October 8, 2015


Keeping watch over their flocks in Jamaica

Above, Patrick Montine and Brandon Newland with Nigerian Sisters Providencia and Louie Therese; left, Brandon with baby chicks.BY TONI CASHNELLI

Raising chickens was not one of the challenges Patrick Montine expected to face in Jamaica.

But here he is, alongside fellow missioner Brandon Newland, tending and fattening flocks that will feed the clients of St. Anthony’s Kitchen in Negril.

Eight months after joining the friars in ministry, Brandon and Patrick have learned that the key to progress is adaptability. “You never know what’s gonna happen,” says 36-year-old Brandon, who, in addition to animal husbandry, also dabbles in micro-finance. “It’s not even close to what I was expecting,” says 23-year-old Patrick. Brandon has a master’s degree in international studies; Patrick majored in anthropology at Western Washington University in Bellingham, Wash.  Both were trained by Franciscan Mission Service in Washington, D.C., which since 1989 has placed more than 130 lay missioners in 20 countries.

Since they arrived, “Patrick and Brandon have been a great help in expanding our Youth Ministry,” says Fr. Max Langenderfer, pastor at St. Joseph Parish in Savanna-la-Mar. “In Kings Valley we now have 40 children coming for catechism on Fridays and for the St. Mark Sunday Mass in Grange Hill. The kids do the readings, intercessions, and anything we can invent to help them participate and pray together better.”

In addition, Patrick is forming a youth group at St. Joseph’s, where he also tutors, and is distributing clothing to homeless clients of the soup kitchen. Fridays they do Bible study with Sisters from Nigeria. “Brandon is following up the children we support with school fees by contacting and visiting their schools,” says Max. Beyond that, says Brandon, “We really are pretty free-range to do what we want,” which brings us back to chickens.

They’re filling a needLeft, chickens don’t bother Marley; below, residents of the coop built with help from Louie Zant.Left, Patrick separates Marley the dog and Gertrude the goat

Brandon proposed the poultry project after learning that chicken-based meals were a large part of the menu at St. Anthony’s Kitchen. According to Patrick, “It kind of evolved for us that raising chickens would help them out.”

In May, Brandon and Br. Louie Zant built a 10-by-12-foot chicken coop in a field behind St. Joseph’s and surrounded it with a 15-by-20-yard fence. In June, after constructing a brooder and nursery, they bought day-old chicks from a parishioner who runs a feed store. Initially, “We made a few mistakes,” says Brandon, like overfeeding one bunch of chicks. They lost 10 in a batch of 25 from Sudden Death Syndrome. After that, “We started monitoring how much we fed them.”

Neither was excited about the prospect of dispatching the birds when the time came, but the chore fell to Patrick. “Killing them was the hardest thing,” he says. “I had nightmares for a while. After we kill them we have to pluck out the feathers. I’ve learned how to do that. I’ve learned lots of cool things about chickens.” Despite early losses they’re breaking even, selling the birds to the soup kitchen and keeping a few for their own table. “We plan on getting egg layers at some point,” Brandon says.

Chickens aren’t the only livestock on the property. There’s also a goat named Gertrude, connected to the aforementioned micro-finance project. As Brandon explains, he and Patrick are giving Louie a respite from the “gate people”, local folks who come to the front door of the old rectory in Sav, asking for money. “They’ve taken over assisting many of Louie’s ‘clients’ at the gate, especially the beggars and mentally ill,” says Max.

Limits, possibilities

Since August, Patrick and Brandon have handled requests for money for prescriptions (the limit is about $17), school supplies, even a few start-up enterprises. “They have to work with us to help themselves,” Patrick says, with some folks doing chores in exchange for funds.

“Instead of giving out copious amounts of money, we try to give microloans,” says Brandon. For example, they’re helping one man start an orange-selling business. “Another wants to build a coop and start his own chicken thing.” After filling out some paperwork, he got the money – and gave them Gertrude as collateral. “She’s not ours technically until the due date comes up for the loan.” (She earns her keep by chomping on grass and weeds.)

More than anything, the “gate duty” has opened their eyes to the harshness of life in Sav. “Every day is kind of a struggle and you’re looking for every kind of help you can get,” Brandon says. For the missioners, “The past month has gotten more ‘real’ because we’re literally helping people face to face. The chicken coop was fun and a new experience, but it didn’t really feel like direct help.”

Little by little, they’re learning what’s possible. After a while, “Reality hits and you realize what you can do,” Brandon says. “You want to help everyone, but you can’t help some people.” So you adapt.

“You focus on the ones you can do something for, and hopefully, it spreads.”

(Read more about Patrick and Brandon’s life and work in Jamaica at: http://franciscanmissionservice.org/blog/.)

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As most of you know, Fr. Al Hirt and I share a house with students from the University of Cincinnati. In return for “free rent” (they live, with their own entrance, on the 2nd and 3rd floor of the house), they give 10 hours a week in the campus ministry program.  They plan retreats, lead small faith sharing groups, organize events, etc.  They are supervised and mentored by the pastoral team at St. Monica St. George.  In the house, we eat together once a week (Tuesdays) and pray together once a week (Wednesdays at 7 a.m.), taking turns preparing the meal and leading the prayer, which is my main association with them.

Last week our vibrant dinner table conversation was about the Pope’s visit, past political leaders (Ronald Reagan), issues on the November ballot (the possible legalization of marijuana), presidential candidates and more. As we do dishes, they always want to know where I traveled last and we learn about their classes, their families, and even their faith and hopes and aspirations.  Our prayer varies; when Al and I lead we teach them about the Liturgy of the Hours; when they lead we might pray the rosary, the Divine Mercy Chaplet, or listen to “praise and worship” songs and prayers of the saints.  Last week we prayed St. Patrick’s Breastplate.  One of the young men is considering a vocation to religious life.  It is delightful to interact with these young people.  I consider this opportunity a great gift, and somehow it seems to help keep me young!  I find myself grateful that this is one of our province ministries, and that I can contribute to it in some small way.


— Fr. Jeff Scheeler, OFM

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  • The Cleveland Cavaliers posted video from this week’s basketball clinic at Friars Club on their website at: nba.com. Look for photos from Fr. Frank Jasper and a report on the clinic in the Oct. 22 newsletter.
  • Reminder: Friars are welcome and encouraged to attend the Open House at Roger Bacon High School from 1-3 p.m. on Sunday, Oct. 18.
  • A few hours after the last guests left the Feast Day Open House, smoke alarms went off at St. Francis Seraph Friary in Over-the-Rhine. Residents found the courtyard filled with smoke – but thankfully, no fire in the building. A fire across the street at Over-the-Rhine Soup Kitchen (NOT St. Francis Seraph Soup Kitchen) sent flames through the roof and blanketed the area in smoke. The adjacent building housing the Sarah Center and St. Francis Seraph Ministries suffered significant smoke damage. “Our building is probably closed until the end of next week,” says Chris Schuermann, the Ministries’ Executive Director. Smoke isn’t the only problem: Unable to gain access, the Fire Department took axes to the doors. Everything inside the building will be washed, Chris says. “Then they bring in an ozone machine and run that for a couple of days.” Jewelry and other merchandise from the Sarah Center has been moved elsewhere. The Fire Department estimates damage to the adjacent soup kitchen at $15,000 but has yet to determine a cause.
  • Sunday, about 225 friends helped the St. Francis Seraph community celebrate the Feast Day and Year of Consecrated Life – and 150 or so stayed for dinner. The widely advertised open house drew Sisters from Oldenburg, Dominicans from Madeira, and friars from around the region to Over-the-Rhine. Earlier in the day parishioners and neighbors brought pets to the church for blessings and lined them up for free medical care provided by United Pet Fund. The church was already half-full for a prayer service at 4:30 p.m. when Dr. Zeke Zekoff was attending to his last patient, a small brown dog named Bella. Guardian Fr. Dan Anderson welcomed guests to church, saying, “It’s a time for us to thank God for the gift of St. Francis’ life and example.” Afterward they had several options: They could watch a historical video hosted by Br. Brian Maloney, tour the friary and its famous basement, or sit down to a picnic-style dinner prepared by friary cook Scott Riehle. Visitors Jim and Gerry Deller of Finneytown were among those whose Franciscan connections go way back: He’s a Roger Bacon grad; she’s a former Oldenburg Sister; they’ve worshipped at Mt. Airy and are regulars at Mass with the Poor Clares. “I feel at home here,” said Gerry – the exact response that planners were hoping to hear.


Above, a courtyard picnic at St. Francis Seraph Friary; left, a pet clinic client with a dog that doesn’t look happy; below, Jim and Gerry Deller stayed for supper.

Coaches and players came to help the kids.


Search for meaning was the heart of the lecture


There was standing room only Tuesday when Sr. Ilia Delio, OSF, At the reception after the lecture: Sr. Barbara Reid, OP, CTU Vice President and Academic Dean; Sr. Ilia Delio, OSF; and Fr. Gil Ostdiek, OFM, CTU Professor of Liturgy.delivered the Duns Scotus Lecture at Catholic Theological Union in Chicago. Br. Colin King, Br. Roger Lopez, Fr. Charlie Smiech and I (from the province) were able to attend.

Fr. Ed Foley, OFMCap, the present Duns Scotus Professor of Spirituality at CTU, introduced the program and thanked St. John the Baptist Province for its support in offering this lecture.  Sr. Delio has just accepted a position with Villanova University. Her topic was “Evolution and the Primacy of Christ: From Scotus to Teilhard.” She was a very fine presenter, easy to follow, humorous, and she brought together science, philosophy, and theology for us to ponder new meanings to our lives.

Dr. Delio began by helping us reflect on our cosmic outlook through human history and explaining that we are in a very new cosmology: one that is beginning to see how deeply connected we all are.  Nature is seen more fully now as composed of “deeply entangled fields of energy.”  She also offered that we are “in-between paradigms.”  We are moving from a worldview that is more “bounded” to a more open system that sees human life as working in tandem with the environment.  In fact, she offered that it is more accurate to say “we are evolution.”  We are the “voice of this process” that is drawing all that is to convergence, to greater complexity, and to fuller consciousness.

Dr. Delio highlighted Teilhard’s development of thought by offering that Teilhard saw “Love as the force at the heart of life.”  For Teilhard, “The physical structure of the universe is love.  Union precedes being itself.  Relationality is the ontology of all of life.”  And God (“God-Omega” for Teilhard) is the “absolute centration” of this process.

Delio continued to explore with us Teilhard’s thoughts on this God of Love as Trinity, and how he discovered Duns Scotus’ “primacy of Christ” late in his life.  She shared with us that Teilhard is thought to have said: “Voila!  The theology of the future!”  when he discovered Scotus’ thoughts here, and she offered that Teilhard saw “Christianity as normative of evolution” (not normative of religion).  Christ is first in God’s intention to love which is unfolding in the cosmic process of evolution.

She went on to encourage us to see our Christian identity as “prime evolvers” who are willing to follow new disciplines to take on the “mind of Christ.”  Just as Jesus in his times was the “strange attractor” to a new and open consciousness of the immanence of God, so we are called to be in our times.  For fuller reflection, I would refer you to her latest book: Making All Things New: Catholicity, Cosmology, and Consciousness, from Orbis Press.

(A podcast of the talk will soon be available; details to come.)


On Oct. 2, creatures great and small walked, crawled or hopped to Carencro High School in Lafayette, La., for a blessing from St. Paul Pastor Robert Seay. “There was a very good turnout this year,” according to Juniper Crouch, “the usual dogs, cats, rabbits, frogs, turtles, fishes, squirrels, and this year, dragons.” Oct. 4, Lafayette friars Robert, Juniper and Joe Hund joined Bishop Fernand Cheri, other Franciscans, Poor Clares, Dominicans, former friars and their wives for a Feast Day celebration at St. Mary’s in New Orleans.

Bless 'em all


A joyful weekend in Burlington


It was truly a blessed Feast for us here” was the Oct. 5 post on the Facebook page of St. Francis Interprovincial Novitiate in Burlington, Wis.  “After morning prayer, we had a joyful procession to the ‘Portiuncula Chapel’ for Mass,” says Novice Carlo Shivel.  “It was a wonderful experience to gather with the brothers and celebrate such an important day.”

For Novice Jonathon Douglas, “My favorite part was the Mass we had, and the procession from the friary to the Portiuncula.  I was the church bell ringer throughout the procession.”

Fr. Ralph Parthie said later that the weather for the procession was “a bit damp,” and Fr. Joachim Studwell quickly added, “But our spirits weren’t.”

(See more photos at: https://www.facebook.com/FranciscanNovitiateBurlington.)