February 7, 2019
Law student sets his sights on helping the poor
BY TONI CASHNELLI
Michael Charron, OFMHis law degree in sight, Br. Michael Charron is not quite ready to relax.
With finals behind him, Michael is a lot less stressed than he was in December. But there’s one more hurdle to clear. “I’m not going to be anything in the future if I don’t pass the bar,” he says, referring to the lengthy exam that will test his mind and his mettle – and officially make him a lawyer.
That was the goal three years ago when he entered Appalachian School of Law in Grundy, Va., a quiet town of 1,000 in the hills of Southwest Virginia. “We have a Wal-Mart, a Chinese restaurant, and a movie theater that is subsidized by the county,” so distractions from studies are few. “It has pretty much everything you need but not everything you want.”
PHOTO BY ALAMY.comTop, Michael at the law library; he plans to seek justice for those with limited means.
Lacking the support system some brothers enjoy, Michael has managed to prevail, absorbing the finer points of Torts, Contracts and Civil Procedures and learning how Family, Criminal and Constitutional Law relate to the people he plans to represent.
His head filled with facts and legal precedents, “I can help the poor in a lot of ways.”
When he enrolled in 2016, “I started out wanting to do immigration law. Then I wanted to do criminal law. I’ve also been interested in family law,” especially since his internship in 2017 with the Hamilton County (Ohio) Court of Domestic Relations. “I just kind of need to see what people need. Once I figure that out I’ll specialize in an area.”
An interest in law was always there, fanned in high school by the Ohio Mock Trial program, a statewide competition in which students argue cases before a panel of judges. “Back in 1999 I did a career assessment with a guy at church, and we came Top, the campus in Grundy, Va.; above, Michael with Judge Amy Searcy during his 2017 internshipup with ‘Lawyer’” as a likely profession. It seemed like a good fit. “It’s very practical,” says Michael, a practical guy. “People always need attorneys. If you read the paper, almost everything has something to do with law.”
After graduating from the University of Cincinnati, “I needed to start working, so I got a paralegal certificate and a job at Fifth Third Bank. That’s when I started discerning with friars.” Solemnly professed in 2014, he spent three years in Chicago at Catholic Theological Union before choosing this nontraditional path.
Although law school was challenging, “I think I’ve learned I can take on a lot.”
The teachers were demanding, he admits, but nothing like the classroom tyrants portrayed on TV. “We didn’t have any of that really bad Socratic method,” with the exception of one professor who liked putting students on the spot. “Everything else was the typical setting of lectures and taking notes,” with cases assigned for study and presentation.
Among his peers, Michael’s status as a friar was no big deal. “Some people know what it is and show me more respect. Some people have zero idea of what it is to be a friar. If people ask, I tell them. Because I live by myself I fall into a ‘normal student’ category.”
FILE PHOTOMichael at St. Joseph Church
There’s a lot to remember. “What we’ve learned,” Michael says, “is that for each case, you boil it down to an issue. That issue has finite parameters,” whether it involves a crime or a contract. “You dial into the issue and look at what the law says about it, and what other cases say about the issue.” From that, you frame your argument.
As Michael knows, people’s lives and livelihoods depend upon lawyers getting things right, particularly in criminal cases. “Our constitutional right is to be free, and to take away that constitutional right is a big deal. You have to make sure that person did everything they’re accused of doing. It should be difficult to take away their freedom, but it happens all the time” to those with limited means.
“Justice for all” is a noble concept, but it doesn’t always work for the poor. “People get accused of a crime and they don’t have a lawyer.” Michael’s goal is to level the playing field.
Law students focus on the instructor.
As for the notoriously difficult exam, which consists of essays and multiple-choice questions, “The volume of what you have to know is incredible. They say that when you take the bar you know the most law you’re ever going to know.”
Fueled by faith and focused on his mission, Michael is determined to succeed.
“Each semester has been tough,” he says, “and I’ve been able to get through it.”
I am glad to be in this beautiful state of Florida, with its alligators, wild turkeys and genuine wildness. Sights such as a tree in full bloom cause me to stand in awe. I know that God will interact with me Ð and us Ð as we walk into a new future together.
FROM HAROLD GEERS, OFM
Harold Geers, OFMThe mail is stranded in Manila!
On Dec. 23 I went to the Post Office in Palo, Leyte, to pick up some Christmas mail. I thought maybe they might already be closed for Christmas Eve.
I asked the Post Mistress, “Any mail for Mt. La Verna?” “No,” she said. “There’s just none at all?” “Yes,” she said. Well, I knew that Christmas mail was heavy and they do not put on any extra help. So I figured I would come back after Christmas.
I waited a day or two after Christmas. Dec. 28 I went back to the Post Office to pick up the Christmas mail. “Mail for La Verna?”, I asked.
“There is none,” she answered. “The mail is stranded in Manila for two weeks.”
That stopped me! I didn’t want to question or embarrass the poor woman. That’s all she knew; she couldn’t do anything. I went back home, empty-handed … again!
There are three airlines flying into Tacloban, just 20 minutes from Palo. Each airline has two flights a day; so that’s six flights flying into Tacloban every day. The weather was rainy at times (rainy season) but otherwise OK. There was no talk of flights being cancelled or anything like that. So what was the hold-up? I knew the President had declared Dec. 26 and Jan. 2 holidays also, so people could enjoy the Christmas season.
I figured I would go back to pick up the Christmas mail on Jan. 11. This was a first, even for the Philippines!
(Harold’s note, mailed from the Philippines in early January, arrived last week.)
BY ED GURA, OFM
Center, her new coat fits perfectly.Christmas 2018 at St. Aloysius Church left me especially grateful for the love of a great number of people who make possible our outreach ministry to those in need on the streets of Detroit. Donations of food, winter clothing, hand warmers and much more far exceeded our hopes, and because of the generosity of so many, many people are being fed and keeping warm.
On one particularly cold December morning we set out for the Rosa Parks Bus Terminal in vehicles packed with food and winter clothing, including three large bags of assorted sizes of men’s and women’s winter coats. On this day God sent our way many people in need of winter coats. To our amazement we were able to match up every man and woman with the correct make and size. One young woman came to us without a coat. We only had one left and it was a perfect fit for our new friend.
Ed Gura and a guest
The many caring people who help us feed many hungry people reminds me of the many hungry people Jesus fed with but a few pieces of bread and fish. There were even bushel baskets of food left over after 5,000 were fed, just as we had left-over food after serving our Christmas Eve morning meal. Miracles do happen when we see with the eyes of Jesus.
As we continue to tread the pathways of the New Year, may we do so with hearts open to the grace of God who desires to strengthen our desire and resolve to grow in holiness, mercy and patience, just as the God of our salvation is holy, merciful and patient. May we allow ourselves to be changed in the ways God wishes to change us this year.
(This story originally appeared in the Winter newsletter of St. Aloysius Neighborhood Services.)
Ministries, meetings and time to reflect
BY MARK SOEHNER, OFM
With Jim Bok, Colin King and Stephen Dupuis in Negril, JamaicaEach of the past three weeks have seen me on the road, initially in Jamaica, then followed by a meeting of the US-6 provincials in Albuquerque, and now a bit of retreat with the friars as we interact with Richard Rohr and one another. A word on each.
Stepping off the plane in Jamaica with the Provincial Council, we were hit with a wave of warmth, humidity and the smell of the sea. When I was explaining to Cincinnatians about our missions with the Jamaican people, they would just smile with that look, “But we know why you are really going!” I imagine that they could envision us holding fruity drinks with little umbrellas as we Mark and the Bishopdiscussed the matters of the Province. In fairness, we were treated to real coconut water from fresh coconuts, but much of our time was spent meeting the people who live there, hearing about their concerns and as always, the giftedness of the friars.
The poverty in Jamaica is real, but so are the blessings. At Masses, I could see people who struggle to live out the Gospel. We met with Bishop Burchell McPherson, who has a strong vision for his diocese although there are only 16 priests available, three of whom are our friars. He hopes a church that is genuinely Jamaican can offer its spiritual gifts for the good of the universal church.
SJB friars on retreat with Richard Rohr, leftCaoimhin Ó’LaoideDan AndersonJohn EatonLarry Hayes
And now, a week of retreat. I like the word “retreat”, which has a PHOTO BY CARL LANGENDERFER, OFMA retreatant takes in the wilderness.connotation of “treat” in it. This is a genuine vacation with God and brothers from around the country. I’ve heard through the six-province grapevine that Richard’s presentations are powerful. That’s what I’ve come to expect since I was a teen-ager and first listened to him. After Richard’s first talk on contemplation, I know he’s still got “it”. Richard reminds us that most people come to a deeper awareness of God through great love and/or great suffering. God has in the past both pampered and challenged me during retreat times.
— Fr. Mark Soehner, OFM
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PHOTO BY ALAMY.comTop, Michael at the law library; he plans to seek justice for those with limited means.At 43, Michael is one of the more mature third-year students; most come here straight from college. He is the only friar on campus and one of a handful of worshippers at nearby St. Joseph’s Parish, which boasts six parking spots. Obviously, “I’m not living in a Catholic world here.” Each Saturday the contract priest, a native of the Philippines, welcomes 10-15 souls to weekly Mass.
The friars at Pleasant Street rolled their eyes when I told them I had only two days SJB friars on retreat with Richard Rohr, leftwith them this time. We spent extra time talking at dinner about our hopes and experiences, only for me to jump on a plane again and travel to Albuquerque. This was where the US-6 Provincials met for our quarterly face-to-face meeting. This time we were joined by our General Definitor, Caoimhin Ó’Laoide. We were held together by three friars: Dan Anderson, John Eaton and Larry Hayes, who keep us on track and work diligently outside of the meeting to coordinate. All of the Provinces are engaged in plans to “get our house in order”. Please check out our minutes to see the actual areas of discussion!