June 18, 2015

The world weighs in on the pope’s encyclical

“’LAUDATO SI’, mi’ Signore’ – ‘Praise be to you, my Lord’. In the PHOTO BY SHUTTERSTOCK words of this beautiful canticle, Saint Francis of Assisi reminds us that our common home is like a sister with whom we share our life and a beautiful mother who opens her arms to embrace us…. This sister now cries out to us because of the harm we have inflicted on her by our irresponsible use and abuse of the goods with which God has endowed her.”
– Pope Francis in
Laudato Si

Imagine the possibilities


The New York Times and the Washington Post may not agree on the length of Pope Francis’ newly released “environmental” encyclical Laudato Si’ – the former has it at 184 pages, the latter, 192 – but it’s clear both publications consider its release and content worthy of in-depth coverage. Although a draft of this controversial document was leaked to Italian press prior to its official release today, it can now be found on the Vatican’s website for all the world to read! No matter how long its actual pagination winds up being, at this point I have only been able to skim through it once. I have, however, read with great interest some anticipatory commentaries, Al Mascia, OFMmost of them agreeing that this communique may very well wind up being as salient and contentious as the 1968 encyclical Humanae Vitae. For anyone wanting an immediate and pretty decent summary, just check out Wikipedia, which appears to be doing real-time revisions of its analysis!

Apart from sharing a common interest in this particular encyclical with millions of others committed to Justice, Peace and the Care of Creation – as someone who leads retreats on the papacy of the Holy Father – I’m eager to incorporate its many landmark and potentially “game-changing” directives into what I currently present. Only time will tell what the actual impact this seemingly watershed epistle will have upon the Church and society but I think, given initial reactions, it’s safe to say the effect will be historic.

Notable Catholics such as presidential candidate Jeb Bush have already come down on the “Mater si, magistra no” camp, believing the Church has no right pontificating, if you will, on business, politics or economics; while many others of different faiths or no faith at all couldn’t be more enthralled! As for me, I dream of an outcome that will somehow reflect the synergistic effect resulting from the interplay of Pope Francis’ Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, this current encyclical and the upcoming Jubilee Holy Year of Mercy, boldly employing a hermeneutic of relationships. Just imagine a Church, in both theory and praxis, embodying and manifesting the apotheosis of Joy, Stewardship and, in the words of Pope John XXIII, the “medicine of mercy”! I can only imagine what our beloved Father Francis would have to say!


Protecting ‘our common home’

The Order of Friars Minor:

“In the words of Patriarch Bartholomew, the Holy Father reminds us of ‘our contribution, smaller or greater, to the disfigurement and destruction of nature,’ and declares the urgent need to bring the whole human family together to seek sustainable and integral development so as to protect our common home.ᅠ His passionate call for changes to lifestyle and system paradigm is indeed timely.”

Ban Ki-moon, UN Secretary General:

“The Secretary-General welcomes the papal encyclical released today by His Holiness Pope Francis which highlights that climate change is one of the principal challenges facing humanity, and that it is a moral issue requiring respectful dialogue with all parts of society.”

Rabbi Marvin Goodman, Jewish Community Federation and Endowment Fund, San Francisco:

“I’m inspired and grateful for the Pope’s high profile leadership and commitment to environmental justice.”

Michael Brune,PHOTO BY FRANK JASPER, OFMWe are challenged “to simplify our lives,” says Michael Perry.
 Sierra Club Executive Director:

“Pope Francis’s guidance as a pastor and a teacher shines a light on the moral obligation we all share to address the climate crisis that transcends borders and politics.”

Imam Taha Hassane, Islamic Center of San Diego:

“Local and National Muslim Leadership support policies that both halt environmental degradation and repair that which has already occurred. We stand with any leader, secular or spiritual, who is willing to speak out against this issue.”

Minister General Michael Perry, OFM:

“His encyclical challenges us to simplify our lives, to strip away all that is not necessary in order to rediscover the beauty that God has placed within us, within all human persons, and within all created things.ᅠOur vocation is to live in unbounded solidarity with all that God has created.”

The Dalai Lama (on Twitter):

 “Since climate change and the global economy now affect us all, we have to develop a sense of the oneness of humanity.”

(Response from Catholic leaders: encyclical)

Not to be missed!Some genius packed all the drama of a blockbuster movie trailer into this tongue-in-cheek preview of the Pope’s encyclical. See it on YouTube at Feature

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Random (and final) memories and images from the General Chapter

Kevin Mullen (HN Province) with Hugh McKenna (Ireland).ESC PHOTOJeff meeting Pope Francis: Was there a connection?PHOTO FROM OFM.ORGAssisi is amazing.ᅠ I loved the several opportunities I had to walk alone through the streets of the city.ᅠ I loved to watch the crowds of tourists that Francis still draws.ᅠ One Saturday evening about 10 p.m., a group of us were leaving a restaurant near the central piazza.ᅠ It was raining and the piazza was empty.ᅠ For some reason I wished I could stay in the piazza, all alone, and soak up its spirit.ᅠ Reading Murray Bodo’s new book Enter Assisi while I was there helped me get more out of the book and Assisi.

• The once in a lifetime meeting with Pope Francis was over in about 2 or 3 seconds.ᅠ As I waited in line I was anxiously preparing what I would say to him.ᅠ After I greeted him, I kind of felt disappointed that I had not really “connected” with him.ᅠ I really don’t think he heard what I said.ᅠ Yet when I saw the picture afterward, it was clear that we both had broad smiles and looked each other in the eye.ᅠ We had connected!ᅠᅠ Not sure what to make of that!

• Our various languages both unite and divide us.ᅠ It was amazing to me how I could communicate when needed with another when we spoke different languages.ᅠ At the same time, the diversity in the English speaking group was equally amazing, with brothers from the U.S., Ireland, Canada, countries in Europe, Asia and Africa. In the end, the charism unites us all!

• In all honesty, it seemed to me that the process we used was not completely helpful.ᅠ A good process is important in coming to a good conclusion.ᅠ A poor process almost guarantees a poor conclusion!

• A few times “passion” erupted in the meeting room!ᅠ Several friars spoke ardently about their hopes for the Chapter and the Order, which was actually good to experience.ᅠ As in most meetings, there were friars who spoke often, a little, and not at all.

• Many of us, including me, got sick during the Chapter.ᅠ I was under the weather for almost three weeks. (Though it is ghastly to say, I think I am allergic to something in Assisi!)ᅠ The sickness spread to many of us, and I would say almost most of the friars had sore throats and heavy congestion at times.

• The Province gave some money to an entity in Africa for their formation program.ᅠ The provincial made a point of seeking me out and, in broken English, thanking me for our generosity.

• Gil Wohler’s death was one of about 10 friars’ deaths that were announced at the Chapter. It almost felt like a friar was dying every other day!

• Kevin Mullen (Provincial of HN in NY) knows more Irish songs than the Irish do!ᅠ Many an evening we spent recreation singing songs!

• IC Provincial Primo Piscitello has bad knees, and needed a wheelchair; his faithful assistants were HN Provincial Kevin Mullen and IC’s Alvin Te. It was always moving to see them fraternally getting Primo to the various events.ᅠ Both Provincials are from New York (HN and IC); some of the friars sang the song New York, New York as they saw them!

• E-mail and the Internet are so helpful in feeling connected to home, family, and friends, especially when you are away for a while!

— Fr. Jeff Scheeler, OFM

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Friars left their imprint on this sacred place


(Another in a series of Greg’s ongoing reports from the Holy Land.)

Hilary Schneider, OFMMt. Nebo in Jordan memorializes the story in the Book of Numbers about the death of Moses. From its summit, Moses looked into the Promised Land, but could not enter with the People of Israel. The Fourth-Century pilgrim Egeria wrote that she saw the tomb of Moses on this mountain, and a church there.

SJB’s Fr. Hilary Schneider also looked into the Promised Land from Mt. Nebo in 1937. As a student at the Franciscan Biblical Schoolᅠin Jerusalem, the young priest joined in the work of excavating the site.

The Franciscans of the Holy Land had acquired the mountaintopᅠin 1933, and Franciscan archaeologists began uncovering the ruins of a large monastic complex and basilica (and a more ancient structure beneath), with beautiful mosaics typical of those found in other churches in this part of what would become the modern country of Jordan. Glimpses of the past at the vistors’ center.

The book, Mount Nebo: New Archaeological excavations 1967-1997, by Franciscans Michele Piccirillo and Eugenio Alliata, notes that in 1937, “Two new members joined the staff, Father Hilary Schneider, a student at the school, and Father Augustine Arce.” Hilary photographed the work of the excavators, and helped prepare “the register of objects” found there.

Today, pilgrims to Mt. Nebo can see a portion of the work of those friar-archaeologists. The church is currently closed, as the great mosaics are being preserved and mounted and other improvements are being made for future visitors. But a visitors’ center displays some early mosaics, pottery and other finds, and explains the meaning and history of this sacred place.

Friar Fergus Clarke, current guardian, tells pilgrims that Mt. Nebo “recalls God’s faithfulness to us,” in the Scriptural events which unfolded here and on the valleys and plains below, stretching to the Jordan River and beyond, to the Promised Land. Father Hilary, part of SJB’s “Schneider Clan,” helped in his own way to point to that faithfulness.

The sweeping view from Mt. Nebo in Jordan.PHOTOS BY GREG FRIEDMAN, OFM

Bedlam and blessings at Mt. Airy

BY DOMINIC LOCOCO, OFMPHOTOS BY CARL LANGENDERFER, OFMTop, Little Antonio, from Detroit, shopped at the Shrine in his habit; middle, Jeff Scheeler and Norbert Bertram at Mass; bottom, Kenan Freson greets pilgrims at Mt. Airy.

The other day, I brought up a story on my computer called “Chaldeans, Facts and Fiction.” In the article I was made aware that they are Assyrians and most came from a land north of Iraq. It is a very scholarly work and, to be honest, six pages over my head.

The author, Fred Aprim, states, “Today’s Chaldean term is a pure religious title which dates back originally to the Fifteenth Century when Nestorians of Cyprus and their bishop declared their loyalty to the Roman Catholic Church.” In History of Syria, Dr. Philip Hitti, teacher of Semitic Literature at Princeton University, wrote: “The term Nestorian was applied to it at a late date by Roman Catholics to convey the stigma of heresy in contrast to those of its members who joined the Catholic Church as Uniates and received the name Chaldeans.”

All of the above is said as introduction to the mayhem that comes every June 13th, the Feast of St. Anthony, when those descendants of these same Chaldeans come to St. Anthony Shrine to pray and entreat the Franciscan saint for health and happiness. It must be working because they keep coming back year after year. Mind you, not one or two busloads, but six or seven!

I was asked to provide St. Anthony chaplets for the incoming pilgrims last year and this past Saturday I added glass candle holders and bracelets with the medal of the saint. Next year, if I live that long, I will add small framed pictures of St. Anthony holding the Infant Jesus. Marcel Groth was a big help in assisting me in this endeavor.

Special thanks goes to Colleen Cushard and her staff for making these adventures possible. Also, friars Larry Zurek and Adam Farkas made me aware that four cases of glass candle holders were too small for the candles the friary was selling by the case to our pilgrims. They kindly drove to Good Shepherd Religious Goods Store on Colerain Avenue about a mile away to bring back four cases of candles that were made for the holders. After attending services and making their purchases, the visitors rode one of the large riverboats on the Ohio and visited several of the churches in Covington. It was a long day for the whole Mt. Airy Team, but well worth the effort. May God bless all our devotees of good St. Anthony, one of the most beloved saints of all time.

(EDITOR’S NOTE: Dominic donated $600 – half of his Saturday earnings – to the missions.)

Henry Beck toured D.C. with friends from the Institute.

Ralph Parthie and Dennis Schafer: Let them eat ice cream cake.

  • “I valued the inspiring presentations and the time to be with other priestly formators who honestly feel both challenged and graced to be doing this ministry,” says Henry Beck, who last week finished a session at The Institute for Seminary Formators at Theological College in Washington, D.C. Attendees included diocesan priests, religious priests and several religious sisters and lay women. “Each of us was involved in some way working with seminarians and community members preparing for ordination.ᅠThe insights from veteran mentors and the questions and insights from new formators all added to the richness of the experience for me.” An afternoon break gave participants the chance to tour D.C. on foot. “We visitedᅠthe Washington Monument, the MLK Jr. Monument, theᅠVietnam Memorial, the Korean Memorial and the monument to World War II vets.  I kept thinking of Dad and his five years of service during the war in the South Pacific.” One day, “I also was able to visit Larry Dunham at the Franciscan Monastery for lunch.ᅠ Larry showed me the back of the property, and I was amazed to see the new hermitage there, the bees, the garden, and the cemetery with several of our friars from SJB Province.ᅠ We had a great visit.”
  • Catholics on Call has extended the deadline to July 8 for applications to this summer’s conference in Chicago. The five-day program, Aug. 4-8, was developed for young adults ages 18-30 who are considering the possibility of a life of service in the Church as a lay ecclesial minister, religious sister or brother, or priest.  “In a non-pressure environment, they will gain a better understanding of vocation, prayer and discernment,” organizers write. “Please direct the young adults to our website where they can register online or download the registration form:ᅠ http://www.catholicsoncall.org/young-adult-conferences.”ᅠThe registration fee is $50.
  • Need a gift for Father’s Day? Jim Van Vurst’s Semiannual Watercolor Art Show and Sale is this Saturday (following the 4:30 p.m. Mass) and Sunday (after the 8:30 and 10:30 a.m. Masses) at St. Clement Church in St. Bernard.
  • Congratulations to team members Ralph Parthie and Dennis Schafer, who marked the 40th and 35th anniversaries of their ordination on June 7 at the interprovincial novitiate in Burlington, Wis. On June 9, novices decided the best way to celebrate was with an ice cream cake.  They shared this photo on Facebook at: Burlington

John Joseph Gonchar, OFMIt was indeed an honor to have received the Manifesting the Kingdom Award from Bishop David Zubik, the local Ordinary of the Diocese of Pittsburgh, Pa.ᅠ[June 7]. At first, I was somewhat taken aback that I should have been nominated by our provincial, Fr. Jeff Scheeler, to receive this award.ᅠ Hindsight makes me appreciative and grateful for his consideration of me as worthy of such an honor.ᅠ What added to the honor of the award was the personal presence of our Vicar provincial, Fr. Frank Jasper.ᅠ He traveled all the way from Cincinnati to be there for me.

I will also always be grateful to the friars of the province who sent me personal congratulations. What solidarity!ᅠIt puts me to shame, for I so often fail in this regard.ᅠIt brings to mind the words of St. Paul concerning the Church: “If one part suffers, all the parts suffer with it; if one part is honored, all the parts share its joy.” (1 Cor. 12:26)ᅠ I rejoice that the whole province was honored by my receiving that award.

Fraternally with love,
Fr. John Joseph Gonchar, OFM

Remember those ‘other’ dads

(Loren’s letter appears in this weekend’s parish bulletin for St. Aloysius in Detroit.)

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

PHOTO BY SHUTTERSTOCKGrandpa was an old man. He had a shock of white hair and walked with a limp; tobacco ash fell out of his pipe. He was proud of his grandkids but was awkward in expressing affection.  He lived on the farm, and we didn’t see him often. The farm was exotic – chickens and pigs and cows, corn and oats, trees and fences, a house with a front stairs and a back stairs, and, of course, the shop. Grandpa was a blacksmith. My brother and I spent hours with him in his shop. Draft horses had given way to motorized machinery, and Grandpa’s smithing consisted of assorted metal-working – hinges, ties, nails, etc.  He repaired wagons and farm machinery.  Rusting scrap iron lay everywhere.

Grandpa would often let John and me take some of that scrap iron, put it in the forge, let it heat from brown to red to orange to yellow to – if we were patient enough – white.  Then we’d take that hot scrap out with a pair of tongs, hold it on the anvil, and pound it into whatever shape our wild imagination and limited skill allowed.  Afterwards we’d plunge it into a rusting barrel of dirty water and hear it sizzle as hot metal met cold liquid. Meanwhile, Grandpa would have been quietly working on a project of his own, every 30 seconds or so casting a look our way and in his gruff concern warning us to be careful.

Grandpa died when I was 10.  John and I would play in the shop for a few more years, but it wasn’t the same without the rumpled old man shuffling around in the background.  Happy Fathers’ Day to all the grandfathers in our community!

Peace and every blessing,
Fr. Loren Connell, OFM