FRANCISCAN FRIARS Office of Communications Province of St. John the Baptist

www.franciscan.org

January 18, 2018

Support builds for a new ‘Crew’

BY MICHAEL RADOMSKI, OFM

PHOTO BY SHUTTERSTOCK.COMTop, Linus Border and Louie Zant of the Brothers Work Crew; above, small fixes make a big difference.These days there’s a certain excitement in the air and on the streets of Detroit.  Walking the streets downtown and midtown one gets the impression that the city is resolutely on the rebound from recent bankruptcy.  What was tired, abandoned and derelict has been rebuilt, rejuvenated, painted, sandblasted, refitted with new lights and new windows, new businesses and new people.

But once you get out into the residential areas another story is evident.  Many neighborhoods still battle blight and devastation.  Resources and effort are being poured into the more commercial areas of the inner city, but the surrounding residential areas, especially the more impoverished neighborhoods, are primarily left to their own devices where decay spreads like an unchecked contagion.  Some areas of the city are reviving; other neighborhoods are wasting away.

Michael Radomski, OFMOne such area is Highland Park, a city surrounded by Metro Detroit. Louie Zant, Alex Kratz and Maynard Tetreault recently moved nearby to open St. Moses the Black Friary. In this community, years of poverty-driven neglect have diminished grand old houses. Once occupied by families with means, they are now occupied by folks whose can’t afford even the simplest of home repairs and maintenance. The most basic needs – rent, food, medication – must take precedence.

PHOTOS BY TONI CASHNELLIAbove, Louie and Alex near St. Moses the Black; right, Michael at the former Duns Scotus FriaryTransformation

Seeing so much need in the city, I have often wondered if I am doing anything that might have a significant impact on the poverty in which so many live. In the street ministry I engage in I talk with, pray with, and listen to people: their stories; their pain; their sorrows; their overwhelming needs.  I try to help as best as I can with simple food and drink, articles of clothing for warmth, a word of encouragement or an embrace to bolster a fading spirit. Ultimately I go my way and they go back to the same poverty they woke up to that morning.

Recently I’ve been reading Barbara J. Elliott’s book, Street Saints: Renewing American Cities, which is replete with accounts of ordinary people doing extraordinary things to revive disintegrating, blighted, impoverished communities across the country.  Often they started with next to nothing materially, but with a wealth of heart, good intent, and unshakable vision have created movements which have radically transformed impoverishment into empowerment.  [It is a most inspiring book which I would heartily recommend to anyone engaged in From 1985, one of many repairs Kenn Beetz made with the Brothers Work Crewinner-city life and renewal.]  I’m sure I do not have the makings for doing anything extraordinary, but I know I have a gift for using my mind, my hands, and my familiarity with tools for repairing, restoring, maintaining or making whatever may be required for a given need in house or home.

My limitations may not allow for large repairs in roofing, foundations, plumbing and electrical systems which requiring licensing.  But that still leaves a broad range of repairs that can be done which may make somebody’s house feel more like home again: repair holes in the walls; fix that toilet that keeps running; fix the bedroom door that won’t close; add a fresh coat of paint in the smoke-stained living room; install grab bars ‘round the tub for an elder member of the family or childproof catches on cabinets to keep toddlers safe – the list goes on! To be able to help someone whose home is falling into disrepair stay in their home and be safe is a worthy endeavor.  To help an individual learn to do basic home repair empowers them with some measure of control over their own welfare and gives them pride in where and how they live.  Such pride could help bring back the beauty and greatness that was once the hallmark of many a Detroit neighborhood.

Top, a neighborhood in need; above, Louie at St. Moses the Black.Joining forces

So in this small section of Detroit are two brothers, Louie Zant and myself, who have tools, know-how, experience and a desire to be of service to our neighbors in a way which can really help change lives.  Louie was for many years a member of the original Brothers Work Crew and has a wealth of knowledge and decades of experience.  That Work Crew primarily served the fraternity, helping to build up and maintain Franciscan friaries and institutions.

When Louie moved to Detroit he put word out that he needed tools so as to help his neighbors with small repairs as he so frequently had done in Jamaica, his previous assignment.  I have recently returned to live in the city proper and, feeling compelled to use my creative and industrial skills in a more neighborly way, it seemed natural that the two of us should join forces in shared ministry, providing basic handyman services to our neighbors.  So with the approval and hearty support of the Provincial Council it seems the Brothers’ Work Crew is destined for resurrection!  As we are only two – and not spring chickens at that – we will start off modestly with guidance and support from local talents and from the good folks at Focus Hope (a nationally recognized not-for-profit vocational training institute located across the street from St. Moses the Black Friary).

We would like to be able to provide our services free of charge, accepting remuneration only for materials and when freely offered.  For practical purposes we are limiting our prospective clientele to those who are impoverished, elderly, handicapped, unemployed, and perhaps single-parent households. That accounts for roughly 50% of the households in the neighborhood.  We hope to raise funds to cover costs for rental of shop space, parts and materials, etc. We aim to bring in local tradesmen who would be willing to do pro bono work in areas requiring Parts of Detroit are booming, Michael says.licensing and local businesses and contractors who may be willing to donate surplus goods and supplies.  Our good friends at Focus Hope would love to engage in some shared ventures with Louie and me involving restoration of local housing, home ownership training, youth training and mentorship.  The possibilities are exciting and expansive and honestly a bit scary as well.  For now we want to start small.  But with the blessing and movement of the Holy Spirit (and perhaps more interested brothers!), who knows where it will all go.

You can be a part of this exciting venture and ministry. You can be a part of the rebuilding of Detroit, one small repair at a time, through your prayerful support.  Let’s see where the Spirit takes us!

Workshop wanted

We are quite aware that for something good to come of all this there will be trials by fire. As I began writing this article our first “trial by fire” was given us.

The seemingly ideal location for our center of action, our workshop, was expected to be a local repurposed parochial school, but the offer of space was retracted due to impending changes in ownership.  So the search begins again for a new home for this new, yet traditional Brothers Work Crew.

A passion for life as a friar

BY TONI CASHNELLI

PHOTOS BY TONI CASHNELLIDon Miller at the Vocation Office in 2015Fr. Don Miller was not shy about speaking up.

Talking was his talent, the gift that made him such a good teacher and preacher. But he was also, ironically, a private person who kept his final illness close and quiet. Diagnosed with cancer in October, he was gone within weeks of that confirmation.

There was pain and disbelief at Don’s funeral on Dec. 16 at St. Clement. After 12 demanding years in the Vocation Office, a job at which he excelled, he was making a place for himself at Franciscan Media, preaching the Gospel through podcasts and livestream videos.

“He had plans; he had books he wanted to write,” said Mark Hudak, a fellow resident of Br. Juniper Above, Don hitting the road in 2015; top, Chris Cahill with Don’s photos and potteryFriary in Cincinnati. “His body let him down. Cancer came fast and furiously and stole him away.”

For Mark and for Chris Cahill, living with Don was an exercise in patience. “Do you know what you’ve gotten yourself into?” Mark was asked when he moved into the friary. “We are quiet, probably the perfect housemates for Don. He would talk and talk and talk and talk. He would have coffee and talk some more. But there was always passion behind his words.”

Rapid response

It was his passion for religious life that drew so many colleagues, former students and once-prospective friars to Don’s funeral. Following his unexpected death on Dec. 12, tributes poured in from the communities he touched as a teacher and as a mainstay of the National Religious Vocation Conference.  Obviously, his work lives on in the students he inspired and the friars he mentored.

“I would ask postulants, ‘What drew you to this province?’” said Sr. Madonna Hoying, SFP, one of their teachers. “They would say, ‘I immediately got a call from Fr. Don Miller,’” whose promptness was legendary. Frank Geers joked about Don’s “hound”-like persistence with prospects. “Once he found someone, he stayed with them.”

Peers considered him a role model. “Among Vocation Directors, he was ‘The Guy’,” Don Miller in 1997said Michael Surufka of ABVM Province, who traveled here from Cedar Lake, Ind.

Highly educated, “He never flaunted that,” said friend Fred Link. “Don and I did a lot of things together. Because he was so bright and passionate, I really enjoyed my time with him. He was never reticent to express his opinion, but would never flaunt his background. He was an awesome man.”

Roger Lopez, who learned about the Order from Don, was inspired by his zest for his ministry. “I found Don to be a wonderful preacher, a great homilist,” he said. For listeners, “It would almost be retreat-like. I think of his last months at Franciscan Media”, his work there, “and how appropriate it was.”

Don’s attitude impressed everyone at FM, including John Feister. “Here was Don, a Vocation Director, a PhD, who came in and said, ‘I hope I don’t get fired.’ He was so fresh and eager.”

Top, at a reception ceremony; center, ABVM’s Michael Surufka with Bill Farris; above, Don in teaching modeFamily man

Devoted to the friars, Don was just as loyal to his relatives in Peoria and never missed a milestone, according to niece Catherine Baumann, here with daughter Maggie and Don’s sister, Dorothy O’Toole. “He baptized all of us, married all of us, and was on his second [generation] round of First Communions.” Dorothy’s son, Tim O’Toole, spoke for the family through the First Reading from Isaiah: “The Lord God will wipe away the tears from all faces.”

This generational thread ran throughout the funeral Mass, beginning with friars influenced by Don – Roger, Michael Charron and Richard Goodin – serving as pallbearers. It carried through the Gospel reading from John, given by Richard: “Unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it is just a grain. If it falls it will produce fruit.” At the funeral for a Vocation Director, it was more than fitting.

“In these days, matters of life and death are front and center,” said homilist Richard. “But honestly, issues of life and death are never too far away at any time. And we, those who have come here this morning, are staring the issues of life and death right in the face.”

At such times, we are forced “to ponder again the mystery of life/of death,” an experience that is always intense. Despite this, “We Catholics are, in fact, people of hope,” Richard said. “Our focus is not so much on death. Our focus, because of Jesus’s resurrection, is LIFE, eternal life.”

First impression

Today, he said, “as we celebrate this Mass of Christian Burial for Fr. Don, we ask God to make good on the promise to raise up one of his faithful servants. And this faithful servant, Don, lived his baptism in full by joining the Order of Friars Minor and dedicating his life to teaching and in assisting men in joining the Order he gave his life to. But then again, we friars understand that our profession to become and be a Friar Minor is indeed living out the baptismal life. We might even be so bold as to say that Don served Christ in these ways, and therein the Father will honor him!”

What stuck with Richard was his first impression of Don, “watching him wheel Fr. Valentine [Young] into a vocation fair down at the University of Kentucky where I was a student.” Don seemed to be “a caring man who was attentive to witness to the fraternity he belonged to by helping his brother get out of the house and be present to exhibit their way of life in public.” As Don often did, “He was reaching out to the young where they could be found: at college,” Richard said. “He brought a brother with him who lived nearby: We do make more sense together.

“He and Fr. Valentine were dressed in brown: I knew who they were from a distance before ever a greeting was shared. Friars, in habit, in fraternity, in mission. That’s how I met the Friars Minor for the very first time. And now you know….the rest of the story.”

As for the rest of Don’s story, Fred had a theory. “He’s totally free and carrying on a conversation in heaven.”

And probably preaching about life as a friar.

Racism can be ‘unlearned’

(Greg posted this homily for The Day of Prayer to End Racism on his Facebook page this past Monday.)

BY GREG FRIEDMAN, OFM

PHOTO BY GREG FRIEDMAN, OFMThe Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial in Washington, D.C.: His message was hope.Well, somebody got the timing right: Jan. 15 is designated by the OFM Franciscans of the English-speaking world as the annual Day of Prayer to End Racism. Landing on this Monday morning, I can only say, “Good timing!” after last week’s reporting of the president’s remarks about immigration and the reaction from a variety of viewpoints, including political and religious leaders. The most honest of them branded our president as “racist” for remarks attributed to him and confirmed by those present.

It’s good to call out such remarks, no matter who voices them. But after the shock and repudiation of the president’s remarks wear off, there remains a deeper issue – systemic racism. And on today’s remembrance of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., we have an opportunity to address that issue.

Some 25 years ago when I was helping to produce a video on Thomas Jefferson, race and slavery, one Southern historian we interviewed called slavery “the original sin” of America. That remark has stayed with me.

The historian was, of course, using the metaphor of “original sin” not in a theological sense, but to underscore how our country was born with racism as part of its fabric. I don’t know why white leaders – politicians or bishops or news commentators – shy away from this fact. If you were born into our culture, you are prone to that original sin. I speak here as someone from white society, of course, which is the only way I can. A black preacher would address this issue from a different point of view, perhaps.

The “original sin” of slavery means that racism touches each of us – black and white – who have grown up in this culture. It is possible that, on a given day, I might act in a racist manner myself. I have done so. I was taught to be racist by my grandmother, who warned me not to drink from a Coke bottle because “black people drank from it before you.” What else is a little boy to think?

“You’ve got to be carefully taught,” went the song in the musical South Pacific. And the society – white society – I was born into taught me to be a racist. But that doesn’t make me unredeemable. That was part of the message of hope brought to us by Martin Luther King. He learned it in the Gospels. He declared: I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality... I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word.

And with Dr. King we can profess: Thanks to the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, I have a way out! Thanks to the Lord’s grace, working through many great teachers, black and white, who confronted me and mentored me over the years, I can choose not to act in a racist way.

That gives me hope in our present-day situation. What people were carefully taught can be “unlearned.” That is the good news of our Scriptures today. Hear again what St. Paul tells the Romans and us in today’s first reading:

Therefore, sin must not reign over your mortal bodies so that you obey their desires. …. For sin is not to have any power over you, since you are not under the law but under grace.

If I can share the life of Jesus, which draws me out of death, out of deadly choices, I can choose life. This is what we pray for today. This is what we must preach, and this is how we must act.

  • PHOTOS BY ALVIN TE, OFMAbove, the group gathered for a photo on their first day; top right, elcoming new provincials; above right; Mark presides at Mass for the community. Mark Soehner presided at Mass this morning during the annual meeting of the Minister General and Definitory with newly elected Provincial Ministers and Custodes at the General Curia in Rome. Communications Director Alvin Te posted more photos from the opening of the meeting, which continues through Jan. 25, on the Order’s website at: ofm.org
  • Tired of the divisive rhetoric that pervades our country and our world? St. Francis Retreat House in Easton has the solution: a Five-Day Silent Retreat guided by Mark Ligett. During the retreat Aug. 12-17, Mark will offer a daily presentation on a Franciscan theme. There will be opportunities for Eucharist, the Liturgy of the Hours, individual and common silent prayer. The offering for the week, $400, includes all meals and a private room with private bath.  For more information or registration, call 610-258-3053.
  • Bert Heise, OFMIn a letter to friends and family Bert Heise offered his own response to “all the nasty things happening in our country and the world.” He suggested “a call to a concerted effort of prayer. I was thinking maybe we have to do the call ourselves. Could you start praying every day for peace here in our country and in the world? And what if you called five persons you know and ask them to start praying and to call five more persons to do so – and so on? I challenge you right now to do it!”
  • In a new eight-minute video on youtube.com, friars, staff and lay people explain the appeal of St. Anthony Shrine in Cincinnati and share stories about some of its devoted visitors.
  • Raphael Ozoude , Matt RyanHoly Name Province recently compiled updates on all 15 men in the interprovincial postulancy program in Silver Spring, Md., including SJB’s Matt Ryan and Raphael Ozoude. Read the story at: hnp.org

When was the last time you checked in on the province website, or took a look at our Facebook page? Our weekly newsletter is so comprehensive and well-written that it is tempting to pass over the other ways the province regularly communicates. I will be the first to admit that I am not a denizen of Facebook and consequently miss out on much news from my family and friends, and from the friars, too.

In my role as chief of staff I have come to better appreciate the amount of work being done by our communicators, their eagerness for content from the friars around the province, and the potential of Facebook and other social media. Once a month everyone involved in communication (Toni and Sr. Daria, our Friar Works staff, two from Franciscan Media, Scott from JPIC and Richard from the Vocation Office) meets. We share the opportunities and events on the horizon and how best to convey them to others. We also come to recognize how confining it is to live in the “silo.” Almost everyone has suggestions which make the individual idea even better.

One final benefit of regular visits to our Facebook page comes from reading through the comments on the items that are posted about us. Our personal world wraps around us so tightly that we forget we are public figures making a positive impact upon others. The way people comment – how they perceive and describe us – may surprise you. So check in often, send us your stories and photos, and become a part of provincial communication efforts.

 

– Fr. Bill Farris, OFM

(Visit us on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/Franciscanfriars and on our website at: http://franciscan.org/.)

 

 

Send comments or questions to: sjbfco@franciscan.org

ARCHIVES

FRANCISCAN FRIARS Office of Communications Province of St. John the Baptist

PHOTO BY SHUTTERSTOCK.COMTop, Linus Border and Louie Zant of the Brothers Work Crew; above, small fixes make a big difference.These days there’s a certain excitement in the air and on the streets of Detroit.  Walking the streets downtown and midtown one gets the impression that the city is resolutely on the rebound from recent bankruptcy.  What was tired, abandoned and derelict has been rebuilt, rejuvenated, painted, sandblasted, refitted with new lights and new windows, new businesses and new people.

PHOTOS BY TONI CASHNELLIAbove, Louie and Alex near St. Moses the Black; right, Michael at the former Duns Scotus FriaryTransformation

Top, at a reception ceremony; center, ABVM’s Michael Surufka with Bill Farris; above, Don in teaching modeFamily man

PHOTO BY GREG FRIEDMAN, OFMThe Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial in Washington, D.C.: His message was hope.Well, somebody got the timing right: Jan. 15 is designated by the OFM Franciscans of the English-speaking world as the annual Day of Prayer to End Racism. Landing on this Monday morning, I can only say, “Good timing!” after last week’s reporting of the president’s remarks about immigration and the reaction from a variety of viewpoints, including political and religious leaders. The most honest of them branded our president as “racist” for remarks attributed to him and confirmed by those present.

When was the last time you checked in on the province website, or took a look at our Facebook page? Our weekly newsletter is so comprehensive and well-written that it is tempting to pass over the other ways the province regularly communicates. I will be the first to admit that I am not a denizen of Facebook and consequently miss out on much news from my family and friends, and from the friars, too.

In my role as chief of staff I have come to better appreciate the amount of work being done by our communicators, their eagerness for content from the friars around the province, and the potential of Facebook and other social media. Once a month everyone involved in communication (Toni and Sr. Daria, our Friar Works staff, two from Franciscan Media, Scott from JPIC and Richard from the Vocation Office) meets. We share the opportunities and events on the horizon and how best to convey them to others. We also come to recognize how confining it is to live in the “silo.” Almost everyone has suggestions which make the individual idea even better.

One final benefit of regular visits to our Facebook page comes from reading through the comments on the items that are posted about us. Our personal world wraps around us so tightly that we forget we are public figures making a positive impact upon others. The way people comment – how they perceive and describe us – may surprise you. So check in often, send us your stories and photos, and become a part of provincial communication efforts.

 

– Fr. Bill Farris, OFM

(Visit us on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/Franciscanfriars and on our website at: http://franciscan.org/.)

 

 

FRANCISCAN FRIARS Office of Communications Province of St. John the Baptist

  • PHOTOS BY ALVIN TE, OFMAbove, the group gathered for a photo on their first day; top right, elcoming new provincials; above right; Mark presides at Mass for the community. Mark Soehner presided at Mass this morning during the annual meeting of the Minister General and Definitory with newly elected Provincial Ministers and Custodes at the General Curia in Rome. Communications Director Alvin Te posted more photos from the opening of the meeting, which continues through Jan. 25, on the Order’s website at: ofm.org
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Office of Communications Province of St. John the Baptist