BY BR. AL MASCIA, OFM
PHOTO ILLUSTRATION GRANNANDESIGN LTD.There’s no doubt about it, we friars like to tell stories, especially during preprandials! Some are more colorful than others while some have achieved “friar-legend” status! I’m sure we can all tell a story or two that begins with the words: “I’ll never forget the time…”
Well, I have my own colorful story to tell; a green one, you might say. It will never become a “friar legend” I’m sure, but it does have a moral. The story begins at the tail end of a wonderful feast day meal we friars at Duns Scotus were hosting for all of the brothers in our region. Preprandials had already been enjoyed and the meal itself was going along very well, that is, until it came time for dessert! You see, while there had been an abundance of ice cream for all to enjoy, there were, alas, not enough dessert bowls to go around. Fearing an impending brutta figura I furtively went to a drawer in our kitchen where yes, I confess, we keep a supply of Styrofoam bowls!
I placed the surrogate “bowls” next to all of the other sundae fixings and breathed a quick sigh of relief; that is until one of our friar guests sidled up to me with an elfish look in his eyes. “H’mm,” he muttered while scratching an imaginary goatee, “aren’t you the chair of our Provincial JPIC Committee?” Busted! What could I say? In Yiddish I had committed a shanda, a shameful act, all in an effort to avoid a brutta figura! Stumbling over words, there was simply no escaping the fact that some “low-hanging fruit” by way of environmentally-friendly actions had not been taken. I, or one of the other friars, could easily have stopped by one of the many flea markets around town to pick up enough “real” bowls while at the same time doing the food shopping for the rest of the meal. Oh, well.
So, we had a good chuckle over the matter and, believe me, the Styrofoam bowls kept none of the brothers from enjoying their ice cream sundaes! But that’s not the end of the story. I’ve heard it said good-naturedly: “Telephone, telegram, tell-a-friar.” Well, the word soon got out about the “brothers at Duns Scotus” not having enough bowls to go around and quickly made it to the ears of one of our OFS sisters, Dawn Pulcer. Before you could say the word landfill, Dawn had us supplied with enough china bowls and matching plates for twice as many friars as were there at that feast day meal.
So, you may be wondering, what about the moral of this story? Well, I would suggest the following: Not all JPIC progress requires tiring meetings, letters to congressmen or even mailings from Fraternal Life; sometimes all it takes is a little awareness, observation, tactful commentary and, of course, word-of-mouth! Have you ever had a similar experience where the topic of JPIC just happened to come up during an ordinary conversation? Did it ever lead to changing any of your personal or friary practices in this regard? If so, why not let others know about it? Just jot it down and send it to Toni Cashnelli for News Notes. Who knows, your story may just become a treasured legend some day while also helping your JPIC Committee do its job!
BY TONI CASHNELLI
He was one of a kind, with a voice so distinctive it was often imitated.
A number of friars did just that Feb. 2 at the funeral for Fr. Matthew Brozovic at St. Clement Church in St. Bernard. Sharing stories about his life and work, they lapsed into Matthew’s familiar, gravelly growl.
Considering that he was often described as “irascible”, the sharing was surprisingly touching. The phrase, “Beneath that gruff exterior…” was completed more than once in describing Matthew’s devotion to his ministry and the Franciscan brotherhood.
“His care and concern was in that rough exterior,” said Fr. David Kohut, who, like Matthew, was a member of the Vice Province of the Holy Savior before its union with St. John the Baptist Province in 2000. “It bespoke a real and loving interior.”
Matthew’s bluster and authenticity – what you saw was what you got – left an indelible impression on the friars he trained and the high school students he taught. Unfortunately, “The more he got to know you and show some favor toward you, the more demanding he got,” David said. “He would rattle your chain until it drove you crazy.”
Matthew was Vocation Director for Holy Savior in 1987 when Fr. Mark Hudak joined the friars in Uniontown, Pa. “In my heart I struggled to get along with him,” Mark said, but admitted, “Matthew had a powerful impact” on those he served. “The people of Uniontown just loved him to death.” Hearing of Matthew’s death a former student wrote to Mark, “I honestly don’t know if I’d be where I was without Fr. Matthew.”
Left, young Matthew: “He got that gruffness from his mother.” ; below, always in style: Matthew at the nursing home; right, The photo board at Matthew’s funeral described him as a “character”.Nephew Matthew J. Brozovic, a vice president with Morgan Stanley in Chicago, was greatly influenced by an uncle who took an active interest in his sports and school work. “God forbid if I got a ‘C’,” he said at the funeral. “He’d be on me. He always had a high standard for me, probably higher than I had for myself. He was a very important part of my life in making me who I am.” In later years, “We didn’t talk that much. Occasionally I’d get a call from him [at the office]. We’d be on the phone for 40 minutes, having a wonderful conversation. He would remember things from years past; it was almost like he took notes. He paid attention.
“The other important thing was that he really humanized the faith [for me]. When I was a kid growing up, he was at Seven Dolors Shrine [in Valparaiso, Ind.]. We would be running around having fun. There were other friars in the house. He helped humanize priests for us. He was extremely proud to be a priest, even prouder to be a Franciscan. Sometimes he didn’t show that, but it was true.” Of his uncle’s brusque demeanor, Matthew said, “He got that gruffness from his mother; she was a straight shooter. That’s where he got his ability to be authentic.”Left, Matthew in teaching days; below, his provincial portrait.
Of those who did an imitation of Matthew, Fr. Mike Lenz was the most convincing. Years ago when they served together, “I was very intimidated by him,” Mike said. “He was a diamond in the rough. He called me ‘Milos’, always Milos. He was a different kind of person,” but had his moments. “He’d walk that extra mile for you. Whenever anybody needed anything, he was always available. He’d stick with you.”
Homilist David Kohut summarized Matthew’s ministry in three areas: Teaching, formation and communications. “He touched the lives of his students in a way I am still dumbfounded by. He was always remembered by his students; we’re talking 55 years later.” After Christmas when David visited Matthew at Clermont Nursing Care Center he found a pile of mail, cards from students, “thanking him for being their teacher and saying what a wonderful influence he was in their lives.”
Wherever he served, “People felt drawn to his presence,” David said. Behind that gruff exterior, “Matthew had a genuine inner goodness” they found appealing. Among his accomplishments – he was also a definitor and director of communications – “He most treasured being a friar-priest. He was a character, he gave his best and he will always be remembered.”
Provincial Minister Jeff Scheeler expressed the universal sentiment when he said, “We all acknowledge Matthew was unique, kind of a curmudgeon. I will confess the first time I met him, I was put off. As David said, behind it there was a goodness.” And as one of Matthew’s nurses told Jeff, “He kind of grew on us.”
The other week when Fr. Luis and I were attending the ESC Vocation Directors meeting, one of the friars shared an idea which I thought is worth passing on.ﾠ He spoke of a pastor who purchased a chalice and then invited a family in the parish to take that chalice home for a week and pray for vocations to the priesthood.ﾠ Each week the chalice would find its way into another home where again prayers would be offered for vocations.ﾠ The idea is that when a man from the parish was ordained, that chalice would be given to him as a gift from the parish.ﾠ More important than the aesthetic beauty of the chalice would be for the newly ordained to know that it had been surrounded by prayer, maybe even for years.ﾠ It’s one way to pray particularly for priesthood vocations butﾠperhaps we friars could improvise that idea to include vocations to the consecrated life. Maybe purchasing a beautiful San Damiano Cross that would be passed from family to family each week to pray for vocations? And when a man professes his vows to give it to that friar as a gift from the parish community.
– Fr. Larry Zurek, OFM
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A congregation ‘going forth’
The General Council recently published a document explaining the guidelines that will guide them as they animate us in the next two years, 2016-2017. ﾠIt is a brief, easy-to-read document that I would encourage you to look at. ﾠIt tells us what the General Council is concerned about and what kind of activities they will promote. ﾠThey entitle the document “Moving to the Peripheries as Brothers and ‘Lesser Ones.’ “ﾠIt begins by recalling the General Chapter’s Final Document and Pope Francis’ talk to the Capitulars. Pope Francis asked us friars to be “bearers of mercy, reconciliation and peace.” ﾠHe also reminded us that our vocation and mission would be made fruitful by our “being increasingly a congregation ‘going forth.’ “
The theme for 2016 is “Brothers and Lesser Ones Moving Towards Mercy and Pardon.” ﾠThey encourage us to live into the Year of Mercy, to promote and study pardon, to practice the corporal and spiritual works of mercy. ﾠPope Francis promoted “24 hours for the Lord” on March 4-5. ﾠThe Cincinnati area friars will be at St. Anthony Friary from 5 p.m. Friday to 5 p.m. Saturday, praying for peace and offering God’s mercy in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. ﾠWe are also invited to make the Aug. 2 feast of theﾠPortiuncula special as we celebrate the 800th anniversary of the Pardon of Assisi this year.
The theme for 2017 is “Brothers and Lesser Ones Moving Toward Justice, Peace, and the Integrity of Creation.”
During this year we are also invited to deepen our living the implication of Pope Francis’ encyclical Laudato Si andﾠdeepen our collaboration in the Franciscan family as we remember the fifth centenary of IteﾠVos, theﾠPapal Bullﾠof Pope Leo X which created the various groups of the Franciscan Orders.
It will no doubt be helpful to be mindful of what our brothers around the world will be focusing on in the next two years, so that we can join in and support these efforts. ﾠHow can SJB be a community “going forth” towards Mercy and JPIC in these coming years?
You can read the whole document at http://www.ofm.org
— Fr. Jeff Scheeler, OFM
Left, Page Polk and Larry Zurek on Ash Wednesday; above, Friar Missionaries of Mercy in Rome; right, at the General Curia.
PHOTOS BY ALVIN TE, OFM, for OFM.ORG
‘You knew where you stood with him’
Bob Bruno: “I knew he was
very proud of me.”“Everybody knew him,” Fr. Bob Bruno said of Fr. Matthew Brozovic. “He lived life loud and as large as he could as a friar.”
A blizzard kept Bob from attending the funeral of Matthew, his teacher at Bishop Noll Institute in Hammond, Ind. Matthew claimed Bob as one of his prize students at the high school seminary. “I knew he was very proud of me. I’d like to have been there for him. He was an influence in my life.” Not only did Bob become a friar-priest, he served in prestigious positions in the Air Force at the Pentagon and the U.S. Air Force Academy before retiring last year.
“I wouldn’t say it was easy,” Bob said of his high school experience. With Matthew as disciplinarian, “Most people thought it was a miracle any of us survived. He was very clear about grading and scoring and very demanding and exacting. I don’t think he was being contrary for the sake of it. I think he believed he was trying to help the people he was responsible for. He felt he was trying to set them up for success. If you were working hard, giving it your best shot, he respected that. You knew where you stood with him.
“When you’re dealing with people who have a reputation for being rough and gruff and there’s a hard exterior, underneath is a very caring person.”
Indifference to our neighbour and to God also represents a real temptation for us Christians. Each year during Lent we need to hear once more the voice of the prophets who cry out and trouble our conscience. … every Christian community is called to go out of itself and to be engaged in the life of the greater society of which it is a part, especially with the poor and those who are far away. … In each of our neighbours, then, we must see a brother or sister for whom Christ died and rose again. What we ourselves have received, we have received for them as well.
– “Message of His Holiness Pope Francis for Lent 2015”, Oct. 4, 2014.
I would like to thank all the friars for their prayers and concern, all the calls and cards, and especially those who came to the funeral when my brother died. It made things a little easier. With me being unable to travel and attend, it was nice that they were there.
– Br. Giovanni Reid, OFM
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