Thank-you notes from Jubilarians

(“If you could thank anyone for helping you in your journey as a friar, who would it be?” That’s the question we asked this year’s Jubilarians. Here’s what they had to say.)

Fr. Cyprian Berens, OFM

65 Years Priesthood

We had no tradition with nuns or priests in our close family, but Dad and Mom both encouraged me strongly. At the time I was discerning I became very close to Fr. Juvenal Berens, a distant cousin, and he was very helpful in my adolescence and ignorance and knowledge of God.

When I went to Rome as Finance Officer of the Order [1963-1967], I was very unsure of myself, too young for that job. [General Minister] Agostino Sepinski, a great man, became a Dutch uncle to me.

Fr. Murray Bodo, OFM

60 Years Profession

I’m grateful for Benno Heidlage for getting me through the Novitiate and believing in me, Leander Blumlein for showing me how to read and enjoy great writing, Damien Isabell for choosing me to be on the initial team of guides for the Assisi Study Pilgrimage, and Jeremy Harrington for asking me to write the book that became Francis: The Journey and the Dream.

Fr. Paul Desch, OFM

60 Years Priesthood

Dad and Mom because they were so supportive of me becoming a friar; Ignatius Brady for being a great teacher; Noel William for being a great pastor.

Br. Kevin Duckson, OFM

50 Years Profession

I was thinking of Fr. Floribert Blank and his devotion to the Blessed Mother and prayer whenever we would take our hike to the Holy Family Shrine in Oldenberg. He said, “Everything begins with prayer.” He’s the one who supported me when I first entered.

Fr. Bernie Gerbus was retired at St. Francis Center and really put into perspective for me the idea of community and fraternity. He would say, “Don’t take life too seriously”, and, “This, too, will pass.”

Fr. Gregg Petri and his devotion to his ministry of taking care of the poor and the Spanish community; he got me in touch with the whole idea of working at the soup kitchen and also the people in the 12 Step program. He put death and dying in perspective.

Fr. John Joseph Gonchar, OFM

60 Years Priesthood

Attending Mass with my father or mother influenced my listening to God’s call. I believe the prayers and encouragement of the “old ladies” of the parish had something to do with it. The School Sisters of St. Francis, who taught me, most likely had a hand in it, too It was like a “community” influence.

My parents were members of the Third Order Franciscans here at the friary in Pittsburgh. I got to know the friars and would often spend time visiting and helping out. Their personalities plus the missionary work they were doing among the Slovak people in the States influenced my wanting to join them.

Fr. Ted Hattrup, OFM

65 Years Profession, 60 Years Priesthood

(Norbert Bertram spoke to Ted, who has difficulty communicating, and gave us this response.)

When I talked to Ted about being a friar he was all smiles, very joyful. He said he felt supported by his two sisters: “I am very grateful for that.” They were always there for him and prayed for him and encouraged him.

As far as friars, without hesitation, he mentioned that the person who supported him the most was Jeremy Harrington.

Br. Martin Humphreys, OFM

65 Years Profession

My oldest sister, Ethelyn, was a very big influence, especially in the line of art or music. She was so talented, she wasn’t afraid to tackle anything. She seemed to like what I painted and had it hanging throughout her house after she got married. She always encouraged me to go on. That was a big boost for me.

Fr. Frank Jasper, OFM

50 Years Profession

I’m grateful to Joe Rayes for his support and encouragement. He had more confidence in me along the way than I had in myself.

Fr. Dan Kroger, OFM

50 Years Profession

I’m dead serious when I say I was stumped [when asked that question].  There are so many people who were very important with respect to that kind of support, that I couldn’t come up with just one name.

Fr. Don Miller, OFM

50 Years Profession

I would have to mention Fr. Bernard Rank along with the Sinsinawa Dominican Sisters as one of the most influential people in my life. Father was the only pastor I knew growing up and the Sisters taught in our grade school. While Father was a diocesan priest, he was the epitome of a 1950s priest who was very supportive of my vocation and helped our family in whatever way he could. Likewise, the Sisters were extremely supportive even though they would have preferred I became a Dominican. Fr. Rank never took credit for the inspiration he was for me, but I assured him more than once that he was my model of both consecrated life, even though he was a diocesan priest, and priesthood.

Fr. Joseph Nelson, OFM

(OLG Province)

60 Years Profession

Frs. Brian and Leonard at minor seminary; Fr. Leander Bloomlein at Duns Scotus. I guess I started thinking about the seminary when Fr. Paul Scales talked to us in the 8th grade. Also, two of my sisters went to the convent before me, which probably influenced me.

Fr. Joe Ricchini, OFM

60 Years Profession

I once asked the saintly Fr. Bill Faber what was the secret of his conversion. He told me that one day he was reading a book on spirituality. On one side of the open book was a picture of a circle with the word “me” in the center. On the other side of the book there was a circle with the word “Jesus” in the center. Those pictures made him realize that his whole life was self-centered. That realization moved him to change completely and became Christ-centered. He seemed to live his life in a self-forgetful way, as though without an ego. Eventually God gives this Christ-centered gift, I believe, to whom he gave the burning desire for it.

Fr. Tom Richstatter, OFM

50 Years Priesthood

In 1969 I didn’t have the faintest idea of how to get an advanced degree in liturgy and Larry Landini suggested I contact Rev. Gerard Austin, OP, Chair of the Theology Department at The Catholic University of America. Jerry graciously responded to my letter with detailed instructions on how to enroll at the Institute Catholique in Paris and how to contact the Paris Franciscan community. I never met Jerry until he appeared quite by coincidence at the defense of my thesis! Over the years we have roomed together at the meetings of the North American Academy of Liturgy and Jerry has been my mentor, guiding me through difficult times and continually supplying me with books and articles that keep me on the cutting edge of theological development. I thank God for sending me Jerry Austin, OP.

Fr. Jeremy Harrington, OFM

65 Years Profession

Leonard Foley: We were both from the same parish in Lafayette, Ind. He was my teacher at St. Francis Seminary and my lifelong inspiration, friend and mentor. He recruited me to work at St. Anthony Messenger. He had the vision.

Andrew Fox was my guardian at St. Leonard when I was a deacon and in the pastoral year, my principal when I taught at Roger Bacon, publisher at St. Anthony Messenger Press, Provincial. He was a strong, caring leader.

Conrad Rebmann, my contemporary, is and always was a humble, quiet, zealous friar in whatever obedience he was given– tailor, vocation director, outreach director at Roger Bacon. He inspires me.

Fr. Ric Schneider, OFM

65 Years Profession

It really wasn’t one person that influenced me but seven, four uncles and three brothers. I saw what they were doing and they seemed to like it and were happy so I followed in their footsteps. So away I went and here I am, 65 years later.

Fr. Tony Walter, OFM

65 Years Profession

The person I have in mind is Mark Sandford; he’s a first cousin of mine [as well as the Schneiders] and my godfather. I always enjoyed having him around for his laugh, a deep, deep laugh. He was a Franciscan priest and that’s how I got the idea of doing the same thing.

Fr. Valentine Young, OFM

60 Years Priesthood

I have to thank Fr. Urban Freundt, OFM, as the most important person in my Franciscan, priestly vocation.

He was the one who first encouraged me to come to the seminary. I met him while visiting one of the Notre Dame Sisters there. He did so because he learned I was eligible to attend Covington Latin School after the 6th grade. Four years later when I graduated from the Seminary, Fr. Max Gartner, the Disciplinarian, encouraged me to discontinue. Not sure of what to do I approached Fr. Urban, the Rector,ᅠ and told him of the situation: “Fr. Max told me to quit, but I don’t really want to.”ᅠ In his somewhat regal manner Fr. Urban answered, “Well, I’m the Rector, and I think you should continue and go to the novitiate.” The rest is history. Time will tell if Fr. Urban or Fr. Max was right.

Had it not been for Fr. Urban, I would not be a Franciscan priest today.

Schneider family friars and diocesan priests gathered August 1965 in Louisville for Madian Schneider’s priesthood silver jubilee. Standing are Mark Sandford, Christopher Schneider, Bernardin Schneider, Aquinas Schneider, Clarence Lindauer; seated are Herman Lammers, Hilary Schneider, Theodoric Schneider, Madian Schneider and Sigfrid Schneider.


These pendants will be given at the Procession and on the 150th anniversary.

  • Holy Family in Oldenburg, Ind., has a lot to celebrate. Sunday, Aug. 21, is its 150th anniversary as a Franciscan parish. And May 29 parishioners will coordinate the village’s 170th consecutive Corpus Christi Procession, an event so ingrained in local culture that a street marker was erected to explain its origins. “It was first celebrated here it 1846, but originated in 13th-century Germany,” it reads. “The solemn and colorful march follows a one-mile route through woods, meadow and village streets.” Knights and Ladies of St. John from Oldenburg and Louisville serve as the color guard for the Blessed Sacrament. “It’s a big thing with the villagers marking the coming of summer,” says Pastor David Kobak, who this year will lead the one-mile procession in a golf cart “because of my arthritis”. Walkers gather after the 10 a.m. Mass and pray the rosary as they walk, stopping at seven shrines along the way. “Afterwards, everybody goes over to the firehouse to have a nice lunch,” David says. It endures because “we have a lot of devoted parishioners who are in love with the old traditions. If that procession was ever denied or canceled, there would be an uproar in the village.” Friars are welcome to concelebrate the Corpus Christi Mass at 10 a.m. Sunday, May 29, and join the procession. They’re also invited to the 150th anniversary Mass on Aug. 21 and a dinner that follows. To reserve a spot, please call 812-934-3013 (Option 2, business office).
  • Reported today on the OFM website: “The new province of Sant’Antonio dei Frati Minori was born on May 16, 2016, combining all the brothers of Northern Italy which until now had belonged to six different provinces. The General Minister, Br. Michael Perry, and the General Definitor, Br. Antonio Scabio, took part in this important event which took place in Padua, in honor of the patron saint of the new province. Over 250 friars of northern Italy attended.” Read more at:
  • Greg Friedman in Jerusalem with the Archbishop.Returning to the States after a month in Jerusalem, Fr. Greg Friedman writes: “It’s been a productive time, and as always, a time to deepen faith through encounters with people and places. The friars here have been especially kind in hosting me and welcoming me as a brother. I feel at home in Jerusalem!” This morning on his Facebook page Greg posted what was “Certainly a high point of my visit,” an interview with Archbishop Giuseppe Lazzarotto, the Apostolic Delegate in Jerusalem and Palestine and Apostolic Nuncio in Israel. “He is the personal representative of Pope Francis, and we met in the historic room where Pope Francis and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew met two years ago; and where, over 50 years ago, Bl. Pope Paul VI and Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras met.”
  • Bernard “Butch” Feldhaus, 1975 seminary grad and secretary of the board of the Franciscan Alumni Association, will be ordained a deacon at 11 a.m. Saturday, June 11, at Sacred Heart Cathedral in Knoxville, Tenn. “The time I spent at the seminary and my contact with all the wonderful Franciscan brothers and priests played a big part in my vocation,” Butch wrote in a note to Fr. Jeff Scheeler. “Who knew that it would take over 40 years for me to be ordained!” The ordination will be broadcast live and archived on the Cathedral’s at YouTube page.
  • Mark your calendars: Author/historian Jacques Dalarun will reveal “The Re-Discovered Life of St. Francis by Thomas of Celano: New Insights” at the Ignatius Brady Memorial Lecture July 14. According to the Franciscan Institute, “This revolutionary find will be compared and contrasted with the two lives of Celano already available, and participants will be introduced to new insights and challenges that this document poses for those interested in the Franciscan vision today.” The discovery has been called “one of the great medieval finds in the last century.” The lecture is at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, at St. Bonaventure’s Quick Center for the Arts in St. Bonaventure, N.Y.
  • Reminder: Fr. Jim Bok will join author Barb Coyle at a book signing for In the Land of “Soon Come”, 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. on Tuesday, May 31, at Friars Club, 4300 Vine St. in St. Bernard. Proceeds benefit missions in Jamaica.
  • Featured in a pre-ordination profile in the May Catholic Telegraph, Deacon Eric Roush listed Fr. Greg Friedman and Fr. Al Hirt as influential “witnesses” in his decision to become a priest. Eric will be ordained Saturday, May 21, at the Cathedral of St. Peter in Chains in downtown Cincinnati. Thanks to John Barker at graduation.Trish Lampe in the Mission Office for passing this along.
  • Fr. Henry Beck snapped this photo of Br. John Barker May 12, just before the procession for the 48th annual commencement for graduates of Catholic Theological Union at KAM Isaiah Israel Synagogue in Hyde Park (Chicago). “I was delighted to see him in his new doctoral robes from Boston College,” Henry says, “and I wanted to share with the province.”



(An open letter to Murray Bodo upon reading his latest book, Gathering Shards: A Franciscan Life.)

Dear Murray,

I have just completed reading your latest work, Gathering Shards: A Franciscan Life, and as your brother in Francis, I just want to say a simple word of thanks.  As you gathered the various shards of your own life, you did the same for me.

Thanks for the memories.Aubert GrieserJeff, top center, and Murray in seminary daysJoe RayesEd OverbergRoy EfflerYou transported me to my own days at St. Francis Seminary where you taught me English literature, which was the beginning of my own love for words.  Your stories about Aubert Grieser, Aldric Heidlage, and Kenan Hozie reminded me of my own interaction with them. You put me again into the classroom at Duns Scotus College where Leander Blumlein taught us about the intentional and affective fallacies, as well as introducing us to works of Gerard Manley Hopkins, T. S. Eliot, Flannery O’Connor and so many more.  Leander directed our plays where I, too, pretended and cultivated imagination (I had the lead in Paddy Chayefsky’s Gideon during my senior year!), which taught us poise and presence and confidence.  Roy Effler introduced us to Bonaventure and Duns Scotus, though I did not realize what important Franciscan lights they were at the time.  Your memories of Benno Heidlage helped me remember the guidance of my own Novice Director, Joe Rayes, through some dark and confusing times. As I read, I gathered my own shards.

Though not an only child or from the Southwest, I took a geographically shorter but similar journey to Franciscan life.  Like you, I was baptized by a friar (Ed Overberg), mentored by the friars at St. George in Cincinnati, served early morning Masses, played priest with Necco wafers, played Cowboys and Indians and with red fire trucks. Like most everyone I would guess, I, too, had to move from piety to spirituality, to come to a more mature appreciation and integration of the gift of sexuality, and my relationship with my father and mother.  From my year in the province at Jemez Pueblo, N.M., I can appreciate some of your love for the beauty of the desert, the mountains, and the culture of Native Americans.  I was in Jemez during my last year of temporary profession, and, as I was pondering solemn profession, I can still remember reading in the chapel there a line from one of your books: “No vow to God is ever one-sided,” and it gave me courage to take the risk. As I read, I gathered my own shards.

Though not as constant a visitor to Assisi as you, I too, know its power and peace.  I remember coming to a deeper relationship with Francis and Clare by going on pilgrimage, visiting the sacred places, walking where they walked, praying where they prayed.  I can remember the geraniums, the gates, the olive trees, the plaza, and of course the gelato.  Assisi feels like home to every Franciscan.  As I read, I gathered my own shards.

I have attempted once or twice to write poetry, but that is not my gift.  But I have come to appreciate the beauty and power of words.  I experience some of what you wrote about the creative processing and encountering the Word through words that emerge in writing and preaching.  As I read, I gathered my own shards.

Thank you for introducing me to your parents, to Denise Levertov, Bertie Lomas, Fr. Francis Halpin and the other guides of your life.  Thank you for introducing me to Francis and Clare and for sharing this journey and dream as brothers.  Your insights have given a generation of Franciscans a way to understand and talk about our Francis calling.  You have opened up the mystery of the Advent and Christmas of the Soul, and by gathering the shards, to prepare a dwelling place for God who will overflow and bring forth Christ in our lives.  Thank you for helping me find my own way into this mystery of God’s great mercy.


– Fr. Jeff Scheeler, OFM


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