July 23, 2015

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Mass appeal

Detroit ‘Mob’ descends upon St. Al’s


Pews were packed, as far as the eye could see. Above, video highlights of the
St. Aloysius Mass Mob are posted
at: https://vimeo.com/133449024; left, celebrants at St. Al’s; below, St. Aloysius Parish was founded in 1873; the ‘new’ building was completed in 1930.

This was the scene July 12 at St. Aloysius in Detroit, an inner-city parish that normally numbers about 100 faithful souls. That day when the big bronze doors swung open for the 11:30 a.m. Mass, 1,100 worshippers streamed inside.

“We had people on all three levels of our church for the first time since I have been here,” says Pastor Loren Connell. Their attendance was not unexpected. For months St. Al’s had been planning to host a Mass Mob, part of a movement that encourages attendance at urban churches. One Sunday a month, members of the Detroit Mass Mob mobilize through social media to discover the city’s historical – and sometimes overlooked – treasures.

“It was a great experience for the parish,” says Loren, “a great way of bringing the parish together. I would say at least half of our able-bodied parishioners were involved in one way or another” with the logistics of managing 10 times the normal crowd.

“We had lots of people getting the church prepared physically. There were people behind the scenes setting up temporary seating. We didn’t have enough hymnals for all the people so we put a program together that included the hymns and a brief history of the parish and our outreach. We had our usual contingent of ushers augmented significantly so people would be led into our main, lower or upper level. We of course had a much larger number of Eucharistic ministers. We had health care personnel including Ed Gura stationed at key points in case they were needed.” Thankfully, they were not.

As for the liturgy, “It was a normal Sunday Mass,” Loren says, with a homily about Jesus sending out apostles to preach the Gospel. “I talked about how we do that today. A lot of visitors commented to me and others how appreciative they were that it was a normal Mass so they could experience what St. Aloysius is like on Sunday.”

After Mass, “We had folks giving tours on the history of the building.” As guests departed, “Some of them told me it was their first time there. Others had been to St. Aloysius 40 or 50 years ago when they were shopping with their mother at J.L. Hudson [department store, now closed]. Many others had been there and were glad to be back.”

When the Mass Mob was proposed for St. Al’s, “I was not gung-ho on this thing,” Loren admits. “I didn’t think it was the right time,” given the recent closing of their affiliated parish, St. Patrick. “I wasn’t real enthused about it until maybe a week before, and I gradually began to get excited.” In the end, “It was really neat; it was a building experience.”

The crowd was a bit smaller than the 1,300 to 1,500 attendees Mass Mob had predicted. “We were happy with what we did get,” says Loren, adding, “If there’s any place in the province that is in need of consecrated hosts, we still have 300 or 400 in our tabernacle.”

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PHOTO BY JEFF SCHEELER, OFMAlumni and friends gather for a group photo.At the recent Franciscan Alumni Association (FAA) Chapter, held June 26-28 at the old St. Francis Seminary, I had the opportunity to preside at the Eucharist with friars, former friars or seminarians and their families. This is always an enjoyable gathering, full of stories and memories. This was the 45th anniversary of my graduation from high school; we graduated 22 in 1970 and 11 of us showed up for the reunion!  It was a great time to re-connect, and “connecting” became the theme of my homily.

The Gospel was Mark 5:21-43. I spoke of Jairus trying to connect with Jesus so that his daughter might be cured, and the woman with a 12-year hemorrhage being cured by connecting with Jesus, or even touching his robe. I suggested that our Franciscan Alumni from St. Francis Seminary, Duns Scotus, St. Leonard and the Brothers School might want to expand, and connect with men who have come and gone in more recent years. I asked them to help us vocationally, and invite men in their parishes (even their families) to consider joining us. I reminded them that Henry Beck’s father was a simply professed friar who discerned he was called to another way of life, but through that we got his son, Henry!

The idea seemed to resonate with them, and there has been some e-mail conversation with their board about how we and they might do that.  Men who have discerned with us or shared our life for a while often cherish the time they spent; they learned valuable things, made good friends, and may want to continue some kind of relationship with us and others who love Francis and Franciscan values. If you are an alum and happen to be reading this, or someone with a connection with some former SJB friar, consider inviting him to connect with the FAA (http://franciscan-alumni.org/) so that together we can share the joy of a Gospel life in its many forms.


— Fr. Jeff Scheeler, OFM

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‘America’ is ready for Pope Francis

Jim Martin, S.J., at “America House” on July 14.PHOTO BY TOM WASHBURN, OFMBY TONI CASHNELLI

They’re putting out the welcome mat and crossing their fingers.

In September Pope Francis, a Jesuit, will visit New York City. Staffers at America Media, also Jesuit, are hoping he will swing by their offices on West 56th Street.

It could happen, says Fr. Jim Martin, S.J., author, commentator and popular Editor-at-Large for America magazine. “He stops by a Jesuit community every place he visits.”

Even if he doesn’t, America Media is pulling out all the stops to chronicle the first papal visit to the States since 2008. Speaking to 11 ESC communicators gathered in New York for their annual meeting, Jim describes the coverage they’re planning in the magazine, on their radio show, America This Week, and through films, social media and special events. “Supposedly, [Editor] Matt Malone and I and our Rome correspondent are going to help out ABC News.”

If anyone can appreciate their all-out effort it’s Francis, the first pope with a Twitter account. “Jesus used parables, Bishop Sheen used TV, Francis is doing in-flight papal conferences,” says Jim, a devout disciple of social media. “Why wouldn’t you use the media to spread the Gospel?”Above, Jim Martin shows Tom Washburn a note from John Kennedy; right, with ESC communicators.PHOTO BY TONI CASHNELLIPHOTO BY TOM WASHBURN, OFM

Like the magazine he represents, Jim often shares multiple views on sensitive issues. Outspoken and animated, he has 294,000 followers on Facebook – and some of them squawk when they think he’s crossed the line. Posting a neutral note after the Supreme Court decision on same-sex marriage, “I got tons of hateful comments,” Jim says. His response was, “We need to learn to love people and listen to people.”

“Yesterday I put something up [on Facebook] about climate change. I didn’t think it was controversial.” Readers shot back, “‘You’re an idiot.’ If I said, ‘I love Jesus Christ,’ I would get hate mail [such as]: ‘Don’t you believe in the Trinity?’ I used to take it to heart.” Now, he says, “I delete tons of comments and ban some people.”

Whenever he writes, “What I’m careful about [is] I never contradict Church teaching. I’m conscious of myself as a Jesuit. There are some areas which you can encourage people to look at differently within the boundaries of Church teaching.”

Consider your audience, he tells the Franciscan communicators. “The IQ of Catholics is so different than it was years ago. People don’t know the things we think are pretty basic. We [at the magazine] were told years ago that things were too ‘churchy’ or obvious, that we aren’t the Catechism. We’re so close to it we tend to think, ‘Let’s leave this to RCIA.’” But the vast wealth of information about Catholicism and religious orders is a “kind of buried treasure” to be shared through all forms of media.

 “Seventy percent of our readers come to America through Facebook,” Jim says. “People are on YouTube. Jesus went to where the people are. If Jesus could talk about the birds of the air, then we can tweet.” Besides, “All the Beatitudes are under 140 characters.”

 (Find Jim Martin on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/FrJamesMartin.)

Renewed in the Spirit


June 29-July 2, we gathered in St. Louis, Mo., for the Fourth Annual Assembly of the Association of U.S. Catholic Priests.  Al Hirt and I joined 158 priests from among the 1,100 members nationwide.  We ranged in age from 48 to 91 years old, and we were renewed in the Spirit by the presentations and our fraternal conversations.  I know I was renewed in my desire to learn more about the inspired documents of Vatican II and to help the mission of this council to unfold further in the next 50 years.

The assembly’s theme was “Gaudium et Spes: Gospel Joy in the World Today.”  We benefited from hearing and engaging with Fr. Greg Boyle, SJ, who wrote about his work with gang members and their families in Los Angeles over the past 30 years in his bestselling book, Tattoos on the Heart: The Power of Boundless Compassion. He encouraged us to develop “kinship” with those on the peripheries of society and the Church.

Fr. Michael Joncas, liturgical composer and professor, helped us see more deeply into Gaudium et Spes by elaborating on the development of our modern and post-modern worldviews that developed in the 250 years leading up to Vatican II.  Michael helped us see the “prescient” insights that the council members offer us with regards to the need for a Christian humanism and an ecology of Henry Beck and Al Hirt at the assembly with one of their heroes.“household.”  These insights are coming to fruition most recently in Pope Francis’ latest encyclical.

Fr. Tom Rosica, CSB, founding CEO of Canada’s Salt and Light [Catholic] Television Network and presently serving with the Holy See Press Office, also spoke to the assembly.  Recently this network has produced a powerful DVD called The Francis Effect on the vision of Pope Francis.  Tom also shared that they are releasing a new series in July 2015 on Creation.  For more information please go to their website: www.saltandlighttv.org.

Finally, we heard from Sr. Simone Campbell, Executive Director of NETWORK since 2004 and author of A Nun on the Bus: How All of Us Can Create Hope, Change, and Community.  Her main theme to us was to “walk toward trouble” with a willingness to carry the questions that arise with candor and prayerful confidence in God.

Al and I were deeply inspired by the presentations, the small groups, and the fraternal support felt in the assembly. “I’ve been able to attend all four of the Assemblies since this organization began,” Al says. “I find the deep commitment of these priests inspiring.  Many of these men have been in the Vatican II trenches all of their priestly lives and are so committed to the vision of that Council.  Each year is a hopeful and insightful experience for me.”

We invite other friars to consider attending the Fifth Assembly of U.S. Catholic Priests, June 27-30, 2016, in Chicago.  For more information, ongoing dialogue, and to join the association, please go to: www.uscatholicpriests.org.

  • Fr. Art Espelage packed 2,000 years of Church law into a new survey course he recorded for Now You Know Media. In Canon Law: How Does It Work?, Art explores the principles and rules that govern religious conduct. “In 12 lectures, you will see how religion and the lives of all Catholics are intertwined in spiritual, practical, cultural, and historical ways,” according to the producers. “This course makes a perfect addition to any parish library….” It’s available on DVD, audio CDs, and MP3 format. Says Art: “I think the material reveals a Franciscan spirit with respect to church law in the Catholic community.” To learn more visit: Teaching.
  • Save the date: Br. Tim Lamb’s Missioning Service (to Africa, Madagascar and Mauritius) is at 3 p.m. on Sunday, Aug. 23, at St. Francis Seraph Church in Cincinnati. A reception follows. Please RSVP (by Aug. 15) to the Franciscan Mission Office at 513-721-4700, ext. 3220.
  • In a July 6 story called “Five Hostages”, The New Yorker refers to a St. Anthony Messenger article about journalist James Foley, who was murdered by ISIS in 2014. “You can find the passage by searching for St. Anthony Messenger in the article itself,” says John Feister. Read the story at: Five-hostages. SAM’s article is posted at: Article.
  • Last weekend parishioners gathered at St. Paul the Apostle to welcome their newest friar, Fr. Joe Hund, to Lafayette, La. Br. Juniper Crouch snapped this photo at a reception in the parish hall.
  • Pastor David Kobak of Holy Family Parish shared some beautiful aerial video of Oldenburg, Ind., shot July 18 by Robert Ivers during the 2015 Freudenfest and posted on YouTube at: Fest. Freudenfest , Oldenburg’s annual “family fun day” since 1976, features live German music, food, contests, shows, games and German beer on tap.
  • July 16, staffers at Christ Hospital gathered in the Pastoral Care office to wish Fr. Simeon Cleves well as he retires after 17 years of chaplaincy. “Simeon was joined by CPE student Colin King and hospital dietary staffer Adam Ghantani, who volunteered at Zacchaeus House many years ago,” says Jeff Scheeler, the photographer that day. Did we mention that Simeon is 86? After a fall at St. Francis Seraph Friary, he’s residing at St. Margaret Hall for the time being.
  • The trouble is not in your computer. Our province website, www.franciscan.org, has been out of commission for the past two weeks, and host GoDaddy has yet to find the source of the problem. We’ll keep you posted!

Colin King and Adam Ghantani with Simeon Cleves, center.

Parishioners in Lafayette celebrate the arrival of Joe Hund.

Art Espelage says the course reveals “a Franciscan spirit.”