Spiritual Testament ~ Friar Raymond

A few times a week, check back for a new reflections.

Father Raymond Borkowski, OFM Conv.
Spiritual Testimony ~ November, 2019

Hello, my name is Raymond Borkowski. I am an 83 years-old Conventual Franciscan Priest in the Our Lady of Angels Province (USA). I am retired but I am active saying Mass, hearing confessions, participating in the RCIA program and church decorating at St. Paul Friary, Kensington, CT.
I was born in SCRANTION PA – July 30, 1936 and I grew up in THROOP PA. My Father, Henry Borkowski, was born in Poland, came to USA when he was eleven years old. Mother, Margaret Purta, was born in USA ; her parents were both born in Poland but met in USA. I have had one sister, Dorothy, two years older than I am. I attended the parish elementary school and St. Paul High School in Scranton. My father died when I was three years old. Mother worked in a sewing factory to support my sister and me. Father had died prior to social security. We lived across the street from the church and I volunteered for all kinds of help around the church.
Franciscan OFM Conv Friars from the former St. Anthony Province frequently came to the Parish Church to assist at Forty Hours Devotion and Parish Missions. Eventually four young men from the parish entered the Order. They all seemed happy and fulfilled in their vocation and provided a fine example which influenced me in my vocational discernment.
I entered the Order immediately following high school graduation at Becket, Massachusetts in 1953 with Fr. Cornelian Dende, OFM Conv. as my Novice Master. Fr. Cornelian came from Scranton PA and was one of the Friars who had assisted at my home parish of St. Anthony in Throop.
My Novitiate classmates were: Fr. Donald Kos, Stan Giermek, Ed Staniewicz and Richard Michanski. I made Simple Profession in 1954 and Solemn Vows in 1957. Donald and I were ordained in Rome in 1961. We had had the good fortune to be in St. Peter Square for the election of Pope St. John XXIII and in the Basilica for his Coronation Mass. While in Rome, I studied Theology at the Seraphicum and received the Licentiate in Sacred Theology (STL) in 1962.
I returned to the States in 1962 and my first assignment was as a faculty member at Cardinal O’Hara High School in Tonawanda NY. During this time, I completed graduate studies at Canisius College and was awarded a Master’s degree in Education.
In 1967, I was assigned to St. Hyacinth College and Seminary in Granby MA as a faculty member and spiritual director for the student friars. In 1971 I was appointed assistant novice director at St. Joseph Cupertino Novitiate in Ellicott City, MD and then Province vocation director. In 1979,
I returned to St. Hyacinth in Granby as Guardian of the community and as Director of the student friars. During this time, I also was elected for a three-year term to serve as a member of the provincial definitory (council).
In 1985, I was assigned as pastor for St. Stanislaus Church in Trenton, NJ. In 1988, I discerned a Missionary Vocation following a visit to our Province Mission in Ghana, West Africa. While in Ghana, I served several different ministries: on the faculty of St. Paul Regional Seminary in Accra and Guardian and Director of formation for the local Friars, as Chaplain to Poor Clare Nuns, as a Chaplain in Prison Ministry, and as founder of a new Diocesan Parish in the Archdiocese of Accra.
Upon my return to the USA in 1995, I became the first Franciscan Pastor of St. John Parish in Cromwell CT in the Diocese of Norwich where I remained for fifteen years. In 2010, I was assigned as Parochial Vicar at St. Paul Parish in Kensington.
I equally enjoyed all of my multiple and varied ministries. Each of them placed me in a strong supportive Franciscan community where I thoroughly enjoyed the dynamism of youthful communities, vibrant with Franciscan fervor and zeal in serving God’s people. I especially enjoyed the rhythm of the liturgical seasons, each with their particular devotional thrust.
One particular devotion which influenced my personal spirituality is Our Lady of Lourdes, especially because there, our Lady smiled, asked for prayer and penance, and accentuated her unique identity as the Immaculate Conception which is so central to our Franciscan Spirituality.
Advice to our Friars in Formation: “Always look forward and if you must look backward (rear view mirror) look only to avoid future mistakes. Place all your trust in the Lord.”

Advent Events around the Province

Throughout our province, our varied ministries will be holding many events of preparation for Advent 2019. Take a moment to find the ministry nearest to you by using the Locations page on this website. Follow the links provided and look through the calendars, bulletins and social media postings on the individual ministry websites. You will find many choices to add to your personal preparation as well as events for family and friends to share.

In the year 1224, in the Italian Town of Greccio, St. Francis of Assisi was inspired to recreate the birth of Jesus Christ. At his invitation, the townspeople gathered outside at sundown and sang hymns, listened to the Gospel Nativity Story at a simple manger surrounded by livestock. With their voices raised in song and prayer they realized and experienced what Mary and Joseph experienced as they entered Bethlehem. Here are some examples of upcoming Greccio Events around our province:

Greccio Living Nativity ~ Service of Prayers, Christmas Carols, and a Living Nativity outside at the Shine of St. Antyony’s red barn, on Saturday, December 7 & 8, 2019, at 7:30 p.m. (12290 Folly Quarter Road, Ellicott City, MD 21042) Bring your family and friends and encounter the true meaning Christmas! In case of weather, Greccio will be celebrated in the Shrine’s Chapel. Refreshments to follow, free of charge. 
Living Nativity Greccio Service ~ In the parking lot at our St. Kateri Tekakwitha National Shrine  and Historic Site (3636 NY-5, Fonda, NY 12068, USA), on Sunday, December 8, 2019, at 4:30 p.m., join our friars, and the Shrine staff & pilgrims for a brief Christmas experience as we welcome once again the birth of the Baby Who Changed Everything. The celebration will be held outside in the dark and cold to remind us of the faith Joseph and Mary had in God’s Desire for them and for us as His Chosen Children. The Shrine’s Grassmann Hall will be open for anyone who desires to join in prayer and song but would prefer the heat and light. Bring a flashlight and a Christmas dessert to share with the coffee and hot chocolate provided afterwards. The gift shop will be open for Christmas shopping on Saturday and Sunday from 1-3 p.m.
Live Nativity at Assumption Church ~ A dramatic telling of the Nativity story with Carols, Live Animals and Refreshments, on Sunday, December 15, 2019, at 2:00 p.m. (812 N. Salina Street, Syracuse NY 13208) It’s a wonderful event for children and also a great way to invite friends and neighbors who may have been away from the church.






Advent Message from Fr. Donald Grzymski, OFM Conv.,
president of our high school ministry in Baltimore, MD – Archbishop Curley High School.

Vocation News

In this season of preparation for the Coming of the Messiah and the celebration of Christmas, the friars of Our Lady of the Angels Province are all so aware of the need to prepare ourselves for these feasts, as well as to help prepare those of our ministries. I am so aware of this as we pray for vocations and work to encourage others to share our way of life. Oh, how we need to prepare others to enjoy Franciscan life and service in the Church!
In November, our province hosted a “Come and See” weekend for six participants, at our Shrine of St. Anthony, in Ellicott City, MD.  Many of our friars in the area assisted. Our student friars in formation shared their time & talent, and the hospitality of the friars who serve at the Shrine, and on the same Ellicott City Campus – at our Provincial House helped the participants to get a good sense of who we are and how we live. Although several participants expressed a desire for “more time,” we are hopeful that some of them may join our province.
Perhaps during this Advent, our greater community, including those served in our varied ministries, may make an ardent effort to encourage at least one man to consider life as a Franciscan Friar Conventual … maybe even contact our Vocation Office. Perhaps some college students who are home on Christmas break may be open to this invitation.
Thank you for all of your prayers and efforts to encourage our way of life. May the mysteries of Advent warm your hearts and the hearts of those we serve.

Russell Governale, OFM Conv.

How Will I Know

Spiritual Testament ~ Friar Tony

A few times a week, check back for a new reflections.

Father Anthony Kall, OFM Conv.
Spiritual Testimony ~ November, 2019

Greetings! My name is Anthony (Tony) Kall. I am 74 years-old and currently living and ministering as the Guardian Immaculate Conception Friary in Rensselaer, NY. I am a Conventual Franciscan Priest in the Our Lady of Angels Province (USA).
I was born on January 13, 1945 in Trenton, NJ. My family was a typical middle-income family and part of the ‘40s, ‘50s, and ‘60s culture and spirituality, etc. I attended Trenton Catholic Boys High School in Trenton, NJ and that is where I came to know the Conventual Friars.
After I graduated from high school, I entered the seminary at our Novitiate in Middldburgh, NY (1962). +Fr. Celestine Regnier, OFM Conv. was my Novice Master and two of the friars in my class are George Sabol and Edward Ondrako. We professed our Simple Vows at the Novitiate in Middleburgh, NY in 1963 and our Solemn Vows at the major seminary, St. Anthony-on-Hudson in Rensselaer, NY in 1966.
I completed all of my studies for the priesthood at St. Anthony-on-Hudson, Rensselaer, NY and was ordained to the priesthood in 1971 at the Immaculate Conception Cathedral in Albany, NY. There 11 friars ordained that year: 5 from the former Immaculate Conception Province and 6 from the former St. Anthony Province. Following my ordination, I was assigned as a teacher at Canevin High School, Pittsburgh, PA and I also earned an MA in Communication Arts from the University of Notre Dame.
I have had several different ministries but perhaps my ‘favorite’ would be when I was a teacher at our college seminary in Granby, MA. I really enjoyed working and living with the young friars there as well as the professed community.
My favorite type of prayer could best be described as contemplative spirituality.
For those considering a vocation to our Order and Province I would simply say: “Be open to life and to your experiences!”
And to our student friars: “Listen to your lived experiences and be open to them!”

Consecration to the Immaculate

On the weekend of the First Sunday of Advent (November 31 – December 1, 2019), the M.I. Initiative promoting consecration to the Immaculate Conception and enrollment in the M.I. made its 15th stop at St. Philip Benizi Catholic Church in Jonesboro, GA. Friar Jobe was welcomed by the 5 friars living in community there: Fr. John Koziol, OFM Conv. (Guardian of the Friary and Pastor), Fr. Martin Breski, OFM Conv. (photo credit), Fr. Vincent Gluc, OFM Conv. (Parochial Vicar), Fr. Santo Cricchio, OFM Conv. (Assisting at the parish while serving as a Contracted Counselor on site, through the Holy Family Counseling Center of GA) and Fr. Luis Palacios Rodríguez, OFM Conv. (Parochial Vicar). With seven Masses (5 in English and 2 in Spanish) and very engaged parishioners, this is the largest parish community yet on the tour. The response to the Initiative was record-breaking with 400 new M.I. enrollments and still counting. Instead of asking so many to stand in the sanctuary for a photo, the group decided to stay in their pews and have Friar John, Deacon Greg and Friar Jobe stand in the center of them. On Monday, December 2, 2019, Friar Jobe also presented a more in depth version of his talk, along with a Q&A , in the morning and in the evening. The Morning session is available through Facebook Live.

St. Philip Benizi Catholic Church ~ Jonesboro, GA

Posted in MI

Spiritual Testament ~ Friar Ed

Each week, check back for a new reflection.

Father Edward Debono OFM Conv.
Spiritual Testimony ~ October, 2019
My name is Ed Debono. I am an 86 year-old Conventual Franciscan Priest in the Our Lady of Angels Province (USA). I am in residence at St. Anthony Friary, Kingston, Ontario, Canada where I am the Chaplain for the Sisters of Providence.
I was born on November 29, 1932 in Toronto, Canada. My parents were immigrants from Malta! There were seven children in our family and I was #5. My family was very strong, very spiritual and very Catholic and my parents were always mentoring us with strong family values, and common sense. At the same time, they always allowed each one of us to determine our own vocation. Happiness and peace were criteria for my family!
I first learned about the Conventual Franciscan Friars though the Companion Magazine which was a publican of the Friars, published in Canada. My parents were subscribers. After reading about the Community, I applied and entered the Seminary in Staten Island, NY in September, 1951. A few years later, I entered the novitiate of the Conventual Franciscans in Middleburg, NY and then professed my first vows under the direction of my novice master +Fr. Celestine Regnier, OFM Conv. Some of the friars in my class were +Terence Pescatore, +Douglas Lawson, +Ray Yudin, +Isadore Blair, +Bill O’Donnell as well as Fr. Adam Keltos and Fr. Bob Amrhein. We professed our Simple vows on August 15, 1956 in Middleburg, NY and our Solemn vows on August 26, 1959 in Rensselaer, NY. I completed my formal studies for the priesthood at our seminary (St. Anthony-on-Hudson, Rensselaer, NY) and I was ordained a priest on May 26, 1962 in the Cathedral in Albany, NY with all of my classmates listed above.
Following my ordination, I was assigned as associate pastor of Holy Rosary Parish in Belleville, Ontario, Canada. I have had several different ministries but my current ministry is one I really enjoy because it is a very spiritual ministry.
My favorite ‘spiritual devotions’ are to St. Francis and to the Holy Spirit.
For those considering a vocation to our Order and Province I would say: “Observe the Gospel of Jesus Christ – that has to be our focus and do not let anyone deter you!”
And to our student friars: “I would say the same thing as above because our life is a wonderful and rewarding commitment…my vocation is the joy of my life!”
I would also like to see all the friars spend a year or two in Assisi. My time there was a profound experience and I believe it will be a profound experience for those who are open to the Spirit.

Fr. Jude ~ Zambia

Our Lady of the Angels Province friar, Fr. Jude Winkler, OFM Conv., serves the Order as Assistant General for the Conventual Franciscan Federation (CFF). This November, he conducted three formation meetings in Zambia.


Little Portion Farm – November 2019 Newsletter
In this week of Thanksgiving, we want to express our deep gratitude to all those who have supported Little Portion Farm in our first year. Whether it be through your donations, your prayers, or your volunteer work, we greatly appreciate you joining our mission to care for our land and serve those in need. I hope you have a blessed Thanksgiving!

Minister Provincial – Fraternal Visitation

November 2019: Our Minister Provincial, the Very Reverend Fr. James McCurry, OFM Conv. traveled to the Rio de Janeiro district of Brazil for his annual Fraternal Visitation with our Provincial Custody of the Immaculate Conception. The visit commenced at our Order’s Interprovincial Novitiate for Brazil, near the borders with Argentina and Paraguay. Our Immaculate Conception Custody has one novice, Frei Fernando Pereira Júnior, OFM Conv. (above with Friar James). He is joined by 7 other friar novices, under the leadership of two Formation Directors.
Coinciding with Friar James’ visit was that of Friar Joseph Blay, OFM Conv., a Ghanaian friar who serves in Rome as our Order’s JPIC (aka GPIC) Delegate General. Friar James, Friar Joseph, along with a group from the Novitiate, took the opportunity to visit the nearby Monastery of Poor Clares (above) – whose contemplative spirit overflowed in an abundance of sisterly joy. Post on Order’s Site

Not far from the novitiate are the famous Iguazú Falls. Novices Herivelto and Fernando delighted in sharing this awe-inspiring site with Fr. James.

The next stop of Fr. James’s fraternal visitation in Brazil was the large city of Belo Horizonte. The Custodial Chapter of 2017 voted to open a presence of the Order there.   At the invitation of the local Archbishop, the Friars assumed pastoral care of Paróquia Santa Cecília, which had been without priests for many years. Fr. James’s visit coincided with the Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe (see below) newly inaugurated parish Dia de Santa Cecília 2019 (Festival of St. Cecilia).

See more photos from the Solenidade de Cristo Rei (Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe) celebrations from the Facebook page of Paróquia Santa Cecília, by clicking on this photo.

The Custodial Definitory met with our Minister Provincial – Friar James – at our former seminary in Andrelândia – now our experimental hermitage – all day on the 28th of November – America’s Thanksgiving Day. While signs galore commemorate “Black Friday” in Brazil, the unique American holiday of Thanksgiving is unknown. (more photos) – São Francisco em Conversa Facebook Page

The Friars of our Provincial Custody of the Immaculate Conception have begun steps towards opening the Cause for Sainthood of the late +Frei Martin de Porres Maria Ward, OFM Conv. Frei Martin was an early missionary friar of our province, who died in while serving the people of Brazil.  He was also the first person of African lineage to enter the Order in modern times. His grave in Andrelândia (at left) is now a place of pilgrimage by the local faithful.

The friars and parishioners of all ministry sites in our Immaculate Conception Custody made their 3rd Annual Pilgrimage to The Cathedral Basilica of the National Shrine of Our Lady Aparecida (Nossa Senhora da Conceição Aparecida) ~ Patroness of Brazil. On Saturday the 30th of November, Friar James was welcomed by the pilgrims. Following the Liturgy, our group of 600 held a spiritual convocation of music, talks, and prayer on the Shrine premises.

No fraternal visitation of our Brazilian Custody feels complete without spending time with Mother Pacifica (Abbess) and the Poor Clares at Our Lady of the Angels Monastery in Rio. For over 50 years as Abbess, Mother Pacifica has served as the Clarissan Matriarch in Brazil. Due to her failing health, the Friar James and the Custódio Provincial, Frei Ronaldo Gomes da Silva, OFM Conv., were allowed to visit inside the enclosure behind the grill.