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

October 10, 2019

Pilgrimage memories will last a lifetime

(Last month 23 seniors from Roger Bacon High School in Cincinnati set off on a life-changing journey, walking in the footsteps of St. Francis. Their week-long pilgrimage to Assisi and Rome was the reward for three years of academic and personal excellence. They returned with a trove of memorable moments. Here are some of them.)


Lindsay Ballinger

The most valuable part of the trip for me was going up into the mountains and sitting in peace and quiet with all of our inner thoughts. We could be there with God alone and were surrounded by all his creation and admire all of its beauty and all the good things in our lives.

Kelly Brenner

My favorite part about the trip was when we were given time for personal growth in faith and spirituality. We were given a lot of time in silent reflection in different locations, and that helped me to look deeper into myself and really think about what my purpose was on the pilgrimage.

PHOTO BY ANNA MERZPilgrim Anna Janzen on a rooftop in AssisiSydney Cardwell

While in Assisi, Italy, we were given many opportunities to have personal quiet times in various churches. My relationship with God grew during these times, which has helped me since I’ve been back home.

Thomas DeWees

The most impactful experience I had in Assisi was going up to the top of Mount Subasio above Assisi and hiking around the friary on the side of the mountain. It was very peaceful and something I won’t forget.

Haley Fulton

The most impactful part of the pilgrimage was sitting in St. Mary of the Angels Basilica by myself, thinking and praying in pure silence. That was the most calm I’ve been in a long time.

Mia Grooms

My most memorable experience on the Assisi trip was seeing the original San Damiano Cross in St. Clare’s Basilica. This cross gave me a sense of peace with the world and reflective time with myself to talk to God, as well as a humbling feeling, but also a sense of pride in my own worth.

Anna Janzen

The most impactful part of the trip was being able to walk in the same steps as St. Francis, St. Clare, friars, and the many pilgrims that came before us. I was surprised at the way our group grew as individuals but especially as a community together, because by the end of the week, I had so many new relationships and fostered new friendships that I would have never expected.

Charles Johnstone

The most memorable moment for me was being in the cupola on top of St. Peter’s Basilica and being able to see all of Rome.

Anna Juengling

Being able to walk in the footsteps of St. Francis and St. Clare allowed me to reflect on my own calling in life and how I can grow in my Catholic faith.

Rose Kaetzel

The most meaningful part of my experience on the Assisi Scholar trip to Italy was the opportunity to build closer relationships with the people within the program and make new friendships with my own classmates, the students from Oldenburg Academy, and the leaders.

Bryan Koch

The most impactful moment was being in St. Francis’ Basilica and seeing how important and impactful St. Francis was to the Catholic faith.

Miriam Kolis

The Assisi trip was a real time for bonding within our Assisi Scholar group. Having the chance to travel to Italy to truly let go and enjoy life without other burdens was a privilege that we worked very hard for over the last few years.

Josiah McGee

The trip as a whole was a much needed spiritual journey. In the different churches and historical sites we visited, it allowed me to reflect on who I am and what things I can do to make myself a better individual.

Reiko Hargis-McGuirt

The most meaningful part of our trip to Assisi was how close we all became on our pilgrimage. Returning home does not mean our pilgrimage is over; it’s only just beginning.

Annabelle Merz

The friendships I formed and the people I grew closer to was the thing I will take most from this pilgrimage. The experience of touring the holiest places in our faith with my peers is something I will forever value.

Patrick Mulcahey

The most memorable part of the Assisi trip for me was praying in front of the San Damiano Crucifix. Realizing that Francis actually prayed in front of this cross was an unbelievable experience.

Karley Niesen

The most impactful thing from the pilgrimage was having Mass every day. I am not the type of person who goes to Mass every day, but having Mass, especially in different places with a different culture, was the most impactful. It opened my eyes to how Mass can be fun and how much praying affects my life.

Megan Shooner

The most memorable experience was going to the dome of St. Peter’s.  It was a long trek, but worth the view to see Vatican City from the highest point.

Lucas Strunc

Assisi was a surreal experience. My favorite times were the nights we spent outside, having fun and taking in the experience.

Rebecca Mae Spears

The most impactful part of the trip to Assisi was serving for the Mass at St. Clare’s chapel. I had never served before and I was very anxious about it, but during the Mass I really felt like God was speaking to me through serving.

Pablo Veran

One thing I would take away from the trip is going to the roof of the hotel building and getting to see the beautiful view while spending time with my closest friends.

Ryan Wissel

The most memorable part of the trip was when we went up to Mt. Subasio. I thought it was really fun and nice to get to be by myself for a little while and think about whatever came to mind.

Wongelawit Yohannes

On the Assisi Scholar trip, we further grew as a community by learning about St. Francis and building strong relationships with one another.

Save the date

Roger Bacon High School’s annual Open House is 1-3 p.m. on Sunday, Oct. 27, at 4320 Vine St. in St. Bernard, Ohio. “All friars are more than welcome to attend,” says Tom Burke, RB President. Light refreshments will be served. “In the past this event has been well attended by elementary school children and their parents considering Roger Bacon as their high school choice.  We have had great attendance by friars from throughout the Province and it makes a difference.”


Being a friar was all about heart


They loved having him there. So even after Hilarion Kistner’s memory began to fail, the people of St. Stephen Parish did everything they could to help him celebrate Mass. Using cues and subtle signals, “We developed ways for him to survive,” according to one parishioner.

There was one thing they never worried about, she said. “What always hit home were his homilies. He nailed every single one, even if he messed something up at Mass. He could always give us what we needed at that point in time. And during his homilies, “He always had a twinkle in his eye.” Whatever Hilarion did, his heart was in it.

This was obvious, based upon the turnout and testimony for his funeral on Sept. 25 at St. Clement Church in St. Bernard. They came from every phase of his life, every ministry of his life, touched by his work as a teacher, as a preacher of retreats, as an editor of Sunday Homily Helps for Franciscan Media. Among those expressing gratitude were more than 50 friars and two dozen family members, including Hilarion’s sister, Sr. Amy Kistner, OSF. As one of her Franciscan sisters from Oldenburg said, “I give thanks for knowing him.”

The stories they shared reflect many variations of the word “faithful”. When Amy was working in Beattyville, Ky., she asked her brother for parish help at Easter. “For 25 years, he came down to Appalachia to do Holy Week,” she said. With preaching that was simple and succinct, “He was able to touch our hearts, the way he touched many people here.”

At Our Daily Bread soup kitchen in Cincinnati, where Hilarion bused tables once a week for years, “Everybody loved him.”

Ever grateful

Volunteers Linda and John Faulhaber saw him the first Saturday of the month for 30 years when he ministered to patients and staff at Eastgatespring nursing care during his time at Friarhurst Retreat House. “He was one of the most knowledgeable Franciscans I ever met,” said John. “He always had advice that made me a better person. He used to say, ‘Jesuits think with their brains. Franciscans think with their hearts.’ I felt the presence of the Lord in him.”

Kurt McGinnis, Hilarion’s great-nephew, looked forward to holidays “when we got to see our great-uncle. I had to mind my P’s and Q’s. He always talked to us about being right and being good. But the biggest thing was seeing him laugh, many times cracking jokes with the grandkids. He was fun.”

In the classroom, Hilarion drew mixed reviews. “I thought he was a good, good teacher,” said homilist Dennet Jung. But to Carl Langenderfer and some of his other theology students at St. Leonard College in the 1960s, Hilarion was known as “’Desert Dan’, because he was as dry as dust.”  Once when they played back a tape of his lecture, “The tape stopped,” said Frank Jasper. “He even put the tape recorder to sleep.”

As guardian at St. Leonard, “Hilarion was always gentle and humble and considerate,” said Mike Chowning, “I’d sleep in and not be there for Morning Prayer, and he never once chewed me out.” Frank, who presided at the Reception of the Body, is guardian at St. Clement, where Hilarion spent the last months of his life. “He was always gracious and grateful for whatever you did for him,” Frank said.

Scripture man

Celebrant Mark Soehner acknowledged the outpouring of love at the funeral. “We’re here tonight to celebrate and feel sad,” he said. “We celebrate the life of Hilarion, who was so good to so many of us.”  Recognizing the groups and communities in attendance took a while. Mark thanked Hilarion’s nieces and nephews, Amy’s Oldenburg sisters, former students, Franciscan Sisters of the Poor, retreatants from Friarhurst, the Poor Clares, Secular Franciscans, Franciscan Media colleagues, and parishioners from St. Stephen, who in March mounted a 90th birthday celebration for their favorite pinch-hitting priest. “Let us open our hearts to prayer for Hilarion and all those Hilarion loved.”

For homilist Dennet, one of those former students, “It was such a blessing to be present for the Reception of the Body. I learned a lot from what you all said.” For example, “Even though Hilarion didn’t like being called ‘Hank’, you all called him that.”

Dennet and other students knew him as “Kohelet”, after the author of the Book of Ecclesiastes, “because we spent a lot of time on that in Scripture class.” Despite what others said, “I really enjoyed his class,” Dennet said. “He loved the Scriptures.”

First and foremost, “He was my teacher and he was a confidant of mine.” In the transition years around Vatican II, “I got upset we weren’t moving ahead quickly enough. I was leaning to the left. Hilarion calmed me down. He was a centrist; he kept me centered. The reason he was so centered is because he was focused on the center, focused on God.”

‘God is good’

Later, “When I was in parish work, I was struggling,” Dennet said. In a letter, Hilarion urged him to keep going. “He said, ‘God’s going to make everything all right in the end. God loves you. God will save you. Hang in there.’” As Dennet did indeed learn, “God is a good listener. He always listened to me when I was asking him to help me out.”

The selection of readings for the funeral did not surprise Dennet, especially the “All is vanity” passage from Ecclesiastes on Solomon’s search for the meaning of life. “Hilarion was Franciscan at heart. He lived a simple life and boasted only in the Lord,” believing that “God is good and all that we have and are is gift. What do we have to boast about? Nothing.”

As a young friar, Dennet said, “I was trying to make all things right. Hilarion was a simple friar,” following the teachings of Christ, “and he helped us be that way,” by setting an example of faithfulness. Through him, Dennet and many others saw that “we should do what we were made to do – be images of God.”

Dennet signed off by echoing the encouraging message he once received from his friend and teacher.

“Your reward will be great in heaven, Hilarion. Hang in there.”


Defend yourself against falls

(A rash of recent incidents involving falls convinced us we should rerun this column, which first appeared last year.)

Falls in the home can occur in bedrooms, bathrooms, and on stairs.  For seniors, falls in and around the home are the most frequently occurring accident.  In fact, falls and the resulting injuries can accelerate the need to move to a long-term care facility.  Causes of falls in and around the home related to health and age changes are problems with balance, slow reflexes, poor eyesight, and use of certain medications.

Other dangerous situations in the home that may cause falls are:

  • Slippery floors
  • Poor lighting
  • Electrical cords in pathways
  • Loose rugs
  • Raised thresholds
  • Clutter

The following checklist is designed to help seniors minimize the risk of falling in their home:

  • Remove all extraneous clutter in your house.
  • Keep telephone and electrical cords out of pathways.
  • Tack rugs and glue vinyl flooring so they lie flat. Remove or replace rugs or runners that tend to slip, or attach nonslip backing.
  • Ensure that carpets are firmly attached to the stairs.
  • Do not stand on a chair to reach things. Store frequently used objects where you can reach them easily.
  • Use night lights in the bedroom, bathroom, and hallways.
  • Keep a flashlight handy.
  • Have light switches at both ends of the stairs and halls.  Use handrails on stairs.
  • Turn on the lights when you go into the house at night.
  • Have a lamp or light switch that you can easily reach without getting out of bed.
  • Add grab bars in shower, tub, and toilet areas.
  • Use nonslip adhesive strips or a mat in shower or tub.
  • Consider sitting on a bench or stool in the shower.
  • Consider using an elevated toilet seat.
  • Use helping devices, such as canes or walkers, as directed by your healthcare provider.
  • Wear nonslip, low-heeled shoes or slippers that fit snugly.  Avoid walking around in stocking feet.

Wishing everyone safe travels,

Michelle Viacava, RN

Province Nurse

Potential hazards

Also important:

  • Review medications with your doctor or pharmacist.  Some drugs, including over-the-counter drugs, can make you drowsy, dizzy and unsteady.
  • Discuss safe amounts of alcohol intake with your physician.
  • Have your hearing and eyesight tested.  Inner ear problems can affect balance.  Vision problems make it difficult to see potential hazards.
  • Exercise regularly to improve muscle flexibility, strength, and balance. Talk to your healthcare professional about exercise programs that are right for you.
  • If you fee dizzy or lightheaded, sit down or stay seated until your head clears.  Stand up slowly to avoid unsteadiness.

Eternal rest in Illinois

Part 3: Day 4

Sunday, Aug. 4, 2019

St. Joseph Cemetery, West Peoria, Ill.

PHOTOS BY LOREN CONNELL, OFMAt St. Joseph, some slabs are deterioratingSt. Joseph is a medium-sized, older urban cemetery.  Our friars are buried in a section with other clergy.  No identifying fixture marks the clergy in general or the friars in particular.  Our first nine stones are upright marble slabs, the next four are upright granite slabs, and the last seven are sloping granite slabs close to the ground.

Hubert Kalt, brother of Robert and Cuthbert, was the first friar to be buried there.  Casimir (Casey) Kolesar was the last.  The ninth was Ernest Moser, a member of St. Leopold Province who came to minister here long after St. John the Baptist had been established.  He apparently worked with us in Illinois much as our Pakistani brothers work with us in Jamaica.  Julius Henze’s and Aloysius Albrecht’s slabs are deteriorating.  All of the priests are Revs, some of the brothers are Vens, and some are not.  (I suspect that Justin Hangbers is just as happy not being venerable.)

Forty years ago Faran Boyle and I were occasional partners or opponents at bridge.  I lived with Justin for two years at St. Clement.  Casey and I were together in Lafayette for a while, he at St. Boniface and I at St. Elizabeth.  Several of our brothers here suffered from severe psychiatric illnesses.  Others struggled with alcohol addiction.  Some experienced recovery.  Twenty friars, 20 stories, all at peace.

Part 3: Day 5

Mid-morning Monday, Aug. 5, 2019

St. Mary Cemetery, Metamora, Ill.

The baldacchino at St. Mary CemeteryToday I visited cemeteries in Metamora, Streator, and Bloomington.  Before I ever reached the friars’ plot in St. Mary, Metamora, I already saw multiple stones marked Waldschmidt, a clear reminder that here were our brother Valens’ roots.  Seventeen friars are buried here, the first 14 of them around a fieldstone altar and baldacchino, the last three in front of stations of the cross.  A bronze plaque on the side of the altar reads, “In memory of Reverend Arnold Heinzmann, OFM.”

St. Mary was the first cemetery in Illinois where we began to bury our friars.  Joachim Hunn was the first; Antonine Scheetz, the last.  The first five burials are marked by fairly small stones, close to the ground, carved in the shape of an open scroll.  Eight of the next nine are marked by slightly larger, more conventional blocks of gray granite.  The exception is Pfc Maurus Reibenspies’ bronze veteran’s plaque.  Samuel Goldwater, Casper Gensler, and Tony (Antonine) Scheetz have red granite stones, each before a specific station.  I was startled to note the date of Casper’s death, 1986.  In my memory it was only 15 years ago, 20 at the most, when we learned of his disappearance; he died while hiking in the Grand Canyon.  Sam and Tony, both deceased pastors of the parish at Roanoke-Benson, have flowers at their graves.  I am both humbled and happy to note the affection which parishioners apparently had for Tony, who among many friars was not known for his congeniality.

The cemetery has just opened a new main entrance, marked by an impressive polished granite slab.  As visitors leave, they see the back of the slab with the prayer, “Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord, and may perpetual light shine upon them.”

Late morning, Monday, Aug. 5, 2019

St. Anthony Cemetery, Streator, Ill.

St. Anthony Cemetery is near railroad tracks out in the country; in the short time that I was here two trains went by. I saw a large stone in the cemetery marked Colesar, no doubt a variant spelling marking a relative of our brother Casey, another Streator native.  On my way out of town I passed a sign pointing to Leonore, home of Charlie Miller.

Loren at St. MarySt. Anthony is a fairly small cemetery and has been around for a while.  A relatively new black granite stone welcomes visitors.  Walking around here is a challenge, for a number of graves, probably without vaults, are sinking, and the ground is very uneven.  A roughly 4-foot gray granite obelisk topped with a stone cross marks our friars’ plot.  The names of Candidus Mertens and Dominic Meier are inscribed on the front.  Candidus, Dominic, and Herman Joseph Grote are buried to the left, each with his own granite stone.  Herman Joseph’s name never got inscribed on the obelisk.  The first and third individual stones are above ground; Dominic’s is sinking.

No friar has been buried here since 1943.  Only Mt. Elliott in Detroit and St. John in Cincinnati go back further in time without a friar’s burial.  Will a friar ever pass this way again?  I am once more reminded of yesterday’s reading: “Vanity of vanities, and all is vanity.”  Requiescat in pace.

Monday afternoon, Aug. 5, 2019

St. Joseph Cemetery, Bloomington, Ill.

St. Joseph, the cemetery for St. Mary Parish, is the last cemetery that the friars began to use in Illinois.  A new fence and entryway appear to be under construction.  From Ulric Kreutzen to Gregg Petri, six friars are buried about 2 feet inside a wide, semicircular hedge.  A large crucifix stands at the center point of the semicircle.

The friars’ stones are gray granite, flat with the ground, each embedded in its own 3-to-4 inch border of concrete.  Because of those borders, grass and soil are less likely to intrude on the stones than at places such as Mt. St. Mary, Lakeview, or Holy Sepulchre.  The stones face the hedge behind them, not the crucifix in front of them.  As a consequence visitors have to walk somewhat awkwardly between the hedge and the graves to read the names of the friars.  I personally knew Dacian Batt, Aquinas Schneider, and Gregg.  Relatives or friends have left a fading wreath and a homemade plaque at the grave of their native son, Gregg.

  • At the clinic, Valerie with RoscoeFriars David Kohut and Tim Sucher were on hand Sunday, Oct. 6, to offer blessings and welcome the owners of 145 dogs and cats to the annual Pet Health Day at St. Francis Seraph Church in Over-the-Rhine. This year 126 dogs and 19 cats received free vet examinations, vaccinations, flea treatments, and assistance with minor health problems, thanks to United Pet Fund and its sponsoring partners. Pets also went home with free pet food, leashes and toys. “It’s nice to come down here and take advantage of it,” said guest Kevin, who brought his 12½ year-old dog, Chaos, for the third year in a row. Because of the clinic, “She’s never had any health problems. God is good to both of us.”
  • In a new video for Franciscan Media, David Crank explains how “a grace-filled moment” changed his life, prompting his journey to Catholicism and the friars. Hear his inspiring story at: FranciscanMedia
  • PHOTO BY GREG FRIEDMAN, OFMTransitus at St. Saviour’sAcross the country, around the world: Last week Loren Connell observed Transitus with 200 Secular Franciscans, Third Order Religious, friars from all three branches of the First Order, and friends gathered at Oblate School of Theology in San Antonio. “The ceremony was very prayerful,” says Loren, who’s in Texas attending a program while on sabbatical. “Wayne Hellmann, OFM Conv, preached, and the choir from St. Mary’s University provided the music.  Afterwards all celebrated with food and fellowship.” At the end of a Holy Land pilgrimage, Greg Friedman celebrated Transitus with brothers in Jerusalem at St. Saviour’s Church in the Old City, the headquarters of the Holy Land Franciscans.
  • Thanks to a publishing house in Krakow, the people of Poland can now purchase Francis: The Journey and the Dream in their native language. This is the 10th foreign-language translation of Murray Bodo’s ground-breaking book, first released in 1972. There are also Japanese, Danish, French, Spanish, Chinese, Italian, German, Maltese and Czech editions available. The Polish translation is the first to use the 40th Anniversary Edition published by Franciscan Media in 2011.




What makes us ‘Franciscan’?


Hilarion volunteering at Our Daily BreadThis week after the Feast of St. Francis, I’m recalling a portion of the “Mirror of Perfection” (#85), where Francis was recorded as saying that a good Lesser Brother would be “like the faith and love of poverty which Br. Bernard had, the simplicity and purity of Br. Leo, the courtly bearing of Br. Angelo, the friendly manner and common sense of Br. Masseo”, etc.  Just about every brother who joined that early band of friars offered Francis some facet of goodness, holiness, even though they were all very much diamonds in the rough.

Each one held some specific facet of holiness that no one else could replicate or mimic.  This is why Francis pointed to specific individual friars, who also held quite a number of faults.

I think of what Francis might say about our brother, Hilarion Kistner.  He certainly had patience with sinners in confession (my own testimony—and others!).  He had a humor that was dry—sometimes even rude to the uninitiated.  He would say of himself that he was a “curmudgeon”.  It was the first time that I heard that word applied when he told us this quality in himself in our novitiate.  He generally made me laugh.  He was serious about God’s incredible, forgiving love.

I was privileged last week to offer a reflection on what makes Roger Bacon High School “Franciscan” to the incoming first-year teachers.  I was surprised to learn that, by observing the school’s actual operation, these bright instructors could already identify the students who were respectful, worked in community, and generally included the person on the edge.

Just before that conversation, we were also treated to a “live cam” from Italy of the Assisi Piazza, where the Assisi Scholars and their chaperones and principal, Steve Schad, were belting out the Roger Bacon fight song and the Alma Mater.  In the midst of this songfest, one student was turning cartwheels, which I think I could manage at the age of 5, but certainly not long after that.

Perhaps these diamonds in the rough are what make any of our institutions “Franciscan”.  Occasionally, someone can see the facets of our uniqueness that make us shine, often due to the shaving off of grace that we call suffering—or great love. I wonder which qualities St. Francis would notice about us?  About me?  About you?


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

Eternal rest in Illinois

Hilarion volunteering at Our Daily BreadThis week after the Feast of St. Francis, I’m recalling a portion of the “Mirror of Perfection” (#85), where Francis was recorded as saying that a good Lesser Brother would be “like the faith and love of poverty which Br. Bernard had, the simplicity and purity of Br. Leo, the courtly bearing of Br. Angelo, the friendly manner and common sense of Br. Masseo”, etc.  Just about every brother who joined that early band of friars offered Francis some facet of goodness, holiness, even though they were all very much diamonds in the rough.

Office of Communications Province of St. John the Baptist