Tag Archives: Conventual Franciscans

The Pauper Theologian: St. Anthony of Padua

AnthonyofPauduaToday the Church celebrates the feast of one of the earliest Franciscan saints and a Doctor of the Church, Saint Anthony of Padua. More than aiding one to find lost articles, St. Anthony led a remarkable life that was spurred by an encounter he had with the Franciscan protomartyrs.

St. Anthony was born into a prominent family in Lisbon, Portugal in the year 1195. At the age of fifteen, he joined an Augustinian monastery where he studied intensely and was ordained a priest. His life was changed forever, however, when he encountered the bodies of the first Franciscan martyrs who had been tortured and beheaded in Morocco for their preaching.

Inspired to preach the Good News like the Franciscan protomartyrs, St. Anthony gained permission to leave the Augustinian Monastery and become a Franciscan. He then went to Morocco where he became ill and was forced to return to his homeland. On his return journey, however, strong winds forced him and his companions to land in Sicily where he eventually attended the Pentecost Chapter of Mats. Saint Anthony continued to live as an obscure Franciscan friar until he was asked to give a sermon at a meeting with a group of Dominicans. The depth of his knowledge and holiness shone throughout his speech and he was assigned to preach in northern Italy.

St. Anthony quickly became renowned throughout Christendom for his preaching which he nurtured through his deep prayer life and studies. He died at the age of 36 and was canonized in less than one year. Over three hundred years after his death, St. Anthony’s body was exhumed and his tongue was found to be incorrupt, a testament to his teachings.

Conventual FranciscansThis early Franciscan saint is especially honored among the Conventual Franciscans who have custody of the basilica in Padua where his relics reside. They continue to promote education and study amongst friars especially those in formation like Br. Bernard Fonkalsrud OFM. Conv. who said, “the Conventual Franciscans have always encouraged our friars to seek to learn, inspired by ‘il Santo’ who was really the first Franciscan theologian and teacher. St. Francis entrusted St. Anthony to teach the friars, so long as it did not extinguish the spirit of prayer and devotedness. We can see products of this mindset through such examples as St. Bonaventure, Bl. Duns Scotus and St. Maximilian Kolbe.” Br. Bernard and the Conventual Franciscans continue to lead lives inspired by St. Anthony of Padua who himself was inspired by the holiness of earlier Franciscans.

The Extraordinary Life of St. Maximilian Kolbe’s Spiritual Son

ST.Max
Father Krolikowski with St. Maxymillian Kolbe in 1939.

Many have been inspired to imitate the life of St. Maximilian Kolbe, however, Father Lucjan Krolikowski OFM Conv. is unique because he lived in community with the saint for several years as a Conventual Franciscan. The 96 year old priest has led an extraordinary life having lived in community with St. Maximilian, struggled to survive a Soviet gulag in Siberia during World War II, saved and became the foster father to 150 Polish orphans and broadcasted a Catholic radio program for 32 years in the United States.

Fr. Krolikowski entered the Conventual Franciscan friary of Niepokalanow in 1934 at the age of 15 due to his desire to become a priest like St. Maximilian Kolbe. At the time, Niepokalanow was the largest monastery in the world and St. Maximilian was the heart and soul of the community’s apostolate according to Fr. Krolikowski. In an interview with the National Catholic Register, he said, “I’ve met a few saintly people in my life, but Father Maximilian Kolbe was the most saintly, in my estimation. He had an impact on you; you wanted to imitate him.” The friars deeply loved St. Maximilian and many even volunteered their own lives for his release following his arrest.

Soviet troops arrested Fr. Krolikowski in 1940 and sent him to a labor camp in Siberia. At the camp, he cut down trees for 13 or 14 hours each day only occasionally receiving a piece of bread for sustenance. With the war incurring many causalities, soldiers were needed. As a result, Fr. Krolikowski entered training and went to the Middle East eventually becoming a priest in Beirut and spending time in East Africa.

5913110  In East Africa, Fr. Krolikowski met Polish children who had become orphaned after their parents had died in Soviet gulags. When the Communist government of Poland demanded their repatriation, Fr. Krolikowski heroically sought to aid them by emigrating with them to Canada. He recounted this trial in Stolen Children: A Saga of Polish War Children which he wrote with the hope that the book would, “draw attention to the parallel fate of the children of other races and nationalities who are ravaged by the uncontrolled passion for power, wealth, success and ill-understood independence.”

Once in the United States, Fr. Krolikowski continued to lead a life fashioned in imitation of St. Maximilian. He did this by broadcasting a Catholic radio program for 32 years and writing several books including his memoir, A Franciscan Odyssey. When reflecting on his life, Fr. Krolikowski says he would do it all over again because he chose the life of his spiritual father, St. Maximilian Kolbe.

Fr. James McCurry, OFM Conv., Receives Kolbe Award

Fr. McCurry, fourth from right
Fr. McCurry, fourth from right, and his fellow Conventual Franciscans at Marytown

On August 14th, the Feast Day of St. Maximilian Kolbe, Fr. James McCurry, OFM Conv., received the annual Kolbe Award at Marytown in Libertyville, IL. The annual award is given to those who mirror St. Maximilian’s charisms of heroic charity and self-sacrifice. Father McCurry is the past president Militia Immaculata, Kolbean scholar and  Mariologist.

The first four awards were given to Fr. Patrick Peyton, CSC, the family rosary priest; Fr. John Hardon, SJ, founder of the IRL; Mother Teresa, who needs no introduction; and Bishop Austin Vaughn who was imprisoned many times for his pro-life activities. Illustrious company!

Fr. McCurry did not set out to be the long-time promoter of the Militia Immaculata (MI), the organization founded by St. Maximilian in 1917 to encourage total consecration to the Blessed Virgin Mary as a means of spiritual renewal for individuals and society. This is how it happened at least in part…..

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Fr. McCurry and Fr. John Grigus, Rector, Marytown Shrine

Father McCurry, during his funny yet profound remarks upon receiving the award, told of his encounter with Pope John Paul II at the canonization of St. Maximilian in 1982. He asked the Holy Father if he would pray that we might all be as consecrated to Mary as St. Maximilian was. The Pope did not hear him at first and said, “huh?” Speaking more loudly, the question then prompted a smile on the Holy Father’s face. He pointed to Father McCurry and said, “You do that!”

Taking this as a papal command, Father McCurry did do it as the long-time president of the Militia Immaculata. The MI’s mission is “To Lead Every Individual With Mary to the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus.” Following in the footsteps of Father McCurry would be a good place to start. If you would like information about consecrating yourself to Mary in the Militia Immaculata, please visit Marytown’s website.

Conventual Franciscans Celebrate Milestones

On July 22, five young men were welcomed into the Franciscan Friars Conventual. They received their San Damiano Crucifix and began their postulancy in Chicago.

On Thursday July 23, 2015, seven men expressed their desire to live for a year as Conventual Franciscan Novices and received the Franciscan habit. The investiture ceremony took place in the St. Francis of Assisi Novitiate Chapel in Mishawaka, Indiana.

pic2-invest-2015Two days later, six young men took their vows as Franciscan Friars Conventual in Mishawaka, Indiana.

The IRL and the Conventual Franciscans have a special relationship. Being lodged at Marytown, the National Shrine of St. Maximilian Kolbe and home to the Conventual Franciscan Friars, we regularly see the young friars. What a joy and blessing to witness these men embark on their journey in the footsteps of St. Francis. God bless them all.

 

Patriarch of Constantinople Meets With Conventual Franciscans

istanbul2On Sunday, January 4, 2015, the Conventual Franciscans at St. Anthony of Padua Church in Istanbul, Turkey, received a surprise visitor – His Holiness Bartholomew I, the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople. It’s rather like having Pope Francis suddenly pop over for an afternoon!

Patriarch Bartholomew is regarded as the spiritual leader of the world’s 300 million Eastern Orthodox Christians. He is the 270th Patriarch of the see of Byzantium (Constantinople), a see that traces its roots back to St. Andrew the Apostle.

The Patriarch came to St. Anthony Church to view the exhibit: “ENCOUNTERS OF LASTING LOVE”, which was set up in the courtyard of the church on the occasion of the visit of Pope Francis. The exhibition was curated by Friar Martin Kmetec, a Conventual Franciscan from Slovenia, who made the news in 2006 when he was threatened with death by some Turkish Islamic youth but managed to thwart the attack.

When Pope John XXIII was Vatican Ambassador to Turkey, he preached at St. Anthony’s, the largest Church in Istanbul, for ten years. Amazingly, the Holy Father was fluent in Turkish and for this reason, he was known as the Turkish Pope!

ofm istanbul patriarchFriar Iulina Pişta and a few guests welcomed the Patriarch despite the short notice. The exhibit highlighted three ecumenical moments: the Jerusalem meetings between Pope Paul VI and Athenagoras I, and later Pope Francis and Bartholomew I, as well as the recent meeting that Pope Francis and Bartholomew I had in Constantinople (Istanbul) in November of 2014.

Later, Patriarch Bartholomew visited the Basilica of St. Anthony where a group of Filipinos welcomed him at the church door with Christmas carols. Inside the church, the Patriarch lit candles while Romanian clerics sang. As he visited the manger scene, he met and blessed Friar Giuseppe Robu’s sister and her family who were there for the baptism of their child. Patriarch Bartholomew then blessed an icon depicting Peter and Andrew and affixed his signature on the back. He then went down to the crypt to see the Byzantine style paintings.

The meeting symbolizes the importance that the Churches of the East and the West place on ecumenical dialogue. It also highlights the courage of the Christian community in an Islamic country where they are a very tiny minority.

During his visit to Turkey in November 2014, Pope Francis said, “We are already on the way, on the path towards full communion and already we can experience eloquent signs of an authentic, albeit incomplete union. This offers us reassurance and encourages us to continue on this journey. We are certain that along this journey we are helped by the intercession of the Apostle Andrew and his brother Peter, held by tradition to be the founders of the Churches of Constantinople and of Rome. We ask God for the great gift of full unity, and the ability to accept it in our lives. Let us never forget to pray for one another.”

“The Best Evangelizers are the Poor!”

friar mariusFriar Marius-Petru Bîlha, OFM Conv., recently recounted his experience of visiting the parish of St. Maximilian Kolbe in Tegucigalpa, Nicaragua. It is on the outskirts of the capital in a poor and highly dangerous area. The Conventual friars there also serve another 16 chapels which they reach weekly or monthly to administer the sacraments and minister to the people. Or, in this case, have the people minister to them!

Friar Marius-Petru says, “One can’t help noticing the contrast between the joy and happiness of the people and the outward ugliness of a society where violence, corruption and poverty are everyday news. I have often wondered; where does it all come from, this joy, the desire for goodness and the outlook for a hopeful future? It can only come from hearts filled with love of God, hearts which put all hope and trust in Him.”

The friars in the US have a close relationship with their brothers from Honduras. Since 1997, their St. Joseph University Parish in Terre Haute, Indiana, has been sending friars and parishioners to assist in various ways at St. Maximilian Kolbe Parish. Many of the missions have offered much needed medical aid to the local community in Tegucigalpa.

The best evangelizers are the poor! “I return from Honduras evangelized by the poor, strengthened to live out my own gift of self with love, joy, simplicity, humility and generosity.”

If you think you might have a vocation to serve Christ in the missions and in the poor, visit the Conventual Franciscans’ website.

Meet the Budding Conventual Franciscans

Ted Cramer
Ted Cramer

We always keenly follow the events of the Conventual Franciscans at Marytown since we are located in the shadow of their monastery in Libertyville, Illinois. We are especially happy when we see young faces at the monastery, a sign of growth, vitality and the workings of the Holy Spirit. The following are pictures of six of the new postulants who are beginning their journey as Franciscans for the North American provinces.

Aaron Clark
Aaron Clark

As I read the brief write-ups of each young man, I was struck by some similarities in their vocation stories. One, they served the poor in some way. Two, their contact with a local Conventual Franciscan parish was a great influence, and three, God calls, no matter what the age – high school graduate to experienced businessman.

Aaron Clark (age 41, California), businessman, most recently worked on a spiritual care team at a hospital and tutoring immigrants.

Roberson Lubin
Roberson Lubin

Ted Cramer (age 33, Wyoming), managed construction for Habitat for Humanity and dedicated much time to the local Newman Center

Roberson Lubin (age 28, originally from Haiti), met the friars at a parish in Hermosa Beach in California, enjoyed volunteering at a medical center and parish.

Tim Blanchard
Tim Blanchard

Tim Blanchard (age 19, New York), working in kitchens, he helped provide meals for the poor. Met the Militia Immaculata Youth Group when he was volunteering at the Little Sisters of the Poor.

Franck Lino Sokpolie (age 19, originally from Togo), a freshman in college, after visiting many communities, he felt at home with the Conventuals.

Franck Lino Sokpolie
Franck Lino Sokpolie

Jaime Zaragoza (age 26, Texas), played college football, worked as a volunteer cook for a homeless shelter.

The Conventual Franciscans are one of the three branches of the First Order of St. Francis. The word Conventual is derived from the Latin convenire, “to come together.” Their Order includes about 4500 priests and brothers around the world.

In Assisi, their Friars care for the Basilica of St. Francis, which includes his tomb. In addition, the Conventuals are the Vatican confessors at St. Peter’s Basilica.

In an interesting bit of history, Friar Juan Perez, who pleaded Columbus’ case before King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella of Spain, is credited with celebrating the first Mass in the New World.

Jaime Zaragoza
Jaime Zaragoza

For a list of some vocation retreats, click here.

Francis said, “And the Lord gave me brothers.” And so we believe we can only experience humility and charity in relationship with one another as brothers. It is within the context of brotherhood that Conventual Franciscans strive to follow the poor and crucified Christ.

 

 

 

Friar and Filmmaker – Friar John Clote

cloteLooking for a good DVD to while away the summer evenings? Check out Friar John Clote’s documentaries on a wide array of fascinating Catholic topics.

I first met John when I went to a preview of his film, “Ocean of Mercy,” the story of Pope John Paul II, St. Faustina, St. Maximilian Kolbe, OFM Conv., and Divine Mercy. Amazingly, as John points out in the documentary, the three lived in Poland at the same time yet did not know each other.

Friar John is a Conventual Franciscan friar who is studying to become a priest. He has taken a circuitous route to the priesthood having been in the mainstream television news world and Catholic radio. His latest work is called: “Purgatory: The Forgotten Church” (released in 2013 by Lightbridge, a ministry of the Conventual Franciscans of Saint Bonaventure). Others subjects he has beautifully illuminated include such notables as Pope St. John Paul II, Ven. Solanus Casey, Bl. Francis X. Seelos and St. Maria Goretti.

He began his media career at NBC news and laments the negative perception that the media has of Catholicism. “They have a kind of a rabid hatred of the church, and it’s rather disturbing, to be honest,” he said. “You have to wonder where all that comes from. I think it comes from (the fact that) the church is the only public institution that consistently has said that there is such thing as sexual morality, there is such thing as abortion and pro-life, their stance on assisted suicide, on accountability – all of those things.”

As a child, John chose the confirmation name “Francis,” and here he is many years later preparing to be a Franciscan priest! He is currently assigned to the Basilica of St. Josaphat in Milwaukee. God willing, John will be ordained to the priesthood in May 2016.

a solemnly professed friar assigned to the Basilica of St. Josaphat in Milwaukee – See more at: http://clarionherald.info/clarion/index.php/news/latest-news/155-breaking-news/3422-friar-researched-purgatory-dvd-with-local-help#sthash.OfyRTmx4.dpuf

Check out the complete story in the Milwaukee Catholic Herald.

D-Day Chaplain Remembered

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Franciscan Friars Albert Scherer, left, and James McCurry unveil a memorial at Father Ignatius’ grave in Mater Dolorosa Cemetery.

Last week, on June 6th, the Western World remembered all of the soldiers who lost their lives on the D-Day beaches of Normandy, France, in 1944. On this 70th anniversary, one man was remembered in particular, Fr.Ignatius Maternowski, OFM Conv. Fr. Ignatius is believed to be the only Catholic chaplain who was killed on the day of the Allied landings.

Father parachuted in with members of the 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment of the 82nd Airborne Division. Father landed safely near Guetteville and sought out a place where the injured could be treated. He then crossed enemy lines to seek out his German counterpart to see if he could set up a common hospital. Clearly displaying his red cross arm band and chaplain insignia, he was nonetheless shot in the back by a German sniper. He was 32 years old.

Father’s body lay where he was shot for 3 days until the Allies could move in. His body was buried in a cemetery near Utah Beach. Later, his  remains were exhumed and reburied in the Franciscans’ Mater Dolorosa Cemetery in South Hadley, Massachusetts. Father was a Holyoke native.

fr igantius“His quiet heroism is the stuff of legend,” said Conventual Franciscan Father James McCurry, minister provincial of Our Lady of Angels province. He exemplified “goodness and self-sacrifice above the call of duty.”

Fr. McCurry was present in Normandy during the ceremonies and told the people of Guetteville, “I stand here today on this hallowed ground, in my role as Father Ignatius’s next of kin – his Franciscan brother. Permit me to thank the good people of Guetteville and Picauville for the loving attention that you continue to show to his memory.”

The marker on his grave reads: “No Greater Love.”

To Win the World for the Immaculata

Two weeks ago, the Conventual Franciscans celebrated the simple professions of seven young men. Friar Patrick from New York, Friar Joseph from Ireland, Friar Israel from Nevada, Friar Don from Texas, Friar Thomas from California, Friar Colton from New York and Friar Gregory from Australia professed the vows of chastity, poverty and obedience and received the cincture with the three cords as a reminder of the evangelical counsels that they promise to follow.

How wonderful that these young men will continue the tradition of not only St. Francis of Assisi but also of his spiritual son, St. Maximilian Kolbe, whose feast we celebrate today. The professions took place at Marytown which is the National Shrine of St. Maximilian. The American Novitiate, located in Mishawaka, Indiana, is where the novices take classes on the Franciscan rule, constitutions, vows, Church documents of the consecrated life and its history, prayer forms, Scripture, communication, Mariology and the Secular Franciscan Order.

According to Brother Paschal Kolodziej, their order “has always had a great emphasis on community and prayer. Many young people are attracted to this call to be a friar minor. Our call is to be a ‘lesser brother’ to all those we minister to. That can take many forms and ministries.” He adds that “the fraternal aspect attracts young people who are looking for a sense of belonging. We have always been of service to the Church in many different ways. Obedience to the Church has always been one of our hallmarks.”

St. Maximilian, the “martyr of charity” who was killed in Auschwitz in 1941, wanted to “win the world for the Immaculata.” May these seven friars in their various ministries draw many souls to Christ through the loving hands Mary, His mother.