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Hello, my name is Noel Danielewicz. I am 71 years-old and Conventual Franciscan Priest in the Our Lady of Angels Province (USA). I am currently living at Franciscan Martyrs Friary in Columbus, Georgia where I minister as the Pastor of St. Benedict the Moor Church.
I was born on August 18, 1948 in New Britian, CT. I am the oldest of 7 children born to John and Jennie Danielewicz. I have 4 brothers (Francis, Tom, Bob and Paul) and 2 sisters (Joann and Mary). We are still reading Genesis and I have 11 nieces and nephews and 17 grand-nieces and nephews. Being part of a Catholic, Polish-American family, our life centered on God, the Church and extended family. We enjoyed summers at the beach , the importance of Mass and meals, and our parish school. My family has always been supportive of my vocation and the friars. Both of my parents and grandmothers were Secular Franciscans. ‘Franciscan’ is in my gene pool!
I began my vocation journey first with the life of St. Francis – his love for the poor and his community of brothers. Other influences: The Father Justin Rosary Hour, my Dad’s vocation story, his desire “to be a brother,” a Conventual Franciscan Friar, and awareness of our Friars at Kolbe High School in Bridgeport, CT. But it was the “Blue Book” that connected me to the Conventual Franciscans. Sustaining that connection was a “Friar Pen Pal”- Fr. Nicholas Swaitek.
I entered the Franciscan community on August 3, 1966 at St. Joseph Cupertino novitiate, Ellicott City, MD. I professed my first vows on August 15, 1967 at the chapel in the novitiate. +Fr. Dominic Slemba, OFM Conv. was my novice master. Friars Jude Surowiec, Vincent Vivian, Paul Miskiewicz, Martin Kobos, Kark Kolodziejski and +Pat and +Mike Mendola were my classmates. Three years later on August 15, 1970, I professed my solemn vows at Immaculate Heart of Mary Church, Granby, MA.
I received a BA in Philosophy at St. Hyacinth College/Seminary, Granby, MA and then a Masters of Theology at our Seminary in Rensselaer, NY (St. Anthony-on-Hudson). Later I received a Maters in Religious Education at Loyola University, Chicago, IL.
On May 15, 1976 I was ordained a priest at Immaculate Conception Cathedral, Albany, NY. Some of my classmates are Friar Curt Kreml, Martin Kobos, Paul Miskiewicz and the late Patrick and Michael Mendola.
Following my ordination, I was assigned as a theology teacher at Cardinal O’Hara High School, Tonawanda, NY. I would have to say that my ‘favorite’ assignment was the 19 years I spent at the St. Francis of Assisi Community, Bessemer, Alabama. It was there where I helped implement a planned vision of ministry for them, moving from “St. Francis Mission” to “St. Francis Community” with a ‘mission’, RCIA, Teen Club, Retreat ministry, reorientation for the people.
My favorite ‘spiritual devotions’ or prayer is the Jesus Prayer: “Lord Jesus, be merciful to me a sinner.” I also love Scripture, in particular, Matthew 11:28-30 “Let Jesus be your burden-bearer. I also loved ministering in Assisi and conducting pilgrimages to Assisi.
For those considering a vocation to our Order and Province I would say: “(1) Be open to the Holy Spirit in your discernment. (2) To listen and hear the Lord speak from family and friends and the fraternity. (3) To fall in love with God of the Call and the Lord of the Journey. (4) To be prepared to die and rise in Christ through your Franciscan formation and ministry. (5) to embrace the Gospel and fraternity. (6) Love the Church and the people of God. (7) Witness to the Kingdom.”
And to our student friars: “Be ready to walk with God. Be flexible, compassionate, pastoral; experience God as healer and reconciler. Be a ‘brother’ not only in the Order, but in the fraternity of the Church and Creation. Get to know our Mother – St. Clare. See the bigger picture that includes everyone!”
Some years ago, while I was the chaplain in Enfield, CT, Felician Sister Anastacia asked me: “What language do you think in?” My answer was: “I think in Gospel!” I find that it helps me to choose well.