapter this week was the audience with Pope Francis. ᅠThe individual greeting only took 2 or 3 seconds, but getting there was quite a project. ᅠWe had to take buses to Rome, pass through security, gather at a certain place at a certain time, wait, and then climb many stairs to get to the Sala Clementina. ᅠI was about five from the front. ᅠPope Francis spoke in Italian, so I only understood the message when I read it later on. ᅠOur General Minister Michael Perry stood next to the Pope and told him our names and country. ᅠ(I was pretty amazed at that, given that there are about 160 of us!) ᅠI said to Pope Francis, “Thank you, Holy Father, for the hope that you give us.” ᅠHe did not speak in return; I was not sure if he understood me. ᅠTo be honest, I did not realize he smiled so broadly until I saw the picture from the OFM website later on.

We have had two “outside” speakers this week, Marie Dennis of Pax Christi and Cardinal Peter Turkson (of Ghana) of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace. ᅠWe have formed “Commissions” where much of the work on proposals will be done, but they have yet to begin their work. ᅠSome of us are feeling anxious and fearful that there is much work yet to be done, and if we do not get to it soon, we will be rushed as we approach the end, and not do our best work. ᅠI am on the “Governance, Service of Authority, and Changes to the General Statutes” Commission. ᅠOur task is to “a) formulate proposals and observations, b) analyze the proposals and observations of other commissions, and c) discuss reports given in our plenary sessions.” ᅠThe Commissions are where the real “work” of the Chapter happens. In each commission you will find all the languages, and those who know other languages help to make it work.

There is a lot of sickness going around. ᅠI had a sore throat for several days, now moved to a cough, but others have had much worse. Several have spent days in bed. ᅠLuckily the Provincial of Naples is also a medical doctor. ᅠHe gave me two days’ worth of an antibiotic and an anti-inflammatory medicine, which helped a lot. He goes home on weekends to work in a Naples ER, but we are really blessed to have him with us!

I continue to be impressed by our universality and diversity. ᅠThe other day during a discussion in our English language group, I noted the nations represented: Ireland, Indonesia, Pakistan, West Papua New Guinea, India, Lithuania, Malta, Netherlands, Australia, Canada, Hungary, South Africa, Austria, and the U.S.

The Chapter is punctuated by moments of prayer; we begin each session with a reading from the Rule or Admonitions. ᅠPeriodically we have a moment of reflection on Scripture. ᅠI have been reading Murray Bodo’s new book Entering Assisi, and finding it a wonderful help in experiencing this place more deeply. ᅠ This evening we have evening prayer with the Poor Clares at Santa Chiara, followed by a cookout.

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Henry  (top row, second from right) with his fellow interns and supervisor-facilitators Beth Saner, FSPA, and Ron Stua, CMF.I completed my Spiritual Direction Internship Program at the Claret Center here in Hyde Park on Wednesday, May 13th.ᅠOur group of seven interns received our certificates in the midst of a beautiful prayer service that evening. I wanted to say thanks to the provincial council and to the province for supporting me in this program during this past year.ᅠ I learned so much about a new way of listening and interacting with others through this program.ᅠ The Wednesday program sessions during the past nine months helped me to shift from my “pastoral counseling” skills to new “spiritual companioning” skills.ᅠ I am finishing up with my three graduate theology student-directees next week.ᅠ I would recommend this program highly to anyone interested.ᅠ A new cohort is forming now, and you can find more information at:ᅠ They also offer very creative continuing education workshops all during the year.ᅠ Thanks and peace!

– Fr. Henry Beck, OFM



A final Mass at St. PatrickSt. Patrick was once the cathedral of the diocese.

For more than 150 years, St. Patrick Parish proclaimed the Gospel in the city of Detroit.  A hundred years ago the parish housed the cathedral of the diocese. For the last 40 years it was a life-giving presence in a neighborhood often without much hope. Ten years ago St. Patrick was clustered with St. Aloysius, and the friars assumed the pastoral care of the parish.  On Pentecost Sunday, May 24, after much turmoil and pain, that history came to an end as the parish was canonically closed.

With fewer than 50 participants at Sunday Mass, St. Patrick could no longer sustain itself.  Once they came to that realization, the parishioners opted to close rather than merge with St. Aloysius.  Auxiliary Bishop Donald Hanchon presided at the final Mass. He spoke of the early disciples’ uncertainty and confusion as the Holy Spirit came upon them and led them in directions that they could not have known. The bishop’s words brought healing and peace to a sad and troubled congregation. Afterwards the parishioners joined Michael Radomski, Loren Connell and Ed Gura at a nearby restaurant for a final meal together, where Loren gave each household a memento of the parish’s history.

– Fr. Loren Connell, OFM