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

July 27, 2018

Standing up and standing together for immigrants


Top, Bishop John Stowe, OFM Conv; above, an immigration rally in California.Nothing is more American than the stories of immigrants who risked everything to be here.

But Bishop John Stowe wonders what’s happened to that narrative.

“Who would believe that in the land of the free and the home of the brave, we would be so threatened by penniless, shoeless migrants who have traveled hundreds of miles to escape gangs, violence and brutal poverty?” he asked an audience last week at Xavier University in Cincinnati. One of more than two dozen speakers defending the role and the rights of immigrants, Bishop Stowe was part of a conference on “Promoting Just & Inclusive Communities in Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana”. The sentiment shared by participants is reflected in the Gospel of Matthew: “I was a stranger and you welcomed me.”

Organized by the Center for Migration Studies and sponsored by the Carnegie Corp., it gave 225 people of all faiths a chance to meet and an opportunity to brainstorm an issue that has divided our country. From July 16-18, scholars, researchers, community organizers, service providers, local officials, attorneys and religious leaders explained how diverse groups are working to meet the needs of immigrants and refugees. They talked about welcoming, integrating, and protecting immigrants, shared resources and promoted collaboration.

In his keynote speech Bishop Stowe, a Conventual Franciscan from the Diocese of Lexington, Ky., addressed the policy that led to the heart-rending separation of children from their parents at our southern border – and the resulting public outcry. “The ‘zero tolerance’ approach to immigration enforcement is only the latest step in a system that has been broken for decades,” said the Bishop, who was immersed in the issue while serving in El Paso, Texas, for 15 years.

“I’m profoundly disturbed that this kind of activity is needed in our nation at this time.”


Our new reality, one in which protections and guidelines have eroded, affects immigrants everywhere, said Bishop Stowe. “They live in fear of deportation, in fear of raids, in the fear that going to work on any given day they might be rounded up and their kids may come home to an empty house with no knowledge of where their parents were taken – as happened in two large-scale raids in northern Ohio in the same time period when our attention was focused on the southern border.”

The “demonization” of immigrants began with the presidential campaign and continues as the administration seeks “to dismantle the U.S. refugee program,” said John Koehlinger of Kentucky Refugee Ministries in Louisville, Ky.

Increasingly, immigrants are being “illegalized,” said Donald Kerwin Jr., Executive Director of the Center for Migration Studies in New York. Unauthorized border crossing is a misdemeanor punishable by a maximum of six months in jail, according to Allison Herre, an immigration attorney with Catholic Charities of Southwestern Ohio. Yet the government labels immigrants “rapists” and “murderers” to rationalize its harsh enforcement policies.

We need to “push back against that dialogue,” said Jessica Ramos, an attorney with Advocates for Basic Legal Equality in Dayton, Ohio. “The propaganda machine is waging war by labeling all these hardworking families as criminals.” In reality, “The vast majority [coming to America] are literally fleeing for their lives and the lives of their children,” said Brian Hoffman of the Immigration Justice Campaign in Akron.

“The most pressing thing is changing the narrative to reflect the true story,” said Fr. Chris Wadelton, a pastor who works extensively with the Latino community in Indianapolis. For example, stories of a “run” on our Southern border are simply not true, said Robert Warren, a demographer with the U.S. Census Bureau for 34 years. Since 2000, the number of undocumented crossings at our Southern border has actually decreased 80%.

On the job

What has increased is our nation’s dependence on the labor of immigrants. In Dallas, Texas, they make up 31.5% of the employed work force, said Elizabeth Cedillo-Pereira, Director of the Office of Welcoming Communities and Immigrant Affairs. What would happen if they all went away?

“Despite our nation’s need for immigrant labor – it could fairly be called an addiction – we do not have the political will to protect immigrants’ human rights,” said Bishop Stowe, or “to provide protection in the workplace, to provide a pathway to legal residency, to allow the people who are picking our produce, building our businesses and homes, caring for our children, tending our yards, processing our poultry , and doing the difficult work that many Americans will not do and do not envision their children doing – we don’t allow these decent and hardworking people to participate in society.”

And young people brought here with no choice in the matter are stuck in the middle. “I think all of us here have to believe in comprehensive immigration reform,” said José Cabrera, who is Immigration Program Organizer for the Intercommunity Justice & Peace Center in Cincinnati and a recipient of DACA, which temporarily protects undocumented migrants who came to America as children.

“Personally I hate being called a “Dreamer” because “the ‘A’ stands for Alien [in legislation that would create a pathway to citizenship],” he said. “The idea of being called a ‘Dreamer’ puts us in a box, reinforces that we don’t have a voice, we don’t matter, we can’t do certain things. If we continue to use it we reinforce the idea that undocumented youth are ‘less than’. The intangible thing is our dignity; we’re human beings, we have rights.” All that’s missing is “that little piece of paper that says we’re U.S. citizens.”

Broken system

Panelists agreed: “The system we have is not working, and we need to think more humanely about the people who live in our country,” said Jessica Garcia from the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, United Food and Commercial Workers in New York.

How can we help kids whose parents are detained? Encourage pro bono legal work? Promote social activism on behalf of immigrants?

What’s needed is “a whole of community approach”, according to Donald Kerwin.

Moreover, “How can our faith communities become the active moral fabric of our country?” asked James Buchanan, Executive Director of the Brueggeman Center for Dialogue at Xavier. “Compassion’s a great moral sentiment, but it’s meaningless unless we put it into action.” By working together, “Can we move a single bar a single inch?”

Quietly, groups like Catholic Charities of Southwestern Ohio are making a difference. Allison Herre described its impressive outreach: A Refugee Resettlement Service helps immigrants with access to doctors, interpreters and applications for benefits. Workers from its Su Casa program schedule office hours at apartment complexes housing immigrants. They help kids register for school and promote “Know Your Rights” presentations stressing family readiness if an agent from ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) shows up at the door or a parent is unexpectedly detained.

While the government urges us to look south, “Family separation happens in Ohio every single day,” said Jessica Ramos. In Dayton they organize integration programs, offer legal advice and naturalization clinics, and share a Preparedness Guide for immigrants.

An abuse of rights affects everyone, said Karina Barillas, a native of Guatemala and Executive Director of La Casita Center in Louisville, Ky.  “The minute one of us is victimized by injustice, all of us are.”

What’s critical, said Bishop Stowe, is “to humanize the issue of immigration,” especially by sharing stories of those who succeed. “When they have a face, a heart and a real story, it’s hard to see them as a threat.”

It follows, said Terri Morris Downs, Executive Director of the Immigrant Welcome Center of Indianapolis, that “As we get to know immigrants and refugees as friends and neighbors with the same goals or dreams, they become human.”

Our neighbors

Fr. Chris Wadelton shared the story of 35-year-old Erika Fierro, the Indianapolis mother of two citizen children. She was brought to the U.S. at the age of 5 and picked up last spring by ICE because she and her husband Jesus had visited Mexico in 2007 and claimed to be U.S. citizens when they returned. Jesus was arrested as he left for work and deported to Mexico. The same sentence was decreed for Erika, who feared for the fate of her children. Her anguish and confusion were evident when newspapers and TV reported a prayer vigil led by Archbishop Charles Thompson and Sacred Heart friar Larry Janezic, pastor of Erika’s church. The images were unforgettable.

In caring for immigrants, we are heeding the call of Pope Francis to place ourselves “on the peripheries,” with those on the margins, Bishop Stowe said.

Why should we care? Because “We, too, were once aliens in a foreign land.”

(Bishop John Stowe’s keynote address is posted online at:


Do unto others

IMAGE FROM ‘BE GOLDEN’The secret to bridging differences: Be kind.

 Specifically, practice the Golden Rule: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. That’s the message of a campaign launched in April by Bishop Edward Burns of the Catholic Diocese of Dallas.

 At last week’s immigration conference at Xavier University, a video promoting his Be Golden Campaign was shared by Elizabeth Cedillo-Pereira, Director of the Dallas Office of Welcoming Communities and Immigrant Affairs. A short, straightforward message, it urges us to be thoughtful of and respectful and compassionate to immigrants.

 “If we want security, let us give security,” the Bishop told the media in announcing the program. “If we want life, let us give life. If we want opportunities, let us provide opportunities.” Cedillo-Pereira invited conference-goers to borrow and distribute the Be Golden video. You’ll find it at:


How to help

PHOTO BY CENTER FOR MIGRATION STUDIESEven if you’re not a lawyer or social worker like many who attended the conference, you can still do your part to help immigrant families by:

  • Calling someone in government. Make your voice heard.
  • Supporting your policy preference. Get out and vote.
  • Engaging someone who has the opposite view in conversation. Sometimes the best activism is one-on-one.
  • Inviting an immigrant family to a parish event.
  • Putting your money where your mouth is. Donate locally to organizations supporting immigrants.
  • Offering to drive them to court hearings or to the doctor or grocery.

Wappingers Falls: The rest of the story


St. John the Baptist Province had a bigger influence on the recent meeting of ESC formators than was apparent. The idea for a panel of ongoing formation directors arose when Carl Langenderfer sent me the tentative schedule last fall after the ESC Secretaries for Formation and Studies had met in California. I noticed that the human-Christian-Franciscan formation of friars did not seem to be addressed directly although it is basic to the Order’s understanding of initial and ongoing formation.

When Ron Gliatta (IC Province) contacted me to get names and addresses of ESC moderators of ongoing formation, I brought my concern to him. I’ve known Ron since June 1975 when he was a theology student for Discussing ongoing formation at Mt. Alvernia Retreat Centerhis province and was studying at the Franciscan Institute. He is now the chair of the ESC Secretaries of Formation and Studies, had been designated the local organizer of the Wappingers Falls meeting and would soon be a member of the International Formation Council.

Last March, the ESC moderators of ongoing formation met in Albuquerque and agreed that such a panel would be useful. Ron brought our concerns to Cesare Vaiani and Sinisa Balajic, secretary general and vice-secretary general for formation and studies, who were open to adding the panel and asked us to propose its members.

Frank Jasper agreed to anchor it by addressing some of the challenges of human formation. He did a fine job and distributed a handout on that subject. Ken Laverone (St. Barbara) spoke about Christian formation, and I addressed Franciscan formation, using Francis’ 28 Admonitions given to the friars at general chapters over the years. I was added to the steering committee because they wanted a writer to help on the final document.

Carl Langenderfer led one small group; Richard Goodin was the reporter for a different group, and Mark Soehner represented the ESC provincials as their liaison to the Secretaries for Formation and Studies.

Three continental congresses of formators have now been held; another will take place later this year and two more in 2019. The results of all six meetings will be brought to the General Chapter of 2021.

14 new novices are welcomed


St. Barbara Province

Top, New novices represent  all six U.S. provinces involved in the R + R process; middle, Raphael Ozoude of SJB Province in the Friars Chapel; above, each man was called by name.On Monday, July 16 – a typically balmy Santa Barbara morning – 14 new novices representing all six of the U.S. provinces involved in the R + R (Revitalization + Restructuring) process were received into the Order.  One of the group, Bernard Keele (OLG), received the Rite of Probation initiating his transfer from the Benedictines to the Franciscans.  In addition, two men from Christ the King Province in Western Canada—not present—are awaiting their U.S. visas before they can join their U.S. confreres in the program.

“We’re not at St. Peter’s in Rome, “began Friar Jeff Macnab as he welcomed the diverse group of new friars, almost all of whom had just completed their postulancy year in Silver Spring, Md., before moving to the present interprovincial novitiate location at Old Mission Santa Barbara (California).  “We’re very relaxed here,” he continued as he looked around the group of novices, ministers provincial, formation team members, and others gathered in the Friars Chapel.

After the Prologue of the Gospel of St. John (1:1-10) was proclaimed, Provincial Minister Jim Gannon (ABVM) challenged the incoming novitiate class members to work to understand more deeply the real meaning of the Prologue: “words full of grace and truth; grace upon grace, love upon love” and to apply its message to their own lives.

“For Francis of Assisi,” he continued, “the Word became the core foundation of his renewed, revitalized life.  The Word turned Francis of Assisi upside down and inside out.  I firmly believe that no individual renewal or revitalization, no global renewal or revitalization of the Order of Friars Minor, no national renewal or revitalization of the Franciscans in the United States will be successful unless we are committed to renewing our love for living the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

“Brothers, you are the next generation,” he concluded.  “As you enter your novitiate year, enter deeply into the implication of the Prologue of John’s Gospel.  Enter deeply into the implications of the Incarnation, the Word made Flesh upon your life as a Friar Minor.”

Each man was called by name and, along with two solemnly professed friars as witnesses, signed the Book of Reception. Bernard Keele (OLG) was welcomed separately into “a time of probation” with the friars. Also in attendance were representatives of each of the participating provinces, including:  Provincial Ministers Jim Gannon (ABVM), Jack Clark Robinson (OLG), Ralph Parthie (SH), David Gaa (SB), and Mark Soehner (SJB).  Friar Basil Valente represented Holy Name Province.

Afterwards, Provincial Minister David Gaa of the Province of St. Barbara presented each new novice with a journal of his own “to write and express your journey.” The service concluded with blessings of and by this year’s interprovincial novitiate team, consisting of Friars Jeff Macnab (SB), Michael Blastic (HNP), and Michael Jennrich (SH), as well as Sister Susan Rosenbach SSSF.

The new novices include:  Andrew Aldrich (ABVM); Ian Grant, Loren Moreno, John Neuffer, Richard Phillip, Carlos Portillo, and Steven Young—all of Holy Name Province; Nhan Ton (SH); Andrew Dinegar, Salvador Mejia, and Joshua Tagoylo (SB); Raphael Ozoude and Matthew Ryan (SJB); and Bernard Keele (OLG), formerly of the Benedictine Order.  Still to arrive are Adrian Macor and Theodore Splinter of the Province of Christ the King (Western Canada).

  • PHOTOS BY  FRANK JASPER, OFMCasey Cole and Clifford Hennings; right, a talk at SMSGLordy, that’s a ton of travel. But friar Casey Cole, who stopped in Cincinnati early this month in the midst of a 9,000-mile trip, didn’t sound too road-weary.  Author and YouTube blogger Casey (“Breaking in the Habit”) has been visiting parishes around the country to promote his book, Called: What Happens After Saying Yes to God, published by Franciscan Media. He describes his time in Cincinnati in a video at Evangelization. Before preaching and giving a mini retreat July 7-10 at St. Monica-St. George Parish Newman Center, Casey toured his publisher’s offices in Over-the-Rhine and saw St. Anthony Center and St. Francis Seraph Ministries. Topics from Called are woven into his homilies and talks, but he’s not selling books; he’s accepting donations for them. That way he figures he’s “getting the book into a lot more hands.” At this point, mile marker 6,641, Casey wondered “if I’d get tired of giving these talks” centered on discernment and discipleship. Watch the video to find out.
  • Congratulations to Michael Copps, OFM, elected Custos of the Custody of the Immaculate Conception in Great Britain. Friars expressed their gratitude to outgoing Custos and former Provincial Minister Patrick Lonsdale “for his many years of dedicated service,” which apparently isn’t ending anytime soon. Patrick was elected one of three councilors of the Custody, along with Anthony Jukes and Michael O’Grady.
  •  In case you missed it Monday, Local 12’s interview with Vocation Director Richard Goodin on how religious orders are using social media to attract Millennial candidates is archived at: Calling
  • Mass with the friars made it into Jean Lowrie-Chin’s July 16 weekly column in the Jamaica Observer, one of their two national newspapers. Sounds like she had a good time: “A visit to Negril Sunday morning saw us at the quaint Mary Gate of Heaven Church in Negril, where mass is always preceded by a rousing gospel medley by some of the cutest children ever shaking their tambourines and singing lustily. You can always depend on Father Jim Bok for a witty and inspiring sermon to a congregation dressed in every imaginable type of attire.”  Jim explained on Facebook: “She and her husband occasionally come to Negril for a weekend of rest and relaxation and come to Mass at Mary Gate of Heaven. They were here a couple weeks ago. I thought it an honor that MGH made her weekly column.”

PHOTO BY MARK SOEHNER, OFMMatt Ryan and Raphael Ozoude at the novitiateFourteen novices were received into the Order on July 16 in Santa Barbara, Calif., in a simple ceremony that included four provincials, three secretaries of formation and a host of supporting friars, representing all six of the restructuring provinces.  There was also a Benedictine monk who is “trying on” the habit for a probationary period and studying with the novices.  These men are of ages ranging from 22 to 47, from many different cultures and with a variety of gifts.  All seem dedicated to prayer and learning our way of life.

It was a lot of fun to see many of my own classmates who are now in various ministries of the Order.  Michael Jennrich is now Assistant Novice Director, Jim Lause, the Secretary of Sacred Heart, Jim Gannon, Provincial for Assumption, Jack Clark Robinson, Provincial for Guadalupe.  Jack and I are novitiate classmates, while the rest of us all were from a time at CTU.  Tom Nairn, Provincial for Sacred Heart, was our professor for ethics while we were there.  Many stories were bandied about of those old times, as well as the Michael Jennrich, Jack Clark Robinson and Jim Gannonnew challenges in our current jobs.

I found myself incredibly proud of Matthew Ryan and Raphael Ozoude as the newest members of St. John the Baptist Province.  As they signed the “Book of Life”, Carl Langenderfer served as one of their witnesses.  Both men relished their time in the postulancy at Silver Spring, Md., this year.  Both had stories of their times in the province as they had traveled this summer to Jamaica and for Christmas break to the four friaries in Detroit.

At our Extraordinary Chapter in May, Raphael and Matt enjoyed meeting so many friars that day and renewing acquaintance with others.  Their connection to our band of brothers was obvious.  They now are able to have OFM after their names and be called “brother”.   Two new brothers emblazoned on the roll that holds each of our names.


– Mark Soehner, OFM



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

PHOTO BY CENTER FOR MIGRATION STUDIESEven if you’re not a lawyer or social worker like many who attended the conference, you can still do your part to help immigrant families by:

Office of Communications Province of St. John the Baptist