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

June 14, 2018

Jubilarians count their blessings


PHOTOS BY FRANK JASPER, OFM It’s a legitimate question for those entering religious life.

“Lord, I’ve given up everything to join the friars,” said Tom Richstatter. “What am I gonna get?”

In other words, “What’s in it for me?”

Facing dozens of brothers in brown, Tom directed the question to friars in the first few pews at St. Monica-St. George Church in Cincinnati on May 29. It was a milestone moment, the Jubilee Mass for their profession or ordination. What indeed did they have to show for 25, 50, 60, 65, 70 or 75 years of dedication?

Top, Tom Richstatter preaching on behalf of fellow Jubilarians, above.For Jubilee homilist Tom, whose journey with the friars started at the seminary, the rationale was simple. “I didn’t have a lot to give up when I was 12,” he admitted. But his fellow Jubilarians, reflecting upon their own journeys, were reminded of these words from the Book of Mark:

“Truly I tell you,” Jesus replied, “no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the Gospel will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age….”

As Tom told them, “In giving up everything, don’t we have all we need and even more? I think I can speak for everyone here, we have received a hundred-fold.”

“So be holy”

Top, Mark Soehner presides at Mass; above, Jeremy Harrington, Henry Beck and Charlie Smiech.It was a happy occasion for Provincial Minister Mark Soehner, as Jubilarians marked the anniversary of promises that led them to this way of life.

“Man, it’s good to be here,” Mark announced, welcoming the honorees.

They had asked Tom, 60 years a friar, to be homilist, speaking for and about them. Mike Dubec, 50 years professed, read from Peter: “But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: ‘Be holy, because I am holy.’”

The Gospel from Mark – “But many who are first will be last, and the last first” – led Tom into a homily about how God touches and changes us – but only if we are willing.

By coincidence, “We hear St. Peter in both readings,” Tom said. From him we learn “how to adapt.” When the Spirit came upon Peter, “Everything changed. What a difference the Holy Spirit makes.

“In a few minutes Mark will call upon the Holy Spirit to change the gifts” and “pray that the Father will send the Holy Spirit among us” so that “we become the Body of Christ.”

Tom offered this challenge: “Are we willing to actually be changed to receive the Holy Spirit, to become a new person as Peter did?”

Top, Robert Seay, Mike Lenz and Greg Friedman; second from top, Postulant Matt Ryan and Michael Radomski; third from top, Jubilarian John Paul Flajole with David Kohut; above, Loren Connell at dinnerMany gifts

Ultimately, “What did the Father send Jesus to do? To be the sacrament of God,” so that “whoever sees me sees the Father.”

And what are friars to do? “We are to make God visible through our lives. Those who see us see something of God,” so that, in effect, “Whoever sees me sees the Father…..Today at this table, when we ask the Father to send the Spirit, the Father asks the Spirit to come upon us and change us into Christ.”

Which leads to the question for those choosing religious life: “What am I gonna get?” for giving up everything.

With help from the Holy Spirit, “The gift of right judgment and courage, knowledge, wonder and awe,” Tom said. “If we allow the Spirit to change us, to use those gifts,” then any decisions we make, “we make with confidence and joy, for we are making them in the light of the Holy Spirit. We can have the confidence they are God’s decision.”

As Tom has learned, “No one who is generous with the Lord will be short-changed.”

Be a servant

Following the Universal Prayers, the song for the Preparation for the Gifts was an “Amen!” for the friars being honored.

Will you let me be your servant,

Let me be as Christ to you.

Pray that I might have the grace

To let you be my servant too.

(Servant Song, by Gillard & Pulkingham)

After Communion, Mark added his own “Amen” for Jubilarians:

“Thank you to God for working among you,” he said. “Thank you for allowing God to work among you.”

He always stood tall


Warren Zeisler was a role model for aging.It was an ordinary photo of an extraordinary friar.

Two years ago Jim Bok took this picture of Warren Zeisler mowing the grass at St. John the Baptist Friary in Sharonville, Ohio.

For Warren, 92 at the time, it was no big deal. For others, it was a striking example of a man who never let age interfere with his ministry, his love of gardening, his zest for learning or his social life.

After his death in May, those close to Warren remembered his energy and stamina, even in the Top, Warren on a break at a friar gathering; above left, in 1963, during his years at Bacon; above right, at St. Meinrad for an SJB Chapter.face of leukemia and hearing problems. “What a great role model he was for an aging guy,” says John Bok, Warren’s Guardian at St. John the Baptist Friary. “Always positive, putting one foot in front of the other. He was a John Wayne-type guy: Stand tall and move forward. Don’t fuss with bellyaching and whining.” That attitude made Warren much admired as he seamlessly moved into his 70s, 80s and 90s.

But it was his decency and dedication that earned him the lifelong respect of the friars, students, Sisters and military veterans he ministered to for almost 70 years.

“He was a fine man,” says John. “All I ever heard from guys who went to the high school seminary [Warren was a teacher and disciplinarian] was that he was very much admired. At the VA hospital [as chaplain for 20-plus years], everyone would speak positively of Warren. He was there for the veterans.”

Helping out

And he was there for the Sisters he served. In the 1960s, while teaching at Roger Bacon High School, “He was assigned as chaplain to our community,” says Dominican Sr. Monica McGloin. “He would come every morning and have Mass. After Mass he would go to the Top, Matt Crehan’s VA ministry was inspired by Warren; above, Warren at the VA chapeldining room and read the paper, and then go off to school.” Later, “We got to know him. He would come over on Friday evenings and play cards.  And then he got more involved with the people we were working with in the West End.” When local kids needed tutors, “Warren ran the program. He got students from Roger Bacon to come over on Saturday mornings and had them work with the children.

“Then he would offer to do things, go to people’s homes, paint or clean or do repairs for them. He loved working with the people. He was such a respectful man. He was so accepting, and people loved him.” When Warren was assigned to the veterans’ hospital, “We liked him so much we said, ‘You don’t have to come here as chaplain, just stay connected.’ He was a very good friend. We always thought we were family.”

Later, as chaplain for the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur in Reading, “He was absolutely, totally reliable,” says John. “He assumed the job was more than doing Mass. He would visit Sisters in the hospital or visit incapacitated Sisters in their rooms. He knew every Sister – there were probably 80 – by name.” Even as Warren’s health declined, “He would find a way of getting there. It was his job and he knew the Sisters counted on him.”

Always learning

Top, with Vocation Director Paul Scales; above, in an undated file photoWarren was 87, the senior in the house, when John moved to St. John the Baptist Friary in 2011. “Warren didn’t want the landscapers [on the property] to do the patch of yard where he had flowers,” John says. “Every day he was out there pushing a wheelbarrow or mowing the grass.”

A voracious reader, “He kept trying to keep informed. He loved to read the paper. He loved sports. He worked on the puzzles every day. Warren had many different prayers memorized. We would end the meal praying the Angelus. He never had to look at the card.” When he preached, he never needed notes. “He was sharp until the very end.”

Warren had a lot of lay friends, John says. “Every month he’d go to Foley’s Pub in Reading with some of the guys from Roger Bacon.” But sometimes in later life, “He found it difficult to talk to people because he was so dog-gone deaf,” an infirmity inherited from his mother. “So he ended up being sort of quiet.” If this frustrated Warren, you would never have known. “He was a ‘male’ male, even more than most guys, not showing emotions.”

Ever pragmatic, Warren knew his limitations. When the time came, “He gave up his car keys himself,” John says. “He said, ‘I think I should stop driving.’” When he was no longer self-sufficient, “Warren made the decision himself when it was time to go to assisted care” at Archbishop Leibold Home.

Like everyone else, John says, “I was in awe of his attitude.”

Coping with memory loss

(Second of two parts)

PHOTO BY SHUTTERSTOCK.COMAs we learned last month, dementia is not a disease.  It is a general term that describes a set of symptoms that may be caused by a number of different brain disorders.

Common causes of dementia are:

Alzheimer’s Disease, which is a slow, progressive illness that damages nerve cells in the brain.  This is the leading cause of dementia, accounting for 60-80 percent of cases. Symptoms gradually get worse over time as more brain cells are destroyed;

Cerebrovascular Disease/Vascular Dementia, which occurs when clots block blood flow to parts of the brain, killing brain cells. Common symptoms include memory loss, difficulty focusing attention and confusion;

Mixed Dementia, when people have both Alzheimer’s Disease and Vascular Dementia at the same time;

Lewy Body, which means abnormal deposits of proteins called “Lewy bodies” form inside nerve cells in the brain; and

Frontotemporal Lobar Degeneration, which is a rare disorder affecting the front and sides of the brain.  It progresses more quickly than Alzheimer’s Disease and tends to occur at a younger age.

If you are worried about your memory, talk to your family doctor.  Tips for coping with normal, age-related memory difficulties are:

Keep a routine

Organize information (keep details in a calendar or day planner)

Put items in the same spot (always put your keys in the same place by the door)

Repeat information (repeat names when you meet people)

Run through the alphabet in your head to help you remember a word

Make associations (relate new information to things you already know)

Teach others or tell them stories

Get a full night’s sleep

Eat right


Stay socially engaged

Challenge your brain

All the best to keeping a healthy brain.

Michelle Viacava, RN

Province Nurse

  • Left, Matt meets the kids; above, painting a house; upper right, Raphael in the classroom.Last week was an immersion experience for Postulants Raphael Ozoude and Matt Ryan, as they accompanied Richard Goodin to Jamaica and saw first-hand some of the poorest areas served by friars. But they did more than look. They painted a house and cottage in a mission parish, helped kids with their classroom learning at one of the schools and visited a grandmother who was recently diagnosed with Stage 4 cancer. “For two evenings, I accompanied Colin King and Richard to a parish elsewhere in the Diocese of Montego Bay as they preached during two Masses that were part of a preparation for the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart,” says Raphael. Matt says they attended a barbecue “where the family served us fried chicken, pork, rice and beans, and goat-head soup” and celebrated his birthday. On Sunday, they took in a rural parish festival with Jim Bok.
  • Three weekends ago, more than a dozen gunslingers turned up for Mass at Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Tombstone, Ariz. Friar Matt Crehan welcomed all of them at the beginning of the Liturgy. “I told them next time to check their pistols at the door.” It was part of Wyatt Earp Weekend, during which “Everybody dresses Matt with the prize-winning Wyatt Earp and a friend of his.up as Wyatt,” he says. “The town is filled with Wyatt Earps, all competing for best look-alike honors.” Matt is pictured with the First Prize winner, a gentleman from Illinois. “He was dressed like the real thing with hat, boots, spurs, guns as well.” The legendary Earp was a deputy marshal in Tombstone, Ariz., Territory, and famously took part in the Gunfight at the OK Corral.
  • Taught by Poor Clare Sr. Rita Cheong, women of the Sarah Center at the new St. Anthony Center are now making and repairing habits, according to Bill Farris. “Lois Shegog is in charge of the Sarah Center and is directing the habit making. Please contact Lois if you need a new habit. Her contact information:  The Sarah Center, 1615 Republic St., Cincinnati, OH 45202;; 513-651-1532. The binder which Sr. Rita used to keep individual friar measurements in is now at the Sarah Center. If your measurements are not on file, Lois has instructions for the measurements she will need.  Habits needing repairs or adjustments can be brought directly to the Sarah Center with a description of the repairs or changes needed. Please have them washed before bringing them in. New habits will be done in the order received. All back-ordered habits will be done first.”
  • CAN YOU HELP? St. Francis Seraph Ministries has a HUGE need for volunteers to serve Breakfast and Dinner Monday through Friday to the urban poor in Over-the-Rhine. Shifts are 7-9 a.m. and 4-6 p.m. They also need volunteers for their Cooking for the Family Program on Tuesday evenings, Wednesday mornings, Thursday evenings and Saturday mornings. Please contact Theresa Diersen at or 513.276.7037 for more information.

The duck whisperers

PHOTO BY DAMIAN CESANEK, OFMEver since a mother mallard landed in their courtyard, laid 12 eggs and hatched her brood, the friars of St. John the Baptist Friary in Sharonville have provided Franciscan hospitality. It was Gene Mayer who suggested using the sprinkler system to create puddles of water. The ducks are dining on vegetation and supplemental dried oats served by their hosts. The feeding system: A duck-call ring tone on Damian Cesanek’s cell phone alerts the mother that a meal will soon be dispensed. “It’ll be a question a couple weeks from now to see what’s gonna happen” as the ducklings grow, Damian says, but for now, “It’s a little bit of entertainment for us.” What’s more, “The ducks seem to be enjoying themselves.”

PHOTO BY FRANK JASPER, OFMTop, pilgrims swarmed Colin King for a blessing with the relic: above a family prays before a statue of St. Anthony.Last week I was isolated in a small cabin surrounded by a lake and woods where I spent the week on retreat.  I enjoyed the “hermit life” of silence, punctuated with my scheduled prayer sessions, Liturgy of the Hours, cooking, and going into town for groceries.  I also spent some time with the friars on the phone for various reasons.  Still, all in all, most of it was in silence, a good retreat as God began to reshape things in me.  The centering prayer opened me up to the contemplative time in the woods, or praying with the readings of the day.  I left the time feeling uplifted in God’s consoling help.

Naturally on returning, I spent a few days catching up, followed by a day at St. Anthony Friary for the Feast day of its patron.  This was a day of anything but silence.  It involved being present to the many pilgrims who came from local parishes, the “regulars” who are faithful to the Tuesday novenas, and to a large group of Chaldean Catholics who come every year from the Detroit area.

At the noon Mass, what began with four busloads of people became six as two more buses wound their way up that steep hill in Mt. Airy, and pilgrims crowded into the chapel. Colin King was leading the group in a “call-and-response” kind of homily that encouraged many to lift up their hearts.  But I was not expecting the large swarm of people coming up for the blessing with the relic of St. Anthony.  Even after being told to come up in two single-file lines, people could not contain themselves, and literally swarmed the three friars giving blessings with the relic.

The zeal of these folks was joyful and contagious. While I would have wanted a more orderly procession to things, I was impressed with the fervor of those who desired a healing from God through the intercession of St. Anthony.  The zeal ignited in the retreat was touched by the real faith of pilgrims.  I would like this kind of fervor more often!


– Mark Soehner, OFM



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

Office of Communications Province of St. John the Baptist