NOVEMBER 10, 2016

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Stories of mercy

Parishioners share life-changing moments


It came up last fall at a staff meeting at Transfiguration Parish in Southfield, Mich. “We were talking about how we could get people involved in the Year of Mercy,” says Fr. Jeremy Harrington, Associate Pastor. Someone suggested, “We’ll ask them to tell a story of their mercy.” Pastor Bill Farris wanted Jeremy to follow through.

That weekend an announcement appeared in the bulletin. “For the Year of Mercy, which began Dec. 8, 2015, we are featuring short columns on God’s mercy each week. We invite members of the parish to share an occasion when you felt God’s mercy or offered mercy to someone else.”

Jeremy Harrington, OFMAnd many of them did. So far 40 people have shared stories that were life-changing, life-saving, life-affirming. Throughout the year they’ve been posted in the bulletin, on Facebook and the parish website.

“Once some were published, I think it struck a chord,” says Jeremy, who encouraged contributions by telling folks, “That story would be great for the Mercy column. Just get something on paper. It doesn’t have to be fancy.”

As the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy draws to a close (Nov. 20), submissions are still coming in. And they’re being read, Jeremy says. “Just this morning I was in the food pantry and a lady said, ‘That was a great story last week.’”

Here are a few of our favorites.

“The Rake”

Sean was tall and his large quilted flannel jacket masked his thin frame.  He asked us if we could buy him some food.  As we waited for his fish sandwich and fries we conversed.  Sean was happy.  He was homeless, but tomorrow, through poverty assistance, he was to receive an apartment in Southfield.  During the course of the conversation he lamented that he had no rake.  He wanted to earn some money raking leaves.  His meal came and we said our goodbyes.

“Come on,” I said to the kids, “Sean needs a rake.”  We hurried to the hardware store next door and quickly decided on a metal rake with a wood handle.  Taking our purchase with us we went back to the fast food restaurant and joined Sean at the small table where he was finishing his meal.  Tears filled his eyes as he thanked us profusely and gave me a hug.  I asked him for a favor:  to say a prayer for our family.  This he did immediately, in our presence, working his way carefully through the Lord’s Prayer.  I wished him well and we went on our way.

– Anonymous

“God Sent Those Two Angels”

One sunny Sunday afternoon several years back when my Aunt was visiting from Chicago I was driving her east on 8 Mile Road to my sister’s house. As I was passing over Greenfield Road she beckoned me, from the front passenger seat, to help her to fasten her seat belt. I continued to barrel along at 40 miles per hour (“multi-tasking”) while focusing on securing her seat belt (yes, my focus was wrong – lesson learned). Little did I realize that there in my lane, midway over this bridge, was a stalled car.

Two young men in the far left lane pulled up beside me, honking their horn. I looked up and they pointed to the stalled car, which I would not have seen without their alert. They saved our lives that day. God, in his mercy, sent me those two angels. I thanked God that day, and today, still thank him for saving us from what would have been an awful accident.

– Grace Bostic

“The Full Cart”

On Sunday, Jan. 25th, we were collecting food for the Franciscan Outreach Program at the Kroger store on Middlebelt.  Most people were really friendly as I gave them my speech about how Kroger and Gleaners were working with a local food bank to feed hungry people in the area.  An older man came in about 1 p.m. and I handed him a card with suggested items and asked if he could buy an item or two to help.  He smiled and took the card.

On his way out he was pushing a full grocery cart.  He stopped and was searching in the cart for a bag.  He pulled one out containing two cans of something, which I thought he was going to put in the collection cart.  But no, he said:  “This bag is for me, the rest of the food is to help feed hungry people.”  Great thanks was expressed for his generosity.  He just smiled, told us what a great job we were doing, and left.  It was a wonderful rest of the day.  “Whatsoever you do for the least of my brothers...that you do unto me.”

–John Grden

“Water Tank”

Family History tells a story that for over 80 years has been sworn to be true:

A 2 ½ year-old little girl wanted to do what her three big brothers were doing. They were 5, 7, and 9. They were allowed to be in the barnyard with their Dad in northern Wisconsin south of Lake Superior. She was not to be there.  So she climbed the fence and promptly fell into the cow-drinking-water-tank on the other side.

The Mom saw her through the window and screamed. The father had hired an able young man to help him work. He was by the house, but saw what had happened; he ran and flew/jumped over the fence, pulling the girl out of the water. She was resuscitated to be OK.

The fence was later replaced in that area. The young man—in the next year or so—tried to leap over that fence more than 100 times, but never got near to going over.

But here I am.

– A.J. Sokalski

“I’ve Been There”

My angel of mercy arrived in a brown Ford sedan with a Rhode Island license plate. I had just turned off I-95 to I-26 when he pulled up beside me, honking his horn. He pointed to his rear window, and there was my husband’s walker sticking up [in the back seat]. I pulled over as he did.

After retrieving the walker, he explained that he had seen us leave the restaurant. I had helped my husband into the car, handed him his coffee, propped the walker against the rear door, and driven off! He had been following us for 15 minutes, going miles out of his way [to return the walker].

After listening to my profuse thanks, he said, “I’ve been there.” He gave me a big hug and drove off. The warmth of that hug lasted a long time.

– Anonymous

(Read more stories on the parish website at: Transfigsfld)

Message of hope and faith resonates


Boy Scouts at St. Anthony ShrineTricia Griffith settles into a pew for a presentation by Fr. Mark Soehner.

“This guy is so wonderful I’m recording him,” says Tricia, who hears Mark preach when she attends Mass here at St. Anthony Shrine. Tonight’s topic, mercy, has drawn a large and diverse audience.

It’s not surprising that members of the Sunday community would be here for the Nov. 2 talk, last in a series of three given by SJB friars for the Year of Mercy. What’s surprising is the two rows of Boy Scouts on the opposite side of the chapel. On the advice of Fr. Kenan Freson, who subs at the PHOTOS BY FRANK JASPER, OFMMark Soehner offers a Franciscan Reflection on mercy.parish, chaperone Toni Schneider brought the 25 young men from St. Bernard’s of Taylor Creek as part of their “Ad Altare Dei” faith formation program.

Another attendee whispers to a trio of women in the row behind her: “How do you know Mark?” Their responses: “From when he says Mass on Tuesdays”; “He was our parish priest for years”; and, “He’s got the Spirit for sure.”

Introduced by Guardian Fr. Carl Langenderfer, Mark launches into an animated presentation, “A Franciscan Reflection on the Jubilee Year of Mercy”, with themes so relatable that even the Scouts listen intently:

  • “God doesn’t love you because you’re good. You’re good because God loves you.”
  • “Mercy doesn’t come to us all pretty. It comes to us when we need it.”
  • “Before teaching the commandments of God, we need to talk about the God of the commandments….God seen as an unforgiving tyrant or benevolent Santa Claus.”
  • Jeff Scheeler shows guests the scrolling prayer intentions“When our resources seem inadequate, it’s time we go to a deeper well.”
  • “To be rich in mercy is not to be stingy in any sense.”
  • “It’s a lot easier to judge than be generous.”
  • “When we receive mercy we want to give it away.”
  • “What if we lived our lives in gratitude and had a revolution of tenderness?”
  • “We can give regular doses of mercy with simple words like, ‘Forgive me.’ ‘I’m sorry.’”

Mark recounts his adventures with the Walking Friars and their 2009 trek across Virginia. Mercy and generosity were offered in abundance in unlikely places from unexpected sources. “Isn’t God good?” he says, and everyone agrees.

Mark gives Pope Francis the final word, paraphrasing a sentiment that seems obvious but bears repeating. “Everything the Church says and does should be seen as merciful.”

Judging by nods of appreciation, the gift of mercy has been gratefully accepted.

(A video of Mark’s talk will soon be posted on YouTube.  Larry Zurek’s Year of Mercy talk is on our YouTube page at: youtubeY

Hear John Quigley’s Year of Mercy talk at: We+Are+Franciscans

8 co-workers heading to Assisi

PHOTO BY FRANK JASPER, OFMIn 2017, eight of our co-workers will make a life-changing journey to the land of St. Francis, thanks to the province’s Sharing Our Charism program. Those selected for a pilgrimage to Assisi are:

Ray Taylor, Franciscan Media, Cincinnati, Ohio

John O’Connor, Friars Club, Cincinnati

Kathleen Smith, St. Francis Retreat House, Bethlehem, Pa.

Jeanne Panella, St. Francis Retreat House, Easton, Pa.

Daniel Carsten, St. Aloysius Parish, Detroit, Mich.

Chris Schuermann, St. Francis Seraph Ministries, Cincinnati

Nadalie Thomas, Our Lady of Blessed Sacrament, Shreveport, La.

Charles Thomas, Our Lady of Blessed Sacrament, Shreveport.

Congratulations to all!

  • Students and faculty invited veterans for breakfast and got to know them in a question-and-answer session in the gym.This morning Roger Bacon said thank-you to our nation’s heroes at its annual Veterans Assembly, bringing high school students together with soldiers from several generations in advance of Veterans Day (Nov. 11). “The Spartan Army is honored to have these special guests come in each year for breakfast and Q & A,” they reported. “We even have vets fly all the way from Hawaii to join!” The table conversation was lively and inspirational. “We are forever indebted to you,” veterans were assured. See more photos at: hfacebook
  • Rev. Tim Larson of Peace Lutheran Church will speak at the annual Interfaith Prayer Service at Church of the Transfiguration in Southfield, Mich. The Thanksgiving-themed gathering is at 7 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 20.
  • A special edition of Fraternitas dedicated to the late Fr. John Vaughn, former Minister General, has been posted on the Order’s website at:
  • On All Souls’ Day, CRUX of the Catholic News Service visited the Monastery of the Holy Land in Washington, D.C. A Nov. 6 report begins: “At the Holy Land in Washington, the friars may think about death more often than most people, since a cemetery with their Franciscan brothers who have died is right in their backyard.” Asked about their All Souls observance, Guardian and Commissary Fr. Larry Dunham told a reporter, “We’re taking this time out and we’re celebrating with them,” adding that after the prayer and a blessing of the cemetery, “We go to lunch, we’re going to tell tales that makes (the dead) present. We laugh and we cry.” The story is posted at: Cemetery-death-life
  • Get him on The Voice: Fr. Hilarion Kistner was more than impressed after Pakistani friar Fr. Saleem Amir finished the first Gospel reading this morning during Mass at St. Francis Seraph Friary. “What a beautiful Alleluia he sang,” Hilarion said. “What a beautiful voice. He could sing opera or operetta!” Talent scouts, take note.
  • The Cincinnati-area Retirement Fund for Religious campaign has just unveiled this year’s billboard, featuring the smiling face of friar Fr. Humbert Moster. Look for him soon at numerous locations throughout Cincinnati.

Hearing loss is common, treatable

PHOTO BY SHUTTERSTOCK.COMSudden or gradual hearing loss is one of the most common conditions affecting older and elderly adults. Approximately one in three people between the ages of 65 and 74 has a hearing loss, and nearly half of those older than 75 have difficulty hearing.  Having trouble hearing can make it hard to understand a doctor’s advice, respond to warnings or hear doorbells and alarms. It can also make it hard to enjoy talking with friends and family. All of this can be frustrating, embarrassing, and even dangerous.

Hearing problems can be serious. The most important thing you can do is to seek professional advice. Start with your primary care physician, an otolaryngologist, an audiologist, or a hearing aid specialist. Each has a different type of training and expertise. Each can be an important part of your hearing health care.

Treatments consist of hearing aids, cochlear implants, assistive listening devices and lip reading or speech reading. Friends and family can work together to make hearing easier. Here are some things you can do:

Tell friends and family about your hearing loss. The more you tell the people you spend time with, the more they can help you.

Ask friends and family to face you when they talk. If you watch their faces move and see their expressions, it may help you understand them   better.

Ask people to speak louder, but not shout. Tell them they do not have to talk slowly, just more clearly.

Turn off the TV or the radio if you aren’t listening to it.

Be aware of noise around you that can make hearing more difficult. At a restaurant, do not sit near the kitchen or near a band playing music. Background noise makes it hard to hear people talk.

It will take time for you to get used to watching people as they talk and for people to get used to speaking louder and more clearly. Be patient and continue to work together. Hearing better is worth the effort. Remember that a few words of love and respect also mean a lot to those with hearing loss. And following their lead in conversation by speaking clearly without a lot of background noise can make a big difference in their ability to engage in conversation.

Michelle Viacava, RN

Province Nurse

Helpful resources

Visit for a directory of organizations that provide information on communications disorders (hearing, balance, taste, smell, voice, speech and language).

You may also contact an Information Clearinghouse at (toll-free voice): 800-241-1044 or e-mail:

Reasons for hearing loss

Hearing loss happens for different reasons. Many people lose their hearing slowly as they age and it seems to run in families. Years of exposure to loud noises can cause hearing problems for musicians, airport workers, yard and tree care workers, and people in the armed forces. It can also be caused by viral or bacterial infections, heart conditions or stroke, head injuries, tumors, and certain medicines.


40 years of ‘making worship happen’


PHOTO, facebookSt. Leonard Faith Community, sharing in the Franciscan heritageIn 1976 Fr. Tom Richstatter, assigned to St. Leonard College in Centerville, Ohio, was asked to take charge of the chapel.

“At that time,” Tom says, “the friars were in the choir stalls on one side of the altar; on Sundays a good number of lay people would come to Mass, sit in the pews on the other side of the altar, and listen to the beautiful singing of the friars.”

Tom had spent five years in Paris studying the directives of the Second Vatican Council, one of which said the laity should be “doers” and not merely “watchers”. So he moved the friars into the midst of the laity, “and together we were all ‘active participants’.”

Family input

Left to right: Bill Linesch, Tom Richstatter, Jeff Scheeler, Henry Beck and Rick Kasper “Each week one of the families would invite me and the friars to their home for supper on Wednesday evening. We would get to know one another, and after the meal we would discuss the readings for the coming Sunday liturgy, plan the homily, choose music, and often the family would bake the bread for Eucharist. We continued this practice until all the seminarians and all the families experienced what goes into ‘making Sunday worship happen,’” with laity handling the organization and structure.

Thus was born the St. Leonard Faith Community, in which worshippers “had their opinions appreciated and valued.” In those days, “That was new for a lot of lay people,” says Tom.

Oct. 15-16, Tom joined worshippers at an anniversary celebration for the ground-breaking community, still going strong at age 40. That weekend with some of the founding families in attendance, Tom offered a historical overview and presided and preached at Mass. “Some of the boys who were clerics then – Fr. Jeff Scheeler, Fr. Henry Beck, Bill Linesch and Rick Kasper – came also. In many ways it was like a family reunion.”

An inspiration

According to Henry, “It was a lovely celebration. I was inspired by the faith community’s dedication to our Franciscan spirituality and to the renewal of Vatican 2. I was also impressed by how they took concrete steps to continue as a faith community within the Archdiocese after we friars left St. Leonard” and the college became a home for low-income seniors.

The community had a profound impact on the laity – and on the friars. “Through the years that has really altered my whole understanding of priesthood, being with lay people and seeing how they raise their families in a much more intimate situation,” Tom says. “Seeing God as a loving father, it changed my whole idea of God, that shift from God as judge to God as father.”

Above all, “It let me know that when I’m there at the altar I’m not doing something before people, I’m doing something with people.” And for Tom and other friars whose lives intersected with St. Leonard Faith Community, “It made a big, big difference.”

 Tim Lamb, OFMLast summer we received an e-mail from Minister General Fr. Michael Perry thanking the Province for our support of the General Curia as well as the missionary and formation projects of the Order. As an example he wrote, “Only yesterday it was brought to my attention that the formation house in Kolwezi faces a serious room shortage.  Currently in bedrooms that are approximately 14 feet by 7 feet there are two or in some cases three young friars.” In July, eight friars finished their formation for the priesthood, but 18 new young friars who made first profession moved into the house. “The formators and provincials are scratching their heads to find a solution as to where to house these new friar students. The same will happen once again in Lusaka and Nairobi, despite additions we have made this year to these structures.”We praise God for the growth of Order in Africa and Asia, but it clearly does bring many challenges. Would that we had some of that problem!  We were happy that we were able to assist financially in some small way.39 postulants of East Africa: The growth of the Order brings challenges.We are especially grateful that we can share our Br. Tim Lamb with the friars in this growing area. Tim is currently serving as Secretary of Formation and Master of the House of Theology in Nairobi for the Province of St. Francis in Africa, Madagascar and Mauritius.In his e-mail Michael also asked, “When are you planning to visit Tim?  It would be worth the visit to go with one or two from the Council to see the reality of the East African Province, and to get a better sense of where the Order is growing.”  Ever obedient, Mission Director and Provincial Councilor Br. Vince Delorenzo and I will be visiting Tim from Nov. 13-23.  We will certainly share with you the fruits of our visit.  In my absence, Provincial Vicar Frank Jasper is available to assist friars with any needs.–Fr. Jeff Scheeler, OFM 

Send comments or questions to:


“The Rake”

Family History tells a story that for over 80 years has been sworn to be true:

Boy Scouts at St. Anthony ShrineTricia Griffith settles into a pew for a presentation by Fr. Mark Soehner.

  • Jeff Scheeler shows guests the scrolling prayer intentions“When our resources seem inadequate, it’s time we go to a deeper well.”