Saturday, November 21, 2015

In Memory of Viola LaPierre, OFS

     What a blessing it was, for her family and for us, to be able to see our dear sister, as she turned 100 years old just two weeks before she went to be with the Lord.

Pax et bonum

Ongoing Formation of the Holy Spirit

     One of our meetings each month is our ongoing formation gathering.  It has the four components that make up that Secular Franciscan Gathering:  prayer, formation, business, and fellowship.

     Our other gathering seems to be set up a bit differently.  We still have prayer, business, and fellowship but the formation part takes a slightly different form because it includes a period of silence rather than a formal teaching. 

     The purpose of this silence is twofold. First, it takes us deeply into the worship of our Lord, which begins with the songs that we sing together beforehand.  These help us to set aside the turmoil of our busy lives so we can enter consciously into His presence and adore Him, in song and then in silence.

     Secondly, the silence enables us to listen to what He may have to say to us.  It may be a thought or an image that occurs to us, or a scripture we are led to read.    

    After this time of silence we share our thoughts if we think the Holy Spirit has put something on our hearts that He wants us to share with the group. 

      As we share these thoughts, others respond and we are often amazed at how our thoughts come together and build on each other, taking us deeper into a meditation than any one of us could have developed on our own.  It is the Holy Spirit that leads us to this point depending on our openness to Him.  We can test the authenticity of the message by the holiness and the fruits of what we share.

     As we were discussing this at our last council meeting, looking for ways we could go more deeply into the presence of the Lord during this time, I began to think about just how this experience is ongoing formation.  Our formation director is the Holy Spirit.  It is He that moves us to worship and He that inspires our thoughts.  It is He that strings them together as we share, giving us a teaching of His own design, custom made for what we need to hear at that moment.

     There is little need to describe this to most of us.  We have experienced it many times, but perhaps we need to think about each part of it again because it is easy to get so much in the habit of doing something that we lose some of its meaning.

     Thinking about this has filled me with a gratitude to the Holy Spirit that I don’t think I ever realized before.  He draws us into the Heart of the presence of the Trinity! Who could ever be worthy of this?  And as if this were not enough He sends us forth not just with a message for ourselves but with a piece of a puzzle, meant to be set in just the right place as we share, to join us together with a new wisdom that leads us on to serve Him and worship Him as one.
- Carolyn Barth, OFS

Pax et bonum

Saturday, October 24, 2015

New National Leadership Team Elected

National Minister JAN PARKER, OFS
National Vice Minister MARY BITTNER, OFS
National Secretary MATTIE WARD, OFS
National Treasurer JERRY ROUSSEAU, OFS 
National Councilor JOAN GEIGER, OFS
National Councilor AWILDA GUADALUPE, OFS
International Councilor MARY STRONACH, OFS
Br. BOB BRADY, OFM, president-in-turn of the Conference of National Spiritual Assistants.

Pax et bonum

Sunday, October 18, 2015

New Fraternity Council Elected

At its October 16 meeting, the Glory of the Most High Fraternity elected its new Council:

From Left: Donna White, Councilor; Lee Strong, Councilor; Carolyn Barth, Minister; Mary Smith, Treasurer; Marilyn Gawlik, Secretary; Gwen Franus, Vice Minister; Betty Carmen, Formation Director.

There were a few twists and turns in the election process, but the leadership team is now in place for the next three years. God be with them and guide them.

Pax et bonum

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Report of the Regional Chapter

Sept. 16, 2015 -- Regional Minister Al Picogna, OFS, donned an apron and ball cap, turned to the audience and said:

“We are your servants.”
That’s how he set the stage for his State of the Region address at the Regional Chapter held Sept. 11-13 at the Comfort Inn & Suites on Buckley Road in Syracuse.
His portrayal of servant leadership came after he had welcomed minsters, delegates and guests, and introduced the national visitors, National Councilor Mary Bittner, OFS, and National Spiritual Assistant Matthias Wesnofske, OFM Cap.
The visitors opened the chapter with prayer and words on the significance and spiritual quality of a visitation.
Friar Matthias described what he looks for: “Do I see a spirit of joy, peace, love for one another…the Franciscan Spirit?”
Mary described the visit as “a means to promote fidelity to the Franciscan charism.”
The Chapter segued into a formation session on part of the Rule, with the discussion zeroing in on seeing Christ in others.
Formation Director Layna Maher put on music to spur reflection, and the words of the song spun the idea of seeing Christ in an opposite direction – “let them all see You in me… let them hear You when I speak.”
In his State of the Region talk, Al cited a few statistics about the region:
  • 24 established fraternities.
  • 423 active or active excused members.
  • 18 inquirers.
  • 5 in orientation.
  • “an astounding 41 candidates”.
  • 12 members embracing Sister Death.

The region’s thrust for the coming year, he said, is to encourage fraternities “to break out of the mold” – “to try new things” -- “to look at ways to make the fraternity come alive.”
In other words, “be innovative… Don’t always do the same thing… Do not be afraid to try something new and creative and innovative.”

Regional Treasurer James Fagan proposed a 2016 operating budget of $30,804, which was approved.


The Regional Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation (JPIC) Award went to Holy Family Vocational Orphanage Foundation in Binghamton, which supports an orphanage and school of the same name run by the Little Sisters of St. Francis in Uganda. St. Bernardine of Siena Fraternity Minister Mike Dwyer, OFS, who nominated the foundation, accepted the award on behalf of the foundation, along with Sr. Caritas Barajingitwa, LSOSF, founder and director of the orphanage and school. Sister Caritas, who had been stationed in Binghamton for a while raising funds for her vision to help children orphaned by the AIDS epidemic, flew in from Uganda to attend the Regional Chapter. She also was to attend the National Chapter in October to receive the National JPIC Award.

Following the presentation, which included a $100 donation, ministers, delegates and observers contributed another $747 from their own pockets. A silent auction for a statue of St. Francis raked in another $200 for the orphanage – bringing the total contribution to $1047.

Sister Caritas, visibly moved, paused and then said: “The Lord is good, all the time. I don’t know what to say…To tell the truth, you are my heroes in this project.”

Pax et bonum

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Avoid plastic water bottles

Pope Francis has called us all to respect the environment. He even set aside September 1 as “World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation.” As Franciscans, we have a special concern for all of creation.

One of the simple, practical ways to help protect creation is to stop buying and using bottled water.
There are many reasons to avoid bottled water.

First, the bottles are produced from petroleum. The production and transportation of bottled water consumes millions of gallons of oil annually. In addition, it has been estimated that it takes 2,000 times the energy to produce bottled water than it does to produce a comparable amount of tap water.
Although many of us try to recycle, the truth is that not everyone can do so or does, and not all those bottles can be recycled anyway. As a result, billions of pounds of plastic bottles are added to landfills each year.

Depending on the quality of the bottles, many plastic bottles leech chemicals into the water they contain. Those chemicals have been linked to all sorts of disorders, including cancer, diabetes, weight gain, and infertility. Plus, government regulations that cover municipal water do not cover bottled water. Tests of bottled water have sometimes shown that bottled water actually contains more pollutants than does municipal water.
Bottled water is sometimes just tap municipal water that may have – though not always - gone through an extra step of filtering,  but then is sold for many times the actual cost of the water.  For us in Rochester, this seems especially unnecessary as our tap water has been judged as among the best in the country.

Some of that bottled water comes from companies based in drought regions – such as California – thus helping to add to the droughts.  In some places, the companies throw their economic weight around to make sure they get more of the water to sell, depleting the supply for the local residents.

What can we do?

If concerned about water quality, buy a water filter for your tap, or buy one of those pitchers that can filter. It’s actually cheaper than buying bottled water. Use a recyclable container for carrying your water; just fill it from your tap or filter unit.

This is just one way we can cherish Sister Water and to show our concern for the rest of creation that St. Francis so loved.

Pax et bonum

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Praise of God - St. Francis

All powerful, most holy, most high, and supreme God:
All good, supreme good, totally good, You Who alone are good;
May we give You all praise, all glory, all thanks,
all honor, all blessing, and all good things.
So be it.

So be it.

Pax et bonum

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Rosaries for Fraternity and Order

Please Pray that Third Decade of the Rosary for our One Secular Franciscan Order and our Four Fraternities
(Originally emailed October 30, 2014)

Beloved National Family,

May the Lord give us Peace!

Before we leave October, the Holy Month of Our Lady of the Rosary, and we begin November, the Holy Month of Prayer for all of our beloved dead, please permit me this request.

Would you forward as best you can to every Secular Franciscan in the United States this request to pray the Third Decade of the Rosary for our One Secular Franciscan Order and our Four Fraternities to which each of us belongs?

With the Mysteries of Joy, the Third Decade is for the Nativity, the Birth of Jesus Christ into Poverty as one of us. This decade stresses our Franciscan emphasis on Christ and His Incarnation. Nothing makes sense without Christ. Our Franciscan Spirituality focuses on the Incarnation of Jesus Christ, the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity, the Word made Flesh (see John 1:14). Since this Mystery is our beginning, so to speak, please pray this decade for our Local Fraternity where we all began our Franciscan Journey in Admission to Candidacy and then in Permanent Profession. My Local Fraternity is St. Thomas More that meets at Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church. My Minister is Ann Wester.

With the Mysteries of Light, the Third Decade is the Call to Conversion, "The Kingdom of God is at hand. Repent and believe the Good News!" (Mark 1:15). Hello, is there a better mystery to pray for our Order? This decade stresses our Franciscan call to daily, ongoing conversion as we turn away from sin and strive to go faithfully from Life to Gospel and Gospel to Life (see Secular Franciscan Rules 4 and 7). We pray this decade for our Regional Fraternity where all of us should gain the Light that Fraternity is more than just the Local Fraternity! My Regional Fraternity is St. Margaret of Cortona. My Minister is Patrick Martin.

With the Mysteries of Sorrow, the Third Decade is for the Crowning of Thorns. This decade stresses our Franciscan emphasis on humility and even humiliation. As someone has said, "There is no humility without humiliation." Whatever crown we seek should only be the Crowns of Thorn because we should "never boast except in the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ" (Galatians 6:14). Let this decade be prayed for our National Fraternity because our great country is so large and has such diversity that service at this level is often a Crown of Thorns! My National Fraternity is the United States of America. My Vice Minister is Elaine Hedtke.

With the Mysteries of Glory, the Third Decade is the Coming of the Holy Spirit upon the Blessed Mother and the Apostles praying together at Pentecost. This decade stresses the truth that this is not ultimately our Order, but the Holy Spirit's with the Blessed Mother as our Advocate (see Celano, Second Life, 198) and all the saints as our Intercessors and Protectors. We offer this decade for all those holy ones we know least about, the International Fraternity covering the entire world and based in the Eternal City of Rome. My Minister is Encarnita (Incarnation in English) del Pozo from Spain. And after the General Chapter in November, my Minister is Tibor Kauser from Hungary.

Again, Please pray the Third Decade of your Daily Rosary for our One Secular Franciscan Order and our Four Fraternities. Please spread the Word. Please add your own meditations as God inspires you!

Peace, Love and Prayers,

Deacon Tom Bello OFS
National Minister
Secular Franciscan Order
United States of America

Pax et bonum

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Spiritual Maturity

By Fr. Jeremiah Myriam Shryock, CFR
Perhaps the greatest temptation we are faced with in the spiritual life is to pursue the things of God rather than God himself. After all, it is the things of God that often fill our senses with delight and consolation, whereas God himself always transcends our senses and their experience. This is why all the great spiritual masters remind us that we must welcome consolation, moments where we can “feel” God’s presence and times of great enthusiasm in our spiritual life. However, we cannot stop there nor can we rely on them to always be there. In short, we can never find our rest in anything but God, not even in his works.
In a mysterious way, the spiritual life really begins when we stop “feeling” God and when all the lights we relied on to get to him have been dimmed or even turned off. It is here where faith, hope and love, the theological virtues that ultimately lead us to union with God, become activated and we begin to really make “progress” in the spiritual life. St. Paul himself alludes to this when he reminds the Corinthians that they are to, “walk by faith, not by sight.” (2 Corinthians 5:7)
Ultimately, God wants our love to become mature. In the beginning of our journey God used our senses and his works to get our attention and draw us to him. But as we grow God wants us to be ready for a deeper experience of him, which means that we have to leave behind the “things” that once drew us to God so as to receive something greater, namely God himself.   
Pax et bonum

The Heart of God

From EWTN -

Devotion to the Sacred Heart, as we know it, began about the year 1672. On repeated occasions, Jesus appeared to Saint Margaret Mary Alacoque, a Visitation nun, in France, and during these apparitions He explained to her the devotion to His Sacred Heart as He wanted people to practice it. he asked to be honored in the symbol of His Heart of flesh; he asked for acts of reparation, for frequent Communion, Communion on First Friday of the month, and the keeping of the Holy Hour.

     When the Catholic Church approved the devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, she did not base her action only on the visions of Saint Margaret Mary. The Church approved the devotion on its own merits. There is only one Person in Jesus, and that Person was at the same time God and Man. His Heart, too, is Divine -- it is the Heart of God.

     There are two things that must always be found together in the devotion to the Sacred Heart: Christ's Heart of flesh and Christ's love for us...

     This love of Christ for us was the moving force of all he did and suffered for us -- in Nazareth, on the Cross, in giving Himself in the Blessed Sacrament, in His teaching and healing, in His praying and working. When we speak of the Sacred Heart, we mean Jesus showing us His Heart, Jesus all love for us and all lovable.

Jesus Christ is the incarnation of God's infinite love. The Human Nature which the Son of God took upon Himself was filled with love and kindness that has never found an equal. He is the perfect model of love of God and neighbor.

     Every day of His life was filled with repeated proofs of "Christ's love that surpasses all knowledge" (Eph 3:19). Jesus handed down for all time the fundamental feature of His character: "Take My yoke upon your shoulders and learn from Me, for I am meek and humble of Heart" (Mt 11:29). He invited all, refusing none, surprising friends and rivals by His unconditional generosity.

      The meaning of love in the life of Jesus was especially evident in His sufferings. Out of love for His Father He willed to undergo the death of the Cross. "The world must know that I love the Father and do just as the Father has commanded Me" (Jn 14:31).

      The love that Jesus bore toward us also urged Him to undergo the death of the Cross. At the Last Supper, He said, "There is no greater love than to lay down one's life for one's friends" (Jn 15:13)

      The Heart of Jesus never ceases to love us in heaven. He sanctifies us through the Sacraments. These are inexhaustible fountains of grace and holiness which have their source in the boundless ocean of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

Pax et bonum

Sunday, May 3, 2015

The Power of Prayer - One Minute for America

From Catherine Koscinski, OFS  - Regional Infirmarian
      Someone has said that if Christians really understood the full extent of the power we have available through prayer, we might be speechless.  
     During WWII there was an adviser to Churchill who organized a group of people who dropped what they were doing every day at a prescribed hour for one minute to collectively pray for the safety of England, its people and peace. 
     There is now a group of people organizing the same thing here in America.  If you would like to participate, every evening at 9:00 PM Eastern Time, stop whatever you are doing and spend one minute praying for the safety of the United States and for a return to a Godly nation.  If you know anyone else who would like to participate, please pass this along.  Our prayers are the most powerful asset we have.  God Bless America.
Pax et bonum

Thursday, April 2, 2015

A Holy Week Reflection from Fr. Robert Barron

"St. Mark tells us that Jesus approached the Holy City of Jerusalem from the east: "When Jesus and his disciples drew near to Jerusalem, to Bethphage and Bethany at the Mount of Olives..." The Mount of Olives was just to the east of Jerusalem, and Bethphage and Bethany were on the eastern slope of the Mount.
"Why in the world would the direction of his approach be important? Well, in the prophet Ezekiel, we hear that, because of the corruption of the Temple, the glory of the Lord had departed. This was one of the most devastating events in all of the Old Testament, for the Temple of the Lord was, in practically a literal sense, the dwelling place of Yahweh. To imagine that the glory of the Lord had quit the Temple was shocking in the extreme.
"However, Ezekiel prophesied that one day the Lord would return to the Temple, and from the same direction by which he departed. Upon the return of the glory of Yahweh, Ezekiel predicted, the Temple would be rebuilt, reconstituted.
"Pious Jews in Jesus' time certainly knew these texts. As they watched Jesus, they couldn't help but think of them, because Jesus proclaimed himself the true Temple: "You have a greater than the Temple here." And then see what Mark saw: Jesus approaching the old Temple from the east, just as Ezekiel said the glory of Yahweh would approach the Temple. Jesus, speaking and acting in the very person of God, is the glory of Yahweh taking possession of his house."

(A tip of the hat to Marty Lynch)

Pax et bonum

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Betty Hoffend, OFS - Rest in peace

May God be with Betty Hoffend, OFS (1941-2015), who went home March 4. She is seen above at the top right corner of the table, sitting next to her husband Tom.

Pax et bonum

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Lent Transfigures Us

By: Tom and April Hoopes, Register Correspondents
     Just as Lent is getting off the ground, last Sunday’s Gospel gives us the story of the Transfiguration. While we commemorate the 40 days of Jesus fasting in the desert with nothing but wild beasts as his companions, we are presented with an image of Jesus transformed in a glorious way on the mountaintop with the great prophets Elijah and Moses as his companions.
     It is a timely reminder of what the sacrifice of Lent is leading toward: a total transformation in Christ.
     This gospel reminds the two of us of a monastery we frequently visited in college. It was a Ukrainian Catholic monastery devoted to the Transfiguration. When we made the trip, it was typically Lent. The monks would share their simple, sparse meal with us, and we would pray with them and attend Divine Liturgy.  The monks’ whole life was a kind of Lent, and they had clearly been transformed by it. They had the gentle attractiveness and power of presence about them that only comes from God — a mini-transfiguration.
     In Lent, we are all supposed to be like that.
In the first reading, Abraham is clearly a man transfigured by God. Each time he hears the call of God, he says, “Here I am!” … a man of prayer, with a heart open to God.   God…asks him to sacrifice his son, and Abraham’s generosity doesn’t hold back.
     The practice of Lent can make us just like that: Praying more makes our hearts more open to God. Fasting in Lent makes our wills more docile to God. And sacrificing during Lent helps put the created order in perspective, allowing us to be more generous to God.
     As St. Paul puts it in the second reading: “If God is for us, who can be against us?  He who did not spare his own Son, but handed him over for us all, how will he not also give us everything else along with him?”
     When Abraham takes his beloved son up the mountain, the son who represented his future and his self-worth, he is putting everything on the line. And he is willing to give all of that to God. The only place to gain the strength to do it is from God h himself — who spared Abraham’s son and promised to bless him.
     This Lent is the time to do just that.
Tom and April Hoopes write for the Catholic Register from Atchison, Kansas, where Tom is writer in residence at Benedictine College.

Pax et bonum

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Is God Calling You to the Secular Franciscan Order?

From the National Fraternity ...

The process of becoming a professed Secular Franciscan is a journey that involves three separate stages and culminates in a lifelong commitment to live the gospel following the example of St. Francis of Assisi. This formation process unfolds in regularly scheduled formation sessions during which the home study material is thoroughly discussed.

The first stage, Orientation, provides time for dialogue and developing relationships in fraternity.

During Orientation you will be introduced to the lives of St. Francis and St. Clare and share in Franciscan prayer life. You will be given general information about the Secular Franciscan Order. Orientation is a time to discern if the Spirit is calling you to a Secular Franciscan vocation. The period of Orientation is a minimum of three months.

The second stage, Inquiry, is the first formal period of initiation. It is a time of in-depth study of the lives of St. Francis and St. Clare. During Inquiry you will learn about the Franciscan charism and Franciscan history. You will deepen your understanding of what it means to be secular and Franciscan, and you will continue to discern if the Spirit is calling you to the Secular Franciscan way of life. The period of Inquiry is a minimum of six months. If a vocation is discerned, the Inquirer is received into the Order.

The third stage, Candidacy, is the final formal period of initiation. It is a time of preparing for permanent commitment by immersion into fraternity life. Central to this stage of formation is Article 4 of The Rule of the Secular Franciscan Order which states, "The rule and life of the Secular Franciscan is this: to observe the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ by following Saint Francis of Assisi, who made Christ the inspiration and the center of his life with God and people." The period of Candidacy is a minimum of eighteen months and culminates in permanent commitment to the gospel life.

After profession of the Rule and permanent commitment to the gospel way of life, the newly professed member joins the rest of the fraternity in ongoing formation.

Pax et bonum

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Prayer to Our Lady, Help of Christians (St. John Bosco)

Most Holy Virgin Mary, Help of Christian, how sweet it is to come to your feet imploring your perpetual help.

If earthly mothers cease not to remember their children,  how can you, the most loving of all mothers forget me?     

Grant then to me, I implore you,  your perpetual help in all my necessities,  in every sorrow, and especially in all my temptations. 
I ask for your unceasing help for all who are now suffering.      
Help the weak, cure the sick, convert sinners. Grant through your intercessions many vocations to the religious life.      

Obtain for us, O Mary, Help of Christians, that having invoked you on earth we may love and eternally thank you in heaven.

- St. John (Don)  Bosco, OFS

Pax et bonum