‘I do, with the help of God’

Three friars say ‘yes’ to ordination

The moving Litany of the SaintsBY TONI CASHNELLI

Why have so many people come so far?

“They are good men and will do great things,” says Jordan Neeck, referring to friends Clifford Hennings, Colin King and Roger Lopez. Jordan is so sure of this that he drove 500 miles from his home, a Norbertine Abbey in Wisconsin, to be part of their ordinations June 11 at St. Clement Church in Cincinnati. “I’m here to share in the joy in celebrating their accomplishment and the grace given by God to accept this call.”

In fact, the supporters who fill the sanctuary are almost as excited as the participants.

“I wouldn’t have missed this for the world,” says Chicagoan Marc Butiong, who once spent seven days in Jamaica with the three friars “bringing Eucharist to the sick, helping at the soup kitchen, painting homes for the homeless, putting together care packages for Christmas.” As a student at the University of Illinois at Chicago, “It was my foray into being a man of faith. I thank God for them in my life.”

Relatives and lifelong friends feel included and appreciated, with good reason. The three being ordained – Roger and Clifford to the priesthood, Colin to the diaconate – know that ordination does not set them above or apart from other people. It brings them closer.

PHOTOS BY FRANK JASPER, OFMThe Lopez familyNewly ordained, Clifford and RogerAfter ordination: Jeff Scheeler, Colin, Bishop Binzer, Clifford and RogerAffirming their brothersSusan Hennings receives communion from her sonColin, Roger and Clifford are presentedCantor Ed SheaNorbert Bertram with Norbertines Michael Brennanand Jordan NeeckBishop Binzer officiates with friar priests looking on.Seth Hennings and his dad, KarlColin KingNewly ordained Roger Lopez1 - 12<>

“Truly blessed”

David Lukinovich, a friend of Clifford’s family, remembers the kid they called “CD” [for Certificate of Deposit] because “he was going to knock it out of the park in the business world.” Here from Baton Rouge, La., David says the grown-up Clifford “glows with happiness and joy.”

“We come from a lot of different places,” acknowledges Master of Ceremonies Richard Goodin, welcoming guests to an event that seems more like a family reunion than a formal ritual. Ordaining Bishop Joseph Binzer, familiar to friars, is comfortable with this crowd. When Colin’s selection is affirmed by applause, the Bishop responds, “I thought I heard some angels and saints applauding along with us.”

As is his custom, Bishop Binzer met the three friars for a pre-ordination lunch and conversation at what he calls “a gourmet restaurant.” Dining at Skyline Chili, they discussed “their hopes for the future, their trust in the Lord and how truly blessed they are.” When the Bishop asked them, “What might I say to everyone else who is here?” they said, “That everyone who is here today might fall in love more deeply with Jesus Christ, that all of us might commit to serving the Lord.”

In his homily the Bishop quotes a News Notes story in which Colin expressed his excitement and Clifford and Roger talked about serving as Franciscan priests. He also quotes from an address Pope Francis gave  during the Jubilee for Priests in Rome. “The Heart of the Good Shepherd tells us that his love is limitless; it is never exhausted and it never gives up,” the Pope told priests. And one papal pronouncement the Bishop especially likes: “He [the priest] is stubborn in doing good, anointed with the divine obstinacy that loses sight of no one.”

Turning to the three friars, the Bishop says, “Thanks for being great examples for all of us of what it means to be a disciple of Jesus Christ. Know that we are here not just today but [always] to pray for you and support you.”

He calls them forward for the Promise – first Colin, then Clifford and Roger. Each responds to the final query with, “I do, with the help of God.”

“May God who has begun the good work in you bring it to fulfillment,” says Bishop Binzer.

A touching Litany

The ceremony unfolds with a sight not often seen, three friars lying prostrate in the aisle, as cantors John Barker and Sacred Heart friar Ed Shea, a comrade in the 2009 walking pilgrimage, intone the Litany of the Saints.

It is the interactions of friars that leave a lasting impression:  Gene Mayer fussing with Colin’s vestments; tears from Paul Walsman; bear hugs from Ric Schneider for the newly ordained; the ear-to-ear grins of Larry Zurek and Joe Ricchini.

After Communion, Provincial Minister Jeff Scheeler expresses “deep and profound gratitude” to teachers and formators “who have accompanied our brothers along the way,” as well as their families. “Thank you for your support over the years. We promise to try to cherish them as much as you will continue to do.”

And to Clifford, Colin and Roger he says, “Thank you for your generosity, your willingness to serve.” Jeff hopes that “what we have called them to today will go not to their heads, but to their hearts.”

Brotherly love

For Roger’s Mom, Carlotta Lopez, the best moment was “seeing the brotherly love; it’s very touching.”

“It was so heartfelt, so beautiful, such a genuine thing to see how much joy they had,” says David’s daughter, Mary Lukinovich, who has known Clifford “all my life”.

Clifford chose the friars, says his mother, Susan Hennings, because of “the brotherhood. Watching the priests come and lay their hands on Roger and Clifford was probably the most touching.” Her son Seth, 20, was moved “seeing my brother give Eucharist for the first time.”

When Roger was an altar boy, says Carlotta, “The pastor told me, ‘You’ve got a priest on your hands.’” In high school Roger was voted “most spiritual, most likely to be a priest.” For Carlotta’s part, “I just prayed he would make the right decisions.”

As for Clifford and Colin, open minds and open hearts have helped them find the way. Susan says of her son, “He’s definitely where God wants him to be.”

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Friends turn out in force for Ric


Ric receives his award from Paul Segobiano, a St. Mary’s parishioner and county board member.Honorees Jack Porter, Jill Hutchison, Ric Schneider and Gordon Ropp


Guess who got the biggest hand at this year’s History Makers Gala in Bloomington, Ill.? Sixty friends made sure it was Fr. Ric Schneider.

Ric, who just retired as pastor of St. Mary’s and moved to Cincinnati, returned to Bloomington June 16 to be honored as one of four local History Makers by the McLean County Museum of History. He was nominated for “building a community and supporting the needs of poor residents, regardless of their faith.” Also selected were women’s basketball coach Jill Hutchison; Jack Porter, a retired Presbyterian minister, social justice attorney and activist; and cattleman Gordon Ropp, former state Director of Agriculture and State Representative. All were commended for their impact on the community.

The annual event attracted 600 guests to the Bone Student Center at Illinois State University. Ric was impressed with the program, “a beautiful setup,” he says. “They had a clever way of introducing people [the honorees] to the crowd,” with four “contestants” enacting a quiz show in which they answered questions like, “Which honoree said this or that?” When plaques were presented, “They had a really nice writeup on everyone.”

The rooting section for Ric, which made up a tenth of the crowd, was composed of people from St. Mary’s and the school as well as Cusillos Ric has led and parishes where he subbed for 23 years.

“It was a fun evening,” he says, “more than I expected.”



Fraternity and renewal in Albuquerque


(Henry reports from this week’s FIT gathering on restructuring in Albuquerque, NM.)

Wednesday, the second full day of our gathering, we listened to a presentation by Santa Fe Archbishop John Wester, and he was excellent.  He was appointed by Pope Francis about a year ago.  His humility and integrity were noticeable to us all, and he offered us about nine key elements of “what the Church and we friars need to offer our world today.”

Top, Gino Correa presides at Mass; above, participants from SJB Province; middle right, A Becoming Place, site for the meeting; right, Points to ponder at Tuesday’s session.He began by saying that what we need first of all to offer to the world is that “Jesus is our treasure.”

The world needs to see that it is possible “to come into a relationship with Jesus Christ” through our witness. Another key point was that we are called “to touch the wounds of people around us.”  The Church and we friars can help the people of today deal with pain in appropriate ways rather than try to avoid the pain in their lives.  One other key point was that we in the Church need to be more about “mission” than accomplishment.  We are about Christ’s legacy, not our own.

Archbishop Wester also encouraged us friars to “witness to a simplicity of life” because Jesus is our true treasure.  Hopefully we in the Church and as friars can give others “a glimpse of the holy.”

God’s plan from the beginning, attested to by John Duns Scotus, he offered, is to create “a community of love and unity.”  We are called continually to help heal others to help bring this community of love and unity about in the world.

After speaking with us from his heart, he engaged with us in a dialogue session that was very candid about the joys and challenges in the Church today.

The archbishop’s reflections really sparked our fraternal conversations about how we might respond to these needs in the Church and world in “uniquely Franciscan ways.”  We also continued these reflections in the afternoon as we discussed around our tables the topic of “What is the Order asking of the U.S. friars?”

One other highlight of the first day was a video prepared by Fr. Jack Clark Robinson, OLG Minister Provincial, on the “history of the friars in the U.S.”  (Watch it on YouTube)

The overall feedback at the end of the day was that these days together have been among the best experiences in the restructuring process because we have been focused together on the “renewal” of our Franciscan life in the USA.  The energy among the 50 or so of us friars has been high as many suggested we continue to meet together like this to “weave together” the story of our Franciscan history in the U.S. and to “imagine a future together guided by the Holy Spirit.”

PHOTOS BY AL MASCIA, OFMTop, Eric, Andrew, Jack and garden overseer Jim Greenwood; above right, Reema, Stella, Morgan; and above, Pastor Chris Worland from St. Albert’s in Kettering.

There were green thumbs galore this week at the Song and Spirit Institute for Peace in Berkley, Mich. “For the past three years we’ve had Catholic high school students from across the country come to spend a week volunteering at our organic Song and Spirit garden,” Br. Al Mascia writes. “The program is called Catholic Heart Work Camp (http://heartworkcamp.com/). This year, including some of the students, we are honored to have a priest from Kettering as part of the adult chaperone community, Fr. Chris Worland from St. Albert Catholic Church. Looks like our young volunteers will enjoy some beautiful Michigan summer weather: sunny, breezy and not too hot! We are always grateful to have these kids spend some time with us!

  • Fr. Murray Bodo reads from his autobiography, Gathering Shards, in the first of four excerpts posted on YouTube.com.
  • To preview the Feast of St. Anthony, Fr. Pat McCloskey talked about the saint and the legend with Relevant Radio’s Michael O’Neil (“Miracle Hunter”).The program is archived at relevantradio.com. Click “Stream” under June 12 on the calendar.
  • The welcoming new statueA lovely new sculpture of white Carrera marble now occupies the spot where a Fiberglas statue formerly stood in front of Mother of Good Counsel Church in Hazard, Ky. The stone in the grotto was tuck-pointed to provide the proper backdrop. The 330-pound statue was “a gift to the parish, dedicated in honor of the friars who serve at MGC,” says Pastor Mike Chowning.
  • What have we learned in the year since the Pope released “Laudato Si”? Archbishop Thomas Wenski, Fr. James Martin, SJ, of America magazine, and Dr. Carolyn Woo, CEO of Catholic Relief Services, discuss climate change and the legacy of the encyclical at: www.crs.org
  • We can’t get enough of this short video from St. Mary’s farewell to the friars celebration in Bloomington, Ill. When the choir sang, And the Father Will Dance, Fr. Neri Greskoviak couldn’t resist the urge to join in. Catch his performance at: youtube.com.
  • In response to the shootings in Orlando, several hundred people gathered for prayer June 13 at St. Aloysius Church in Detroit. Organized by the Archdiocese of Detroit, the noon service offered “prayers for the victims, their families, for all those affected, and for an end to the hatred that provokes such horrific events in our country and around the world.” See video excerpts at: facebook.com


At St. Francis Seraph Church, Mark Peterson photographs Tim Sucher for Politico.

  • Interviewed by Politico Magazine for its “What Works” series, friar Tim Sucher urged that the poor and longtime residents not be forgotten in the revitalization of Cincinnati’s Over-the-Rhine neighborhood. Read the story at politico.com. Tim is also featured in the accompanying photo essay.


In Congress, they staged a sit-in to push for gun reform.How do we respond to the gun violence of Orlando, Charleston, San Bernardino, Sandy Hook and way too many other places?  The nation and our congressional leaders are painfully divided.

Though words seem little to offer in the wake of the mass shootings in Orlando, the seven Provincial Ministers of the OFM Provinces in the United States issued a statement saying “enough is enough,” calling for sensible gun reform.  We said in part: As Franciscan friars in the United States, we of course join our voices to the chorus of those offering thoughts and prayers for the victims in Orlando. We stand shoulder-to-shoulder with our LGBT brothers and sisters as they grieve and try to make sense of this tragedy. To them we say clearly: We stand with you.

But, there is another chorus we would like to join our voices to today; that of the voices calling for sensible gun reform in America. Discussion of gun reform always seems to lead to loud voices on both sides, so loud that no one really listens. We often try and reduce the public discourse to a simplistic black-and-white version of the issues. This is not helpful or productive. But, surely, we can all agree that there are some acceptable, sensible measures that can be enacted right now.

You can read the whole statement at usfranciscans.org. It is our charism to proclaim peace and promote reconciliation.  Let’s speak up!


– Fr. Jeff Scheeler, OFM


Send comments or questions to: sjbfco@franciscan.org


In Congress, they staged a sit-in to push for gun reform.

Top, Gino Correa presides at Mass; middle right, A Becoming Place, site for the meeting; middle left, participants from SJB Province; above, Points to ponder at Tuesday’s session.