JULY 28, 2016

And then what happened?

We bring you up to speed on past newsletter stories



PHOTO BY FRANK JASPER, OFMA lawsuit to block drilling at the former Duns Scotus was thrown out.Proposed drilling upheld in court

The City of Southfield, Mich., was hoping to prevent the drilling of an oil well on the former property of Duns Scotus College. But on July 11, a lawsuit they filed was thrown out by an Oakland County Circuit Court judge.

According to the Detroit Free Press, “Judge Michael Warren sided with Word of Faith International Christian Center and Jordan Development Co., the firm that intends to drill an exploratory oil and gas well on the church’s 110 acres off West 9 Mile and Evergreen roads, in a motion for summary disposition that ends the case without a trial.” Proponents claimed a precedent, saying exploratory wells had been drilled in Southfield before the community was a city.

In January, Southfield neighbors bearing signs such as, “Thou Shalt Not Drill”, gathered to protest the lease agreement Word of Faith signed with Jordan, as reported in the Jan. 21 newsletter. “I think there’s a lot of opposition to it,” said Fr. Bill Farris, pastor of Transfiguration Parish, two miles from the proposed drilling site. Protestors were concerned about the environment – how a possible oil spill could impact the Rouge River – as well as quality of life and property values.

Southfield Mayor Kenson Siver is encouraging city council to appeal the July 11 ruling to the state Court of Appeals. And in an e-mail Bill received through a parishioner, Siver shared new evidence with anti-drilling forces. “A well drilled in 1939 off Ten Mile Road, west of Lahser Road, is now leaking,” he revealed.

After reading the e-mail, Bill went to Google Earth and zeroed in on the site, a subdivision on Pembrooke Road, a quarter-mile from the parish. A swampy-looking brown patch in a vacant lot is clearly visible from above. “The DEQ [Department of Environmental Quality] claims it is only leaking brine (salt water),” Siver says. “However in examining the leak there is an oily film on the water seeping out of the ground.” The DEQ says that the well, drilled to a depth of 600 feet, “was found to be unprofitable and capped in 1941.” Siver is concerned about its proximity to houses and a creek.

“People from Lansing came and immediately recapped the well,” Bill says, “but the leaking was recent enough to have come out as another reason not to jump right into this. Drilling for oil is not problem-free.”

Light at the end of the tunnel?

Raising funds for solar panelsAn ambitious project to retrofit the lighting and install solar panels on two buildings at St. Monica-St. George in Cincinnati is close to completion. In November 2015, Pastor Al Hirt announced a campaign to fund a conversion that would put the parish on the leading edge of the conservation movement. “It would reduce our energy consumption of electricity by 57%,” he said in a Nov. 19 newsletter story.

Fund-raising began in earnest, with the cost projected at $173,000. As of this week, they’ve raised almost $150,000.

Now, “Every light bulb in our buildings, inside and out in the church, rectory and Catholic Center is LED,” using light-emitting diodes to produce light, says Al. “They talk in the range of 20 years” of life for these bulbs. “In the process we were able to upgrade and brighten the lighting in church, and we added some new exterior lighting. We’ve already seen savings from the LEDs because they draw so much less electricity. The ultimate projection is that our annual electric bill that was $27,000 will be reduced to $15,000,” in part because they can generate 2/3 of their own electricity with solar panels.

Phase 2, installation of 163 panels on the roof of the Catholic Center and maintenance garage, hit a snag. “After structural engineers did their study of the Center, we realized we had to get the whole roof prepared” for the solar panels and their racking supports. So the parish dipped into its own budget for the $63,000 required to reinforce the roof. “They had to brace it, do restructuring and put the roof back down,” Al says. “So it’s a great roof now. You can park semi-trucks up there.” June 6 on Facebook, the parish posted a photo of solar panels on the maintenance garage, and they expect to finish the Catholic Center in the next two weeks.

“It’s been slow in coming because of that snafu with the [Center] roof and the weather” and issues with permits and connections, Al says. But if all goes well, “We’re on the verge of getting this whole thing operational.” What’s more, the cost of the conversion project has been revised downward to $156,000 – so in terms of fund-raising, they’re almost there.

A pilgrim recalls the pageantry


This fresco by Tiberio of Assisi shows the origins of the tradition.Reading about the upcoming celebration of the 800th Anniversary of the Pardon of Assisi, I was transported back to the streets of Assisi bustling with eager crowds, happy shoppers, and the sense of Francis’s care for his home town. Blessed with the gift of a pilgrimage in 2003 from the Sisters of St. Francis in Oldenburg, I enjoyed the opportunity to take part in the festivities from the opening brass fanfare of the Memorial of the Vota to the Liturgy and Procession of the Pilgrims for the Pardon of Assisi. No one celebrates special events like the people of Assisi, and the sounds of the street fair, evening concerts and speeding Vespas ricocheted in the narrow streets until the early hours of the morning.

The Feast of the Pardon of Assisi has been celebrated for 800 years from Vespers on Aug. 1 through sundown on Aug. 2. Tradition says that in 1216 St. Francis was praying in the little church of the Portiuncula and was visited by Christ, the Virgin Mary and surrounding angels. Francis asked them to grant a generous pardon, complete remission of all sins, to all those who entered the church having repented and confessed their sins. Returning to Assisi, Francis announced this special grace to the people and the moment is imprinted in a fresco by Tiberio of Assisi in the nearby Chapel of the Roses.

The original pardon confirmed by Pope Honorius was restricted to those who crossed the entrance of the Portiuncula but was eventually broadened to encompass all pilgrims in any Franciscan church who meet the conditions of Communion, Confession and praying for the Pope’s intentions.

(Click franciscan.org to find the nearest Franciscan church.)

Holy Name friar Mathias F. Doyle died June 16 at the age of 82. At the age of 42 in 1975 he was elected 17th president of St. Bonaventure University, the youngest friar ever chosen for that position, and served for 15 years.

PHOTO BY PAT RIESTENBERGMike Dubec and Mike Chowning at the potluck farewellJune 24, parishioners shared food and memories with the departing friars during a potluck dinner at Mother of Good Counsel Catholic Community in Hazard, Ky. Br. Mike Dubec and Pastor Mike Chowning were also treated to an original song that began with, “We have two jolly friars here,” and ended with, “They’ve both made footprints on our hearts.” This Sunday, July 31, all are invited to an Open House at MGCCC from 2:30-4:30 p.m. to say thanks and goodbye to Mike C. for 23 years of service, and Mike D for 16 years.

  • Congratulation to all our novices who will end their canonical year at the Interprovincial Novitiate in Burlington, Wis.  SJB’s John Boissy will make his first profession Aug. 2, while Carlo Shivel will continue his discernment at St. Joseph in Chicago.
  • Missionaries of Mercy Fr. Page Polk and Fr. Larry Zurek are preaching a special Holy Year parish mission – “I Want to Send Everyone to God” – July 31-Aug. 3 at Transfiguration Parish in Southfield, Mich. Read more at: facebook.com
  • The block party always draws a crowd.A little rain didn’t dampen the enthusiasm of the estimated 1,000 guests who ate and danced their way down the street July 24 during the annual St. Aloysius Summer Block Party on Washington Boulevard in downtown Detroit. They took advantage of free food and drink, ice cream, toys for kids and music by Motown’s Original Vandellas and DJ Patrick Brown. The generosity of donors, parish staff and volunteers from St. Al’s and sister parish Our Lady of Good Counsel Catholic Church made the picnic possible.
  • A work in progress at Mary, Gate of Heaven.Construction is well underway on a patio at Mary Gate of Heaven Church in Negril, Jamaica. The new overhang will provide shade for overflow at Mass as well as protection from the rain.
  • “Oh my God, it went really great,” Jim Gardiner says of the third annual Holy Land Festival July 16 at the Franciscan Monastery in Washington, D.C. “We know at least 500 people came” for a cultural smorgasbord of Middle Eastern food, exhibits, speakers, dance performances, workshops and goods for sale. A speaker series included an exchange with Christians in Bethlehem and a discussion by co-curators of the upcoming Metropolitan Museum of Art exhibit, “Every People Under Heaven: The Many Voices of Medieval Jerusalem from 1000-1400.” The festival was also designed to draw attention to the plight of Holy Land Palestinians, Christians and Muslims. Jim, an Atonement friar who is Director of Special Projects for the Monastery, was interviewed by CNS for a story posted at: catholicphilly.com.

Fifty years after they entered St. Francis Seminary together, classmates Rick Kasper, Fr. Jeff Scheeler, Bill Linesch and Fr. Henry Beck are still sharing good times. Last Friday for the sixth year in a row they gathered for a summer outing in Cincinnati. “Great weather, conversation and fireworks!” said Henry. “We try to go to supper and see a Reds game together, and we also get together over the Christmas break for a meal together.” As Jeff reported on Facebook, “We also saw a very good win for the Reds!  The pitchers combined for 12 strikeouts (earning us free pizza!), and the batters had two home runs and several good hits…..Thanks be to God!”

Email To a Friend


PHOTO FROM OFM/ORGJeff at the Portiuncula during last year’s General ChapterNext Tuesday, Aug. 2, the Franciscan family will commemorate the 800th anniversary of the Pardon of Assisi, the Portiuncula Indulgence.  Francis requested that anyone who came to his favorite spot, the Little Portion, St. Mary of the Angels, would receive the liberating gift of complete forgiveness.  He wanted that privilege year round, but Pope Honorius III granted it only for the feast of the Dedication of the Chapel of St. Mary of the Angels.  This grace has now been shared with any Franciscan church.  Pope Francis will remember this anniversary by visiting and praying at the Portiuncula chapel net week.  It is a happy coincidence that this anniversary happens during the Year of Mercy.  St. Francis and Pope Francis desire the mercy of God to be proclaimed and shared freely.  Maybe we can honor this feast and anniversary by random acts of kindness and mercy, being “merciful like the Father,” for after all, “this is our vocation: to heal wounds, to bind what is broken, to bring home those who are lost.”  (Anonymous of Perugia, 38)


– Fr. Jeff Scheeler, OFM

Send comments or questions to: sjbfco@franciscan.org