January 28, 2016
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For two pilgrims in Pakistan, there are many

Moments to remember



Encountering the Church of Asia in Pakistan through our Franciscan brethren reminded Br. Vince Delorenzo and me of the global stretch of our brotherhood and that “friars are friars” wherever they are!

During our recent visit we certainly learned by experience Pope Francis’s preference for “a Church which is bruised, hurting and dirty because it has been out on the streets” (Evangelii Gaudium, 49) as we were led by different friars through the urban slums of Karachi and Hyderabad.  We came face-to-face with the poverty of origins of the friars – whose families we visited – and many Pakistani Christians dwelling in the outlying tribal regions of southeastern Pakistan, where some live in one-room huts.

Having Mass outdoors on the ground at night, illuminated by portable lighting, with the children enthusiastically singing in Urdu only reinforced the Holy Father’s continuous call for a “Church which is poor and for the poor.” It also reminded me, especially as we consulted with the friars, of the need to inculturate the faith and present an “Asian” face of Jesus that Pakistanis can relate to.  Truly, it was a memorable experience and we continue to hold close to our hearts the friars and the many people we met in Pakistan.

Among the highlights of our visit:

  1. Vince and I were immediately initiated into the maelstrom of Pakistani traffic:  “Each driver for himself.”  (I never saw a female driver.)  We were both convinced that we couldn’t drive in that chaos!
  2. Once we arrived where the friars lived, we discovered what a massive walled-in complex they inhabited.  Besides the Custody house, we saw the national seminary and its dormitory, the National Center of Theology, a basketball court, a large garden, Marian grotto, a Franciscan Center for handicapped children and the Novitiate – only  a few of the spaces and buildings.
  3. We were present for the christening of the Novitiate to which our province contributed.  It houses approximately 10 men, with a nearby residence able to house three to four more.  Many of these novices had never had their own room until they moved here.
  4. Vocations!  A highlight was seeing numerous young men – four novices now and up to nine next year – plus other students in the initial formation process clothed in brown or white habits.  Two young men, Vicky and Sharuhk, are up for solemn profession Aug. 2.  We assured them of our prayers.
  5. The music was very distinct.  The musicians all sat on the ground playing a small set of drums, a “squeezebox” and cymbals that combined to create a unique liturgical sound to accompany the Pakistani friars who all knew the songs for Mass by heart.  Few used songbooks.
  6. The Assembly was a highlight as we broke open Pope Francis’s encyclical, Laudato Si’, and got to know the friars and their many personalities.  (Friars are friars in that regard.)  JPIC Animator Guy David, OFM, shared a presentation.
  7. The pollution was not a highlight, but it was everywhere.  Public trash receptacles were non-existent, but sewage and polluted water – including the river in Karachi – were openly visible.  Living Laudato Si’ couldn’t be more needed for the Pakistani people for their own self-empowerment, especially the urban and rural poor.
  8. Learning about and observing tribal ministry was a great highlight, even though a sadness pervaded the situation of injustice Christian and Hindu farmers face from their Muslim overlords.  The clear feudal social structure felt like traveling back in time to St. Francis’s society and the non-representative governance laden with the threat of social violence it was trying to leave behind.  All the friars come from very humble origins, with some families living in huts without running water or electricity.  (The friars who pioneered tribal ministry lived in the same kind of huts – sharing the people’s poverty.)  The social living arrangements of the tribes we visited, especially close to the border of India in the Diocese of Hyderabad, reminded Vince of the indigenous people (Native Americans) of the Southwest.  Some families lived on the equivalent of $50 a month. Women faced grueling work from morning to night, and in some tribal areas had to walk behind the men.
  9. Home visitation was a true highlight.  A family would not sit at the same level as us friars, saying they did not feel worthy to sit equal to “men of God.”  We were always offered tea and sweets (a legacy of the British occupation) and sometimes a meal.  These domestic glimpses into family life were precious – showing us the real face of Pakistani Christians and the faith that animates them in the face of great adversity.

PHOTO BY SUE HUERKAMPJeff at the blessing and dedication of the Carol Dauwe Fine Arts Center at Roger Bacon.

The Council went south for the Jan. 18-22 meeting, hosted by the friars from St. Mary of the Angels in New Orleans.ᅠ As we were ending, torrential rains came through that developed into the heavy snow in the eastern part of the country last week.ᅠ We were glad to be in the South!

At the January meeting we always review mid-year reports from our Sponsored Ministries and the mid-year assessments of our men in initial and priestly formation.ᅠ There is much good news that will be shared with you more fully soon, but we wanted to share these teasers.ᅠ St. Francis Seraph Ministries will be moving their programs into available space in the Franciscan Media building. We’ll have more news about that in next week’s newsletter.

On Wednesday of this week, Roger Bacon High School dedicated a newᅠFine Arts Center in the old gym.ᅠ It is an elegant, multi-purpose space for drama, music, and other presentations.ᅠFriars Club’s profile seems to be rising in the community with its new building; the Cleveland Cavaliers recently hosted a mini-camp event for over 70 of their kids.ᅠWe are also very happy to announce that our brothers Clifford Hennings and Roger Lopez were approved for ordination to the priesthood and Colin King to the deaconate.ᅠ Congratulations, brothers!ᅠWe look forward to celebrating with you on June 11, 2016, at St. Clement Church in Cincinnati.ᅠ It was a good news meeting!


— Fr. Jeff Scheeler, OFMEmail To a Friend

Discernment is key to SBU program

The Residential Discernment Program at SBU will answer a variety of needs.


It sounds like the answer to a vocation director’s prayer.

No wonder Fr. Luis Aponte-Merced is excited about the new Lateran Program at St. Bonaventure University. It allows young men to explore a religious vocation with a community of like-minded seekers – in an environment that will help them achieve their academic goals.

The program was created in response to new age guidelines – 22 to 45 – set by American provinces for admission to postulancy. Luis, half of the Vocation team of St. John the Baptist Province, was a little concerned about those guidelines. “That in a way left out young men coming out of high school between the ages of 18 and 22,” some of whom were interested in becoming friars. “I thought, ‘Oh my God, we’re gonna lose these people because there’s nothing for them until they’re 22 years old.’”

Then he and Vocation colleague Fr. Larry Zurek heard about a plan proposed by Fr. Ross Chamberland, OFM, of Holy Name Province. Ross, Director of SBU’s Lateran Center for Catholic Identity, developed a program that would give young men the support they need to discern a religious calling while pursuing a college degree.

It was a “Eureka!” moment for Luis and Larry, who immediately thought of two men they had interviewed in New Mexico and New Jersey. “We were excited when it was presented to us,” says Luis. “We presented it to the Council and the Provincial and the Initial Formation Council and they were all for it.” After SJB and Holy Name each put forth two candidates for the program, it was a “go”.

This fall those four young men will be the first participants in the Undergraduate Residential Discernment Program at St. Bonaventure University – the “Lateran Program”.

“It covers so much that we Ross Chamberland, OFMwere concerned about,” Luis says, describing the arrangement. The men will share a house on campus, a former convent procured by Ross. “They will live there as regular college students but with each other, experiencing college life.” They will pray together and join the on-campus friars in some of their activities. Ross is their supervisor and program director, “and Larry and I will be the mentors for our guys, visiting them on a regular basis.” Through the Lateran Program, “They will be able to get some degree of maturity and get to know more about Franciscan life” in preparation for possible postulancy.

“The university has been very generous” in offering the students a 50% discount on tuition, Luis says. “We [SJB Province] are paying for half of the rest” for the students they’re sponsoring. “Those from our province discerning a call to priesthood will be required to choose a major in Philosophy. One of my biggest concerns had been that those who are going to be priests and go on to CTU, many times [in the past] they did not have the Philosophy background that was necessary.”

So far SJB and Holy Name are the only provinces signed on, but there’s room for expansion, space for as many as 12 men in the program.  “The most important thing,” Luis says, “is that they’re in a Catholic university with a very Franciscan environment.”

And that’s something to celebrate.

Digging out in D.C.Top, in the eye of the storm; above, there's a greenhouse underneath that snow.PHOTOS BY GREG FRIEDMAN, OFM

“Although the snow was really heavy, with high winds Saturday, we survived,” Fr. Greg Friedman said in the aftermath of the blizzard that buried Washington, D.C. Miraculously, power at the Franciscan Monastery of the Holy Land – and across the region – did not fail. “Apparently the utility had prepared well. (We do have a generator here if needed.) Crews worked around us on the grounds, to dig us out – although it looked frustrating Friday night and Saturday during the height of things.”

Greg said that “being in a big house like this during a storm is a unique experience. It’s like a great ship, traveling through the weather. Inside, the community seemed to gravitate to being together at prayer and meals, and we also had a couple of movie nights during the storm. Our food service prepared ahead for meals when we were snowed in, so we managed quite well. On Sunday, we had 60 sisters from down the street – the ‘Servants of the Lord and the Virgin of Matará’, our neighbors known to us as the ‘Blue Nuns,’ from their habit. They are a formation house, and had extra visitors for the March for Life, I believe.

“My only disappointment was that Roger Bacon’s group for the March was unable to make it to D.C. We had planned a Mass for them Saturday night, with a meal at the Mexican restaurant down the street. But they made a good call in canceling.”



This week Al Hirt experienced a first.

  • In almost 39 years as a priest, “I never did an anointing in a hospital while surgery was going on,” says Fr. Al Hirt. That changed this week when Al got a call from Good Samaritan Hospital in Cincinnati. Told a religious sister was having heart surgery, he was asked to come to the operating room to anoint her. “I’m guessing the doctor was Catholic, and the surgery was not going well,” Al says. “I was free to go, so I went quickly.” At the hospital he donned a gown and cap – everything but gloves – to enter the surgical theater. “The ‘charge’ nurse led me in and reminded me to stay 12 inches away from anything that was blue” – anything sterilized. “There must have been a dozen or so people,” obviously in the midst of surgery. Al soon saw the object of their attention. “I’m looking at an open chest with a heart beating. Wow!” Approaching the elderly patient’s head, “I did a simple anointing, a laying on of hands. It was a rather quick experience; I was in and out.” Al assumed the situation was so dire that the patient did not survive. This morning he called the hospital to find out. “She was in [surgery] for clogged arteries, but the aorta broke. The surgeon was able to stop the bleeding” in time to pull her through. She’s still hospitalized, “but they can’t do anything for a while; if she gets strong enough, they’ll go back and do the original surgery.” In the meantime, “Her sisters are saying it’s kind of a miracle” she survived thus far. “Just another day at the office,” Al says ruefully. “I guess I did all right.”
  • The dates for departure ceremonies have been set for St. Mary, Bloomington, Ill. (June 4 and 5), Holy Cross in Jackson, Ky., and Church of the Good Shepherd in Campton, Ky. (both July 17), and Mother of Good Counsel in Hazard, Ky. (July 31).
  • Alumni, donors, parents and friends are invited to an Open House for the new Carol Dauwe Fine Arts Center at Roger Bacon High School, 5-7 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 6. The Sound Body Jazz Orchestra will perform starting at 7.
  • Congratulations to Fr. Luis Aponte-Merced, elected Secretary-Treasurer of the ESC Vocation Directors committee at this week’s meeting in St. Petersburg, Fla. Basil Valente (HN) is President, and Eric Pilarcik (SB) will serve as Vice President. In other news, Vocation Directors are planning a Mega Conference for September, “Lesser Brothers on a Vocation Journey of Mercy”, which will include OFMs, OFM Conventuals, OFM Capuchins and TOR Franciscans from English Speaking countries. The site has not yet been determined.

Elected were Basil Valente, Luis Aponte-Merced and Eric Pilarcik.

Send comments or questions to: sjbfco@franciscan.org