October 23, 2014

A close encounter

Email To a Friend

Yesterday at St. Peter’s in Rome, Fr. Greg Friedman snapped this photo of Pope Francis connecting with the crowd during his weekly general audience. “I have been helping lead a pilgrimage group from the healthcare system sponsored by the Franciscan Missionaries of Our Lady in Louisiana,” Greg says. It’s the same healthcare system in which SJB friars worked as chaplains, especially in Baton Rouge. “We began our pilgrimage on Wednesday, Oct. 15, and have been in Assisi and Rome. Because the sisters originated in Paris, we are flying there tomorrow (Thursday) to spend a couple of days visiting the sisters’ motherhouse and Paris itself.” Interesting note: “This pilgrim group was selected from a system-wide pool of employees chosen by their peers. Finalists were drawn in a lottery, and could bring a partner or guest.” There are 17 pilgrims in the group; other staff members are Sr. Nancy Celaschi, OSF, and Fr. Jim Gannon of ABVM Province.

Pope Francis at Wednesday’s general audience.

Loading the page...

A labor of love – and it shows


Some books are part of our lives, as cherished as old friends.

They’re the ones you read over breakfast, carry on the bus or pull out at the end of the day.

That’s the kind of kinship Fr. Pat McCloskey had in mind when he wrote Peace and Good: Through the Year with Francis of Assisi (Franciscan Media, $19.99). “I’m pretending I’m sitting at your kitchen table,” he says. “I’m assuming you’re interested in Francis and assuming you want to know more.”

Life being what it is – overwhelming – we want our learning in small doses. In Peace and Good, Pat sets up a year of little lessons that help us examine our inner lives. For each day there is a quote about the life or teachings of Francis, a reflection on the quote (“Living as Francis Did”), and a sentence or two that subtly challenges us to think or act (“Growing with Francis”) – all on one page.

Email To a Friend

Day-by-day books are hot, so the premise is appealing. But the first thing you notice about Peace and Good is the way it looks – warm, inviting, evocative of Assisi – and the way it feels. It’s the size, smallish for a hardback, and the matte cover, paper over board, that make the book easy to cradle in the crook of your arm. “The book could win an award just on design,” says Pat. “It’s gorgeous. I hope the contents live up to the design.”

It came together

What FM Art Director Mark Sullivan had in mind in designing the book was, “I felt like someone would want to be at peace when reading this. If they were troubled” or had a bad day, “they could ease into it.” He’s done probably 400 books for Franciscan Media since 2002 and acknowledges that this one is special. “I loved this one because everything came together beautifully.”

Serendipity had something to do with it. “When we acquired Franciscan Press from Quincy University, we acquired the copyright to the Omnibus,” says Pat. Five years ago, “I wrote a memo [to the FM book team], ‘I think we could do a daybook on Francis using the Omnibus.’ My idea was the book would be a quote from or about Francis.” The suggestion was shelved.  Last year when Product Development Director Mary Carol Kendzia inherited the files for Franciscan Media Books, she took a look at the proposal and told Pat, “I think we have a book here.”

She explains, “It seemed a natural fit for Franciscan Media to have a day-by-day book about Francis, since at the time we were being encouraged by sales and marketing to develop day-by-day projects. Using the Omnibus for the quotes seemed like a good idea as well, because it offered a brief yet in-depth and historically accurate look into the life of Francis – something past the more common and popular depictions of the saint.” Secular Franciscan Patti Normile was enlisted as general editor “because we felt that she could bring a layperson’s touch to the book,” and Francis scholar Fr. Murray Bodo contributed a Foreward “that adds a very human and real touch to the person of Francis – a nice way to start the book,” Mary Carol says.

Hard work and help

After each month was assigned a theme – such as “Peace” for January and “Creatures” for October – Pat went to work.  With the help of computer guru Br. Bob Lucero, “a godsend” in helping him buy and use a laptop, Pat wrapped up most of the work in 120 hours of

Pat McCloskey at Franciscan Media.

evenings and Saturdays. He admits that some parts, like the Conversion-themed March, were harder than others. In terms of finding appropriate quotes, “That was shooting fish in a barrel.” For July, “How do you convey ‘Fraternal Charity’? Most readers are not in religious life.” Pat does it by describing the human frailties of Francis’s followers and explains that “Only a deep fraternal charity would allow them to witness to Jesus’s Good News.”

Of course the ultimate goal of Peace and Good is growth, as reflected in each day’s practical suggestions. “The Gospel is not simply a lofty idea,” Pat says. “The Gospel can be lived.” Like an old friend, the book is there to nudge and encourage us along the way – one day at a time.

(Peace and Good can be pre-ordered through Peace and should soon be widely available online and at Christian book stores.)

Priests find kinship, renewal in Rome

(Fr. Bob Bruno shared this article from Echoes, the alumni magazine for the Pontifical North American College in Vatican City. “It’s a very good synopsis of the program and the fall 2014 semester participants,” Bob says. “We’ve become a close-knit band of brothers.”)


A Jesuit, a Franciscan, and a Dominican walk into an espresso bar….  This could be the beginning of yet another bad joke or it could be just the beginning of yet another great semester of the Institute for Continued Theological Education at the North American College.

Email To a Friend

James Sullivan and Bob Bruno during their retreat in Assisi.

The Fall 2014 sabbatical priests arrived in Rome on Tuesday, Sept. 9.  They are a varied group of priests from around the world.  There are 33 of them who are mostly from dioceses across the United States but we also have one Irishman, a Scotsman, two Australians, a New Zealander, a Peruvian, two Solomon Islanders, a Kenyan, and three Canadians.  There are two Jesuits, a Carmelite, two Franciscans, and a Passionist.  They have done everything from military chaplaincy to parish work, seminary teaching to missionary work, and campus ministry to retreat house ministry.  They have been priests for seven years up to 54 years.  They range in age from 39 to 78 and it is a sight to see when the 39-year-old can’t keep up with the 78-year-old.

There are adjustments to be made for life in Rome, of course: laundry detergent does not go into the dryer, using the shower as a steam sauna to get the wrinkles out of one’s suit coat does set off the fire alarm, and everyone outside of the beloved walls of the North American College speaks Italian.  Other than that it is the same priestly life but now with a great deal of rest and relaxation.

Making memories

We have had any number of guided private tours around Rome including St. Peter’s Basilica, the Vatican Museum, the Scavi, Piazza Navona and all the great foods of Rome which surround it, the Jewish Quarter and the home of St. Paul, not to mention the required espresso stops!  We had a five-day retreat in Assisi and as a semester break 13 of us will travel on an eight-day pilgrimage to Turkey to the Churches of the Apocalypse and the early ecumenical councils.

We have celebrated Mass together at the Confessio altar in the Vatican Grotto, at the Altar of the Chair for the Diaconate Ordination, at Tre Fontanne where St. Paul was martyred, at the Tomb of St. Francis, and at St. Mary Major before the image of Our Lady, Salus Populi Romani.

We are here in Rome during the pontificate of Pope Francis, who was the inspiration for many of the ICTE priests to finally make this pilgrimage to Rome.  We are here in Rome during the Synod on the Family and the Beatification of Pope Paul VI.  We are here in Rome where Sts. Peter and Paul offered their own priestly lives for the growth of the Church.  We are here in Rome together in order to pray, to study, and to preach so that when we return home we can do so even more, drawing from that which was first contemplated here.

Days framed by prayer

Most classes are in the morning (whether they are on the Letters of St. Paul or Preaching with the Lectionary), most walks are in the afternoon (whether they are for espresso or gelato), and most conversations take place after dinner (that however is not bound to a set time).  The day is framed by prayer as during the week we have Morning Prayer and Mass to start the day and Evening Prayer before the evening meal.  We have a weekly Holy Hour, and even a weekly “Gaudeamus” (called a Happy Hour in a less religious setting).

We have walked endlessly throughout the streets of Rome (and the hills of Umbria!) to look for a haircut, to buy our train ticket, to find the right museum for the afternoon, a new Church we hadn’t found open yet, or maybe just a concert for the evening.

We have only been together a little over a month as of this writing but already we have found the best carbonara in town, the best view in town but most especially, the best fraternity in town.  We have found the joy of the priesthood anew, just in being brought together.  We have lived that fraternity in the joy of the Gospel.

(James Sullivan is Director of the International Center for Theological Education at the Pontifical North American College in Vatican City.)

Memories and a sense of place

(This piece by Pastor Loren Connell appears in this weekend’s

parish bulletin for St. Aloysius and St. Patrick’s in Detroit.)

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Last Monday I made a pilgrimage to the holy land.  In the morning I visited Jefferson, Jackson, and Washington Townships in western Wayne County, Ind.  I walked the fields of the farm where Dad was born, site of the happiest and most fulfilling days of my childhood.  The house is gone, as are the barns, the chicken coop, and Grandpa’s blacksmith shop; but the life-giving memories survive.  I walked the site of my maternal grandfather’s mill, and I paused before the house where Mother was born.  I drove old Route 1 between Milton and Hagerstown and prayed outside St. Elizabeth Church, site of my parents’ baptisms and of countless family funerals.  At Riverside Cemetery I visited the graves of my great-great-grandmother, great-grandparents, grandparents, great aunts, and aunts.  In the afternoon I hiked through Pine Hills Nature preserve in Shades State Park, a monthly place of renewal and refreshment throughout my five years in Lafayette, and, in my judgment, the most beautiful spot in Indiana.  Once again, as so often before, in those sacred spaces I found peace.

Monday’s pilgrimage helped me to appreciate the attachment which many of our parishioners may feel toward St. Aloysius or St. Patrick Church.  Those buildings may have been the sites of profound experiences in their lives.  In those buildings they may have found healing and renewal.  The farm has been gone for over 30 years, and I get to Shades maybe once in every three to five years, but the life-giving memories remain.  We may not be able to retain and maintain both of our churches, but we can treasure the memories associated with them.  The life-giving grace experienced in them can remain with our parishioners until eternity.

Peace and every blessing,

Loren Connell, OFM

Email To a Friend

Above, Joe Ricchini, Mark Hudak and Gil Wohler with Archbishop Schnurr; right, Curt Lanzrath; below, Tim Sucher mingles with the clientele during Pet Health Day.

  • Frs. Joe Ricchini, Mark Hudak and Gil Wohler were among those honored for their service Oct. 18 during the annual Archdiocesan Mass for Jubilarians at Mt. Notre Dame in Cincinnati. The Mass, celebrated by Archbishop Dennis Schnurr, recognizes sisters, brothers and priests from throughout the Archdiocese who are marking 25, 50, 60 or 75 years in religious life. Unable to attend the Mass, Fr. Curt Lanzrath was presented with a congratulatory scroll at St. Margaret Hall.
  • Fr. Jim Van Vurst is the author of “How Catholics Understand Death” in the current (November) issue of St. Anthony Messenger magazine.  “As Catholics, we believe and profess that once God gives life, it never ends,” he writes. “We live forever. What’s more, we understand that, whether living or deceased, we are all in relationship not just with God but also with all of our brothers and sisters. In a most special way, we never lose touch with our deceased loved ones. To put it simply, we are family in this life and the next.”
  • As usual, Br. Tim Sucher was right in the thick of things Oct. 5 during the Annual Pet Health Day at St. Francis Seraph Church in Over-the-Rhine. This year 97 dogs and 38 cats received free vet exams, vaccinations, flea treatments and pet supplies at the clinic, mounted by the United Pet Fund, a local organization that helps animals in need. According to Dr. Zeke Zekoff, founder of UPF, clinics like these reduce the risk of animals being surrendered to shelters and allows them to stay with their owners. Veterinarians, technicians and friends from throughout the city volunteered their time to handle the treatments and processing.

Email To a Friend

Mark Ligett, OFMIt’s been a great few days in Indianapolis for the Guardians, Local Ministers, and Regional Fraternal Animators (formerly known as Cluster Leaders) at Fatima Retreat House, as we catch up with one another. I am struck by the many bonds that unite us, the many stories we tell. (Mark Ligett is the master; I can’t tell you how much we laughed!) We have lived with many friars not here, and we ask about them; we have served in many ministries, and we ask how thing are going now; we know many of the same people; we ask how they are doing. It is a time for us to quite literally re-member and re-collect ourselves; and it feels good to be connected again to our past. Something important and integrating happens within each of us.

On the surface we deal with practical (and important) issues, but underneath we are doing the work of reconnecting and bonding. On Tuesday afternoon we prepared ourselves for the next round of education for our Praesidium accreditation, led by Mark Soehner and Tim Lamb. On Wednesday, Tim returned to lead us in reflections on how to lead a good meeting. CFO David O’Brien answered our questions on financial and temporal matters. Moises Gutierrez from Sacred Heart Province led us in a delightful and often humorous reflection on Intercultural Living. Vince Delorenzo led us in a sharing on things that work in our communities and challenges that ministers face in animating their communities. On Thursday morning the Council updated us on the many issues, challenges, and initiatives we are currently dealing with in the province.

It is a great gift to belong to this band of brothers, this fraternity. We share a history that still lives in the stories we tell; we enjoy a vibrant present, and we look forward to a future full of hope, with stories yet to unfold. God is good!


— Fr. Jeff Scheeler, OFMEmail To a Friend