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

August 08, 2019

Memorable moments

from the Chapter of Mats


For record-keepers, the Chapter of Mats was historic, the largest gathering of American friars that anyone could remember. For each of the nearly 400 brothers who gathered in Denver, it has become part of their personal history. All of them left with something to remember, whether it was a chance encounter, a homily that gave them hope, or an especially powerful presention. Several friars share their favorite moments on Page 4. Here are some of ours:


  • CLEARING THE AIR: Some of what you thought you knew about provinces is true – and some of it isn’t. The brilliant idea behind the Provincial Reputations segment was to ask a friar from each province: “What do you think the other provinces think about your province?” With good-natured candor, they shot down some long-held perceptions and admitted that others may contain an element of truth.
  • MEMORIES: At Tuesday’s Mass for the Deceased, friars were asked to speak the name of a departed brother they particularly wanted to remember – all at the same time. It was beautifully dissonant, as hundreds of brothers with various accents spoke in unison. Everyone had goose bumps.
  • GETTING REAL: When the disarmingly candid Hajime Okuhara of St. Barbara Province delivered a Witness Talk Wednesday on revitalization, he was obviously concerned about his command of English. “I have pretty big stage fright,” he admitted, regretting his decision to speak. “Please pray for me not to pass out.” During the week there were a dozen of these talks, with each friar baring his soul before a huge audience of his peers. Talk about brave.
  • WATCHING THE WATCHERS: The game was hilarious, but when vicars and provincials squared off in their own version of Family Feud on Wednesday, the real fun was seeing the response from the audience of friars. It was a joy to behold, a reminder that nothing brings people together like a good laugh.
  • WEST SIDE STORY: Tim Sucher of SJB Province and Joe Schwab of St. Barbara Province compared recipes for goetta, Cincinnati’s staple sausage, after they discovered they came from the same neighborhood, Price Hill. “My great-grandmother Amelia lived near St. Boniface Church; she taught me how to make goetta,” Joe said. “I like to cook it in the oven so it doesn’t splash. I have some in the freezer right now.”
  • WORKING IN HARMONY: Some had performed together before, but most had little time to practice. Nevertheless, musicians and singers turned in top-notch performances again and again. Maybe the group from Mass – dubbed the US-6 Ensemble – should get a band together? Especially moving was the lovely Servant Song at the beginning of the Reception of Novices, with Mark McPherson of St. Barbara Province leading the way. It was a poignant reminder of past experiences.
  • A REALLY BIG HAND: At Thursday’s Reception of Novices, Jack Clark Robinson invited friars to show their appreciation for their new brothers. The hearty and heart-felt applause went on for more than a minute. The second biggest ovation of the week was for the people of Nix, the red-shirted, omnipresent event planners, when they were introduced at Friday’s farewell. These tireless and congenial troubleshooters deserved it.
  • HOLD THAT SMILE: Taking the group portrait at the Hyatt from two floors up in the atrium, the photographer had to direct a mass of humanity. Hundreds of friars obediently scooted left and right, forward and backward, looking up toward the lens, laughing all the way. Afterward, one of them admitted, “It was practically painless.”

Watch and remember

Casey Cole interviewed novices.You’ll find a great selection of photos from the Chapter of Mats (shot by Frank Jasper of SJB Province and Octavio Duran of Holy Name Province) posted on the USFranciscans Flickr page at: USfranciscans

Video from the Reception of Novices (by Chris Meyer of SJB Province) is posted on YouTube at: Youtube

Interviews with the new novices, shot by Casey Cole of Holy Name Province, are  available at: Videos

Moments they’ll remember

An awakening: At first I was startled, surprised and momentarily uncomfortable.  The liturgy at Mass felt different and foreign, but yet, maybe not.  Then it dawned in my heart.  This way of celebrating the liturgy with its carefully crafted intermingling of languages mirrors who we truly are as an Order, as a new Province gestating into being, and the cultural reality of the United States of America called to be the one People of God.  Thank you to those friars who so thoughtfully planned the liturgies and birthed in me a new possibility of prayer.

–Mike Chowning, OFM

Like old times: I really enjoyed seeing the former novices I had when I was part of the novitiate team.  Lots of good memories, and lots of good stories.  There was so much energy in the room and Franciscan joy at its best. I took a tour Wednesday to the see the life of St. Francis Cabrini. There was a big picture at my church back home, and I really did not know anything about her.  I bought a book about her life and it is something I will always remember.  I just wish the time had not gone by so fast.

–Norbert Bertram, OFM

A moving film: One experience that stood out for me was our watching together a new movie about Pope Francis: Call Me Francis. The segment about his struggles as a young provincial superior in the midst of the oppression of the Pinochet regime deeply touched me. The movie helped me see new sides to Pope Francis’s story, and it also challenged me to want to be a better religious.

–Henry Beck, OFM

Missions matter: What I liked were the Interest Groups I went to on Foreign Missions and Native American Ministry. There were positive ideas given to continue them with the new [provincial] entity through an effort to involve more people. There was strong feeling that the missions overseas should continue.

–Blane Grein, OFM

Rejuvenated: I was very blessed to be able to attend the Chapter of Mats in Denver, excited to meet friars from the different provinces and to reconnect with friars that I hadn’t seen in many years.  This gathering was a great opportunity to begin to learn about each other and the various talents and gifts that we each have to offer.  One event that really touched me was the Reception of the Novices.  I was a moving experience for them, I am certain, to be received in front of 400 of their peers.  I feel rejuvenated after having spent a week of fraternity.  I am looking forward to the beginning of this amazing journey that we are embarking on.

–Eric Seguin, OFM

Breaking bread: There are many things from the Chapter of Mats which I remember, but the one event which struck me most was sitting down and eating meals with friars from other provinces. It was interesting just listening to the stories from their provinces, especially Holy Name – I did not know any of their members – but it was also an opportunity to reconnect with friars I know from the other provinces whom I have met throughout the years.

– Dennis Bosse, OFM

Part 2:

Michigan memories


Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Mt. Elliott Cemetery, Detroit

A memorial at Holy Sepulchre Cemetery in SouthfieldHow many visits have I made to Mt. Elliott Cemetery since moving to Detroit seven years ago?  At least a dozen.  It lies right across the street from the Capuchins, and many a day of recollection was spent, in part, in the cemetery at the grave of our brother, Engelbert Peter.  Many a day was spent, in part, wondering about the whereabouts of our other brothers, Anthony Daeger and Peregrin Matschy.  When we finally learned that the cemetery had misrecorded their burials and lost track of their graves, the decision was made to erect a new stone at Engelbert’s plot and record on it the names of all three friars.  We dedicated that stone last All Souls Day.

That should have been the end of the story. . . except that the cemetery did not remove Engelbert’s dismantled old stone.  It lay flat on the ground right in front of the new stone throughout the winter and spring.  Correspondence with the cemetery office seemed to bring no results.  Maybe the winter snow was too nasty for a stone to be removed; maybe the spring ground was too soggy.  Last week the old stone was still there.  Another communication with the office. . . and this time with results.  Today the old stone and its pedestal are gone, and the new stone stands alone.  Engelbert, Peregrin, and Anthony, you have been part of my life more than all the other deceased friars together.  May you rest in peace.  I am!


Saturday, July 20, 2019

Holy Sepulchre Cemetery, Southfield

After visiting Mt. Elliott in Detroit, I visited Holy Sepulchre Cemetery in Southfield.  What a mess!  The headstones are flat with the ground, and most of them were partly covered with grass and soil.  Elwin Harrington’s, Sebastian Wintering’s, and Bertrand Labinski’s were hardly visible.  Bare hands alone could not accomplish much.

Tuesday of this week I returned to Holy Sepulchre with gloves, trowel, and brush and began to clear away the accumulated growth.  Weather was hot and humid, and unfamiliar muscles were getting sore, yet I experienced something holy.  As I pulled and dug and brushed, I was reminded of Tobit burying the dead in Nineveh.  It was a grace for me to perform this service to the memory of our deceased brothers.  Eventually aches and weather got the better of me, and I returned to Transfiguration Friary.  Yesterday Eric Seguin joined me at Holy Sepulchre, and we completed our task.  Today I returned for one final visit.

Thirty-five friars are buried in Holy Sepulchre, from Claude Mindorf in 1936 to Rock Travnikar in 2016; and most of them I personally knew or at least met.  I was in temporary vows at Duns Scotus when Edgar Casey died, the first friar with whom I lived to pass away.

The last night that Edgar lay in state in the darkened chapel at Duns Scotus, Cletus Suttmann, the guardian, and Leander Blumlein, the artist, thought that he should be buried with a stole.  By the flickering light of candles they tried to determine which of them should cover the deceased with a stole.  The guardian politely deferred to the artist, the artist appropriately deferred to the guardian, and Edgar never got his stole!  Gus Steele and I lived together at St. Francis High School Seminary.  When he suffered a cerebral hemorrhage while on vacation in Canada, I was privileged to go there and be with his mother in the hospital.  Gus was a year behind me in profession and the first of my contemporaries to die.  How blessed I am to be a part of this marvelous brotherhood!

A ‘Feud’ brought friars together

Provincials prepare for the ‘Feud’.I’m still riding high from the energy of last week’s Chapter of Mats.  The week spent in Denver with 400 friars present allowed the Holy Spirit to move from table discussions to the fun game of Family Feud between the Provincials and the Vicars.  I was pleasantly surprised to hear from other friars just how much this meant to them.

Most meaningful to me were the small one-on-one conversations that happened spontaneously.  I was catching up with a friend from 1991 with whom I went to school at Loyola.  Other friends from the time of working in formation.  And naturally, with the Provincials I now work with pretty regularly.  I am amazed at the good bond between us – how we are able to disagree and still work toward a solution acceptable to all.

If I have to pick one specific incident about the Chapter of Mats, it would have to be our own version of Family Feud.  When I first heard about it, my initial response was, “Oh, no, we’ll have to make fools of ourselves in front of everyone.”  But Caoimhin Ó Laoide as “host” really made it fun.  He was a natural!   When the scoring went sideways, Caoimhin spontaneously came up with the Applause Meter – which made it even more hilarious as it was very clear the Provincials couldn’t win.  (I’ll concede, it might have been because we didn’t have the best of answers!)

Besides the sheer fun of it all, I believe that a new spirit of fraternity was engendered that will serve us well as we walk into a new future together.

— Fr. Mark Soehner, OFM


Faces from the Chapter of Mats

Aug. 4, Provincial Minister Mark Soehner responded to the mass shootings in Dayton, Ohio, and El Paso, Texas, with this message on Facebook:

  • Praying for solutions“I was awakened this morning at 5 a.m. by a former parishioner in Detroit, calling to ask whether anyone in my family was hurt in the mass shooting.  Dayton, Ohio, is my birthplace and some of my family continue to live in the area.  After turning on the news and grasping what had happened, I began to call my relatives.  I was relieved to know that no one from my family was hurt.
  • “But nine families will never be the same with the death of their loved one. Twenty-seven other people were injured.  It is the second mass shooting in this country in 24 hours.  We grieve with the families and friends of those we lost in Dayton and El Paso, Texas.   With heavy hearts, we add our prayers.  We beg the Blessed Mother to gather all the injured to her heart.
  • “Yet we must ask, how in our nation does this repeatedly happen?  Can we not balance the need ‘to bear arms’ with reasonable gun control?  Who needs such weapons of mass destruction?  Certainly not a hunter of game.  We beg people of conscience to review reasonable options and offer alternatives to our elected representatives.  Violence never solves anything.  It reduces all of us.  I will be praying to Our Lady of the Knots to untangle the reasons for these terrible acts of violence and to help us stop the epidemic of mass killings.”
  • Louie and Alex a block away from Moses the BlackThe latest digital issue of VISION Vocation Guide features a story on the life and ministry of Maynard Tetreault, Louie Zant and Alex Kratz at St. Moses the Black Friary in Detroit. Look for it in the Religious Sightings section on Page 10 at: Guide
  • They were radicals who seriously disrupted “the social, economic and religious stability of their native city.”  In the August issue of St. Anthony Messenger, Pat McCloskey makes the case that, in their day, Clare and Francis were “Assisi’s Most Dangerous Citizens.”  As Pat writes, “Intervening centuries of veneration for Assisi’s two most famous citizens have obscured for many people how much Clare and Francis challenged the most important foundations and assumptions of their society.” Read more at: Francis
    The cover story for August, “Facing the Opioid Crisis: A Catholic Response”, tells how church communities are helping those struggling with addiction.
  • The story in the Navajo Times called it “Plaster and Perseverance”. Nineteen years after Blane Grein and anthropologist Charlotte Frisbie joined forces to restore the old mission church in Chinle, Ariz., the historic stone building was blessed and dedicated on June 2. Both were on hand to celebrate and reminisce, along with parishioners of Our Lady of Fatima, where Blane served as longtime pastor, current Pastor P.J. Pabatao, Bishop James Wall of the Diocese of Gallup, OLG Provincial Minister Jack Clark Robinson, and organizers and volunteers who helped with fund-raising and restoration. Construction of the church, which features woodwork and furniture re-created by OLG’s Bart Wolf, started in 1909. The restored church will be open for tours on a limited basis and for selected special events.

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

Office of Communications Province of St. John the Baptist