Friday, December 28, 2012

Emmanuel - God with Us
     Sometimes in prayer, we hear God whisper something to us. Recently, I heard God tell me, “swing little brother swing.” At first I wasn’t entirely sure what this meant. As I prayed and thought about it, it became pretty clear: when I was younger, I used to play baseball and sometimes when I went up to bat, I would get nervous, really nervous. I would be afraid to swing the bat for fear of striking out and looking like a loser or feeling like a complete failure. So instead of really trying for a hit, I would secretly hope for a walk.
     Looking back at it now, I see that I was plagued, almost paralyzed, at those moments with a deadly combination of pride and fear: afraid to failure, pridefully thinking I needed to be better than I was. Even today, I recognize this misguided sense of self-protection within myself. I want to play it safe; I want people to think highly of me, I don’t want to make any mistakes. (Sound familiar?) While I say, “please let me get a walk,” Jesus says, “swing little brother swing.” Jesus says be free and joyful – don’t be a slave to the expectations of others, don’t be a salve to this nagging fear of inadequacy. Jesus says, don’t be so concerned with the results, be concerned with a confident, joyful attitude.
     How can this be when I am surrounded by so many pressures and demands externally and internally? At times it doesn’t seem possible. The only ray of hope I can decipher is the presence of God. If God is truly with me at every moment, in all circumstances, and never abandons me no matter what the results appear to be, then maybe, maybe I be can free and daring. Maybe, if the focus is on Him and what He can do and what He has done (and not on me and what I can’t do and what I haven’t done) then maybe I don’t have to take things so seriously.

     C. K. Chesterton says that this was the glory of St. Francis: that he saw the whole world turned upside down and hanging by a hair. He wasn’t afraid or intimidated by anything because he knew it was all passing away and he knew the love of God that never passes away. In other words, all the pomp, all the power, all the ‘coolness’, all the ‘success’, all the situation and things we fear are like a puff of smoke. None of these things are as important as the love of God that endures all things and lasts forever. If God is Emmanuel, then maybe, I can swing the bat and so can you.

God bless you,
Fr. Giuseppe Siniscalchi, CFR
Most Blessed Sacrament Friary
Newark, N]

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Prayer is Easy

By Fr. Jeremiah Myriam Shryock, CFR St. Felix Friary, Yonkers, NY
     What is happening in your life is exciting. In the midst of work, study, friendships and all your other activities and responsibilities God is speaking to you. He has given you a greater sense of his love, his fidelity and his compassionate heart in the very “concreteness” of your daily life. You did not need to go on a journey to some far away land to discover Him. You simply opened your heart to Him a little more each day and allowed Him the opportunity to respond. And He continues to respond, much to your amazement!

     In this simple and beautiful process you have learned a valuable lesson regarding the life of prayer: honesty is always the best policy. You yourself have said that the more honest you are with God the more He seems to respond, as if He was desperately waiting for you to share the “concreteness” of your daily life.

     Since God seems to be responding so well to your honesty it appears that the future of this relationship depends a large part on your willingness to be real with Him. Prayer, after all, is supposed to be easy. It is we who make it difficult.

     I once envisioned an image of Jesus that has haunted me often through the years.  He is standing beside me “hat in hand” so to speak, waiting for me to spend a moment, just to speak with Him about what I’m actually thinking that moment, to notice and acknowledge His ever presence with me.

     How sad, how wrong, that the King of all the universe is left waiting, while we are paying attention to everything else.      He is hungering for us to talk about all of it with Him.

Carolyn Barth OFS

Pax et bonum

Friday, November 30, 2012

St. Andrew Prayer

Greetings Fraternity,
Happy St. Andrew's Feast Day. 

Our community has always embraced this beautiful prayer, prayed 15 times a day from St. Andrew's Feast Day to Christmas Day, as part of our anticipation of the celebration of Christmas.
I tried to find some information on the history of this tradition but it seems to be hidden in the clouds of time past. 
If anyone finds out more about it let us know.  Meanwhile we can still join together in prayer.

Advent Prayer:

Hail and blessed be the hour and moment when the Son of God was born of the most pure virgin in Bethlehem at midnight, in piercing cold. In that hour vouchsafe O my God, to hear my prayers and grant my desires, through the merits of our savior Jesus Christ and of his virgin mother. Amen.


“While a novena is normally a nine-day prayer, the term is sometimes used for any prayer that is repeated over a series of days. The Saint Andrew Christmas Novena is often called simply the "Christmas Novena" or the "Christmas Anticipation Prayer," because it is prayed 15 times  every day from the Feast of Saint Andrew the Apostle (November 30) until Christmas. The First Sunday of Advent is the Sunday closest to the Feast of Saint Andrew.

The novena is…addressed to God Himself, asking Him to grant our request in the honor of the birth of His Son at Christmas. You can say the prayer all 15 times, all at once; or divide up the recitation as necessary (perhaps five times at each meal).”

- Carolyn Barth, OFS

Pax et bonum

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Prayer requests

Father, we join together in prayer:

For Marty Lynch who is still under treatment for his heart condition.

For Donna Teremy that her immunity may be strengthened.

For Everest Pierleoni that he may be well enough to return to work.

For the repose of the soul of Donna White’s mother, Mary  Wahl.

For Jo Annechino’s daughter, Lorijean who is continuing cancer treatments.

For Pat Corbin’s daughters: Theresa Gusek, undergoing further cancer treatments, and Mary Overmeyer’s job search.

For all those still suffering from hurricane Sandy.

Pax et bonum

What is reality?

Running from Reality
Fr. Jeremiah Myriam Shryock, CFR
St. Felix Friary, Yonkers, NY

     For many people reality is a burden, something they want to escape from. Unfortunately, there are so many escape routes available to us today.

     What is it about reality that so many people find difficult? It is, I believe, the apparent boredom, the apparent nothingness that appears present to people in the midst of their lives. Because reality appears empty so many people try to create reality according to their own designs and structures. The ironic thing is that by escaping reality in order to try and create a better one, we forfeit the chance of ever discovering true happiness.

     A question I pose to you is; how do you view reality? Is it merely a random succession of events and occurrences? Is reality empty, boring, devoid of anything that can stir the human heart? If you answer yes to these questions then I can guarantee you that you are destined for a life of misery.

    Reality is an encounter with Jesus Christ! In every moment of our day, whether we are in prayer, reading, with friends, at work, on a busy street corner, fulfilling one’s duties as a parent or enjoying a walk in nature, Jesus Christ is there whispering to your heart that He is the “more” you desire from life. By ignoring reality or trying to escape reality as soon as possible you are running from Him who is your only hope for happiness.

     My prayer for you is that you could become so bold as to stand face to face with reality as it is and leave behind all your escapes, illusions and self-sufficiency. When that prayer is fully answered there will be no reason to escape anywhere because all that you have been looking for will be directly in front of you.

Pax et bonum

Sunday, November 18, 2012

St. Elizabeth of Hungary - SFO Patroness

St. Elizabeth of Hungary so loved the poor and suffering that she became the patroness of Catholic charities and of the Secular Franciscan Order. 

She was the daughter of the King of Hungary. At 14, Elizabeth she married Louis of Thuringia. It was apparently a loving marriage, and they had three children. But at the same time, she had a Franciscan friar as her spiritual director, and in addition to her duties as wife and mother she was devoted to prayer, sacrifice and service to the poor and sick.

Her husband died in the Crusades. Because she spent so much to help the poor, the young widow was thrown out of the palace by her late husband's family, but she was later allowed to return.

In 1228 she joined the Secular Franciscan Order, and spent the rest of her life caring for the poor in a hospital which she founded in honor of St. Francis. In 1231, she died just before her 24th birthday in 1231, and she was canonized just four years later.

St. Elizabeth, pray for us.

Pax et bonum

Saturday, November 10, 2012

New Fraternity Council Elected

At our November 9 meeting, The Glory of the Most High Secular Franciscan Fraternity elected its 2012-15 Council.

Minister: Carolyn Barth
Vice Minister: Elizabeth Annechino
Secretary: Marilyn Gawlick
Treasurer: Tom Hoffend
Formation Director: Joe Madonia
Councilor: Donna White
Councilor: Lee Strong

May God guide them all in the coming years.

Pax et bonum

Friday, October 26, 2012

National Minister's Message


Beloved National Family,

On October 11, 2012, Holy Mother Church will begin a Year of Faith exactly on the fiftieth anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council. In declaring this Year of Faith, Pope Benedict XVI wrote, "The renewal of the Church is … achieved through the witness offered by the lives of believers: by their very existence in the world, Christians are called to radiate the word of truth that the Lord Jesus has left us….The Year of Faith, from this perspective, is a summons to an authentic and renewed conversion to the Lord, the one Saviour of the world. In the mystery of his death and resurrection, God has revealed in its fullness the Love that saves and calls us to conversion of life through the forgiveness of sins" (Porta Fidei 6). Also in October, the Holy Father will convoke a General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, whose theme will be "The New Evangelization for the Transmission of the Christian Faith."

Appropriately, our 2012 National Chapter will also convene in a little over a week in Denver, Colorado, with our theme being "Called to Build a More Fraternal and Evangelical World." Permit me in this year’s Annual Report to show how we as a National Family have tried to stay consonant with Holy Mother Church in arriving at similar destinations.
When your newly elected National Executive Council came together for its first formal meeting in St. Louis, February 26-28, 2010, we crafted a brief vision statement and articulated our major priorities for our new term. That vision statement was "Keeping the gift of Gospel living alive," to be promoted through the following priorities or areas for development:

1 - Fraternity
2 – Formation
3 – Communication
4 – Youth

That initial vision statement became the theme of our 2010 NAFRA Gathering: "Bringing the Gift of Gospel Living to Life: Our Credible Witnessing," and informed the theme of our 2011 NAFRA Gathering or Annual Chapter: "Witnessing the Gospel Life Courageously in the World." With an eye toward The Year of Faith announced by the Holy Father in his Apostolic Letter "Porta Fidei" ("The Door of Faith"), dated October 11, 2011, that 2011 Chapter adopted our theme for our 2012 Chapter: "Called to Build a More Fraternal and Evangelical World."
From this current theme, staying with our four originally articulated priorities, Fraternity, Formation, Communication and Youth, I will organize this 2012 National Minister’s Annual Report.
  1. The first priority is Fraternity.

    Let me start with the numbers that I have received through our beloved National Vice-Minister Elaine Hedtke from you through the Collated Annual Report ending on December 31, 2011 from the Regions. I thank Elaine for this labor, and I thank all the Regional Ministers for your annual reporting to us. Our information is only as good as what you provide us.

    By the numbers, NAFRA, the Secular Franciscan Fraternity of the United States, has around 13,328 active, permanently professed members nationwide, with 1165 inactive. Thus, by the numbers, our active membership continues to drop. I reported around 13,420 members in my 2011 Annual Report, and around 14,000 in my 2010 Annual Report (14,399 in one tally and 14,079 in another). In 2009 we reported 14,722 active, permanently professed members, which itself was a decline of 1,089 from the 2008 number of 15,811. Thus, I make a guesstimate of around 2,500 (2,483) fewer active, permanently professed members in the last four years.

    To fill those missing seats at the Secular Franciscan table, we currently have 1156 Candidates, down from 1206 Candidates last year and 1224 Candidates in 2010; and 688 Inquirers, down from 865 Inquirers last year and 927 Inquirers in 2010. Let us all pray for their successful formation and discernment, as well as pray for more Inquirers and Candidates into our great Order.

    We report 613 canonically established fraternities, a drop of 40 from our 2011 number of 653 fraternities, which was a decrease of 35 from our 2010 number of 688 fraternities, and a total drop of 105 canonically established fraternities from the 2008 reported number of 718.

    The Collated Annual Report from the Regions records 41 "Emerging Communities," down 1 from last year; and 36 "Newly Forming Groups," an increase of 3 from last year.

    What do these numbers mean? Well, again, if we are "called to build a more fraternal and evangelical world," then I will repeat and keep repeating what I wrote in my 2011 Annual Report and spoke about in my 2012 Vision of our Order: "Perhaps no aspect of the Secular Franciscan life should be of more concern to those called to leadership than the vitality of the fraternity, be it local, regional, national or international" (

    After all, Article 92.1 of the General Constitutions of the Secular Franciscan Order states: "The purpose of both the pastoral and fraternal visits is to revive the evangelical Franciscan spirit, to assure fidelity to the charism and to the Rule, to offer help to fraternity life, to reinforce the bond of the unity of the Order, and to promote its most effective insertion into the Franciscan family and the Church."
    These are the Constitutionally mandated "life signs," the specific "signs of vitality" that International Visitors must check when they visit National, what National Visitors must check when they visit Regional, what Regional Visitors must check when they visit Local, what Local Visitors must check when they visit a new or emerging group. These are the measures of how we all should be caring for our fraternities.

    These are the measures that I, as National Minister, have stressed this past year in my writings; in my presence at our National Executive Council meetings; at the first-ever JPIC Rally at Our Lady of the Snows in Belleville, Illinois 04/12-15/12; in my visitations (Blessed Kateri Tekawitha Region, 04/26-29/12; Five Franciscan Martyrs Region, 05/25-27/12; and Brothers and Sisters of St. Francis Region 08/03-05/12); and perhaps most importantly at our 2012 Quinquennial (the Q) in Chicago 07/03-08/12.

    Permit me to focus on our 2012 Quinquennial, my greatest joy and learning experience of 2012. Through the able leadership and hard work of the Q Planning Committee chaired by Patrick Mendes and Clare Reidy, of the National Executive Council and of the Host St. Mother Cabrini Region, the Q evidenced to me a true revival of the evangelical Franciscan spirit through our wonderful speakers and stimulating Q Congress Fraternities, our daily Masses and prayers.
    Again, through these same means, perhaps especially through our four major speakers, Sister Ilia Delio OSF, Brother Bill Short OFM, Pat Brandwein-Ball OSF and our dearly departed Ed Shirley OSF, but also through the active and total participation of our beloved Conference of National Spiritual Assistants, we assured fidelity to the charism and to the Rule, offered help to fraternity life, reinforced the bond of the unity of the Order, and promoted its most effective insertion into the Franciscan family and the Church. It was my distinct honor, for example, to serve beside Bishop George J. Rassas, Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Chicago, as he opened our 2012 Quinquennial with the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.

    I had hoped to have an ideal representation at the Q of one member from each local fraternity. As you can see above, we currently report 613 fraternities. Well, I hope you can sense my joy in sharing Christ in action, word and sacrament, meeting and praying and learning with 617, at last count, Franciscans from all over the United States, including, I believe, 25 of our 30 Regional Ministers, and all of our National Executive Council with the exception of Elaine who was recovering from pneumonia and under strict doctor’s orders not to travel. We also enjoyed international representation from both our Minister and Vice Minister General of our entire Order, Encarnita del Pozo from Spain and Doug Clorey from Canada.

    I think the entire National Family can take great joy in the success of the 2012 Quinquennial, perhaps especially in furthering that fraternal and evangelical call we all have to our own sisters and brothers in our Order and throughout the world. Of the many things I learned, saw and felt, permit me to share one insight from Sister Ilia Delio, OSF. She noted that the prayer of St. Francis before the Crucifix at San Damiano begins, "Most High, glorious God, enlighten the darkness of my heart."

    To Sister Ilia, the heart is the key to St. Francis, not the mind; and love is the highest good. Love is the deepest form of knowledge; love is the knowledge and power of God. To St. Francis, she said, God is outward-moving love, deeply in love with Creation. Love is relational, seen in the love of the Father for the Son, the Son for the Father, a Love Who is the Holy Spirit. The whole of Creation is a movement of love, a movement of the Trinity into all of Creation.

    I hope and pray that our 2012 Quinquennial can enflame each of us evermore in that evangelical love of Christ and the Gospels at every level of fraternity, and may our fraternal and evangelical love attract others out in the world to our Faith, as Pope Benedict urges in the opening paragraph above.

    Even with this great success of the 2012 Q, however, I must continue to stress that every Secular Franciscan fraternity deserves "capable and well-prepared persons" (General Constitutions Article 88.1) as Spiritual Assistants because the essential element of "vital Secular Franciscan fraternities" is the spiritual. Again, almost copying the words of Pope Benedict above in the first paragraph, I have said and will continue to say that we are wasting our time in fraternity if we are not concerned at every meeting with ongoing, even daily conversion, as we strive to turn away from sin and come closer in our thoughts, words and deeds to our Risen Savior Jesus Christ (Secular Franciscan Rule 7).

    Again, according to the Collated Annual Report from the Regions, we reported 466 Spiritual Assistants (down from 495 the year before, and 506 in 2010) for 613 local fraternities and 30 Regional fraternities. We all know local fraternities that lack a formal, appointed, appropriate Spiritual Assistant, and I have been to Regions that have only one, often over-worked and venerable, Spiritual Assistant to serve the whole Region.

    Supplying "capable and well-prepared" Spiritual Assistants to every fraternity at the local and regional level is a continuing problem, which needs our continued prayer and attention. Again, with prayer, I know of no "easy fix," but I encourage everyone involved in leadership at any level of fraternity to avail herself or himself of the Franciscan Family Connection’s (Spiritual Assistant’s) Course and to be prepared, as with first aid, to give and to seek "capable and well-prepared" Franciscan Spiritual Assistance wherever and whenever needed.

    At the National level, we continue to be blessed by the prayers, advice, example and service of our Conference of National Spiritual Assistants, all of whom shone so brightly at the Q: in alphabetical order, Friar Lester Bach OFM Cap and current President in turn; Friar Bob Brady OFM; Friar Steve Gross OFM Conv; and Friar Kevin Queally TOR. Would that every Regional and local fraternity could have such Spirit-filled assistance!

    Further, concerning vital fraternity life, if we are called to build a more fraternal and evangelical world, our Spirituality and evangelical love of the Lord and the Gospels must be witnessed out in the world, again, as our Holy Father emphasized above in the first paragraph.

    Thus, perhaps the second greatest joy, after the Q, for me this past year was the first ever Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation (JPIC) Commission Rally April 12 to 15, 2012 at Our Lady of the Snows in Belleville, Illinois, under the able leadership of our JPIC Chair Kent Ferris. I loved the one on one sharing the Rally modeled, which could be used to build fraternity at every level, and I was impressed by the energy and ideas of the 37 people who attended from 21 Regions. Regional Ministers who had a JPIC person in attendance should be proud of each of your people. Although we will soon be losing Kent as our JPIC Chair as he focuses more energy on Diaconal Formation in his Diocese, the Rally strengthened the unity of, and gave renewed spirit to, the JPIC Commission.

    From that invigorated JPIC Commission of 12 members, I feel the new National Executive Council will be able to find an excellent successor to Kent. Kent has also promised to continue to serve on that Commission, if asked. I would encourage the new National Executive Council to consider seriously a second JPIC Rally in the near future to continue to build energy for, and focus attention on, Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation, "the DNA of our Franciscan life, of our Franciscan spirituality," said the Rally’s Keynote Speaker, Friar Pio Jackson, OFM, Spiritual Assistant to St. Clare Regional Fraternity.

  2. The second priority is Formation.

    Vital Secular Franciscan fraternities need effective formation. Our hard-working National Formation Commission with its Chair Bob "Fitz" Fitzsimmons certainly did its work by delivering in 2011 the 460 page "FUN" Formation Manual with an unbelievably rich accompanying CD of Reference Material. As I have noted before, I cannot imagine any other single document by any other single author or authors replacing these Formation materials in my lifetime.

    The work this past year has been to communicate these new Formation materials into the hands, hearts and minds of every Secular Franciscan, professed, forming or inquiring, in the United States. Please pray and assist as you can in this effort. I attended and spoke at the Formation Workshop at the Bishop Claggett Retreat Center in Buckeystown, Maryland, on March 2, 2012 in my home St. Margaret of Cortona Region. I was most impressed that the Five Franciscan Martyrs Region reported that 400 of its 600 members had attended Formation Workshops on the new Formation materials. I know that many other Regions had Formation Workshops attended by representatives of every, or nearly every, Local Fraternity in their Region. For just three examples, the La Verna, the St. Katharine Drexel and Troubadours of Peace Regions reported Formation Workshops on the new Formation materials, which were attended by representatives of every Local Fraternity in the Region. These efforts capture the type of outreach both needed and deserved by the "FUN" Formation Manual and the accompanying materials.

    If re-elected as National Minister, and with the approval of the newly elected National Executive Council, I plan to ask "Fitz" to finish his term as National Formation Commission Chair, if he and all his family enjoy good health, and choose a new National Formation Commission and Spiritual Assistant to lead us in continuing these efforts to bring a uniform system of more thorough and truly Secular Franciscan Formation throughout the entire United States.
  3. The third priority is Communication.

    Communication is always a concern in building a more fraternal and evangelical world. We have already seen how vitally important it has been to communicate the new "FUN" Formation Manual and accompanying Formation materials to every current and potential Secular Franciscan in the United States. To me, this effort in 2012 must be a communication effort both electronic and personal. For me, the most effective communication this past year has been one on one sessions at the Q, at the JPIC Rally, at Regional Visitations, at NEC meetings, and at other meetings and gatherings of Secular Franciscans. Of course, communication across an entire country with over 13,000 members is impossible if it is only one on one.

    Take for example the Q. We had the largest gathering of the Franciscan family in my direct experience, but getting the message out beyond the 617 attendees requires the electronic media. I feel the NAFRA Public Relations Committee with Bob and Mary Stronach, the NAFRA Computer Committee with its Chair Dan Mulholland, and National Webpage Master Vickie Klick have all worked hard to bring the Q electronically to all who visit our National Webpage: . Further, every recent (from 2004 to 2012) issue of our TAU-USA publication is also available through our National Webpage: .

    In addition, email, both personal ( ) and through the NAFRA-L, NAFRA-ALUM and NAFRA-RM list serves, keeps me in contact with our widespread National family. Again, thanks to Dan Mulholland for keeping these list serves up and running well. In 2012, I have continued to average perhaps 20 to 30 emails every day, with 50 being a not unusually high and 10 an "easy" day. We continue to be a "volunteer" organization. I thankfully receive no salary, have no paid staff, no office, and the computer is mine. If re-elected as National Minister, I am not asking for any change, any personal secretary or any salary, but I continue to beg, more importantly, for your prayers, patience and understanding. I am always open to any ideas you have on improving communication.

  4. The fourth priority is Youth.

    One of the joys of many joys from both the Q and the JPIC Rally was to meet with the young people in attendance (from before college age with Kent Ferris’s children to college age with students from Siena College in New York State to professed or in candidacy Secular Franciscans in their twenties and thirties). These young people are truly attracted to our Secular Franciscan charism and life. At the Q, for example, I gathered one evening with all those interested in Youth. There I listened to and shared with, in alphabetical order, Rob Breen, Barbara Countryman, Rhett Engelking, Lonnie Ellis, Kent and Lori and Clare Ferris, Linda Monitello, Pamela Townsend, Gladys Veloz and about 30 others.

    Rob Breen, a Secular Franciscan who teaches at Siena College, has been the Spiritual Advisor to a Franciscan Youth Group at the College for several years. Pamela Townsend, a rising Junior at the College, I believe, is the head of that group. I met Rob and Pamela and four of Pamela’s fellow students at a visitation to Blessed (soon to be Saint) Kateri Tekawitha Region in April 2012. At that time, Pamela agreed to come to the Q, which she did, bringing with her a fellow student Gladys Veloz, and to our National Chapter, which, it appears, she will. Barbara is a young Secular Franciscan mom, who attended Secular Franciscan gatherings as a child and young adult with her parents, and whose children went with Anne Mulqueen to World Youth Day in Madrid Spain last year. Rhett, Lonnie and Kent were all at the JPIC Rally as well as at the Q. They are thus attracted to us both by Youth and by JPIC. Lori is Kent’s wife and herself a Secular Franciscan, and Clare is their oldest (thirteen years old, I believe) daughter. Linda is a Secular Franciscan who has worked with Organizers and Groups of Youth in her local diocese.

    I would encourage the new National Executive Council to talk to these people as we continue to seek, but have not yet found, a "youthful" Chair for our Youth and Young Adults. Youth needs to be represented by Youth.

    As in previous years, this year’s Collated Annual Report from the Regions reports a wide variety of activities with Youth around the United States. I remember at the Q Youth Meeting, Siena College student Gladys Veloz being asked what attracted her to the Franciscan Youth Group on campus. She said that she was attracted by their faith; she said that they were all good people; and she said they offered her the opportunity to help out.

    From that meeting and from talking to other young people at the Q, at the JPIC Rally and at the Blessed Kateri Tekawitha Regional Visitation, I have learned that our youth are attracted by faith-based, welcoming Franciscan communities that are involved in prayer and in improving the world around them. As before, let us pray that all of us will do what we can to celebrate and encourage Youth. Let us pray for youthful hearts for all of our members that we might attract other youthful hearts, no matter the age.

  5. Living in Mission with the Poor.

    As I shared with you last year the joy I felt working down in Manaus, Brazil with Jim Flickinger, head of Amazon Relief ( ), permit me to share the third of the three greatest joys for me in this past year of many joys, which was my teaching English, washing dishes and generally getting in the way of Dr. Tony Lazzara, the residents and staff of Hogar de San Francisco de Asis down in Chaclacayo, Peru, about 30 miles outside of Lima ( ). Winner of the NAFRA Peace (now JPIC) Award in 2007, Dr Tony has lived in mission with the poor for over 25 years while I was only there for a few days, but still one is always left with the vitality of Spirit these sick and destitute children evidence day in and day out dealing with problems most of us can hardly imagine.

    Permit to ask your prayers for all of these children, including two of my favorites, both, appropriately, Victors: one, Victor T., who lost both of his arms in a terrible fire, but who could write with a pencil between his big and second toes, and could also correctly hit the computer keys using his nose and chin; the other, Victor H., who was nicknamed "Maradona" for his absolutely fearless soccer playing even though he was very small and had a club foot. They are just two of the 50 amazing children living in this Franciscan house of love and care.
  6. Sisters and Brothers at the Same Table of the Lord.

    As we noted at our 2011 National Chapter, we would prefer our time together to resemble more of a "Thanksgiving Celebration of Family" than a "Business Meeting." Thus, as always, please welcome, and introduce yourself to, any face at our 2012 National Chapter that you do not recognize. We are all sisters and brothers at the same table of the Lord.

    At our 2012 National Chapter, for the first time ever, will be a delegation from Guam: Friar Patrick Castro, OFM Cap, Spiritual Assistant to St. Padre Pio Fraternity in Agana Heights, Guam; Violet Manibusan, Fraternity Minister; Deacon Louis Agulos, Jr., Co-Formation Director; and Cynthia Agbulos, Fund Raising Chair of the Fraternity and wife of Louis. They are coming a great distance and on their own time and money at the urging of Reverend Friar Joseph English, OFM Cap, the Vice-Provincial for Mary Star of the Sea: Pution Tasi, the Guam-Hawaii Capuchins. Friar English has petitioned "for the opportunity to participate and be part of the National Secular Franciscan Organization."

    As you may know, Guam was ceded to the United States by the Treaty of Paris, which ended the Spanish American War in 1898 and formally purchased from Spain for $20 million in 1899. American participation in Guam involved a considerable loss of local and American life in World War II, and, according to historians, Guam was "the only populated U.S. soil to be occupied by another country in World War II." Today Guam remains a U.S. Territory. Please welcome these good people with joy.

    Congratulations to our sister Secular Franciscan Jan Benton who will join us as the 2012 JPIC Award winner for her over thirty years of advocacy for peace and justice, especially for people with disabilities. Jan was at the Q and has been very helpful to me personally in the formation and continuation of the only Secular Franciscan Deaf Fraternity in the world, as far as we know. She and her attorney husband Martin once opened the doors of their own home for me and Anne Mulqueen and others in a peace-making effort during the controversial days of the 2007 Q. Please open your arms to Jan and Martin.
A Final Personal Note of Thanks.

As you also may know, Article 13:3 of the National Statutes reads, "The outgoing National Minister cannot be elected to any other office on the National Executive Council." Thus, if I am not re-elected as National Minister, I am off the National Executive Council, and I wish to say now how much I congratulate the National Fraternity on the National Executive Council (NEC) that they elected to serve with me in 2009. All of them are true Servant Leaders; all of them have attended every NEC meeting when their health permitted; all of them have made Regional visitations or chaired Regional elections.

Specifically, Elaine Hedtke, our National Vice Minister, has given us our NAFRA Annual Report Collation for the past three years on which we base so much of our knowledge; she has handled the Election and Visitation Schedule; she and Jan Parker have worked with the Youth; every "special assignment" I have given her she has accepted. She’s a trusted advisor. Third-term National Treasurer Dennis Ross has such a wealth of experience. It has been a blessing to have him serve us, and he will be impossible to replace. National Secretary Jan Parker has called herself an "SS," a Serving Secretary, and so she has been. She makes the calls, keeps the minutes, organizes the agendas, doing all with her accustomed grace and often with a song and a strum of her guitar. Our three National Councilors are Mary Bittner, Michelle Kim and Arturo Villareal. They reflect a welcome diversity to our National Council. For just about three days, I would like to borrow Mary’s brain and spirit. Then I really think I could do something as National Minister! Michelle wears many hats. For example, she has a lot of experience at the United Nations and in working with Franciscans International. She is bilingual in Korean and English. She has professional experience with computers. For his part, if we all get too down at our 2012 NAFRA Gathering, I will turn the microphone over to Arturo Villareal, who always speaks with such power and motivation. My longest friend and acquaintance on the NEC is Anne Mulqueen, our two-term International Councilor. We are fellow members of St. Margaret of Cortona Region and did workshops together many years ago entitled "Catch the Fire" to return fraternities to their original Franciscan charism. From all reports, what a blessing Anne was to represent all of us at Ed Shirley’s Memorial in Austin, Texas. What a blessing this NEC has been! Thank you all.

A blessed Patronal Feast Day to all of you, your Fraternities and families. May Father Francis intercede for us and have God show us what is ours to do AND supply the grace to do it! Let us pray for one another.

With Peace and Love in Christ’s and your Service,

Pax et bonum

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Transitus 2012

Our two local fraternities met in Hilton last night to celebrate the Transitus with a Mass and a social gathering.
After the Mass, people were able to venerate two relics - one of St, Francis, and one of St. Elizabeth Anne Seton. 

The food included a wonderful cake ...

... and cookies.

A wonderful night. Alleluia!

Pax et bonum

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Witness to the New Evangelization

Witness to the New Evangelization
Archbishop Robert Carlson of St. Louis Missouri
From Steubenville Conference July 27, 2012

     When we find a good restaurant…see a good movie or read a good book or find a good recipe we want to share it with our friends, and we do… The good wants to be shared, and anyone who resists doing so is rightly called selfish.
     It's a curious fact about many Catholics, however, that there is one good thing that we're reluctant to share: the good news of our faith in Jesus Christ. For one reason or another, our culture tells us that it's selfish to keep good things to ourselves, but rude to share the good news of Jesus Christ. And, for one reason and another, we've grown comfortable with that double standard.
     Well, the time has come to challenge our culture, and ourselves. The time has come to stop following our culture, which tells us to keep God out of the public square and inside the walls of worship, and start following the Lord, who tells us that we will be his witnesses to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8). It's time for us to stop conforming to the world and accommodating the culture, and time for us to start transforming them.  How can we do that?... I want to propose three bench marks for an Apologetics that can contribute to the New Evangelization today.
      First: orthodoxy. Orthodoxy of teaching is essential to an apologetics that can contribute to the new evangelization. This is especially urgent in an age of relativism. If our speaking and teaching are not within the channel marked out by Church teaching, then we are not bearing witness to the Gospel of Jesus Christ - which is preserved in the teachings of the Church under the guidance of the Holy Spirit - we're only bearing witness to our own preferences…Unless our apologetics is orthodox, we're not contributing to the new evangelization, we're contributing to the dying of the light.
     Second: contemplation...Orthodoxy alone is not enough. As Blessed John Paul II said in Novo Millennio Ineunte: “The men and women of our own day…ask believers not only to "speak" of Christ but in a certain sense to "show" Him to them…Our witness… would be hopelessly inadequate if we ourselves had not first contemplated His Face.”  If the words and arguments of our apologetics are not rooted in a contemplation in which we encounter the Lord—then our apologetics won't bear witness to the Gospel but only to our own cleverness.  Our own cleverness is a rock to those who are asking for bread. Orthodoxy that's not rooted in contemplation won't offer people a living encounter with the Lord. It may win some arguments, but it won't convince hearts…That can only happen… if we ourselves have known Him.
     Third: deepening receptivity to the Holy Spirit. Orthodoxy without living witness to the love of God is Saint Paul's noisy gong and clanging cymbal. The Spirit is the source of the Church's mission and witness. The only way our witness can bear fruit is if we follow the Spirit's lead - and that means paying close attention to the gifts and the fruits that the Spirit gives. In those gifts and fruits, the Spirit is showing us the way that leads to life.
      Orthodoxy, contemplation, and deepening receptivity to the Holy Spirit, to…contribute to the New Evangelization—we have to combine these three things…
     That's a lofty calling. But remember, Christ called us to be leaven, not flour. It takes a lot of flour to make bread. But it only takes a little leaven to make a lot of flour rise. 

Pax et bonum

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Fraternity picnic 2012

The Fraternity that feasts together prays together!

Pax et bonum

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

View The Q

Go to the Q? Or unable to get there. You can still experience or re-experience it. -

You can relive the Q.

If you weren't there, you can see it for yourself on video.

You can share the experience with your fraternities.

Please spread the word:

To pre-order the 2012 Quinquennial Congress DVDs, go to

The DVD set is expected to be ready for shipping in September and will feature the keynote and plenary presentations. It also will highlight the spirit and activities of the Q.

You may order online. There are also instructions for ordering by mail.

Peace and all good,

Bob and Mary Stronach, OFS
NAFRA PR co-chairs

Pax et bonum

Monday, July 2, 2012

The Quinquennial (from the National Minister)


Beloved Brothers and Sisters of Penance,

May the Lord bring Peace to the hearts and families of all who will join us in presence or in prayer, in person or in spirit, at our 2012 National Secular Franciscan Quinquennial Congress July 3-8 at the Holiday Inn Chicago North Shore Skokie Hotel, 5300 West Touhy Avenue, Skokie, Illinois 60077. If you are reading this before our Congress begins on Tuesday, July 3rd with dinner at 5:00 pm, Opening Liturgy at 7:30 pm, and you feel that "last minute itch" to join us, please do so! 

Registration information and Official Prayer can be found here:

Article 65.1 of the General Constitutions reads, "The national fraternity is the organic union of the local fraternities existing within the territory of one or more states which are joined and co-ordinated among themselves through regional fraternities, wherever they exist."

Building and strengthening this national "organic union" was clearly intended by our then Holy Father, now Blessed Pope John Paul II when he addressed these words to our Xth General Chapter on November 22, 2002: "The Church expects from the Secular Franciscan Order, one and only, a great service in the cause of the Kingdom of God in the world of today. The Church desires that your Order should be a model of organic, structural and charismatic unity on all levels, so as to present itself to the world as a 'community of love' (Secular Franciscan Rule 22). The church expects from you, Secular Franciscans, a courageous and consistent testimony of Christian and Franciscan life, leaning towards the construction of a more fraternal and gospel world for the realization of the Kingdom of God."

In this spirit, and in the Holy Spirit, the National Executive Council of the National Fraternity of the Secular Franciscan Order in the United States has conceived and organized this 2012 Quinquennial Congress as mandated in our National Statutes, Article 7.4: "The National Fraternity shall celebrate a National Congress at least once every five years, at a time and place determined by the National Executive Council and confirmed by the National Fraternity Council."

To this Congress, we have invited YOU.

Just as our Lord Himself spoke to Zacchaeus, "Today salvation has come to this house . . . For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save what was lost" (Luke 19:9-10 NAB Rev), so we pray that Salvation will come to YOU, to ALL OF US, as we join in our National house, our National Congress, to strengthen that "organic, structural and charismatic unity" our now Blessed Holy Father so earnestly urged. How can we do this without your participation and prayers? Please pray that this 2012 Quinquennial Congress will further the coming of the Kingdom of God in our own hearts, in our Order and in the entire world.

Please pray as did Friar Giacomo Bini OFM, when as President of the Conference of General Ministers of the First Order and the TOR, he introduced the Revised General Constitutions on January 1, 2001, that this Congress may be a similar "essential and dynamic instrument helping us to delineate our identity and to structure progressively our life and our vocation as Franciscans."

Indeed, here are the expressed goals of our 2012 Quinquennial: One, to broaden and deepen our understanding of the Franciscan Tradition, and our identity as Secular Franciscans; and Two, to discern together God's call to our Secular Franciscan Order in the United States.

To achieve these goals, we have organized each day simply and prayerfully to, as precisely as we can, "delineate our identity and to structure progressively our life and our vocation as Franciscans."

Thus, DAY ONE, we will all ask the question, "WHO ARE YOU, O LORD?" In other words, we will explore together a view of God within the Franciscan Tradition. DAY TWO will follow with the more personal question "AND WHAT AM I?" In other words, we will consider the human person within the Franciscan Tradition. DAY THREE will ask the question "WHO ARE WE?" and stretch from the historical beginnings and development of the Franciscan Charism from St. Francis and his original writings up to our current Secular Franciscan Rule (1978). Whew! Yet we are not merely students looking back; we are all on a journey forward as Franciscans toward Salvation. Thus, DAY FOUR will ask "AND WHAT ARE WE TO BE?" In other words, together as family, can we discern God's call, God's will, for our Secular Franciscan Order now here in the United States?

Journeying with us will be some of the greatest Franciscan minds of our generation, both inside our Secular Franciscan Order and outside our Order, but still within the greater Franciscan family residing in the United States.

Our keynote speaker and major presenter will be SR. ILIA DELIO, OSF, a Franciscan Sister of Washington, DC, and a Senior Fellow at Woodstock Theological Center at Georgetown University, where she concentrates in the area of Science and Religion. Before going to Woodstock, Sister was Professor and Chair of Spirituality Studies at Washington Theological Union where she taught, lectured and wrote in the areas of general spirituality, Franciscan theology and Science and Religion. She has authored well-received books on St. Clare, St. Bonaventure, the Humility of God and Franciscan Prayer. Her book, Care for Creation, won two Catholic Press Book Awards in 2009. Please do not be afraid to be challenged by Sister nor to challenge her right back! We are called as Franciscans to dialogue and to relationship.

Sister will be joined by BROTHER BILL SHORT, OFM, noted speaker, author and Professor at the Berkeley Theological Union, I hope all of you have heard his 24 talks onSt. Francis of Assisi: A New Way of Being Christian, which still inspire and educate me at every listening on the audio CDs.

From our Secular Franciscan Family, I recommend PATRICIA BRANDWEIN-BALL, OFS. Pat has served our Order in elected leadership for twenty years as local minister of the Seven Joys of the Blessed Virgin Mary Mother of God Fraternity, Kennebunkport, ME; St. Casimir Provincial Minister; St Elizabeth of Hungary, Vice-Minister, then Regional Minister; as well as a National Councilor. As a member of the Spirit and Life Team, Pat has traveled extensively throughout the country. Pat is, I believe, the first-ever National Secular Franciscan Chair of JPIC, (Justice, Peace, and the Integrity of Creation). I have learned as much from Pat as from any living Franciscan about what it means to be a Secular Franciscan.

Joining Pat from our Family will be EDWARD L. SHIRLEY, OFS. Ed is a professor of Religious and Theological Studies at St. Edward's University, where he has taught for 25 years and from whom he received the University-wide Teaching Excellence Award for 2008-2009. He has a doctorate in theology from Fordham University, and specializes in Trinity, Christology, Mariology and Interreligious Dialogue. He possesses the theological mandatum from the Diocese of Austin. He has been a professed member of the Secular Franciscan Order since 1980, and is currently the chair of the 

Ecumenical/Interfaith Committee for the Secular Franciscan Order in the U.S. Ed also likes to challenge and be challenged, especially if you play a guitar or other stringed instrument, for Ed plays a very mean banjo, which I hope he will bring.

Obviously, I am very excited about the 2012 National Congress. I pray and ask you to pray that it will contribute toward the vitality of every fraternity at every level in the United States, as well as toward the salvation of every Secular Franciscan joining us in presence or in prayer, in person or in spirit.

Peace and love,


Pax et bonum

Friday, June 15, 2012

Bishops call for a fortnight of prayer

Bishops’ Fortnight Prayer
Pray each day June 21 through July 4

Almighty God, Father of all nations,
For freedom you have set us free in Christ Jesus (Gal. 5:1).
We praise and bless you for the gift of religious liberty,
the foundation of human rights, justice,
and the common good.
Grant to our leaders the wisdom to protect
and promote our liberties;
By your grace may we have the courage to defend them,
for ourselves and for all those who live in this blessed land.
We ask this through the intercession
of Mary Immaculate, our patroness,
and in the name of your Son, our Lord Jesus Christ,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
with whom you live and reign, one God for ever and ever.
Pax et bonum

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Lent Revisited

With just a couple of weeks to go, it's still not too late ...

What are you giving up?” Any Catholic who grew up in the “pre-Vatican II” era would immediately know what this question is referring to—especially if you attended a parochial school taught by nuns. It means, “What are you giving up for Lent?” The answer of most school kids back then was somewhat the same—candy, soda, or television. Although the good sisters suggested that giving up fighting with our siblings would be even better, I personally thought that was just a bit too much to give up.

Isn’t it true how easily we can get attached to things. Now that the cell phone has become mainstream and no longer a status symbol, I know there are some of you who might get more than annoyed if you had to give it up! Soon kids will be asking, “What was life like before cell phones. I mean, how did people contact you when you weren’t home?” How true it is—we quickly become best buddies with comfort and convenience; yet as you know, there is always a price we must pay.

Lent is a time to look at our attachments—and not only material things or objects—but attitudes. As our doctors can now scan our bodies looking for problems, this is the time to ask for some help to “scan our souls” and to look deep within for things which can be suspicious and maybe malignant. No doubt, some… are quite comfortable with such examinations and are quick to get at the problem area. Some, for example, have a spat with their spouse; yet they never allow the sun to set on their anger. Instead, the whole affair ends with an apology and a goodnight kiss. Others, however, refuse to admit any guilt and spend years in a cold war. These couples have become quite comfortable with their illness.

Have you ever had something—an article of clothing, for example—that spends most of its life hanging on for dear life in a dark closet or buried in some overstuffed drawer? Maybe it was a gift from grandma or a hand-me-down which once belonged to dear ol’ dad. While our prized possession serves no other purpose but to take up space, the chilling thought of getting rid of our family heirloom borders on sacrilege or treason. Of course, occasionally we take out our treasure and try it on; it is stretched here and it sags there, and it may be just a bit threadbare at the elbows, but besides the broken zipper and a few missing buttons, it looks almost new! Maybe, just maybe, you will wear it in when the weather warms up a bit.

…Lent is an old English word, “lengthen,” which means “springtime.” Lent commemorates the time Our Lord fasted and prayed and was tempted in the desert; therefore, it is a time characterized by prayer, reflection, fasting and abstinence. Our interior attitude or spiritual posture is expressed in the somber violet which is worn by the priest and which decorates the sanctuary. Lent is, in essence, a time to look inside ourselves and open that interior dark closet and overstuffed drawer. It is a time to ask ourselves if we have become accustomed and attached to what is obviously ugly and outdated.

If you are serious about spring cleaning your soul, you must be honest and objective. This is why an extra set of eyes and expert advise is always helpful when making decisions about what stays put and what is put into the garbage. This is but one reason we have the sacrament of confession—we don’t have to do the dirty work alone. This means, instead of going to confession with our wrinkled and weary list of sins, we go in “with a pen and pad,” which means an attitude of openness and a desire to get the job done right. This task begins and is made easy by asking a simple question: “Father, can you help me make a good confession?”

Maybe if we ask for help, we may not only find more junk than we expected, we just might find more room within us for peace and joy. So there they hang—uglier than grandma’s kelly green sweater or dad’s plaid jacket—guilt, shame, anger, lust, resentment. So, what are you giving up this Lent?

God bless you,

Fr.Glenn Sudano CFR

Most Blessed Sacrament Friary, Newark, NJ

Pax et bonum

Saturday, February 25, 2012

An Evening With John Michael Talbot

We have a wonderful musical opportunity in May.

On May 4, The Franciscan Church of the Assumption in Syracuse will host "An Evening with John Michel Talbot" at 7 p.m..

Talbot is himself a lay Franciscan, and a noted musician.

The church is located at 812 Salina Street in Syracuse.

For more information, call Rosemary Costa ofs at 315-288-5395.

Pax et bonum

Sunday, February 19, 2012

A New York Franciscan Saint

Blessed Marianne Cope, O.S.F., also known as Blessed Marianne of Molokai, (23 January 1838 - 9 August 1918) was a member of The Sisters of Saint Francis of Syracuse, New York.

She was known for her charitable works and virtuous deeds, she spent many years caring for the lepers on the island of Molokai, Hawaii. Despite direct contact with the patients over many years, Cope was not afflicted by the disease, considered by some faithful to be miraculous.

In 2005, she was beatified by Pope Benedict XVI and is scheduled to be canonized in October of this year.

At their annual meeting, the U.S. bishops voted to add her to the U.S. liturgical calendar as an optional liturgical memorial in the proper of saints on January 23.

Pax et bonum

Beggars before God

Beggars before God

Fr. Jeremiah Myriam Shryock CFR

St. Felix Friary, Yonkers, NY

We are all beggars before God. There is nothing we can truly call our own. Everything is a gift from God and everything comes from him.

However, not all beggars are alike. Some are childish, obsessed with their own needs and anxiously try to prolong their existence and fulfill their desires as much as possible. They demand things from God in a timely fashion and if their prayer is not heard according to their will they do whatever is necessary to make sure their needs are accomplished. Another type of beggar is one who is humble, sincere and has realized his own helplessness and in humility has turned outside of himself for the answers and for the help he needs for his life. His “nothingness” has not led him to despair but to hope in a loving and merciful God.

Which kind of beggar are we?

If our brokenness, sins, mistakes, regrets and fears do not make us humble, then we will remain like the beggar who is never satisfied and who is always anxious and afraid. Yet if in our poverty we can turn to God, honest about ourselves and our lives, we will experience the hand of a loving Father in our life. He will change the rags that we as beggars have acquired and clothe us in the new and beautiful garments of the children of God.

Pax et bonum