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

July 03, 2019

July 20,1969, man landed on the moon:
Where were you?

Photographer Neil Armstrong is reflected in Buzz Aldrin’s visor.

John Quigley, OFM

IJohn Quigley, OFMt was a hot, dark July night at Notre Dame University. A group of us crowded into a dorm’s TV room, fixated at the images on the black and white television. In the past year we had lived through the horrific images of the killings of Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy, the riots in LA, the crushing of the protests in Czechoslovakia and Hungary and the police brutality in Chicago during the Democratic National Convention. The encyclical Humanae Vitae left a fresh wide path of confusion in the Catholic Church.

Then out of nowhere Neil Armstrong stepped into history. He showed us that with spirit, risk and hard work, impossible dreams can be realized. Astronauts were bouncing off the moon’s surface like kids at a school playground.  Suddenly hope and pride in human effort swelled, holding us all together. Anger, factionalism and cynicism melted as we watched the bulky, child-like brothers fulfill an impossible dream of the human race.

Dan Anderson, OFM

Dan Anderson, OFMA small group of us singers and instrumentalists from Duns Scotus College played for a first Mass in the Detroit area on the afternoon of the moon walk and were invited to the reception.  That evening after dinner I went outside the reception hall and sat on the side of a small hill staring at the moon.  I remember trying to wrap my mind around the fact that there were actually human beings up there.  It was an almost dizzying concept.  Later that night, watching Neil Armstrong’s foot touch the surface of the moon and hearing his words, I was choked up with wonder.

Mark Gehret, OFM

Mark Gehret, OFMI remember the images of the lunar landing on TV and the sense of pride. But what I remember most is our Fort Loramie High School band being invited to march in the parade in Wapakoneta, Ohio, for Neil Armstrong’s welcome back home and the opening of the Armstrong Air and Space Museum. I was heading into my freshman year and so I got to march in that parade. We all got to see Neil Armstrong in person. That was a great reward for having to march in the hot summer in our dress uniforms.

Dominic Lococo, OFM

Dominic Lococo, OFMI was living at the Motherhouse when the moon landing took place.  The TV room was located where the business office is now.  Two friars who were watching the landing with me were Fathers Roger Huser and Dominic Calme.  I recall we were very excited and couldn’t take our eyes off the screen, knowing it was such an historic event.  Hard to believe it was 50 years ago.

Gene Mayer, OFM

Gene Mayer, OFMWe, the novitiate class of 1968-‘69, were just four days short of a month before making our first profession in Oldenburg.  Novice Master Edwin Deane gave permission for us to turn on the TV and watch the moon landing—and yes, that was extraordinary for novitiate, let alone for Edwin.

Frank Jasper, OFM

Frank Jasper, OFMI was at Bishop Luers High School [in Fort Wayne, Ind.] when the moon landing occurred.  It was an exciting time.  As I recall, the astronauts were supposed to take a rest before the famous moon walk, but they were so excited they were unable to rest.  Many of the friars were at summer school, but all of us who were there crammed into this little television room.  Even Flavian Schneider, who never varied his rigid schedule, stayed up to watch this historic event.

It was really thrilling for me and it emphasized how we are really one tiny planet spinning around in this gigantic universe.  The pictures of the earth from the moon convinced many people that we are all in this world together.  And so, we need to learn to live in peace with each other and with Mother Earth.

Loren Connell, OFM

Loren Connell, OFMI was studying at Notre Dame University that summer.  As I recall, several of us grad students were sitting around a television set in a common area in one of the dorms.

I think it was late at night when Neil Armstrong actually stepped on the moon.  I found his “one small step for man, one giant step for mankind” puzzling then, and I find it still puzzling today.

Mark Ligett, OFM

Mark Ligett, OFMFifty years ago I was preparing to enter the novitiate, living in the postulancy program at St. Joseph’s Brothers School, which was at that time located at Mt. Airy.  We had super strict rules about watching television and we were not given the newspaper to read!

I have a vague memory of Fr. Francis Hoffer, our formation director, announcing to us during our weekly “Incidentals and Decorum Class” that Americans had landed on the moon.  I think Francis wedged that announcement in between the really important stuff we were learning in the I & D class, things like how to make hospital corners on our beds when we changed the sheets as well as the exact location where our Franciscan laundry number should be sewn into our underwear!  By the way, I was formerly number B-53!

I really have no clear memory of the Armstrong event other then what I learned in the months and years following.

Joseph Nelson, OFM

Joe Nelson, OFMI remember it well. I was at my parents’ home, sitting with them in the front room watching it on a small TV. What amazed me most was how they could broadcast to earth all the way from the moon.

Bill Farris, OFM

I was 18 years old, traveling with family on the final stretch of a long road trip. Traffic on the expressway had been stopped that day for several hours. We finally made it home to South Bend much later than expected, but just in time Bill Farris, OFMto turn on the TV and watch the landing. Even though we were all tired from the prolonged car trip, we were all excited to have arrived on time for the event.

Tom Gerchak, OFM

Tom Gerchak, OFMI remember waking up very early, about 4 a.m., to hear with my family about the lunar module landing on the moon. I am not sure what time it was when we later saw Neil Armstrong make his first step. The TV picture and sound had a lot of static in it, but we were still fascinated.

Robert Seay, OFM

Robert Seay, OFMI remember vividly when all the friars at Bishop Luers High School gathered  in the TV room to witness the landing on the moon. I can’t remember all who were present, but Conan Taylor was the most demonstrative, shouting and dancing around the room.  All of us were awestruck, but Forrest McAllister and I were the proudest. As Neil Armstrong’s home was less than 15 miles from our own Lima, he was considered a “homeboy”.

Miles Pfalzer, OFM

Miles Pfalzer, OFMThe people I spoke with thought that the moon landing was not real, just something put out by the movie industry. [Miles was a pastor in Buras, La., in July 1969.]

Henry Beck, OFM

Henry Beck, OFMI have a vivid memory of watching the moon landing on our black and white TV with all of my family members gathered around in our family room.  I can still see the images of the landing craft and first Armstrong and then Buzz Aldrin stepping down on the moon’s surface.

I remember Armstrong’s words as he stepped on the moon “one small step ... one giant leap.”   I also remember smiling as they “bounced across the surface,” and Buzz Aldrin swung his golf club on the moon’s surface.

I marveled at all that was happening, and I remember feeling very proud that President Kennedy’s goal of our “getting to the moon” by the end of the decade had come true. I also remember feeling very close to my family in these moments as we watched these historic images together.

Norbert Bertram, OFM

Norbert Bertram, OFMJohn Friebel and Bart Wolf and I were on our way to St. Michaels Mission to start the brothers work crew. We were in simple vows and lived at Mt. Airy.  We stopped at a shopping center somewhere along the way, and right inside the Mall was a furniture store where a TV was showing the moon landing. (I called John and he agreed that this was right.)

Greg Friedman, OFM

Greg Friedman, OFMThis year’s golden jubilarians were novices, and all the rules about watching TV were suspended. We were able to follow everything, into the evening, with Walter Cronkite delighting in each accomplishment. The next morning we had special prayers of the faithful, written for the occasion. I still have my copy!


On July 20, 1969, I was 10 years old and about to turn 11 in a few hours.  I remember going to bed, only to be awoken by my good parents, encouraging their pajamaed and bleary eyed children to watch history in the making.  I was impressed by Neil Armstrong’s, “One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind,” if only for the play on words.  I began to realize, even at 10 (I may have been 11 by that time of night), that our way of seeing ourselves was changing.

My vision of humanity was changed by the repeating picture of the earth from space.  I could see the beauty of this little blue marble of a planet, slowly turning in an immense sea of darkness.  I began to understand the swirl of stars above me on a warm and dark summer night, to be composed of thousands of suns, many with planetary accompaniments.  And that this Milky Way was just one of many universes in an expanding reality.

And yet, how precious is the one step that each of us will take today?  Any small act of kindness produces ripples in the unseen amniotic Being in which we all swim and participate without general awareness.  Our efforts at being centered in that Being, of claiming our dignity as beloved sons and daughters of God, who is Love itself, send out radiating rings of love.  Clearly our actions of caring for the Beloved Community of God, who is every living being, have effects.

What one small step am I being encouraged to take today?  It may set in motion a giant leap beyond humankind, contributing to God’s Kingdom.

We had quite a time that night as we gathered around the dinner table, some of our roses from the front rose bush on the table, sharing a delicious pasta meal and salad created by John, and catching up.  We began with significant spontaneous prayer before the meal.  We told our stories that were full of heartache and laughter.  Lots of laughter.  We noticed the movement of God’s Spirit in each of our lives.  We had ice cream and berries.

I had a similar experience at our Jubilee celebration on Memorial Day.  Here the focus is on the stories and pictures from the lives of the brothers that have lived our Franciscan way for 25, 50 – we even had a brother with 80 years, Miles Pfalzer!  We celebrated Eucharist together at St. Monica-St. George with the good preaching of Greg Friedman.  Afterwards, we seemed to inhale the hors d’eouvres and caught up with brothers we hadn’t been with for a while.  We were invited to dinner tables set up with festive flowers.  We publicly gave tokens of esteem and thanks for those brothers celebrating this significant year.

Most of our lives are not lived at this level of intensity.  We have our daily prayer together, we work, we return to our friary dinner tables and we give God thanks for this daily bread and another undeserved day.  But underneath is the reality of the Kingdom that we get a glimpse of during these festive moments.


— Fr. Mark Soehner, OFM


Confessions of a cord-maker


Bernie Jennings, OFMI enjoyed the article in News Notes on the cord machine and the couple now making cords.  I also have a history with those machines, and everything written about them having “minds of their own” is exactly how I experienced them, too.

I was part of the candidate class who entered St. Joseph’s Brothers School at Mt. Airy in 1967.  We were a unique “transition” group, as we were the first group not to first have to become tertiaries before entering the First Order novitiate.  So, we spent two years as candidates before entering the novitiate in August of 1969.  And I was one of the candidates who spent just about every day of those two years making habits and running those cord machines.

The original cord maker among the stacks at the Archives.There were four cord machines in the tailor shop that needed to be operating eight hours a day in order to fill the orders we had.  Bernie Jennings hated to run them because of their constant breakdowns and their noise.  When all four were running, we could not hear ourselves think in that tailor shop above the garage at Mt. Airy. I was the one assigned to fill the many orders we received and so I was always begging Bernie to let us run the machines, but he would often turn them off after two hours because he could not stand the noise.

You might be interested in knowing that the machines were designed to run with wool fiber, not cotton.  The wool is filled with natural lanolin, which acted as a lubricant and allowed the shuttle to move around easily.  When we first went to cotton, the machines absolutely refused to work.  Finally, we focused on one machine alone and eventually, after several years of breakdowns every 10 minutes, it began to accept the cotton fiber.  If we were to return to using wool once again, the machine would actually run much better.  But as you know, the cotton is much easier to care for...and can be bleached!

Here are some other facts that you and the cord-making couple might find interesting:

  • Our largest client for cords was a company called Jamison out of Chicago.  Many religious orders (especially women religious) contracted with Jamison to make habit parts. They also provided cords for hundreds of communities.  At our peak, we were sending Jamison 300 to 500 yards of cord a month!
  • Two more companies, The Snow White Habit Co. and Fitzgerald, also provided habit parts.  When the Sisters of Charity of Cincinnati changed from their black habit to their first modification (long blue habit) in 1964, they had 1,600 Sisters.  Each Sister required two habits, and the transition happened all at once...on Easter Sunday.  There was no way their Sisters could make that many new habits that quickly.   They contracted with Snow White Habit Co. to make this transition – at a HUGE cost.  They wore that habit for only four years!
  • Did you also know we made blue cords for the Marist Missionary Sisters and a few other groups, black cords for the Holy Cross Order, brown cords for some group somewhere, and red cords for the Franciscan Sisters of the Poor, the Hartwell Sisters?
  • We originally made a very unique linen cord for the Poor Clare Colletines.  It was a beautiful cord and the sturdiest ever made.  The Clares at that time were buried in the same cord they were invested with, and so for some of the Sisters that had to last 70-plus years!   Bernie eventually got them to switch to wool and later to cotton.  He hated stringing the machines with linen.  The machines really hated that fiber!
  • Did the couple making cords ever see our original, foot-treadled cord machine in the Archives? For many years it sat at Oldenburg and then later in Mt. Airy’s attic!

Just thought you might enjoy some fun cord machine trivia!

  • 1970 classmatesHenry Beck was among the friars taking part in the recent Franciscan Alumni Reunion in Southfield, Mich., organized by Pastor Jeff Scheeler and alumnus Rick Gardner.  Besides seeing the former Duns Scotus College, “We also visited St. Al’s downtown and participated in Mass with Fr. Loren Connell,” Henry writes. “We saw Fr. Maynard Tetreault and Bro. Louie Zant at St. Moses the Black Church. Joris Heise [brother of friar Bert]) joined us there and at DSC. Wonderful to re-connect and enjoy one another’s company once again!”  Watch for more photos in the July 18 newsletter.
  • Author and videographer Casey Cole – now Fr. Casey Cole – captured the joyful spirit of his June 22 ordination to the priesthood in “The Day My Life Changed Forever” on his Breaking In The Habit YouTube channel at His first assignment: living and working at the Catholic Center at the University of Georgia.Congratulations, Casey!
  • Sr. Loretta and the novices at their pre-profession retreat Before yesterday’s simple profession at Old Mission Santa Barbara, the novices posted a photo on Facebook from their end-of-year retreat at Serra Retreat in Malibu. “A beautiful week in a beautiful setting” with Sr. Loretta Schaff, OSF, is how Matt Ryan described it. Frank Jasper, on hand for the profession, will share photos in the next newsletter.
  • Dog days of summer Part I: Pastor Carl Langenderfer sent this photo of the newly shorn golden retriever Kai of Holy Family Friary in Oldenburg, Ind., after her “summer Kai cools off.makeover”. And Part II: Jeff Scheeler posted a picture of his sister Joanne’s dog Bella, “praying with the friars” at Transfiguration in Southfield, Mich. Jeff is pet-sitting Bella for several weeks, and she’s made herself right at home.


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

Office of Communications Province of St. John the Baptist