November 21, 2019
BY MARK SOEHNER, OFM
ISTOCK.COM PHOTOWe thank God for the grace to be together.eating
Many people travel long distances just to find their way home. The purpose of this holiday is to Give Thanks. Generally, even people of no faith can recognize the fact that no one deserves what we have, and that at least a Power Greater than Ourselves is somehow mysteriously at work in our lives. As U.S. citizens without an official religion, we don’t identify that Power.
This year I’m going to be with my brother David’s family. Often there has been the playing of games in one room, a television focused on a football game in another room, and a room for those just talking. There is the smell of pumpkin spice that people are raving about these days – a mixture of ground cinnamon, ginger, clove and allspice.
We do stop after everyone is seated to say “thanks”. We thank God for the beautiful food before us, but also for the grace to be together this year. We remember our gratitude for our parents, grandparents, mentors, spiritual fathers and mothers, those who have died and with whom we are still connected, friends, material blessings, our incredible lives. I thank God for being so forgiving and beautiful and merciful to us all. Most of all I give thanks for our lives in Christ, and while we certainly are not at Mass, I do think this is one meaning of the Eucharist – to give thanks.
This day seems a great and important time to look back on our lives, all the undeserved “breaks” we’ve received from God, and whisper, “Thank you, thank you, thank You!”
COMPILED BY TONI CASHNELLI
(With the holidays upon us, we asked friars how they stay focused on Advent and tune out the distractions of the season. Here’s what they had to say.)
Alex Kratz, OFMAlex Kratz, OFM
Sadly, Advent can be a time of stress instead of peaceful preparation for the coming King, but I ask King Baby Jesus in prayer to help me keep up with everything coming at me. It works. Paradoxically, the extra work of writing Christmas cards is a relaxing outlet for me to thank, greet or encourage the people in my life that have been a “Christmas blessing” to me throughout the year – even before Christmas has come.
Tim Lamb, OFMTim Lamb, OFM
Once I entered the Franciscans, I left all the trappings of the season behind me: the decorating, planning and going to parties and dinners, and buying presents and on and on and on. In the void I developed an attitude of prayerful waiting. I use reflection books, increase my prayer time and note the passing craziness of the world and rejoice in the emptiness of all that was and the promise of what will be.
Ed Gura, OFMEd Gura, OFM
One way in which I face, embrace and find peace during stressful moments is through the wisdom of the parable of the Storm on the Lake. I see Jesus in the boat with me during the storm on the sea. He calms the waves and wind within. Within I am at peace though the storm continues around me.
John Barker, OFMJohn Barker, OFM
I’m fortunate that I don’t typically get stressed out during Advent, but I do have trouble staying focused on the season, especially when the semester is busy wrapping up. One thing that helps me stay in the season is to attend solemn vespers on Sundays. This is one of my favorite liturgies: so peaceful and so beautiful. It’s a great way to prepare for Christmas.
Joshua Richter, OFMJoshua Richter, OFM
Santa Barbara, Calif.
To stay focused on Advent amid the stressful time leading up to Christmas, I continue my family’s tradition of the scripture readings from the Jesse Tree, which goes from the story of creation on the first day of Advent and ends with the birth of Jesus on Christmas Day.
Jerry Beetz, OFMJerry Beetz, OFM
With the passing of my sister Dorothy in April and the selling of the family home, the holidays will be very different for me and my three brothers. After our parents’ passing, Dottie always made sure we celebrated the holidays with her in the family home. Now that she is gone and the house as well, we will have to develop a new way to celebrate. Tough time; prayers needed.
John Boissy, OFMJohn Boissy, OFM
What I do to to help me stay relaxed is to not overschedule myself and make time to get outside and do things that help me relax and enjoy nature, such as hiking or skiing.
Al Hirt, OFM
Al Hirt, OFMI don’t find Advent really stressful. I do try to be more deliberate in carving out some morning quiet with some daily Advent reflection resource. WGUC (classical music station) is a mainstay in my relaxing.
Mike Lenz, OFMMike Lenz, OFM
During Advent I sense that time speeds along more quickly than usual. I try to spend more time in quiet prayer and reading. The hyper-activity and noise can spoil the days before Christmas. I do as little shopping as possible at this time. This helps me to keep Christ in Christmas. However, the biggest stress that affects me is writing Christmas cards. I wait too long to begin them. The old movies of childhood (Christmas Story, etc.) and the good old Christmas carols bring back relaxing memories of yesteryear. For Christmas many of us in our Detroit Cluster gather for Vespers, drinks and a delicious meal. Good memories. Then life gradually gets back to normal. Merry Christmas to all.
BY MARK HUDAK, OFM
Mark Hudak, OFMAround 10:05 p.m. on Nov. 7, 2019, which happened to be the one-year anniversary of my mother’s passing, I tripped while walking home from work at Roger Bacon High School. Teacher-parent conferences ended around 8 or 8:30 that evening, but I stayed around a little longer to get some work done in the ITC.
I walked to work that morning, since we were asked not to park in the school’s parking lots to allow room for our guests. Walking to and from work is one of the joys of living so close to the school. I enjoy walking and think it is a lot of fun. Well, one unlucky stumble on the uneven sidewalks of Leonard Avenue soon had me sprawled on the side of the road. I remember the sensation of my right shoe coming off and my sock sliding on the cold, wet roots of a tree that has raised the concrete over the years. My forward momentum coupled with the extra stumble over those roots meant that I was coming down face-first. Luckily, I suppose, my right shoulder arm and side were first to hit the pavement.
I heard my humerus bone break as I landed. That awful sound, like a large piece of chalk breaking, still sends shivers up my spine. There is absolutely nothing humorous about breaking that bone. My first thought was, “I don’t think I hit my face, thank God!” Then I thought, “I have to get out of the street before I am run over by a car!” Lastly, I got up and rummaged around for my missing right shoe. I made sure to keep breathing, hoping to make it home, so I kept walking. I made it no farther than Delmar when I realized I was starting to go into shock.
Fortunately, Br. Chris Cahill answered his cell phone that night and came to my rescue. He took me home as I insisted, but once we were in the house it was obvious that I needed paramedics. At first I thought I had dislocated my shoulder. The pain was pretty intense at that point. Chris called 911 and by 1:30 a.m., I was back at home and adjusting to my new one-armed existence.
Now, you were asking me how I deal with stress at the holidays. All I can say is that I do chores. I listen to books and I play video games to deal with stress. When I meditate I try to revisit memories and emotions from the past and pray for the people I miss.
This undoubtedly will be one of the lowest holiday seasons I have ever had. Yet there is wisdom to be gained by enduring pain. There is always someone else in more pain than I can imagine. The joys of Thanksgiving, Advent and Christmas are now tinged with a lot of gloomy darkness. Winter days are short and the darkness seems to close in around us. I miss my mother and father and their entire generation. I wonder how for so many years they must have missed their own parents. Yet they were joyful people filled with hope and always setting good examples.
I think by remaining jovial and perhaps providing love and hospitality toward others I, too, will find peace and joy. With Christ there is always hope and Light at the end of the darkness.
BY TONI CASHNELLI
Families at Holy Name Church had a lot to celebrate.Friar Tom Speier had this advice for the crowd gathered on a sunny Saturday at Holy Name Church in Cincinnati:
“Let the good times roll!”
They didn’t need encouragement. Parishioners, guests and VIPs who came to mark Black Catholic History Month were there to celebrate. For 2½ hours on Nov. 16 they worshipped, they sang, and they honored sisters and brothers whose lives are examples of faith, hope and love. The theme for this third annual observance, “Order My Steps”, flowed from the gospel anthem for the day and the powerful passage from Psalms on which it is based.
The exuberant day was framed around a Mass featuring choirs from Holy Name and St. Anthony parishes, elegant liturgical dancing by Flora Leptak-Moreau, the return of former Pastor Terry Meehan and a homily from Bill Cross, the second African American to be ordained a priest in the Archdiocese of Cincinnati. But the undisputed highlight was a prelude performance of True Colors by the second-grade choir of Corryville Catholic School. The message was acceptance, and the earnest singers, barely bigger than toddlers, had listeners smiling and sniffling at the same time.
It was Parish Administrator Tom who welcomed an audience of old friends, new friends, city officials and state representatives. He began with a sobering reminder that 2019 is the 400th anniversary of the year the first African was sold into slavery in the New World. But this day was about what came after, and the progress and contributions made by black Catholics to the Church and to society.
Concelebrating at Mass: homilist Bill Cross, former Pastor Terry Meehan and Administrator Tom SpeierCourtis Fuller
He introduced Councilman David Mann, bearing greetings from the City of Cincinnati. “There’s a certain grace and peace we feel at Holy Name,” David said, “so whatever you’re doing, it’s working very well.” He previewed the day’s centerpiece, the presentation of three honorees who established a life-changing sports program for local youth.
In 1986, Rachel Fair, Denise Carpenter and Anthony Pack founded the Inner City Tennis Project to give kids 5-18 years old an affordable outlet for their energy and athletic skills. What started as a six-week summer workshop became a successful year-round program that also teaches children personal and community responsibility. The long-term goal: “To keep kids on the court and out of court.”
Brought forward to sustained applause at Holy Name, all three expressed their gratitude, but Anthony left the audience with a quote that was especially appropriate for a celebration of success and empowerment. “As Dr. Martin Luther King said, ‘Not everybody can be famous. But everybody can be great.’ ” The only thing to add was, “Amen!”
BY LOREN CONNELL, OFM
Early Afternoon, Thursday, Aug. 15, 2019
St. Stephen Cemetery, Hamilton, Ohio
PHOTOS BY LOREN CONNELL, OFMFriar graves flank a crucifixion scene at St. Stephen.St. Stephen is old, the second cemetery that our brothers began to use here in the United States, St. John in Cincinnati being the first. An older St. Stephen lies across the street from a newer one. From Nicholas Angerer in 1859 to Richard Marendt in 1982, 17 friars, along with some other priests, are buried in a prominent section of the newer cemetery. Among them is Hamilton native Lawrence Long, the first friar to die in the Upper Peninsula, well before we had a plot in either Calumet or Escanaba.
I suspect that the first several friars, Lawrence included, may have been originally buried in the old cemetery and later reinterred in the new, for none of the stones appear to be of 19th-century design. Indeed, all of the stones, including those of the other priests, are identical gray granite blocks 8 to 10 inches above ground. They are lined up in two rows flanking a grassy approach to a crucifixion scene which greets visitors as they enter the cemetery. An 18th friar, Paul Schneider of Our Lady of Guadalupe Province, is supposed to be buried in St. Stephen, but his stone is not with the others. Perhaps he is buried in a family plot.
The names of all nine friars before Urban Freundt are in Latin; his and those of the remaining seven are in English. Might Urban, builder, classicist, and guardian of the local friary, have designed this cemetery plot as his final project? The 14 friar priests are Revs, Raphael Hesse, but not Urban, being Very (why not admodum?) Rev. The one lay friar is Ven, and the two clerical students are Ven Frs. The month, day, and year of their ordination are inscribed on the priests’ stones. The month, day, and year of their investiture are inscribed on the stones of the other three friars. Among the people of Butler County, 123 years of Franciscan presence are represented here. It is a legacy to be cherished.
Mid Afternoon, Thursday, Aug. 15, 2019
Holy Family Cemetery, Oldenburg, Ind.
A gray stone obelisk at Holy Family marks the older section.Twenty-eight friars are buried in Holy Family Cemetery, 24 in an older section and four in a newer section. The older section is marked by a 6- or 7-foot gray stone obelisk topped with a cross, with the crossed arms of Jesus and Francis prominently engraved on the front. On the base is inscribed “OFM”. The names of the first six priests to be buried here are inscribed on the front, below the traditional logo of the order; the name of the seventh is inscribed on the right side. The names of the first five clerical students are inscribed on the left side. The names of the first five lay friars are inscribed on the back. Louis Haverbeck’s (1934) is the last name on the monument. No other names have been added.
Each of the first 17 friars has his own stone tablet, the priests in front of the monument, the clerical students on either side, and the lay friars in the back. Only the first names are inscribed on the tablets. Most of the tablets are deteriorating, and some names are difficult to read. Each of the last 11 friars has his own raised gray granite block. Seven of those 11, including the three Held brothers, are at the monument in the older section; the last four (Sylvester Heppner, Leonard Kireski, Raymar Middendorf, and Benno Heidlage) are in the newer section. Each block contains the friar’s name, birth–, and death– year inscribed inside a defined border. Outside of the
I am sad to see class distinctions so clearly delineated here in Holy Family. I am not naïve. I know the history of clericalism in the Order and the province, but I wasn’t prepared to see it so blatantly on display as it is here. There is sweet irony in that the only friar permanently identified as Friend was not a cleric!
Late Afternoon, Thursday, Aug. 15, 2019
St. Louis Cemetery, Batesville, Ind.
PHOTOS BY LOREN CONNELL, OFMEntering St. Louis CemeteryFor all the rich tradition that our province has had with Batesville, only two friars are buried here, Herculan Kolinski and Owen Gehring, whose brother Gordon’s grave I visited earlier today at St. Stephen. A long entrance lane ends at a circular plot dominated by a large crucifixion scene. Our brothers are buried to the rear left of the statuary group. Their graves are marked by raised blocks of gray granite. Only their names and dates are given. It is a simple, somber, and unpretentious setting. That is the kind of life that our brothers vowed, the kind of life that I vowed. May their lives guide mine.
On my way out I notice several Voegele and Weigel stones, reminding me that Batesville was home to our brothers Fritz and Jovian.
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My sister-in-law creates a beautiful table with all the traditional Thanksgiving foods: turkey, dressing, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, gravy, cranberries. Naturally there is pumpkin pie, maybe also a cherry one. But then there’s the question of vegetables, as well as, do we serve dinner rolls with this? Growing up, David and I may have inconspicuously tossed a single pea at each other – a secret war when we were bored. Was this part of the reason for a children’s table?
Concelebrating at Mass: homilist Bill Cross, former Pastor Terry Meehan and Administrator Tom SpeierTom turned things over to Courtis Fuller, a weekend news anchor for Channel 5 and an engaging emcee. “It’s such a warm, welcoming church,” Courtis said of Holy Name, a small parish with a big heart, one known for its diverse community.
ISTOCK.COM PHOTOWe thank God for the grace to be together.On the fourth Thursday of November, the people of the United States have a holiday that is celebrated by bringing together families, inviting others in, and eating. It was started by George Washington, and then intermittently celebrated until Abraham Lincoln declared it a stable national holiday. This day holds the disputed memory of Pilgrims in 1621, who after a devastating famine and a successful corn harvest, were encouraged to come together with Native Peoples by Gov. William Bradford.