Intro by Fr. Michael Lasky, OFM Conv., of our province Justice, Peace & Integrity of Creation Ministry:
This most recent installment of our JPIC Friar Focus includes a suggestion for a wonderful book, highlighting our brother, Fr. Bede Abram, OFM Conv. (1942-1991). Our Lady of the Angels Province friar and chaplain of the Sisters of St. Felix of Cantalice (aka the Felician Sisters), of Enfield, CT – Fr. Noel Danielewicz, OFM Conv. has written a moving piece on how Friar Bede inspired him personally. This witness is coupled with a book which I first encountered in May 2000 when I received an ordination gift from Friar Noel, entitled A Retreat With Thea Bowman and Bede Abram – Leaning on the Lord by Joseph A. Brown, S.J.
On a personal note, I entered our candidacy program in Granby in 1991, six months after Sister Death came to take Friar Bede home. Upon entering the community I considered myself fortunate, because when I was a high school student at Archbishop Curley High School, Friar Noel had talked me into attending a three night Lenten Mission at the Basilica of the Assumption, led by Friar Bede. I’ll never forget his preaching. Even more memorable than his preaching was a personal encounter I had with Friar Bede, when after the second night Friar Noel introduced me him, and I asked a simple question couched in a complement. “I’m really enjoying your preaching…but every now and again I get lost. Can you please tell me what this sparrow is that you keep talking about?” His answer, very kind and personal, came after the friars composed themselves and I was patted on the head and shoulders several times with accompanying phrases like, “Oh, poor child…”
Four days after his death, the National Black Catholic Congress convened in Washington and proclaimed the following: “The entire membership…recognize our brother Bede Abram…teacher, lecturer, revivalist, theologian – who has gone to glory,…for he traversed the land giving days of reflection and prayer…he sang his way into the hearts of thousands…he expanded the minds and thinking of many…he challenged all types of folks…we shall miss him as this life had us know him.”
Friar Noel Danielewicz, OFM Conv.
Reflecting on the call to social justice, in the spirit of Friar Bede Abram and Sister Thea Bowman, I see it as answering the summons to live and incarnate the GOSPEL through being a preacher of the Word! As Christians, we see the world with the compassion of Jesus and respond to the plight of humanity with mercy and love, justice, and forgiveness.
For me, Thea and Bede were two iconic Franciscan voices in the urban wilderness of our country, that cried out for the dignity of the human person. Sister Thea offered her gift of “multiculturalism” to a world that has grown cold to appreciate the richness of God’s gift of race and ethnicity first in oneself, so that you can see and value it in others as “sister and brother.”
There was an “urgency” in Thea and Bede’s message that made some folk uncomfortable about the need to step up to the plate and do something. For we are NOT talking now about ideology, but the pressing needs of humanity. Be it from the classroom to the sanctuary—-Sister Thea and Friar Bede spoke a message of TRUTH that she would often say: “I’ll tell you the truth, only if you can stand to hear the true—truth!” And Thea was adamant about that.
I found it ironic, that God sent these two giants into my life as a friar—priest, whose major fear in ministry was PREACHING. One Good Friday Liturgy I incorporated my recent experience of the death of my nephew, Michael into the homily. It opened my own woundedness with that of Jesus and I felt drained upon returning to my chair. Friar Bede immediately wasted no time in jumping up and congratulating me. And I asked for what? He said, “you preached!”
It is simply amazing whom God places on our “checkerboard” of life and Friar Bede and Sister Thea have been that gift of “spirit and life” for me. Their relationship patterned the love of Francis and Clare that speaks to a hungry and thirsty Church. I’m challenged by God’s presence in my life, and that while I have breath, may I continue to preach in the words of Francis of Assisi: “Sisters and brothers, while we have time, let us do good! For up until now we have done but little.”