Reflection from the 15th international World Youth Day in Panamá City
Dear Friars, Family, and Friends,
What a whirlwind of a January! I am very excited to be writing you all about my recent pilgrimage to World Youth Day (WYD) in Panamá City! I got permission from my formators to attend this international gathering when I was applying to postulancy. I had registered to travel as an individual young adult with my home diocese, the Diocese of Arlington (right outside of DC in Northern Virginia), before applying to postulancy. Thanks to all of you who were praying for me on pilgrimage and especially prayerfully supporting us postulants during this first year of initial formation! You have no idea how important those graces are in the times we most need them!
Before flying out to pilgrimage in Panamá, all of us postulants were on our respective province tours. In a sense priming my pilgrimage with a fraternal/ministerial experience in our province, I found myself excited to interact with friars from around the world!
Thanks to the help of Our Lady of the Angels Province JPIC Chairman, Friar Michael Lasky, OFM Conv., and his connections to friars in Latin America in his travels through his Justice, Peace, and Integrity of Creation (JPIC) ministry, I was able to connect with Franciscan Friars Conventual present for the pilgrim festivities. There were in all about 10 friars from Central and South American custodies and provinces, in addition to 2 friars from Europe that I got to meet, not including a handful of others that were traveling as chaplains with pilgrim groups. The friars were helping with various events around Panamá city, alongside friars from the other branches of the order, in promoting prayer and conversations surrounding Laudato Si. In partnership with the Global Catholic Climate Movement (GCCM), the friars were also able to participate in animating and singing to many young pilgrims from center stage after a couple of the main events with Pope Francis. Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle of Manila, Philippines gladly accepted the “Laudato Si Manifesto” on behalf of the greater church, this document presents the GCCM’s, Youth Franciscans (YouFra) and the friars’ challenge to the Church to actualize more action and consciousness in living out the lessons of Laudato Si and to reiterate (on the behalf of Young Catholics around the world) the need to incarnate and exemplify gospel values in our day to day lives as Christians caring for our common home—as promulgated by the Social Doctrine of the Catholic Church (DOCAT). I was very fortunate to spend time with the friars and experience the graces of international fraternity, live out the missionary charism of Franciscan itineracy, and be present to the young church gathered before us.
Having experienced WYD once before in Madrid Spain 2011, it was exciting to be participating once again this year! It was actually back in Madrid where my experiences of the universal church really moved me to be more open to exploring my faith as a high school student. Little did I know that the graces I received on pilgrimage in 2011 cultivated the soils of my vocation today. Now returning on pilgrimage as a Franciscan Friars Conventual postulant made the experience all the more edifying.
Being functionally bilingual and further along in my faith life, it was neat to notice the details I was not aware of as a high schooler just eight years ago and even continue to unpack blessings from pilgrimage in Madrid. It’s funny, in English we call this pilgrimage “World Youth Day” but the majority of the other language groups and even the organizers refer to this pilgrimage as “la Jornada Mundial de la Juventud” (JMJ) which translates to “the World Journey of the Youth.” I have become a lot more fond of this title because I think it best encapsulates the experience and festivities. Getting to bump into youth of all ages—from middle school to young adult (<30’s)—and their accompanying family, Lay ministers and chaplains from all over the world and exchange fraternal cheers, songs, laughs, and even the few words that they can communicate in that moment (regardless of language) make the youthful energy very palpable. People from various walks of life journey to these youth pilgrimages all round the world to commune with the wider church and give witness that young people are still very much engaged as part of the mystical body of Christ and passionate about the gospel! Many fundraise and work real hard in the span of every two to three years to be able to travel on pilgrimage. Some have more arduous journeys than others to make it to respective JMJ sites. But in the end all return home convicted with the same drive to be missionary disciples and to live out our faith more authentically.
The Secretaries General for Mission Animation (SGAM) of the different obediences of the Seraphic Order encouraged the friars to participate in the youth festivities and pilgrim events with Pope Francis. The “Franciscan Ecological Village” hosted by the Franciscan Sisters of Mary Immaculate hosted friars, Franciscan youth, and volunteers on their school ground. Together they mobilized various activities throughout the week (several I was able to partake in) motivating pilgrims to take time to reflect on modifying their lifestyles to live more simply in solidarity with the poor and heed the call for an ecological conversation. One evening, I was asked by our friars to help facilitate a small group in a wider panel discussion with YouFra (Youth Franciscans) and Ministers General from the different Franciscan branches about how the friars can improve their ministry and support of youth around the world. At the close of the JMJ a document summarizing the major points of the dialogue was sent to the Curias of the Orders in Rome.
The Holy Father encouraged us throughout our days with him to look to Mary for inspiration in her a humble and fearless fiat for how to live and love God’s mission for us. He exhorted us “You, dear young people, are not the future but the now of God. He invites you and calls you in your communities and cities to go out and find your grandparents, your elders; to stand up and with them to speak out and realize the dream that the Lord has dreamed for you.”
Now a two time veteran of JMJ experiences, I can’t emphasize enough how empowering it is to attend these pilgrimages. Whether youth or youth at heart, we should encourage youth to embrace opportunities to take pilgrimages and spiritually prepare for the blessings our Lord grants on such powerful experiences. I for one am grateful for the influence pilgrimage has had on my life discerning a religious vocation!
Pray for youth today, they are as much a part of the Church as the rest!
Peace and all good,
OFM Conv. Postulant (of Our Lady of the Angels Province)
The week after Thanksgiving, Friar Michael Lasky, OFM Conv. of our province’s Justice, Peace, and Integrity of Creation Ministry met with all of the postulants of the Conventual Franciscan Postulancy USA, in Chicago, IL for two days of JPIC workshops.
Here are some of their reactions :
Joshua (Our Lady of Consolation Province):
“We are all called to a life of poverty, so that all may live rich with dignity. ”
Roberto (Our Lady of Consolation Province):
“I can personally relate to a lot of what was being mentioned in the workshop. Coming from México and being raised in two different cultures was a challenge but it is certainly one that helped me to more fully understand our current political climate. Definitely learned a lot and am looking forward for what God and the world has to offer in my vocation. Gracias y que Dios los bendiga.”
Luke (Our Lady of the Angels Province):
“Social justice begins in our stories. As Christians our stories carry the power and presence of Christ, our Brother and Healer. Humanity today is ‘Doubting Thomas’ and we must show unbelieving Thomas our wounds, which have become scars by the life and light of Christ. Catherine Doherty says it well enough: the time of ‘mere talking is over.’ We must live the Gospel without compromise, because when we don’t, who will?”
Alex (Our Lady of Consolation Province):
“I gained a substantial knowledge on how to live out the vow of poverty in a way that supports the poor and the environment. Spending a little extra and investing a little more energy in order to support the poor is a part of our charism.”
Christopher (Our Lady of the Angels Province):
“In the past 10 years of my life I have been very humbled in encountering the cry of the poor and the cry of the earth around the world. It’s been really eye opening to meet people and explore places that experience varying dimensions of poverty—even here in the US. What a blessing it is now at this point in my life and my vocation to begin developing my understanding of JPIC in a Franciscan framework. With my continued exploration of foundational principles in caring for creation and for our common home I have become more confident in living out Laudato Si and integrating a more holistic lense and approach to matters of poverty and environment. I consider it an obligation in our world to use the privileges afforded me as a first-generation, Latino-American, Catholic, Ecologist, to aid in local and global discussions regarding JPIC and actually heeding the gospel calling to be Christ to others and renew the face of the earth for the glory of our Creator.”
The encyclical — as well as the government’s report — serves to remind the human family that the focus is not what’s best for an individual or one country, but what’s best for the entire planet, said Father Michael Lasky, a Conventual Franciscan who serves as director of Justice, Peace and Care for Creation Ministry for the order’s Our Lady of Angels Province based in Ellicott City, Maryland…
“We are brother and sister to one another. In that context, don’t you sacrifice for the one you love, especially if the one you love is hurting? That means we have to live differently. We have to do a radical shift,” Father Lasky said
Back in March of 2018, in preparation for the 2019, 800thAnniversary of the meeting of St. Francis and Sultan Al-Kamil, Our Lady of the Angels Province friar, Fr. Gerry Waterman, OFM Conv., who serves as Campus Minister for the Syracuse University / SUNY ESF Catholic community, joined the students he serves in welcoming the SU Muslim Student Association to share in a delicious Mediterranean dinner, followed by the viewing of the movie The Sultan and the Saint, at the SU Catholic Center on Walnut Place. Conversations at dinner and the dialogue that followed the movie were heart-warming as well as challenging. Muslim Chaplain – Amir Duric and Friar Gerry shared stories of their personal faith journeys as well as their collaborative inter-faith work in which they are engaged via the university’s Hendricks Chapel. Another inter-faith event is planned at the SU Catholic Center for Thursday, November 29th, when all three Abrahamic faiths (Judaism, Christianity and Islam) on the Syracuse University campus will come together to make sandwiches for the poor in downtown and Northside Syracuse.
Back in April 2018, Fr. Michael Lasky, OFM Conv., Chairman of Our Lady of the Angels Province’s Justice, Peace and the Integrity of Creation (JPIC) Ministry hosted an Interfaith Forum and Symposium on Environmental Justice and Service to Vulnerable Populations, at our Shrine of St. Anthony, in Ellicott City MD. One of the relationships to evolve and flourish from the event was between our friars, Howard County conservation organizations and the area’s Presbyterian faith community.
On October 9, 2018, Friar Michael (at left) joined volunteers from our Shrine’s Garden Ministry, Earth Forum of Howard County and First Presbyterian Church of Howard County to plant seven Cherokee Brave Dogwood trees and three Rising Sun Redbud trees in the area around the Shrine’s Outdoor Stations of the Cross. Instrumental in this undertaking was Nancy Fayer, the Coordinator of Earth Forum of Howard County, at First Presbyterian Church. This organization partners with other environmentally conscious groups such as The Municipal Online Stormwater Training (MOST) Center and Howard County’s Restoring the Environment and Developing Youth (READY) program, which created and maintains the rain-gardens on the Ellicott City Complex. Nancy was able to obtain the ten trees donated through Sun Nurseries, while working closely with Friar Michael and Shrine staff members – Carol Derenge and Jared Luttrell to plan and execute the planting, including procuring the compost, leaf grow, or organic soil amendment needed to maintain an environmentally conscience planting process.
The majority of the friars of our province live and minister in North America. For all of the citizens of Canada and the USA, November 11th holds a special place in our hearts. We take a moment to remember.
Remembrance Day in Canada: Flanders Fields and the Poppy click here.
Veterans Day in the United States: Prayers for veterans, soldiers, their families, refugees of war, and more click here.
On Thursday, November 1st the faithful around the world celebrate the Solemnity of All Saints. What began in the early fourth century as a feast honoring the martyrs, the Solemnity of All Saints is now a day when we celebrate all ordinary and typical human beings who, through God’s grace, lived holy lives. These lives given to God’s will granted the saints the peace and joy of eternal life in heaven.
Some of the lives of these saints are well known to us and we consider them friends whose intercession aids us as we travel on our earthly journey. We are often inspired by their examples of faith and good works, encouraging us all to give our best in our own lives, devoting every act for the greater glory of God.
A common theme in the lives of the saints is justice. Our Province Chairman for JPIC (Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation), Fr. Michael Lasky, OFM Conv. has shared with us some of these saint from around the world and their contributions to social justice. Take some time as you prepare to celebrate the upcoming Solemnity of All Saints, to familiarize yourself with the lives of some of these Social Justice Saints including: Venerable Teresa Chikaba of Guinea, Blessed Alberto Hurtado of Chile, St. Katharine Drexel of the United States, St. Daudi Okelo and Saint Jildo Irwa of Uganda, Conventual Franciscan – St. Maximilian Mary Kolbe, OFM Conv. of Poland, St. Nimatullah Youssef Kassab Al-Hardini of Lebanon, St. Roque González de Santa Cruz of Paraguay, St. Lorenzo Ruiz of the Philippines, Venerable Pierre Toussaint of Haiti, Blessed Victoria Rasoamanarivo of Madagascar, St.Cristóbal Magallanes Jara of Mexico, St. Juan Grande Román of Spain, St. Josephine Bakhita of Sudan, St. Anthony Peter Dich of Vietnam, St. Pope John XXIII of Italy, St. Pedro de San José Betancur of Guatemala, Blessed Michael Ghèbre of Ethiopia, St. Peter Ou of China, and St. Teresa of Calcutta India.
Several more Social Justice minded saints have Feast Days celebrated in November including:
November 3 – Feast of St. Martin de Porres
St. Martin de Porres is the patron of African Americans, race relations, and healthcare workers. Franciscan Media tells us how, “Father unknown” is the cold legal phrase sometimes used on baptismal records. “Half-breed” or “war souvenir” is the cruel name inflicted by those of “pure” blood. Like many others, Martin might have grown to be a bitter man… to read more click here.
November 13 – Feast Day of Saint Frances Xavier Cabrini
Saint Frances Xavier Cabrini is the patroness of immigrants. Mother Cabrini’s community of the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus responds to the Gospel call for justice and love in today’s circumstances by focusing on 5 words: Welcome, Support, Educate, Re-Examine, Work. To read more click here.
Franciscan Action Network (FAN) approached Our Lady of the Angels Province friar, Br. Ed Falsey, OFM Conv., to work on developing what they are calling Franciscan Solidarity Table (FST).
The purpose of the Solidarity Tables is to organize groups of Franciscans and Franciscan minded people to work together in the areas of peace, justice and the care of creation. These qualities are intrinsic to our Franciscan charism. They propose to help each group to deepen its knowledge and spiritual awareness of the Franciscan tradition from which these values come.
Friar Ed was part of the setting up of the Franciscan Action Network eleven years ago. When he moved to Syracuse, NY he ended up taking over the Franciscan Collaborative Ministries along with working in Pastoral Planning for the Diocese of Syracuse. He therefore had to withdraw from working with FAN but is now able to work again for the Network, as the new FST Director.
In taking on this challenge, he hope to support the work of the Friars, the Sisters, the Seculars and other Franciscan people in the area of justice and social action. They are all doing great work in bringing these Gospel values into the lives of the people they collaborate with and those they meet in need.
If you are interested in more information about this project and how it may connect to what you are doing or want to do, please contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.