Province Blessings

October 4, 2017: While attending a Papal audience in St. Peter’s Square, Our Lady of the Angels Province friar, Fr. Michael Lewandowski, OFM Conv. had the opportunity for a few words with Pope Francis. He asked the Holy Father for a special blessing for our province. Pope Francis granted the request. It was truly a St. Francis of Assisi Feast Day to remember.

Friar Made Candles for Christmas

Our Franciscan Soy Candle ministry benefits a fund for the care of our aged and infirmed friars. The 2017 Christmas selection includes eight styles with your choice of six scents.
Each 12oz glass lidded candle is made from premium American soy wax with a wood stick wick, in a gift box. Priced at $18.00 plus shipping.
Just for the Holidays, try an 8oz tin lidded soy travel candle in both Christmas and Fall scents for just $12.00 including shipping. Special wax melts are also available this holiday season for $4.00 including shipping.
Custom Made Candles can be created in just 24 hours (a bit longer if you choose to mail in a photo to be included). Because our candles are hand-poured, we can easily create a candle to your specifications. You select the fragrance and work with us to create the label. Each candle comes packaged in our newly designed gift box, and includes a gift card. Priced at $20.00 plus shipping.
With 37 scents to choose from and so many choices in style, these are sure to help complete your 2017 Christmas list with ease.

Ministries Come Together in Durham

Students and friars gathered for a Prayer Service in the friary garage (plus two tents) which served as the makeshift chapel/dining room/game room for FriarFest.

Friday, November 17, 2017: Our friars of St. Anthony Friary in Durham, NC hosted FriarFest a semesterly event that included 80 students from the campus ministries of Newman Catholic Student Center Parish – University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill & Duke Catholic Center of Duke University came to the friary for an evening of prayer, food, and camaraderie.  The night was capped off with some good-natured games pitting UNC vs. Duke students in competition in Minute-to-Win-It games and Trivia.  The “Friars Cup” was awarded to Duke who won the competition on the very last game; so close and evenly matched were the competitors. The friars of Durham’s St. Anthony Friary – Fr. Brad Heckathorne, OFM Conv. (Duke), Fr. William Robinson, OFM Conv. (UNC), Fr. Michael Martin, OFM Conv. (Duke), Fr. Andrew Santamauro, OFM Conv. (pastor of nearby Holy Cross Catholic Church) and Fr. Justin Ross, OFM Conv. (UNC) – have held this semi-annual event since the friary opened in 2015, as a way to welcome students into their home; enabling them to see the life of a friar from another perspective.

Friar Jubiliarians serving the Archdiocese of Baltimore

Monday, November 20, 2017: Jubilarians from the Archdiocese of Baltimore were honored for their years of service. Pictured on the left here are Fr. Peter Damian Fehlner, OFM Conv. who has been ordained a friar priest for 60 years (July 14, 1957), at center is Archbishop William Lori of Baltimore and on the right is Fr. John Burkhard, OFM Conv. who on March 11th celebrated 50 years as a friar priest.

Congratulations 2017 Jubilarians serving throughout our province!

Ordination – 60 Yrs
Friar Giles VanWormer, OFM Conv.
Friar Antone Kendrac, OFM Conv.
Ordination – 50 Yrs
Friar John Burkhard, OFM Conv.
Friar Dominic McGee, OFM Conv.
Friar Benedict Fagone, OFM Conv.
Ordination – 40 Yrs
Friar Justin Ratajczak, OFM Conv.
Friar Carl Zdancewicz, OFM Conv.
Friar James McCurry, OFM Conv.
Ordination – 25 Yrs
Friar Miroslaw Podymniak, OFM Conv.
Friar Timothy Dore, OFM Conv.

Profession – 65 Yrs
Friar Ronald Sermak, OFM Conv.
Friar David Stopyra, OFM Conv.
Friar Giles VanWormer, OFM Conv.
Friar Duane Mastrangelo, OFM Conv.
Friar Briant Cullinane, OFM Conv.
Friar Alvin Somerville, OFM Conv.
Profession – 60 Yrs
Friar Phillip Blaine, OFM Conv.
Friar Joseph Madden, OFM Conv.
Friar Paul Varga, OFM Conv.
Friar Nevin Hammon, OFM Conv.
Friar Herman Czaster, OFM Conv.
Friar Alexander Cymerman, OFM Conv.
Profession – 50 Yrs
Friar Jude Surowiec, OFM Conv.
Friar Paul Miskiewicz, OFM Conv.
Friar Noel Danielewicz, OFM Conv.
Friar Martin Kobos, OFM Conv.
Friar Karl Kolodziejski, OFM Conv.
Friar Leonard Katusz, OFM Conv.
Friar Joseph Connick, OFM Conv.
Friar William Robinson, OFM Conv.
Profession – 40 Yrs
Friar Paul Lininger, OFM Conv.
Friar Michael Taylor, OFM Conv.
Friar Jude DeAngelo, OFM Conv.
Friar Daniel Fink, OFM Conv.
Friar Richard-Jacob Forcier, OFM Conv.
Friar Dennis Grumsey, OFM Conv.
Friar Stephen Murphy, OFM Conv.
Friar Timothy Kulbicki, OFM Conv.
Profession – 25 Yrs
Friar José Guadalupe Matus Castillo, OFM Conv.
Friar Marek Stybor, OFM Conv.
Friar Abelardo Huanca Martinez, OFM Conv.


The Sultan and the Saint
Mark your Calendars and/or set your DVR!
National Broadcast: December 26, 2017 at 8PM on PBS stations nationwide

Franciscan Action Network (FAN) collaborated with Unity Productions Foundation (UPF) a Muslim film company dedicated to interfaith dialogue and education through media, to produce a new documentary drama entitled The Sultan and the Saint. This film is the first to tell the story of Saint Francis of Assisi and Sultan Al-Kamil of Egypt, using both Christian and Muslim sources.

Viewing Parties:

-FAN has been asked to help set up over 500 viewing parties nationwide.
Even if you DVR the broadcast, and view it at a later time, you will count as a viewing party. Viewing parties can be as few as two, and can be registered as open or closed.
Sign up online to host a viewing party, and invite those in your parish or ministry to do the same.

Some Conventual Franciscan Friar Involvement:

  • World Premier in Washington D.C. – Our Lady of the Angels Province friars, Friar Michael Heine, OFM Conv. & Friar Dennis Mason, OFM Conv. attended and each gave it two thumbs-up!
  • September Screening in Lexington, Kentucky was hosted by Most Reverend John Eric Stowe, O.F.M. Conv., Bishop of the Diocese of Lexington in Kentucky and a friar of the Province of Our Lady of Consolation.
  • Roman Premier for the Franciscan Family and the Muslim community – Will be hosted by our friars at the Seraphicum on May 9th in collaboration with our province’s JPIC Ministry, FAN, and the Pontifical Institute for Islamic Studies.
  • FAN just honored UPF with its annual Cardinal McCarrick Award, given to a non-Franciscan embodies the spirit of St. Francis and St. Clare of Assisi. Thank you to Our Lady of the Angels Province friars, Friar Julio Martinez, OFM Conv., Friar Matthew Foley, OFM COnv., Friar Max Avlia, OFM Conv., Friar Manny Vasconcelos, OFM Conv., friar Tim Blanchard, OFM Conv., friar Franck Lino, OFM Conv. and St. Joseph Cupertino friar, friar Chris Garcia, OFM Conv. who all joined Our Lady of the Angels Province Chairman of JPIC (Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation Commission) and member of FAN – Friar Michael Lasky, OFM Conv., in attending the event and showing a strong Conventual support for FAN and this inter-faith project!

Greccio 2017

Greccio Experience: This image is just one example of the many opportunities throughout the ministries of our provinces, to celebrate the Living Nativity, as it was instituted by St. Francis of Assisi. Please check our “LOCATIONS” page to find a ministry near you.
The concept of a Nativity was not new to St. Francis, as the faithful enjoyed celebrations acting as shepherds and angels singing songs of praise & some churches had fantastical reproductions and representations of the glory of the nativity scene. What was so new and exciting about the portrayal created by St. Francis at Greccio, in the 1200s was the inclusion of living animals with hay; a humble portrayal of Jesus’ birth in a stable and the realism of the poverty of Jesus. He was also granted permission from Pope Honorius III (who had just granted approval for the final form of the Franciscan Rule) to hold this event outside, in a cave, instead of in a church, as had been the tradition. The manger of Greccio was not an “art piece” but a simple symbol used for religious contemplation on the mystery of the poverty and suffering of Jesus. This depiction touched the hearts and souls of the people on hand, like no gilded rendition could. The devotion to the Baby Jesus and this version of a Christmas Nativity Scene grew throughout Europe after these events of Greccio. One of the first sculptures in the visual format of an impoverished Christ Child, was commissioned in the late 1200s by the first Franciscan Pope, Nicholas IV (who approved the Third Order Rule instituted by St. Francis). It was created by Arnolfo di Cambio and erected in the Patriarchal Basilica of St. Mary Major, where it still stands.

Pax et Bonum: Human history is filled with individual, community and national quests for peace which at times results in voluntary or forced relocation. According to tradition, the area of Greccio (Italy) was first established by exiled citizens of a Greek community who fled their home country because of war. Mount Lacerone’s terrain seemed like a protected area for those peace searching settlers and they named the small town – Greccio. Eventually the town included a fortified medieval castle with external walls and towers. Before the decedents of those who had sacrificed their Greek homes to escape war, struggled through local wars culminating in the town’s 1799 destruction by Napoleon’s Army, this beautiful area enjoyed times of great peace. On Christmas Eve 1223, in the small town of Greccio, St. Francis of Assisi first displayed a Living Nativity using a natural cave, now known as the Chapel of Presepio. St. Francis had been searching for and had found some much needed peace in Greccio. He found there a peaceful option for pilgrims to celebrate the birth of Our Lord, instead of the treacherous trip to the Holy Land that at the time was under control of the Turks. He had first visited the Castello di Greccio village in 1217, where his preaching converted the citizens and a permanent quarters was built for St. Francis and his Companions nearby. St. Francis was reluctant to have his followers so close to the distractions of village life, but he agreed to the quarters, as long as they would be built a stone’s throw away from the village. A small boy was asked to throw a lit torch and wherever it landed, the quarters would be built. Shockingly the torch landed over a mile away, where hallowed out caves in a rocky hill became their dwelling.

The Living Nativity: St. Francis had a deep desire to use every personal act to portray the Gospel and the teachings of Christ, by example. This was done through not just his own personal prayer or teachings but through external signs, as well. One such sign celebrated the Birthday of Our Lord Jesus Christ, a few years before his own death. Included in the 84-87 excerpt from “The First Life of St. Francis” – Thomas of Celano, about 15 days prior to Christmas, St. Francis asked of his friend Giovanni, “If you will that we celebrate the present festival of the Lord at Greccio, make haste to go before and diligently prepare what I tell you. For I would make memorial of that Child who was born in Bethlehem, and in some sort behold with bodily eyes His infant hardships; how He lay in a manger on the hay, with the ox and the ass standing by.” Giovanni did as he was asked and the faithful from near and far gathered to witness when St. Francis had desired to be portrayed. Continuing to read from the excerpt we see that “There Simplicity was honored, Poverty exalted, Humility commended; and of Greccio there was made as it were a new Bethlehem. The night was lit up as the day, and was delightful to men and beasts. The people came, and at the new Mystery rejoiced with new rejoicing. The woodland rang with voices, the rocks made answer to the jubilant throng. The brethren sang, yielding due praises to the Lord, and all that night resounded with jubilation” St. Francis stood before the manger and was overcome with joy. The group enjoyed Mass together and St. Francis, serving as a Deacon for he was not ordained as a priest, chanted the Holy Gospel and preached to the people mellifluous words concerning the birth of the poor King and the little town of Bethlehem. (And often, when he would name Christ Jesus, aglow with exceeding love he would call Him the Child of Bethlehem, and, uttering the word “Bethlehem” in the manner of a sheep bleating, he filled his mouth with the sound, but even more his whole self with the sweet affection. Moreover, in naming “the Child of Bethlehem” or “Jesus” he would, as it were, lick his lips, relishing with happy palate, and swallowing the sweetness of that word.) There the gifts of the Almighty were multiplied, and a vision of wondrous efficacy was seen by a certain man; for in the manger he saw a little child lying lifeless, to whom the Saint of God seemed to draw near and (as it were) to rouse the child from the lethargy of sleep. Nor was this vision incongruous; for the child Jesus had been given over to forgetfulness in the hearts of many in whom, by the working of His Grace, He was raised up again through His servant Francis and imprinted on a diligent memory.” After the celebration, the hay that was placed in the manger was fed to the animals, and miraculously many were cured from sickness. The hay was attributed to giving aid to women in childbirth, and health many others who were suffering. The place where the Mass and Living Nativity took place was revered by many and over the spot, a church was dedicated “that where beasts had once eaten fodder of hay, men might thenceforth for the healing of soul and body eat the flesh of the spotless and undefiled Lamb, our Lord Jesus Christ, Who in highest and unspeakable charity gave Himself for us, Who liveth and reigneth with the Father and the Holy Ghost, God eternally glorious, world without end. Amen, Alleluia, Alleluia.”

Today’s pilgrims to Greccio can visit the Nativity Chapel, enjoy an exhibit of model crèches, from all over the world, as well as the opportunity to see how St. Francis and his followers lived, prayed, rested and celebrated. The friars of our province enjoy bringing Greccio to you. So please join us for one of our early December celebrations.

They Came and They Saw!

Our Lady of the Angels Province held a “Come and See” weekend this past November 10-12, 2017. The friars who reside in the St. Bonaventure Friary in Silver Spring-MD helped with talks, tasks and hospitality.  Our Ellicott City-MD friars, those of the Portiuncula Friary of the Provincial House & St. Joseph Cupertino Friary of the Shrine of St. Anthony, opened their homes and facilities to these men who are in the early stages of discernment. We pray that the participants were open to the workings of the Holy Spirit (as St. Francis would call it, the “holy operation of the Spirit”) as they witness our Evangelical and Fraternal life. May God continue to move the hearts of these men, and those of many others so that the mission of sharing Peace and All Good might continue through we friars of Our Lady of Angels Province.

Friar Emanuel Ventura Vasconcelos, OFM Conv.,  aka Friar Manny, was one of the friars on hand who enjoyed the time getting to know some of the November 2017 “Come and See” Weekend participants. Alongside Friar Moises Maximilian Avila, OFM Conv., aka Friar Max, he professed Solemn Vows in August of 2016 and was ordained a Deacon this past June 2017. In January 2018 our province friars plan to celebrate the Diaconate Ordinations of Friar Luis Palacios Rodriguez, OFM Conv. and Friar Milton de Jesus, OFM Conv. Friar Max and Friar Milton were also on hand for this past weekend’s events.  July 2018 will be an exciting month for our province as we plan to celebrate the Diaconal Ordination of Friar Christopher Dudek, OFM Conv. (currently in studies in Rome) and the Priestly Ordinations of Friar Manny and Friar Max. We ask you to keep all of these men in your continued prayers.

Please be sure to visit our Vocations page on this site, for more information.

Featured Friar ~ Fr. Santo Cricchio, OFM Conv.

October 2005: Friar Santo Cricchio, OFM Conv. celebrates his first mass in French, at a Catholic mission in Arta, Djibouti, at the request of the Catholic Bishop of Somalia, due to a shortage of priests in the area.

Having already studied Psychology, Philosphy and Theology (earning his Masters from Washington Theological Union in 2000, as well as a certificate as Interpreter for the Hearing Impaired), Our Lady of the Angels Province friar, Fr. Santo Cricchio, OFM Conv. is currently in advanced studies through the GI Bill Education Benefit.
It has been over 30 years since Friar Santo first professed his vows as a Franciscan Friar Conventual and in that time he has served as a member of the province Justice, Peace and Ecology Commission, and served as chairman of the Justice, Peace and Safeguarding of Creation Committee. He has also served in province ministry as parochial vicar, at Most Holy Trinity – St. Mary Parish (Brooklyn, NY), St. Clement Mary Hofbauer Parish (Baltimore, MD) and St. Philip Benizi Parish (Jonesboro, GA). Before his time in Jonesboro, he served as pastor in our Brooklyn, NY parish and as guardian of the friary there. Prior to his military service, he was was a campus minster, at the Catholic University of America (Washington DC). He has served as an Active Duty – United States Navy and Marine Corp Chaplain, since 2005.
Friar Santo is a veteran of Operation Enduring Freedom.
He serves the military by bringing the presence of God to those in peace and in combat. Originating in 2002, in response to the September 11, 2001 attacks, the Combined Joint Task Force – Horn of Africa, of which Friar Santo was a part, contributed advisers, supplies, and other forms of non-combat support, as well as anti-piracy operations. These acts included building and restoring hospitals, clinics, schools, bridges and wells, while providing medical and veterinary care, and helping to distribute large quantities of supplied, food and clothing. American military forces in the Horn of Africa region worked in 2005 to bring aid to the local population and prevent the spread of terrorism.  At the time, when asked about his time in service on the Horn of Africa, Friar Santo stated, “Our mission in Djibouti is winning hearts and minds. That is what we are doing. We are waging a war of peace.”

In September 2005, Friar Santo (pictured at right) and members of the Camp Lemonier Catholic community gathered and distributed school supplies, much gifted by students from America, to the students of Aecole Boules Catholic Primary School, in Djibouti, Africa.

During this Veteran’s Day Weekend, we would like to honor our confrere, Navy Chaplain Lt Santo P Cricchio, a Navy Reserve Chaplain Corps Officer, who provides spiritual leadership, pastoral counseling, religious education and religious services for members of the Navy and Marines, and their families.

Featured Ministry – The Companions of St. Anthony

The Companions of St. Anthony is the Evangelization and Development ministry of our province. Originating in the early 1990’s through the efforts of *Fr. Martin Kobos, OFM Conv. (1988-2005 Province Development Director) and *Fr. Jude Winkler, OFM Conv. (1988-2010 Province Evangelization), this ministry has grown into a large operation focused on giving “glory to God through living the values which were so dear to St. Anthony: Love for the Eucharist; knowledge of Scripture; reconciliation and penance as part of the Christian journey; prayer; devotion to Mary, the Mother of God; and opportunities for Christian giving.”
With offices housed in the lower level of another one of our ministries, The Shrine of St. Anthony (Ellicott City, MD), and under the leadership of Lay Development Director ~ Mr. Joseph Hamilton and Spiritual Director ~ Fr. Richard-Jacob Forcier, OFM Conv., this ministry continues to strive to spread the Gospel through the disbursement of Religious Information, Materials and Goods, while facilitating the collection of financial support from our friars’ benefactors. One of the first publications created by Fr. Martin and distributed through The Companions of St. Anthony was the “Companion Prayers” guide to prayer. Although it continues to be one of the most sought after items, it is now just one of hundreds of items available through our online Friar Shop.
Several times a year The Companions of St. Anthony publishes “The St. Anthony Companion” Newsletter. The Fall 2017 (Volume 6, Number 2) edition features a cover story highlighting a young friar’s path to priesthood, as well as a reflection by Friar Richard-Jacob.

*Fr. Martin Kobos, OFM Conv. now serves as Guardian of Mother Cabrini Friary & Pastor of Mother Cabrini Catholic Church (Shamokin, PA), as well as Dean of the Northumberland Deanery – Diocese of Harrisburg. Fr. Jude Winkler, OFM Conv. has served as CFF (Conventual Franciscan Federation) Assistant General of our Order for North America, Australia, Great Britain and Ireland since September of 2010.

November “Come and See”

At the end of the November 5-11, 2017 National Vocation Awareness Week, our province will be holding another “Come and See” Weekend. In preparation for this event, our Province Vocation Director sent out a letter to all of our friars. Here are a few exerpts from that November 6th letter:

Dear Brothers,
May the Lord grant you His Peace!
As we begin this period of the “Franciscan Advent,” I take a moment to write to you to thank you once again for your prayers and good works which so many of you are involved in to foster interest in our way of life.  I am quite moved by the generosity of the friars who are so willing to assist with the upcoming Come and See weekend.  It will take place at the Shrine of St. Anthony in Ellicott City, from November 10-12, 2017.  I would like to ask all of you to please, perhaps as part of your Franciscan Fast, to include the success of this weekend in your prayers and penances.
What does “success” of this weekend mean? As I see it, it is that the participants will be open to the workings of the Holy Spirit (as St. Francis would call it, the “holy operation of the Spirit”) as they witness our Evangelical and Fraternal life.  In all, there will be 10 men participating. One of them, Luke – a senior at Duke University where several of our friars of the St. Anthony of Padua Friary serve in ministry through the Duke Catholic Center, has already been accepted for Postulancy for July 2018. He is excited about joining our life and has volunteered to drive two other Duke students, Gregg and Dylan to attend this experience. I ask you to pray for the three of them, as well as for Paul, Timothy, Jonathan, Matthew, Carlos, Chris and Robert. Our friars of the SS. Francis & Clare Friary, serving at the Catholic University of America have been most helpful in fostering vocations (two participants are connected there), as well as one participant from our current pastoral ministry in Winston-Salem, NC (served by our friars of the Our Lady of the Angels Friary). Another participant is from our former pastoral ministry in Lithia Springs, GA and others from Spirit-directed places not ministered to by our friars. Our friars from the St. Bonaventure Friary in Silver Spring are helping with talks, tasks and hospitality.  Our Ellicott City friars open their home and hearts to us—from both friaries on the property (Portiuncula Friary of the Provincial House & St. Joseph Cupertino Frary of the Shrine of St. Anthony)! The preparation and execution of this weekend are truly a concerted effort.
May God continue to move the hearts of the 10 participants named above, and of many others so that the mission of sharing Peace and All Good might continue in the Our Lady of Angels Province. God bless you all with a fruitful Franciscan Advent, after which we will welcome with joy, the Babe of Bethlehem.

“Pax et Bonum” – Peace and All Good
The traditional Franciscan welcome and goodbye, favored by St. Francis of Assisi as he often began & ended his sermons and letters this way.