August 28, 2014

‘How blessed we are’

Side by side, brothers make the promise of a lifetime


On this day, of all days, it’s OK to brag.

At the solemn profession of Br. Michael Charron and Br. Colin King at St. Clement, it’s no surprise that parents, siblings, friars and friends have a lot to say, much of which can be summed up in a comment from Michael’s dad, Robert:

 “He’s just a good person. One lady told me he is a good person from the inside out.” Is there anything better you could say about a son?

 “Michael’s a man who if he has a vision won’t rest until he sees it through,” says Sacred Heart friar Br. Bob Barko, who today serves as Cross Bearer.  “Colin engages you and you feel like you’re being listened to. It’s an honor to be able to call them brothers.”

“They’re special” is the opinion of Michael and Colin’s former teacher, Sr. Madonna Hoying, SFP.

Above, congratulating Michael and Colin Aug. 23 at St. Clement; right, Roger Lopez guides the helpers who almost stole the show.

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And they are both seekers, according to those who know them best. “I was floored” when Michael became a friar, says his sister, Monica. “Michael was always trying to find out what he wanted to do. I never expected him to join the Church.”

 According to Colin’s mother, Norah, “This was the culmination of a journey Colin has been on for years.” And since he’s been a friar, “There’s an increasing serenity about him, a peace. There was a sense he had really found a home.”

Joy is contagious

Tone doesn’t transmit to print, but the sentiment in her words, in the words of pretty much everyone, is pride. Those who have accompanied Colin and Michael on their journey have turned out in force today to envelop the pair in what feels like a group hug.

“I welcome all of you to this wonderful celebration on this beautiful day,” says celebrant Fr. Jeff Scheeler.  He nods to Michael and Colin and thanks “the many people who have inspired them and encouraged them along the way.”

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After the two have been called, before the Interrogation, comes the homily by Fr. Bonaventure Bai, who had earlier admitted to a case of nerves. “I’m honored and humbled to be homilist today,” says Bonaventure, who shares the assessment of his language skills from former Guardian Br. Gene Mayer: “I have a Chinese [friar] speaking English with an Italian accent.”

But Bonaventure’s message comes through loud and clear. More than witnessing this event, he says, “We are also part of it.” He says Colin and Michael are “truly a great gift”, and analyzes the vows, stating them in the familiar colloquial terms: “No money, no honey, no funny”. Bonaventure asks, “How can we survive without money, without family or children?”

A solemn vow is, he says, “a more strict, perfect consecration to God. To consecrate is to render sacred, to make Jesus the center of all your existence,” or as today’s second reading from Corinthians says, “’You are Christ’s body.’ …When we have an intimate relationship with God, we will not be afraid to be a poor man.” As friars, “We are delighted to let the world know how rich we are.”

A warm welcome

Yes, he admits, “We are sinners, but we are redeemed sinners, transformed by his love.” Brothers are called, he says, “to live not alone but in our community. It builds us up and transforms us.” When Chinese native Bonaventure arrived in Italy in 2009, he opened a letter from a brother of SJB Province. “The last sentence was, ‘Welcome, my dear brother. I am looking forward to meeting you.’ It warmed my heart that cold winter. …How blessed we are to have this big family.”

Following the homily comes the Interrogation, which somehow sounds more resolute when two are saying, “I do.” When the Profession is over and the Solemn Blessing is bestowed, brothers line up for a fraternal welcome that will, for some, require hugs on tiptoe to reach two tall guys.

The convergence of families is complete when Colin and Michael’s four nieces bring forward the altar cloth, bread and wine.

Right, “I’m honored and humbled,” says homilist Bonaventure Bai.

Celebrant Jeff Scheeler with Communion ministers.

Below, Colin King with his parents, Tunney and Norah.

Petite twins Evelyn and Lauren Rossi struggle to reach the altar and, mission accomplished, are so pleased with themselves they dance to their seats, one of them giving a celebratory fist pump that is appreciated by all.

Feel the energy

Celebrant Jeff has obviously been moved. “Look around this full church,” he says after Communion. “When you offered your applause I felt the energy and spirit.” He describes his own feelings. “I have the awesome privilege of sitting here in front of you as they place their hands in mine and make their life commitment. I wish all of you could experience this. We cherish the gift you have given us today.” To Michael and Colin’s relatives, he says, “We know you cherish your sons,” and he assures them, “You haven’t lost a son. You’ve gained a whole lot more sons and brothers.”

And from this day forward, they have even more to brag about.

Top, Jeff Scheeler with Archbishop Schnurr at the Aug. 25 dedication; above, the new Friars Club.

Above, Jeff Scheeler with Cincinnati Police Chief Jeffrey Blackwell; right, Executive Director Annie Timmons; below,ᅠ Roger Bacon’s fitness center.

‘We finally have a home’

for Friars Club


Anything for the kids.

That’s the reason these busy people give for coming to the weeknight dedication of the new Friars Club on the campus of Roger Bacon High School.

“I’m thrilled to be here,” says Cincinnati Archbishop Dennis Schnurr, whose schedule reflects his devotion to youth ministry. “I can’t say enough to thank you for all you have done to sustain Friars Club all these years,” he tells those gathered.

“This is about community, and this facility is a building that will support young people and what they do,” says Cincinnati Police Chief Jeffrey Blackwell, who has yet another event to attend after this one. “If it means supporting endeavors that support the youth of our city, I’m there.”

“It’s an honor to be here,” says Congressman Brad Wenstrup, home for a few days from Washington. Tonight he’s representing the 2nd District as well as baby-sitting his 9-month-old son, Brad Jr.  “I remember as a kid playing in tournaments at the old Friars Club. I know so many people who have been working on this for so long” that he’s happy to sacrifice some precious down time.

A dream realized

Those who devoted years to this project – volunteers, fund-raisers, former Friars kids – are processing the reality of this state-of-the-art facility, a 37,000-square-foot building that exceeds their expectations. With four basketball and volleyball courts, a learning center and a fitness and wrestling center for Roger Bacon, it is proof that faith and determination can move mountains.

When the old Friars Club closed in 2006, its mission and spirit survived. That spirit is embodied in Executive Director Annie Timmons, described throughout the evening as the heart and soul of the sports-centered ministry that has consumed her life. Working from her home and her car for the past eight years, she organized and motivated teams while building a base of support for this new facility. “I have dreamed of getting this building for so long I’m not sure if this is reality or another dream,” Annie says.

The dream began in 1860 as “a small program to keep kids busy and off the streets,” says Provincial Minister Jeff Scheeler, recounting the history of the friar-sponsored Club to guests assembled on a basketball court for the Archbishop’s blessing. “We friars believe in its mission and we are proud of the work it does” developing people of character. It was meant “to provide a safe and positive space; it still does. It’s not unusual for me to hear, ‘Friars Club saved my life.’ Today we are immensely grateful to those who have worked so hard to bring this to reality.”

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Introduced by Jeff, Archbishop Schnurr jokes, “I was offered the opportunity to shoot the first basket, and that would be a disaster.” His message about youth ministry – and his message to youth – is that “God approves of recreation. Christ wants us to be joyful with endeavors such as Friars Club.” He strides off to bless the premises, saying, “I want to make sure every room receives a sprinkling. It’s gonna take a little while, but I haven’t left the building.”

Work, play, grow

Director Annie makes it official: “Welcome everyone,” she says. “Welcome to the Friars Club. I am standing in a very special place, a place where kids can work together, play together, grow together. This is a new location but the same mission: getting kids off the streets and giving them a safe, supervised place to go.” After eight years of running a “virtual” organization, “We finally have a home for the 700 kids we serve” and a base on which to build. Besides basketball and volleyball leagues, Friars will provide an intramural program for high school kids cut from teams, summer leagues to showcase high school sports talent, teenage leadership coaching, knothole baseball and a preschool, all designed to “bring kids together to break down walls and build up character.”

Board Chair Mike Besl recognizes “congressmen, police chiefs, mayors, alums, and past honorees of Friars Club” for being there. He singles out Board Vice-Chair Maureen Sweeney – “if it were not for her we would not have been able to raise the funds to build this facility” – and acknowledges Annie as the linchpin. “You kept the promise of Friars Club alive when we had no building.”

Mike thanks the friars, “whose vision of a place for children has stood the test of time. Respect, responsibility, teamwork and leadership: Friars kids, staff and coaches live those values every day.”

Guests are invited to tour the building, and many do. Archbishop Schnurr, scheduled to leave at 6 a.m. the next day for Dayton, stays late for a video interview that will help launch the new facility. Jeff, who drove in from a Council meeting in Indiana, still has to drive back tonight. But no one is complaining.

 Anything for the kids.

The Council is having a good week at our annual Clifty Falls meeting. We are trying to delve deeply into the reports that were given at Chapter by our General Minister Michael and General Visitor Francisco. We also reviewed my Provincial’s report. We are trying to listen deeply and discern what the Spirit might be asking of SJB at this moment in history through the insights of these brothers. We will share our initial reflections on all this in the annual “Letter from Clifty Falls” which we will get to you shortly. So stay tuned! We had an afternoon of quiet prayer and continued our tradition of praying for each friar by name. Thanks for your prayerful support.

— Fr. Jeff Scheeler, OFMEmail To a Friend