Friar Sebastian De Backer, OFM Conv., Renews Simple Vows

Friar Sebastian De Backer, OFM Conv., renewed his simple vows on Tuesday, July 9, 2024, at Our Lady of Angels Chapel in Enfield, Conn., at the 4 p.m. Mass.  Presiding and preaching at the Mass, Friar John Koziol, OFM Conv., received Friar Sebastian’s vows.  The friars and sisters at the infirmary joined in the celebration.

Our three friars on their solemn vow retreat in Holyoke,  Friar Cristofer Fernández, OFM Conv., Friar Raad Eshoo, OFM Conv., and Friar Joseph Krondon, OFM Conv., also joined the celebration as did Friars Brad Milunski, John Ruffo, Joseph Freitag, and Luis Palacios-Rodriguez. Friars Tony Kall and Vincent Vivian were the official witnesses for the renewal of vows. A fraternal gathering and pizza party took place after the Mass.

Congratulations Friar Sebastian!

+ Friar Curt Kremel OFM Conv. (1946-2024)

Friar Curt (Robert Curtis) Kreml, OFM Conv., 77, a Franciscan Friar of Our Lady of the Angels Province, died peacefully on Thursday, July 4, 2024, at Port St. Lucie, Fla.

Born in Oak Park, Ill. on September 22, 1946, he was a son of the late Robert and Ellen (nee Dillon) Kreml. In addition to his Franciscan family, he leaves his sister, Bette Lybrook. brother, Thomas Kreml, both of Las Vegas, Nev., sister-in-law, Sandy Kreml, of Forest Grove, Org., as well as numerous nieces and nephews that he dearly loved. He was predeceased by his brothers Norman and Roger Kreml. 

The Kreml family moved from Illinois to Phoenix, where Friar Curt was raised, eventually settling in Las Vegas. He earned his B.A. in Political Science from the University of San Francisco in 1968. After graduation, he enlisted in the United States Army, stationed in Germany for three years and serving in Vietnam before his honorable discharge.

Friar Curt entered the Novitiate of the Conventual Franciscans in Lake Forest, Ill., in September 1972, making his first profession of vows on July 28, 1973. He completed theological studies at St. Anthony-on-Hudson Seminary in Rensselaer, N.Y., professing Solemn Vows on Oct. 7, 1975, before earning his M.Div. in 1976. He was ordained a friar preist on July 17, 1976.

Friar Curt served three years as the assistant pastor of Assumption Church in Syracuse. From 1978 to 1982, he attended St. Patrick’s College in Ireland, earning his S.T.L., a degree he used as a professor of Moral Theology at St. Anthony-on-Hudson. In 1988, he began an eight-year tenure as chaplain and campus minister at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, N.C. During this time, he served a term as director of Campus Ministry for the Diocese of Charlotte.

After taking a sabbatical year, Friar Curt served as director of Candidates in Philadelphia from 1997 until 2005, when he became pastor of St. Peter Church in Point Pleasant, N.J., ministering there through 2011. Returning to formation work for a few years, he became the co-director of the Post-Novitiate program in Silver Spring, Md. In 2014, Friar Curt began his last assignment, as parochial vicar of St. Lucie Parish in Port St. Lucie, Fl

Visitation hours in Florida will be held Friday July 19, from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m., at St. Lucie Catholic Church (280 SW Prima Vista Blvd, Port St. Lucie FL 34983), with a Franciscan Wake Service at 7 p.m. A Mass of Christian Burial will take place on Saturday, July 20, at 11 a.m., at St. Lucie Catholic Church. 

Additional visitation hours will be held in New Jersey on Thursday, July 25, 4 p.m. to 7 p.m., at St. Peter Catholic Church (406 Forman Avenue, Point Pleasant Beach NJ 08742), with a Franciscan Wake Service at 7 p.m. A Mass of Christian Burial will take place on Friday July 26 at 11am. Internment at a later date at Our Lady of Lourdes Cemetery, Trenton N.J. Memorial Donations may be made to the Franciscan Education Burse (12300 Folly Quarter Road, Ellicott City MD 21042).

Minister Provincial meets with Presidents of the Federations

On June 24-27, 2024, Minister Provincial Friar Michael Heine, OFM Conv., attended the annual meeting between the General Definitory and the Presidents of the Federations at the Friary of the Twelve Holy Apostles in Rome. The meeting was convened by the Minister General, Friar Carlos A. Trovarelli.

The attending presidents were: Friar Hillary Omondi Raduk for the African Federation of Conventual Franciscans; Friar Milan Kos for the Centralis Europae Foederatio; Friar Michael Earaly for the Federation of Asian Minor Conventuals; Friar Sidifredo de la Cruz Chaparro Gualdrón for the Federación América Latina Conventuales; Friar Wojciech Kulig for the Foederatio Europae Mediae et Orientalis; and Friar Gaspare La Barbera for the Federazione Inter-mediterranea Ministri Provinciali.

The program was modified and shortened to allow the Minister General and other friars to attend the funeral of our confrere Friar Gianfranco Agostino GARDIN, the 117th Minister General and Archbishop Emeritus of Treviso, Italy. The funeral took place on June 28, at the cathedral in Treviso.

The star of the meeting agenda was the next General Chapter, which will be held June 1-21, 2025, at the Seraphicum College in Rome. The General Definitory and the presidents engaged in extensive discussions following the pre-established agenda, namely, to evaluate how the Motions of the 2019 General Chapter have been implemented during the current six-year mandate; to examine the proposed topics for discussion that were sent in by individual friars and some Jurisdictions; to listen to the report on the financial status of the Order presented by the General Econom, Friar Nicholas ROSA and the General Exactor, Friar Leszek ŁUCZKANIN; to arrange the logistics and timetable of the Chapter giving precise details on the important services that will be needed: secretaries, translators, etc. All of this was in order to arrive at a list of topics that will be included in the Instrumentum laboris of the Chapter itself. The big job of summarizing the reports received from each individual Province, Custody and Delegation has been underway for some time now. The Assistants General have been asked to produce a text based on these summaries, which can help the Minister General and the Capitulars to frame the reality, the hopes and the challenges that our Order faces.

The countdown to the General Chapter has officially started thanks to this meeting, which was conducted in a fraternal atmosphere. The meeting was tasked with preparing for the General Chapter as thoroughly as possible so that it will be an event of grace for our Conventual Franciscan fraternity and an opportunity to creatively revitalize our dedication to our charism.

Mourning +Archbishop Gianfranco Agostino Gardin, OFM Conv.

On the afternoon of Friday, June 21, 2024, news arrived from the Diocese of Treviso, Italy, that at the Clergy House in Treviso, after weeks of rapidly declining health, the Lord called to Himself Archbishop Gianfranco Agostino Garden, age 80, former Minister Provincial of the Italian Province of St. Anthony of Padua (Northern Italy) and former Minister General of the Conventual Franciscan Order.

Born in San Polo di Piave, Italy, on March 15, 1944, during the war, he returned with his family to live in the Parish of Frari in Venice, where he met and often visited with the friars of the historic basilica there. At age 14, he asked to join the Order of Friars Minor Conventual.

After graduating high school in Brescia and completing his novitiate year in Padua, he made his temporary profession on September 20, 1961, and his solemn profession on October 4, 1965, each time in the Basilica of St. Anthony of Padua.

He completed his high school studies in Brescia (1961-1964) and his philosophy and theology studies in Padua (1965-1970). After his priestly ordination on March 21, 1970, he earned a degree in moral theology from the Pontifical Lateran University-Alphonsian Academy in Rome.

He served as a formator in our seminaries, sharing his talents as a member of the formation team of the Theological Seminary (1973-1976) and as a professor of moral theology at the St. Anthony, Doctor Theological Institute affiliated with the Pontifical Theological Faculty of St. Bonaventure in Rome (1973-1988).
He was a collaborator on the St. Anthony’s Messenger Magazine, starting in 1978. In 1981, he created the magazine Credere Oggi [Belief Today], a tool for orientation and theological learning, which immediately established itself in the field of theological study for its informative, monographic and systematic approach. He remained the director if Credere Oggi until 1988, the year he was elected Minister Provincial of the Province of Padua. He was re-elected Minister Provincial at the Provincial Chapters of 1991 and 1994.

In fulfillment of the plans that the Province made for itself during the years of his provincialate, Friar Gianfranco Agostino encouraged and promoted the path of fraternal life in the communities and gave impetus to missionary activity. During his provincialate, the mission in Ghana completed it development and became a Provincial Custody. Moreover, a plan to open a mission in Chile was given a concrete start.

On June 3, 1995, Friar Gianfranco Agostino was elected the 117th Minister General. During his mandate (1995-2001) he was committed to guiding the Order, making frequent visits to the various Provinces and paying particular attention to the Conventual presences in the countries of Eastern Europe which were recovering after the fall of the Berlin Wall. He was attentive to all the mission presences and launched the Province of Zambia.
After returning to his home Province, on July 10, 2006, the Pope appointed him as titular Archbishop of Cissa (Croatia) and Secretary of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life. He served as the titular Bishop of Torcello (Italy) from November 1, 2007, to December 18, 2009; the Bishop of Treviso from December 18, 2009, to July 6, 2019. As Bishop Emeritus of Treviso, he lived in the Friary of Sant’Antonio, Dottore in Padua from 2020 until June of 2022 and then lived at the Clergy House in Treviso from June of 2022 until June 21, 2024.

Archbishop Hartmyer to head National Catholic Educational Association board

Archbishop Gregory J. Hartmayer, OFM Conv.

Archbishop Gregory Hartmayer, OFM Conv., of Atlanta was elected chairman of the board of the National Catholic Educational Association (NCEA) for a three-year term earlier this week, the organization announced on June 6, 2024.

The largest, private professional education association in the world, the NCEA works with nearly 140,000 Catholic educators to serve 1.6 million students in Catholic education. The organization provides annual data on Catholic schools in the U.S. as well as professional development and public policy resources to support intellectual and faith formation.

“We want to be a continual resource for superintendents, principals, and faculties of Catholic schools as they continue to create Catholic leaders of tomorrow,” Archbishop Hartmayer told CNA.

Archbishop Hartmayer has worked in Catholic education for upwards of 10 years during his 44 years of priesthood and now serves on the board of trustees at two seminaries: St. Vincent de Paul Seminary in Boynton Beach, Florida, and St. John Vianney College and Seminary in Miami. He holds three master’s degrees: a master of divinity degree from St. Anthony-on-Hudson in Rensselaer, New York; a master of arts degree in pastoral counseling from Emmanuel College, Boston; and a master of education degree from Boston College — in addition to a bachelor of arts degree in philosophy from St. Hyacinth College and Seminary in Massachusetts.

A member of the Order of Friars Minor Conventual, a religious community founded by St. Francis of Assisi, Archbishop Hartmayer has served Atlanta as archbishop since May 2020, following his service as bishop of Savannah, Georgia, in 2011. He has worked in Catholic education since the start of his priesthood. He served as a guidance counselor and then principal at Archbishop Curley High School in Baltimore from 1985–1987. In 1988, he was appointed principal at Cardinal O’Hara in Tonawanda, New York, and then served as principal of St. Francis High School in Hamburg, New York, until 1994.

He spent many years in New York and Massachusetts, but in 1995, he moved south to teach at a Catholic high school in Florida before being asked to serve as pastor of St. Philip Benizi Church in Jonesboro, Georgia, where he served for 15 years as a pastor.

Archbishop Hartmayer is currently the chairman of the USCCB Subcommittee for Communications and a member of the board for CLINIC. He made headlines earlier this year for advocating on behalf of an intellectually disabled Georgia man condemned to death.

Friar Richard Rome, OFM Conv., ordained to the priesthood

Archbishop Gregory Hartmayer, OFM Conv., archbishop of Atlanta, Friar Richard Rome, OFM Conv., and Our Lady of the Angels Province Minister Provincial Friar Michael Heine, OFM Conv.

Our Lady of the Angels Province’s newest priest is Friar Richard Rome, OFM Conv., who was ordained to the priesthood on Saturday, June 8, 2024, at St. Casimir Catholic Church in Baltimore, Md. The Most Reverend Gregory John Hartmayer, OFM Conv., archbishop of Atlanta, presided. This followed his ordination to the Order of Deacon on Oct. 6, 2023, at the Shrine of St. Anthony in Ellicott City, Md. In May 2024, he completed his Master of Divinity at The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C.

“As a Franciscan bishop, it is a unique privilege to ordain a Franciscan priest,” Archbishop Hartmayer said. “When I called down the Holy Spirit upon Richard Rome, laid my hands upon his head, and anointed his hands with sacred Chrism it was an extraordinary and humbling moment.  It is during this ancient rite, that the Catholic Church and the Franciscan Order will proudly welcome a new priest. He is called to serve and not to be served. He will be forever changed. It is truly an honor for me to ordain a brother friar to the priesthood of Jesus Christ. This special event is a precious gift from God to the Mystical Body of Christ.”

Friar Rome’s first assignment will be at St. Casimir in Baltimore where he has served as a friar-deacon.

Friar Richard Rome, OFM Conv., in front of his parents, Sharone and Kenneth Rome.

“After spending a year ministering to God’s people as a friar deacon, Friar Rich is well prepared to continue his servant ministry as a friar priest,” said Minister Provincial Friar Michael Heine, OFM Conv. “Friar Rich’s gentle ways and deep love of the Lord will serve him well as a friar-priest. A gifted homilist, he will touch the hearts of his listeners and lead them closer to Jesus.”

Friar Rome spent his postulancy year in Chicago followed by his novitiate at Arroyo Grande, Calif. His post-novitiate studies were performed in Silver Spring, Md., followed by an apostolic year in Shamokin, Penn, and post-novitiate studies in Silver Spring.

“After I was ordained a deacon, I saw Holy Orders as being given the grace and mission to serve the Church in a particular way: to proclaim the Gospel, to teach, to preach, to baptize,” Friar Richard said. “It was a calling to be ‘for them’ in a special way. Now, as I receive Holy Orders as a priest, the meaning is still the same, but the mission’s scope is broadening. I will still be called to proclaim the Gospel, teach, preach, and baptize. But added to that will be the grace and mission to feed the Church through the Eucharist, and to heal it through reconciliation and anointing.”

His assignments since joining Our Lady of the Angels Province included:

Postulancy: Chicago, Ill.(2016-17)
Novitiate: Arroyo Grande, Calif. (2017-18)
Post-Novitiate Studies: Silver Spring, Md. (2018-20)
Apostolic Year – Shamokin, Penn. (2020-21)
Post-Novitiate Studies – Silver Spring, Md. (2021-2024)
Following Diaconate Ordination: St. Casimir’s, Baltimore Md. (2023-2024)

Born in Norfolk, Va., Friar Rome is the son of  Sharon and Kenneth Rome, Captain U.S. Navy (Retired). He has a brother, Jim. He grew up in the Military Archdiocese, moving every two years. He lived in Virginia, Maryland, Rhode Island, and Italy. Friar Richard graduated from The College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Va., with a Bachelor of Arts in History and Classics. He also has a Master of Science in Supply Chain Management at Towson University in Towson, Md. Before entering the Franciscan Friars Conventual, Friar Richard spent eight years as a United States Army Civil Servant working in logistics.

Friar Richard Rome, OFM Conv., with his brother friars following his ordination to the priesthood.

Friar Marvin Shares Summer Experience

Friar Marvin Paul Asuncion Fernandez, OFM Conv., shared several photos from the first two weeks of his summer experience at Point Pleasant Beach, New Jersey. First, he visited Friar Paul Varga, OFM Conv., in Crest Pointe Health Center, where he resides. On June 2, Sunnyside Manor had a Family Day Picnic, where our brothers, Friars Richard and Brennan live. He also met Friar Richard’s brother and sister-in-law, Ron and Elizabeth. He then visited our departed friars in OLL Cemetery.

+ Br. Andre (James Armand) Picotte, OFM Conv.

Br. Andre (James Armand) Picotte, OFM Conv., a Franciscan Friar of the Our Lady of the Angels Province, died peacefully on Friday, May 3, 2024.  Born in Schenectady, N.Y., on April 11, 1945, he was the son of the late Armand and Bernice (nee Flynn) Picotte. After graduating high school, James entered the formation program of the Conventual Franciscans in Watertown, N.Y., completing postulancy in 1963-64 and novitiate in 1964-65, taking the religious name Andre. He professed simple vows on August 8, 1965. During his years in simple vows, he ministered as the local director of the Franciscan Mission Association (FMA). After completing studies, he made his Solemn Profession on October 4, 1970.

From 1970-73, Br. Andre was assigned to Rensselaer, N.Y., where he served as director of the Franciscan Press. From 1973-82, he was stationed in Trenton, acting as the director of Our Lady of Lourdes Cemetery. He would serve as director of Province Cemeteries for seventeen years. In 1982, he moved south to North Carolina, where he ministered for four years in Burgaw and Jacksonville as the business manager for the friars’ parish and two parochial schools. Elected province treasurer, Br. Andre moved back north to Union City, N.J., where he lived until 1990. He then spent almost three decades (1990-2019) stationed in Rensselaer, serving as province treasurer, director of Province Cemeteries, head of the province Communications Ministry, and provincial coordinator of Internet Communications. In 2019, Br. Andre moved back to North Carolina, where he remained in residence in Pittsboro until his death.

Visitation hours will be Thursday, May 9, from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m., at Immaculate Conception Church (540 Chestnut Ave, Trenton NJ 08611), with a Franciscan Wake Service at 7 p.m. A Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated at Immaculate Conception Church on Friday, May 10, at 11:00 a.m. Interment will follow in Our Lady of Lourdes Cemetery, Trenton. In lieu of flowers, memorial donations can be made to the Franciscan Education Fund (12300 Folly Quarter Rd., Ellicott City MD 21042).