Volume 4 ~ Issue 16; Release: November 15, 2019
  • Rite of Investiture
  • Fr. Louie's Lifetime Achievement Award
  • Fr. Finian's Memorial Bench
  • A note from Louis Koury
  • A Letter from Sweden
  • Mission Integration Reflection
The Rite of Investiture
by Mark Schroeder, OFM
On October 16, 2019, in the Novitiate Chapel, the side chapel of historic Mission Santa Barbara, OFM friars gathered with guests from the Capuchin and Conventual Novitiates, and with some local supporters, to witness the Investiture of our eleven OFM Novices.

Novice Directors Jeff Macnab, Michael Blastic, and Freddy Rodriguez had prepared the novices for this day. The ceremony began with a hymn and a gathering prayer that included the ritual of all present being sprinkled with water. The first reading was in English—from Celano’s Life of St. Francis. The second reading was from the Gospel of Matthew proclaimed in Spanish—“Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me…”

The reflection on the readings was opened to all in the assembly, whomever wished to speak stood in their place. Seven friars shared what the sign of the habit meant to them.

One friar from each of our six provinces led the Rite of Investiture (I assume that the six were each the Director of Formation for their province). Handing each novice from their province a folded habit, we heard each novice greeted by name, then “Receive this habit of probation in the Order of Friars Minor. It is a sign of your commitment to your brothers, the Church and the world in service to Christ and His Church.”

The novices processed out to the sacristy to don their new habits. In a short while, in processed the eleven newly clad novices. They stood in the middle of the chapel, and we sang a moving Blessing Prayer based on the ‘Suscipe’ of St. Ignatius.

After heart-felt Intercessions, we prayed the Lord’s Prayer and received a Blessing.
The Closing Song began with the verse “Sing, O sing like the wind and sea; let music fill the skies! Lift your voice like the thund’ring waves: let songs of praise arise! Praise God with drums and dancing! Praise God with flute and horn! Blessed be our God, Mighty Lord of All!”

And out to the patio for a social time, and then into the dining room for dinner and dessert.
photos: Br. Octavio Duran, OFM
Father Louie Receives Lifetime Achievement Award

The Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD) honored Father Louie Vitale with a Lifetime Achievement Award during the CCHD grant award celebration on October 18th. After remarks from Bishop Barber, SJ, from the Diocese of Oakland, CCHD Committee member Father Jayson Landeza present Father Louie with a plaque for "His decades of leadership and activism to rid the world of nuclear weapons and liberate those bound by the chains of poverty and injustice."

Father Louie didn't give a speech, but shared many thank yous.
Mission San Luis Rey Unveils Father Finan's Memorial Bench

On November 5th, a ceremony was held at Mission San Luis Rey to bless and dedicate a bench in memory of Father Finian McGinn. A group of friars and lay folk gathered for the dedication. The bench, which Fr. Finian used to visit with many visitors over the years, was adored with his photograph and a plaque that read:

Fr. Finian McGinn, OFM
Franciscan Teacher, Linguist, Brother and friend to all, Man of God
A Letter from Sweden
By Charles Talley OFM

Dear Brothers and Others,

Frid och allt Gott/ Peace and all Good!

Greetings from the city of Visby, island of Gotland, country of Sweden, where, on All Saints Day this year, I celebrated my first “month-a-versary” as pastor of Kristi-Lekamen (Corpus Christi) parish. As you can imagine, I am still settling in and getting acquainted with a lot of things: language, food, culture, weather (don’t ask) and people. It has not always been an easy transition, but the warm and gracious welcome of folks here has made it as smooth as one could hope.

Gotland is an island. One hundred miles long, thirty miles at its widest. Shaped rather like a lozenge. It’s capital and major city is Visby (pop. 17,000) is situated on the eastern shore, facing the Swedish mainland which is thirty (sometimes very long and choppy— remember to bring along the Dramamine!) sea miles away. A three-hour ride. The year-round population is about 50,000—a number which easily quadruples during the prime summer vacation months of June and July. Along with tourism, farming is the mainstay of the local economy. Turnips and tourists! What more could you ask for!
There are just under 200 registered Catholic adults on the island. Registered? People in Sweden pay an optional church tax— 2 to 3 percent of their income tax usually—which is paid by the state to the denomination of their choice. Funds are distributed through the diocese, then, on a monthly basis and form the bulk of the annual budget for each parish. Plate collections represent an insignificant proportion of parish income. As elsewhere, pastors scramble to make up the shortfall between the subsidy and real expenses. Some things never change!

Our local Catholic community is vibrant and diverse. Church attendance is high compared with other denominations: 30% versus 2% for the (Lutheran) Church of Sweden. Membership is divided between ethnic Swedes, many of whom are converts, and immigrant families and individuals. We have folks from about 10 different countries: from the Philippines to Lebanon and Syria to Burundi in East Africa. Even a few US expats! Parish life centers around weekend liturgies, and families frequently linger after Mass for religious ed classes and the ubiquitous “krykokaffe” or “church coffee”. During the week, we provide for Eucharistic Adoration as well as weekday Masses. Saturday afternoon is often meeting time for the Katolskt Forum, which invites guest speakers from around the island to speak about their faith involvement. Ecumenical contact is well-established and the Church of Sweden has been especially gracious to us. During recent church renovations, St. Mary’s (Lutheran) Cathedral hosted weekly Catholic Mass for nearly two years!
Like many other island communities, Gotland is special-- a world apart. Local people speak their own special dialect, gutemal, which is both charming and mostly incomprehensible to outsiders. The landscape boasts no fewer than 92 churches (!), all built between 1100-1300 AD. The Franciscans landed on Gotland around 1236 and the ruins of “Sankt Karins” (St. Catherine of Alexandria’s) church and friary, closed during the Protestant Reformation, continue to dominate Visby’s main square, Stora Torget. I’ve made it my life’s ambition to visit all 92 churches and am proud to say I am about halfway there. Most parishes are 5-6 miles apart, so after an initial bus ride to the countryside, a brisk hike between sites provides both a day’s inspiration, not to mention great exercise. All 92 churches are still functioning and almost all have been restored. The prominence of Sweden’s “Catholic period” is unmistakable in the form of crucifixes, lively fresco work, medieval altars (relics removed), altar skåps (de facto wooden tabernacles built into the sanctuary wall) as well as an astonishing array of images of Mary. Roman Catholics would feel right at home in any of these beautiful places.

I mentioned the Franciscan presence on the island earlier on. At the moment (and on the mainland) there are about 20-25 friars living and working in Sweden. Mostly from Poland, they represent all four member groups (OFMs, Caps, Conventuals, TOR). Before I settled in on Gotland, I visited three separate friaries and am trying to maintain regular contact with our confreres there. They are almost all involved in parish work, which is both thriving and demanding. The Catholic population of Sweden today is about 150,000 and growing (versus just 5,000 in 1950). The Conventual friars have recently taken over a renovated Protestant church in the town of Motala—St. Maximilian Kolbe Parish. Before he died, our brother Rob Young gave me a relic of St. Anthony of Padua (with documentation), which I passed on to the friars for their new parish on behalf of the Province and our local community. They were more than pleased.
My days are filled with pastoral responsibilities—anyone who has done parish work will agree that small parishes sometimes take every bit as much, if not more work than larger ones. We have a part-time administrator, plus me! That’s it. The parish has not had a resident pastor for several years and has depended upon supply priests who fly in from the mainland. So local community building has suffered as a result. Also, many Catholics live in remote, often isolated parts of the island. Reaching them is a challenge, but also an opportunity. During November, for example, I’ve been going out with parishioners to do grave blessings around Gotland. There is no separate Catholic cemetery, so our members are interred in no fewer than 23 different locations! It has been a wonderful opportunity to get to know people better and to hear the stories of our brothers and sisters both here on earth still as well as those who have passed on. One family asked me to visit their family plot where one of their ancestors was interred in the year 1463! Amazing! Another site contains the remains of some 40 Poles (both Christians and Jews) who died at a nearby Red Cross hospital which received concentration camp internees just after World War II.

The life of faith here, as in many places, is lived in the context of an increasingly secularizing society. As elsewhere, engaging young people and supporting them in their faith journey is a major challenge-- one that all of the denominations face. There are a number of other challenges as well: accompanying recent immigrants from the Middle East, for example. Many of them have been traumatized by violence and economic insecurity and are struggling to put their lives together again in a very different cultural context. The Roma (aka gypsy) people from Romania mostly live in a barracks-style temporary housing sponsored by the Red Cross and assisted by a number of church groups, including the Catholic Caritas organization, as well as our local parish. I visit them regularly along with some parishioners: ours is a ministry of presence and accompaniment. These folks live a subsistence-level existence based on casual labor and begging. Remittances help pay for the education, housing, and health care of family members back home where discrimination is widespread and deeply rooted.
As anywhere and everywhere else I have served as a friar, I have found the People of God to be just amazing! Faithful and hope filled, determined, generous, and alive! When I was ordained, I was told that the people would teach me how to be their priest. Indeed!

My own daily routine has changed in significant ways. I live alone in an apartment owned by the diocese. I cook my own meals, do the housework, etc., and pray alone. The parish, of course, is the main source of community prayer (a small group is already meeting to do vespers on Saturday evenings!). I am still meeting and establishing ties with friars and other colleagues and confreres on the mainland. It all takes time. The island is beautiful and the people are so kind. But the days are short this time of year (sunset around 3pm).   And, inevitably, loneliness seeps in at times. But regular Internet contact and/or phone calls have been a great help in this regard. Larry Gosselin--convalescing in Rome-- and I keep in touch regularly via WhatsApp. Still, the Province seems very far away (and it is!). That said, I believe my identity as a friar and member of our Province has only been heightened and strengthened during my time here.

I am honored and pleased to be among the wonderful people of Gotland and Sweden, Brothers. Thank you for allowing me to be here. Keep in touch and know you are always welcome.  God bless/ Gud välsigne dig!

Din broder,
A Note from Louis Khoury in the Holy Land

Louis Khoury, who took a job as Spiritual Director at the Latin Patriarchate Seminary in Jerusalem recently wrote in to the Province:

"I hope and pray that all is going well with you and everyone there. I am just checking in. I am doing fine. Lots of new good things for me to get used to here; plus my efforts to retrieve my Arabic language skills. This is a lively place. The work is pretty much 24/7--between accompanying the students, doing Masses & Liturgy of the Hours, and maintaining connections with other priests and parishes. And there are always activities with other religious or with the Laity and the community--local or broader. The students take part in all this. There are various challenges, as you already know, in terms of transportation and crossing military check points. Usually these things are smooth. However, invariably we would have to change routes, or wait a while until someone form among us clear a check point. This weekend we will be in Rafa, Java, to celebrate Our Lady of Palestine. Two major events we, faculty and students, participated was a conference attended by Catholic and Orthodox schools, as well as Muslim schools. The top revolved around the curriculum that all school grades are having to use, and how healthy is this curriculum. All agreed that the Christian history is forgotten, when in fact the Christian history belong to all Palestinians, Muslims or Christians. This conference was also attended by Vatican representatives. Another event was a major youth conference that was held at Taybeh, which brought the community together and encouraged the youth to remain in their land--it is a difficult subject. Also, the leaders of the church, of the community, and of the government, presented practical support that encourages the youth (18 - early 30s) to develop their efforts and continue their activities."

A Reflection from the Office of Mission Integration

Dinner Parties for Widows and Millennials – An All Soul’s Day Reflection

When you hear the word widow, what do you think of? Old ladies, spiders, the city of Nain, two copper pennies? Well, Amelia Nierenberg, a food writer for the New York Times, thinks of dinner! It is not as big a leap as it may seem. The idea that food soothes grief runs deep. It is the reason why once a death becomes public friends and neighbors start showing up with trays of lasagna... READ MORE
11/15 - Edward Fronske
11/19 - Didacus Clavel
11/22 - William Haney
11/24 - Mateo Guerrero
11/28 - Andrew Dineger
11/29 - Angelo Cardinalli
12/1 - Roland Rovere
12/1 - Rigoberto Calocarivas
12/1 - Jose Luis Nerio
12/5 - Ivo Toneck
12/7 - Barnabas Hughes
12/7 - Garrett Galvin
12/15 - Francisco Alejo
11-15 - Leo Sprietsma
11-22 - Michael Lomas
11-29 - Edward Fronske           
11-30 - Andrew Dineger
11-30 - Andres Rivero
12-6 - Nicolas Ronalte 

Discernment Dinner
November 15 - Los Angeles & Oakland

Definitorium Meeting
November 19-21 ~ San Damiano Retreat Center, Danville, CA

Discernment Dinner
November 22 - Scottsdale

Feast of St. Barbara
December 4

Our Lady of Guadalupe
December 12
OFM.FYI, the monthly newsletter of the Franciscan Friars Province of Saint Barbara, is published on the 15th of each month.
Relevant submissions of texts, photos, etc., are welcome at any time 
and will be placed in the next appropriate issue
 Send submissions to: jledbetter@sbofm.org