SEPTEMBER 29, 2016

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Transitus and ‘the ultimate letting go’

BY FR. JEFF SCHEELER, OFM

 "Death of Saint Francis” by Domenico Bruschi, c.1886-7, fresco, exterior wall of the Cappella del Transito, Church of St. Mary of the Angels, AssisiAs I write this reflection, we are preparing the program for the Transitus of St. Francis to be prayed and celebrated throughout the Franciscan world on the evening of Oct. 3.  We will gather to tell the story  of St. Francis’ passing over, his encounter with Sister Death.  Here in Cincinnati, members of the Franciscan family (friars, Poor Clares, men and women Third Order religious, Secular Franciscans, and the many who just love St. Francis) will gather at St. Clement Church.  A friars’ choir has been practicing the traditional and beautiful O Sanctissima Anima by Pier Battista da Falconara and the setting of Psalm 141 by Peter Ricke, OFM.  (It has amazed me how the melodies learned 40-plus years ago come back!)

During the Transitus we remember how Francis prayed the Psalm “Lead my soul from prison, that I may give thanks to your name,”  how the friars gathered around him, how he asked for the story of the washing of the feet from John’s Gospel to be read, and to be laid naked on the ground.  Francis’ wake has been going on for 790 years!  It is good to remember, and to tell the story over and over.   It gives us a story by which we can understand our own lives and experience, and reminds us where we came from and where we are going, and how we do not need to live in fear, but joyful expectation.

 Jeff Scheeler presiding at a past Transitus at St. ClementAt the very same time, we are also accompanying Friar Bill Reichel, OFM, on his final journey.  He is at St. Margaret Hall in Cincinnati, preparing for his encounter with Sister Death, his own Transitus.  Many friars and friends have said their farewells and have prayed the rosary, the prayers for the dying, or just sat there in silent presence.  Norbert Bertram, Jerry Beetz and I did a pretty good version of the Ultima. We have laughed and shared stories of Rocky’s life: his love for the Native Americans, preaching missions, golf, travel, and, of course, people!

Rocky and I shared in the Franciscan Pilgrimage to Central America in November of 1989.  Our pilgrimage was cut short by the assassination of the six Jesuits in El Salvador; that was always a special bond between us.  He called Frank Jasper and me “repo men” when we had to take his cars keys away; he was not happy with us!  I consider sharing a friar’s death, as much as I am able, one of the great privileges of being the Provincial Minister.  Accompanying a brother in his final hours is a rich experience of fraternity.  It helps me think about my own mortality, and how dying – the ultimate letting go – is an integral part of our spirituality, of living the Paschal Mystery.

I am grateful to God and to Rocky for this coincidence of deaths.  Rocky’s life and coming death is helping me enter into the life and death of St. Francis a little more this year. He is helping me to think about our life of fraternity, and our sharing in the dying and rising of Jesus.  Good stuff to think and pray about.  Happy Feast of St. Francis, brothers!  May we accompany one another well on the journey that we share.  Go with God, Rocky, go with God.

(The Cincinnati-area observance of Transitus is at 7 p.m. Monday, Oct. 3, at St. Clement Church in St. Bernard.)

Orphans taught us well

BY FR. FRANK JASPER, OFM

 Photos courtesy Daughters of Charity Province of St. Louise Archives, Emmitsburg, Md.Top, a nurse with younger orphans; above, Carl Langenderfer with kids who were “wards of the state”.The Daughters of Charity ran St. Vincent Sarah Fisher Orphanage and Marillac Home for Unwed Mothers in Farmington Hills, Mich. The friars at Duns Scotus College served as the chaplains for most of their history.  The stories of the children really touched us and tended to stick with us because they all had somewhat sad and painful backgrounds. Some were horribly abused in their early years and had a lot to overcome.

Recently, Evangelical Homes of Michigan bought the 31-acre property to develop a senior center and retirement village.  A short article that Fr. Bill Farris sent me triggered memories of ministry at Sarah Fisher where many priests, brothers and clerics ministered over the years.

Fr. Tom Speier served as one of their favorite and most loved supporters.  He planned elaborate and innovative liturgical celebrations for the children.  “My goal was to make the Sunday Mass a holy and enjoyable experience for the kids,” Tom says. One of his most famous was on Palm Sunday when he rode in on a donkey that he scrounged up from Sr. Susan, an old farm girl. Of course, that led the friars to speculate which one was really the donkey.

Attention-getters

Photo courtesy Daughters of Charity Province of St. Louise Archives, Emmitsburg, Md.Above, from 1948, groundbreaking for Laboure Hall on the orphanage grounds; right, Tom Speier, OFMTom recalled, “On Ascension Thursday one of the boys always got to play fireman and put out the Paschal Candle with a fire extinguisher and a big cloud of carbon dioxide at the words in the Gospel:  ‘He ascended from their sight in a big cloud.’  All the kids got to take a helium balloon hanging from the chapel ceiling with a long string hanging down with a message attached, and we all processed outside after Mass to let the Risen Savior carry their messages to the neighborhood.”

Another time, Tom took a cue from Mission Impossible and he had a trough at the front edge of the altar with water and dry ice.  The smoke billowed over the edge to the floor where the Sisters had separate missions for each of the kids which they pulled out of the smoke. Tom definitely knew how to get the kids’ attention and make the point in his homily.

By the time Fr. Carl Langenderfer worked at St. Vincent, all the orphans were gone. The kids became wards of the State because foster parents were unable to control them. So, they squirreled around in their pews and had the attention span of a hyperactive gnat on steroids. They were some of the wildest kids I have ever encountered.  One Sunday morning Carl lined up a group of fourth- and fifth-graders to offer the petitions when one girl backed into a candle.

“That girl’s hair’s on fire!” screamed a girl from the back of chapel.  Carl quickly lunged toward the girl and clapped out the flames.  A nun promptly escorted her out, but the smell of burnt hair lingered.

Lessons learned

 Photo courtesy Daughters of Charity Province of St. Louise Archives, Emmitsburg, Md.Friars were touched by the stories of the children.One Palm Sunday I attempted to use incense which set off a chorus of loud coughing among the kids who had never experienced incense before.  The nuns opened all the windows to let in a cold blast to clear the air.  I never used incense there again.

For the Gospel that Palm Sunday, I used my book of “Mellow-Dramatic Bible Stories.”  The kids were calm, quiet and very attentive to the reading of the Passion.  I was talking with Sr. Mary Francis after the service and commented on their unusually attentive demeanor.  She said, “They understand the Passion because that’s their story, too.  They know what it’s like to be beaten, hurt, taken advantage of and tossed aside.”  The kids taught me many lessons about suffering along the way.

Sr. Mary Patricia Larabel was the director when I became guardian of Duns Scotus in 1987.  I came crying to her many times with problems I didn’t have a clue how to handle.  Being a seasoned administrator from the age of 28, Sr. Mary P., as everyone called her, calmly told me how to handle the situation and she put me in touch with great administrators who could help me.  I’m indebted to her and to the Daughters.

The Daughters closed St. Vincent Sarah Fisher in the 1990s and attempted to sell it then, but the sale fell through for some reason or other.  Evangelical Homes will begin their construction on the site in 2018 and hope to have the senior complex completed by 2020.

Looking Back

St. Vincent Sarah Fisher Orphanage traces its roots to 1844, when the Daughters of Charity first came to Detroit and opened a kindergarten for orphaned children. They acquired the Farmington Hills site in 1923 and built a facility to house children in 1929.

The children were removed from the home and placed in foster care in 1972 when Michigan ended institutional care for infants and preschoolers. “In 2006, the St. Vincent and Sarah Fisher Center moved back to Detroit and started children and adult educational programs and services,” according to the Center’s website, www.svsfcenter.org/.

 

Peace, fun and families

“A family friendly art and music festival” is how planners describe the 3rd Annual World Peace Festival, 1-5 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 1, at the World Peace Bell, 4th and York streets in Newport, Ky. International diversity will be showcased through activities for kids, ethnic foods, Tai Chi and Yoga, meditation, a live band and dancers, storytelling and fair trade goods for sale.

“This year’s theme for the World Peace Festival is ‘Peace Is a Human Right’”, according to the Intercommunity Justice and Peace Center & Citizens for Global Solutions. “As the world community becomes increasingly aware of the horrific conditions that people are struggling to endure or flee from as a result of war or terrorism, we want to celebrate the gifts of their cultures and honor their right to a peaceful existence.”

Bringing the theology of liberation to life

BY FR. HENRY BECK, OFM

Top, PHOTO BY JOHN AHERNE, OFMFriars Juan Turcios, John Aherne and Henry Beck at Dominican University.Above, PHOTO FROM WIKIMEDIA COMMONSGustavo Gutierrez, OPThose of us who attended his talk Tuesday at Dominican University in River Forest, Ill., were inspired by the words and manner of Fr. Gustavo Gutierrez, OP, PhD,  one of the founders of liberation theology. His presentation was part of their celebration of the 800th Anniversary of the founding of the Order of Preachers (1216-2016).

Friars Juan Turcios, John Aherne and I heard Fr. Gustavo speak profoundly of the insights that inspired the theology of liberation in Latin America, while he lived and worked among the poor and oppressed of Lima, Peru. He traced the words of Pope John XXIII to Pope Francis that have encouraged us as a Church to see that the preferential option for the poor is not only a pastoral approach to real problems but a spirituality (a way of following Jesus as a disciple) flowing from the theological reality of God’s “fresh and vivid memory” and awareness of what the forgotten and disadvantaged bear in life.  And memory and awareness, as he explained, always leads to action.

Fr. Gustavo also shared an intimate story of his last conversation with Archbishop Oscar Romero of El Salvador and explained that the theology of liberation has its cost. He concluded with an inspiring statement of his love for God, for the people of God, and for the Church, in difficult times and in good times.

 

SAM’s Susan Hines-Brigger interviewed Msgr. Ray East.•  Tuesday, St. Anthony Messenger live-streamed an interview with Msgr. Ray East of Washington, D.C., in which he talked about race relations, the role of African Americans in the Church, the Black Lives Matter movement and the current political climate. “We’re all earthlings living on our planet and we can’t even figure out how to be civil to one another,” he told SAM’s Susan Hines-Brigger. Watch the archived interview on Facebook (under Sept. 27) at: facebook.com. Msgr. East is pastor of St. Teresa of Avila parish in D.C.

  • Fr. Greg Friedman and Fr. Jim Bok will meet in New York and travel to “visitors’ school”, Nov. 14-19 in Rome. Greg was appointed General Visitor for the Custody of St. John the Baptist in Pakistan. Jim is visitor for ABVM Province.
  • Holy Spirit Province in Australia has elected Phillip Miscamble as Provincial for 2016-2022. Anthoni Selvaraj was elected Vicar.  Definitors will be elected Friday.
  • E-mail was a testimonial to Roger Bacon.This says it all: President Tom Burke of Roger Bacon High School shared an e-mail he received from Allyson Bosse, mother of freshman Michael Bosse. “I really mean it when I say that Joe and I couldn’t be more pleased with how things have gone at Roger Bacon for Michael,” Allyson wrote. “For the first time in his life he LOVES school and that is because of the environment you have created there. When he shadowed there he told me it felt like family and I believe that now. Since school started, we have received two e-mails from teachers telling us how great Michael is doing and complimenting him; to be honest that blew us away. It is wonderful to hear from teachers when things are going great!” Allyson also says that, based on Michael’s experience, her daughter, Ella, also hopes to attend Bacon.

Send comments or questions to: sjbfco@franciscan.org

ARCHIVES

Transitus and ‘the ultimate letting go’

BY FR. JEFF SCHEELER, OFM

 Photo courtesy Daughters of Charity Province of St. Louise Archives, Emmitsburg, Md.Friars were touched by the stories of the children.One Palm Sunday I attempted to use incense which set off a chorus of loud coughing among the kids who had never experienced incense before.  The nuns opened all the windows to let in a cold blast to clear the air.  I never used incense there again.

Peace, fun and families

“A family friendly art and music festival” is how planners describe the 3rd Annual World Peace Festival, 1-5 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 1, at the World Peace Bell, 4th and York streets in Newport, Ky. International diversity will be showcased through activities for kids, ethnic foods, Tai Chi and Yoga, meditation, a live band and dancers, storytelling and fair trade goods for sale.

“This year’s theme for the World Peace Festival is ‘Peace Is a Human Right’”, according to the Intercommunity Justice and Peace Center & Citizens for Global Solutions. “As the world community becomes increasingly aware of the horrific conditions that people are struggling to endure or flee from as a result of war or terrorism, we want to celebrate the gifts of their cultures and honor their right to a peaceful existence.”

  • E-mail was a testimonial to Roger Bacon.This says it all: President Tom Burke of Roger Bacon High School shared an e-mail he received from Allyson Bosse, mother of freshman Michael Bosse. “I really mean it when I say that Joe and I couldn’t be more pleased with how things have gone at Roger Bacon for Michael,” Allyson wrote. “For the first time in his life he LOVES school and that is because of the environment you have created there. When he shadowed there he told me it felt like family and I believe that now. Since school started, we have received two e-mails from teachers telling us how great Michael is doing and complimenting him; to be honest that blew us away. It is wonderful to hear from teachers when things are going great!” Allyson also says that, based on Michael’s experience, her daughter, Ella, also hopes to attend Bacon.

Transitus and ‘the ultimate letting go’

BY FR. JEFF SCHEELER, OFM

 Jeff Scheeler presiding at a past Transitus at St. ClementAt the very same time, we are also accompanying Friar Bill Reichel, OFM, on his final journey.  He is at St. Margaret Hall in Cincinnati, preparing for his encounter with Sister Death, his own Transitus.  Many friars and friends have said their farewells and have prayed the rosary, the prayers for the dying, or just sat there in silent presence.  Norbert Bertram, Jerry Beetz and I did a pretty good version of the Ultima. We have laughed and shared stories of Rocky’s life: his love for the Native Americans, preaching missions, golf, travel, and, of course, people!

Peace, fun
and families

“A family friendly art and music festival” is how planners describe the 3rd Annual World Peace Festival, 1-5 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 1, at the World Peace Bell, 4th and York streets in Newport, Ky. International diversity will be showcased through activities for kids, ethnic foods, Tai Chi and Yoga, meditation, a live band and dancers, storytelling and fair trade goods for sale.

“This year’s theme for the World Peace Festival is ‘Peace Is a Human Right’”, according to the Intercommunity Justice and Peace Center & Citizens for Global Solutions. “As the world community becomes increasingly aware of the horrific conditions that people are struggling to endure or flee from as a result of war or terrorism, we want to celebrate the gifts of their cultures and honor their right to a peaceful existence.”