Franciscan Soy Candles – New Frangrances

Consecration to the Immaculate

The M.I. Initiative made its 28th stop at St. Paul Catholic Parish (Kensington, CT), on the weekend of October 9-10, 2021. St. Paul Church is one of the largest Franciscan parishes of our province, with a Saturday evening Vigil Mass as well as four Sunday Masses. Together with the pastor ~ Friar Joe Benicewicz, OFM Conv. ~ Friar Michael Englert, OFM Conv. (parochial vicar), Friar Peter Timko, OFM Conv. (parochial vicar), and Friar Raymond Borkowski, OFM Conv. are all actively involved in the ministries there. During Friar Jobe’s visit, the parishioners were most open to the invitation to entrust themselves to Mary, the Immaculate Conception and many enrolled in the Militia of the Immaculate. Centered in the photo above, with Friar Jobe (left) and Friar Michael (right), who is also guardian of the St. Paul Friary, are many of the new M.I. members.

St. Paul Catholic Parish, in Kensington, CT


Be sure to mark your calendars
and check back as more information will follow about the
First Annual Franciscan Pilgrimage to the
National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception
in Washington D.C.,
on Saturday, April 30, 2022

Posted in MI

“Rebuild My Church” Book Signing

Rebuild My Church

Rebuild My Church:[1] Inspiration and Content by Fr. Edward J. Ondrako, O.F.M.Conv.
Published 2 August 2021   ISBN 978-1-943901-18-0

  1. Origin and Tribute. With an eye on modernity, this volume critically engages the scholarly life’s work of an extraordinarily faithful follower of St. Francis of Assisi, Fr. Peter Damian Fehlner, O.F.M.Conv. (1931-2018). In 2012, the theology department at the University of Notre Dame encouraged me to research all of Fehlner’s writings. In 2017, I defended my conclusions before C O’Regan (advisor), J Cavadini and L Cunningham, the doctoral committee. Fr. Fehlner read the original chapters: ”You have represented the development of my entire life’s thought correctly.”
  2. The first edition of RMC, the fruit of four more years of Fehlner’s engagement of the history of Christianity and irreplaceability of Vatican II, amplifies his fertile thought and makes it fully accessible to the scholar and avid reader. His original insight into commonalities in the works of St. Bonaventure (d. 1274), Bl. John Duns Scotus (d. 1308), and, the surprise of surprises, St. John Henry Newman (d. 1890),[2] are an anchor for Newman – Scotus research.
  3. Emanation. Scholars, my publisher and chats with Fehlner’s acquaintances prompted a longer preface and introduction. I include the Protestant Reformation as revolution and resulting changes in the cultural atmosphere that are not unlike the cultural polarization of the twenty-first century. Fehlner weaves continuity of principles from Bonaventure to Duns Scotus, Vatican II and the Franciscan Marian principle. I engage C Taylor’s two-band theory of modernity to weigh losses and gains in the rotating of the axis of the world that constructs a “new world.”[3]
  4. John Duns Scotus – St. John Henry Newman. Commonalities weave throughout ten chapters. More biographical data on Fehlner and Newman clarify his connecting of these University of Oxford’s theologians. Fehlner addresses many misreads of Scotistic thought to make his case. Fehlner’s eye is always on what has a significant bearing on the future of Catholic theology. I add readings of Newman that threaten to undermine good theology.
  5. Content of Ten Chapters. Chapters 1 and 2 are a portrait of Fehlner’s life. Ch 1 navigates the twilight of modernity; ch 2 is his middle voice. Chapters 3 and 4 explain his appropriation of Bonaventure; ch 4 on the Trinity and the Franciscan School today. Chapters 5 and 6 clarify key concepts of Duns Scotus; ch 6, Duns Scotus’ Marian principle. Chapter 7 narrates the original discovery of the relationship of Duns Scotus to John Henry Newman. Chapter 8 engages modernity with Newman’s Christology and Mariology. I add chapter 9 as Fehlner’s theological response to the event in the life of St. Francis: “Rebuild My Church.” His thought offers an escape from the Hegelian web, the necessity of engaging Heidegger’s anti-Catholicism, and the doubleness of the gift of modernity. I add chapter 10 on why Fehlner matters, why his theology is prophetic, apocalyptic and aesthetic, his retrieval of the all but disabled Scotistic tradition, diagnoses of forgetting that is sanctioned by the Holy Spirit, remembering deeply and broadly,[4] his new “eyes” on Duns Scotus’ and Newman’s system of truths.
  6. Comparing with Judge Ken Starr.[5] Fehlner and I engaged in heart-to-heart conversations about critical engagement with our post-Christian culture. The temporization of Church authorities in the face of the secular invasion and inviting ideas into the Church communities without the competence of leaders to guide them Christianly, engender collective complicity in creating a post-Christian culture.[6] I compare Fehlner’s faith context to that of Judge Ken Starr, who shines a bright spotlight on the autonomy principle at the heart of religious liberty in America. An extra layer of constitutional protection exists for all faith communities. Faith and non-faith contexts have many external reasons that contribute to a post-religious and a post-Christian culture.
  7. Application. “God has sent the Spirit of his Son, into our hearts”; “You are no longer a slave, but a child, and if a child then also an heir, through God.” (Gal 4, 6, 7). Starr analyzes the erosion of religious freedom; freedom of speech; freedom of the press; and freedom of assembly as a retreat from our nation’s commitment. Fehlner, a Scotist, aligns with St. Maximilian Kolbe. Fehlner’s Theologian of Auschwitz[7] lays out the reasons why Kolbe is a Scotist. Rebuild My Church is a companion volume. Proving why Kolbe is a theologian was Fehlner’s life’s work.
  8. Inspiration. In his Testament, Francis of Assisi said: “The Lord gave me such faith in churches that I would simply pray and speak in this way: We adore you, Lord Jesus Christ, in all Your churches throughout the world, and we bless You, for through Your holy cross You have redeemed the world.” As Francis prayed before the crucifix, he took literally a message from Christ to “rebuild the Church.” He gathered rocks, mortar and funds to rebuild three small stone Churches that still exist. Our Lady of the Angels, the Little Portion or Portiuncula, became his favorite. There he founded the Order of Friars Minor, the Order of Poor Clares, received a papal blessing that visitors in perpetuity could receive a plenary indulgence, and died nearby on 3 October 1226. He passed over into God in a transport of contemplation and invites every spiritual person into a passing over and transport of soul.[8]
  9. A World Bled of Mystery. Without a sense of the invisible and mystery, it is impossible to understand sacraments as hardly reduced to rituals. For troubled times, St. Francis’ faith in priests is restorative. They must live according to the manner of the holy Roman Church, the holy mysteries of the Most Holy Body and Blood which they receive and which they alone minister to others. Theologians minister the most holy divine words of life.[9] Fr. Fehlner’s Franciscan spirit and life aligns with Judge Starr’s analysis of religious liberty under assault and the entire constitutional order of democratic debate under challenge and “cancel culture.” I found the way Fehlner presents Kolbe’s Scotistic method aligns too with De Lubac’s recovery of the Joachimite problem Bonaventure dealt with: the subtle uncoupling of Spirit and Christ, i.e., the failure to believe that the Spirit does not function to critique but to support the institutional Church and distribute its gifts.

Book Talk at The Hammes Notre Dame Bookstore October 2021;

[1] E. J. Ondrako, Rebuild My Church: Peter Damian Fehlner’s Appropriation and Development of the Ecclesiology and Mariology of Vatican II (Hobe Sound, FL: Lectio Publishing, LLC, 2021).
[2] E. J. Ondrako, The Newman-Scotus Reader (New Bedford, MA; Academy of the Immaculate, 2016, canonization issue, 2019), ch 7, 239-389. See p. 244 to compare Bonaventure, Duns Scotus and Newman. See p. 331 in RMC.
[3] C. Taylor, A Secular Age (2007). C. O’Regan finds Taylor, a Catholic, clear about what has come and what is gone.
[4] “Remember catholicity” fits Balthasar’s life works. See C. O’Regan, “Hans Urs von Balthasar and the Beauty of Forgetting,” in Church Life Journal, McGrath Institute for Church Life, U. of Notre Dame (24 August 2020).
[5] Ken Starr, Religious Liberty in Crisis (New York: Encounter Books, 2021), 169-170. To Starr, the unforgiveable offenses in modern thinking: “racist, sexist, anti-gay” are indictments even from books that are well documented.
[6] C. O’Regan’s expanse of historical-systematic theological thought interlocks with Fehlner’s Franciscan breadth.
[7] P. D. Fehlner, Theologian of Auschwitz (Hobe Sound, FL: Lectio Publishing, LLC, 2020).
[8] St. Bonaventure, Itinerarium Mentis in Deum; The Journey of the Mind to God, chapter 7, 3.
[9] St. Francis of Assisi, Testament: “We should honor and respect all theologians and those who minister the most holy divine words as those who minister spirit and life to us” (Jn 6:64).


Fr. Edward J. Ondrako, OFM Conventual
Research Fellow Pontifical Faculty of St. Bonaventure, Rome
Visiting Scholar, McGrath Institute for Church Life
University of Notre Dame
October 4, 2021

April 30, 2022 M.I. Pilgrimage Announcement (2)

(1941 – August 14 – 2021)

Following in the footsteps of St. Francis of Assisi over the last eight centuries, the Franciscans have promoted a constant devotion and veneration of Our Lady, especially under Her title of the Immaculate Conception. Indeed, that constant and filial promotion of Our Lady as the Immaculate Mother of God represents a golden thread that holds together and highlights our Franciscan tradition and charism.
In the line of great Franciscan saints, St. Maximilian Kolbe M. Kolbe, OFM Conv. would state that the proclamation of the dogma of the Immaculate Conception by Pope Pius IX in 1854 represented only a first victory for Our Lady. When St. Maximilian would form the Militia of the Immaculate (M.I.) in 1917, he would call upon Mary, the Immaculate Conception, to gain a lasting victory over evil in the world and to draw all souls, even those fallen away from the Church, to Christ and the source of all love, His Sacred Heart. When Pope St. John Paul II canonized St. Maximilian in 1982, he declared St. Maximilian to be a “saint for a difficult century.” In the twenty-first century, more than ever, St. Maximilian’s entrustment to the Immaculate for the conversion of all serves as a key to a better world for all of us.
That is why, over the last three years, Our Lady of the Angels Province has sponsored an M.I. Initiative to promote consecration to the Immaculate Conception and membership in the Militia of the Immaculate. In the next few months, this Initiative will make its final and 36th stop at our Franciscan parish sites and we are very happy to report that the response of the faithful has been most gratifying as we will have enrolled close to 5,000 new M.I. members.
However, we can’t stop there and we believe that Our Lady and St. Maximilian are now asking us to do something else as a community of Franciscan Friars Conventual along with those with and for whom we minister. As a result, Our Lady of the Angels Province is sponsoring the 1st Annual Franciscan Pilgrimage to the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C. on Saturday, April 30, 2022. The Program for the day is below and we invite all friars, M.I. members, and all the faithful to join us in celebrating our devotion to the Immaculate Mother of God. If you are already enrolled, you will be receiving a letter with more instruction on registration. If you are not, but are a member of one of our pastoral ministries, check with your parish office to see if how your parish is participating.

Friar Jobe Abbass, OFM Conv.
Our Lady of the Angels Province Delegate for the Marian Apostolate


Be sure to mark your calendars and check back as more registration information will follow about the First Annual Franciscan Pilgrimage to the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, in Washington D.C., on Saturday, April 30, 2022.



  • 11.00 a.m. – WORDS OF WELCOME from the Very Rev. James McCurry, OFM Conv., Provincial of Our Lady of the Angels Province and Rev. Jobe Abbass, OFM Conv., Provincial Assistant of the Militia of the Immaculate
  • 11.30 a.m. – 12.30 p.m. – LUNCH TIME
  • 12.30 p.m. – 1.00 p.m. – Seated Overview TOUR of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception (Upper Basilica)
  • 1.00 p.m. – 1.30 p.m. – COMMUNAL PRAYER
  • 1.30 p.m. – 3.00 p.m. – EUCHARISTIC LITURGY and CLOSING
  • 3.00 p.m. – 4.00 p.m. – FREE TIME (There is a scheduled Vigil Mass at 4.30 p.m. The Basilica closes at 6.00 p.m.)
Posted in MI

Reflection by Fr. Ed Ondrako, OFM Conv.

Our Lady of the Angels Province friar, Fr. Edward Ondrako, OFM Conv. attended the canonization of St. John Henry Newman in Rome on October 13, 2019.

9 October 2021-Feast of St. John Henry Newman
(21 Feb 1801 – 11 August 1890)
Texts: 28th Wk Yr B. Wis 7: 7-11; Heb 4:12-13; Mk 10:17-30.
Theme. “I loved Wisdom more than health and beauty”
(Wis 7:10);
Subtheme. “The word of God is able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart”
(Heb 4: 12);
Subtheme. “There is no one who has given up everything for my sake and the sake of the good news, who will not receive a hundredfold now, persecutions and …eternal life”
(Mk 10: 29-30).

Wisdom, The Harm Principle,[1] Truth and Conscience
“Certainly, if I am obliged to bring religion into after-dinner toasts, (which indeed does not seem quite the thing), I shall drink—to the Pope, if you please,—still, to Conscience first, and to the Pope afterwards.”[2] How do you interpret St. John Henry Newman’s toast in 1874? “I shall drink—to the Pope, if you please,—still, to Conscience first, and to the Pope afterwards.” Interpret Newman yourselves.
Think of crises in the Church from a broad historical perspective. The power of the subjective conscience of the faithful reaffirms the sureness of the Christian memory which is memory always learning. Memory proceeds from our sacramental identity and is able to distinguish a genuine unfolding of Christian recollection from a false memory. Memory remains the power of simple faith from the teaching of the apostles, events from the beginning of the Church, up to today. Today, we experience memory in an entirely new way. Pope Benedict XVI likens memory to discernment of spirits.[3]
Why are there increasingly venomous attacks on faith? It is not hard to answer if we think about the harm principle. To millions of secularist Americans, religion is now a bad thing. The secularist reasons that religious beliefs and practices inflict harm on people. Believers bear vigorous assaults when they express and act on the tenets of their faith. Whether at home, in church, or in their professions, no one is exempt from attack. Ken Starr observes the dramatic change in tune of a Catholic President from a stalwart defender of religious liberty for virtually his entire career to the change in tune during the 2020 campaign. Starr has several observations, but starts with Joe Biden’s vigorous attack of the Little Sisters of the Poor for their conscience-based objections to providing their employees with contraception services. Starr repeats: the plain truth is that true believers in our land of liberty harm no one.[4]
St. John Henry Newman’s after dinner toast has many admirers and detractors. Newman is interpreted in conflicting ways. One interpretation is that Newman meant there was no basis for listening to the teachings of the Pope because conscience amounted to a person’s state of knowing everything. That is wrong headed. Why? All power that the papacy has is power of conscience. No less than the greatest theologian pope in history, Pope Benedict XVI [5] agrees. The connection between the primacy of conscience and true sense of the teaching authority of the pope means the pope does not impose but explains Christian memory and defends it. Pope Benedict XVI sides with Newman’s toast to conscience first and to the pope afterword because without conscience there would not be a papacy.[6]
How does the teaching of the Pope relate to conscience? The true teaching of the primacy of the Pope and its correlation to the primacy of conscience is best understood in connection with Christian memory. The pope’s authority is as advocate of the Christian memory. Again, he does not impose, but explains and defends the Christian memory. As Newman, he defends that truth cannot contradict itself although it often appears to contradict itself. Respecting a person’s conscience means recognizing life as a personal quest for truth.
Using a biblical image as the Lord sent Moses, the Lord sent St. John Henry Newman to work many “signs and wonders.” Newman had to counter many hurtful venomous attacks on faith. Today, “cancel culture is powerful and increasingly relentless” (Starr). The signs indicate that these attacks on religious liberty will increase in the immediate future. Be ever watchful!
Watch closely for civil authorities who reinvent themselves because they loom as potentially dangerous enemies to religious liberty in America. Think about their worldview being promoted across this great land of freedom, a worldview growing and fueled by hostile secularism. Remember, secularists want to be the referee, the only referee. Newman’s life teaches watchfulness and how to respond.
The way hostile secularism plays out is a widespread lack of respect for individual conscience and dignity. As a constitutional interpreter and judge, Ken Starr convinces that our era witnesses open hostility to communities of faith. In 1874, St. John Henry Newman answered the criticisms of the Prime Minister, William Ewart Gladstone, for suggesting that Catholics are unable to think for themselves because of their loyalty to a foreign power, the Pope. Newman’s reply teaches how to form a true conscience. “Conscience has rights because it has duties.” We have a duty to obey our conscience.
“If a person is culpable in being in error, which he might have escaped, had he been more in earnest, for that error he is answerable to God, but still he must act according to that error, while he is in it, because he in full sincerity thinks the error to be the truth” (Letter to Norfolk, 259). Newman added an example that may seem silly but makes an important point about getting at the truth:
If the Pope told the English Bishops to order their priests to stir themselves energetically in favor of teetotalism, and a particular priest was fully persuaded that abstinence from wine, etc., was practically a Gnostic error,[7] and therefore felt he could not so exert himself without sin; …. that priest would commit a sin hic et nunc (here and now) if he obeyed the Pope, whether he was right or wrong in his opinion, and, if wrong, although he had not taken proper pains to get at the truth of the matter (Letter to Norfolk, 260).
St. John Henry Newman’s readers understood the term Gnostic error as false knowledge. Pope Francis uses gnostic person.[8] Pope Francis cautions that the gnostic person’s knowledge and unity is in the secularized power of technology alone: A nightmarish political model can take[9] a “warm” or “cold” functionalism. The “warm” appearance of the gnostic person is the person with knowledge in today’s technological mentality The difficulty is that the gnostic person is unable to manage politics and to recognize technology’s limits. Pope Francis supports gaining political and technological knowledge and unity that can be good, but worries: what if the knowledge is unable to reach the real ends or purpose of living with faith and religion? The temptation is to search for or to allow the technological mentality to take over with its false secularized political promises without limits.[10] Politics tries to be what it is not. A one-off Hegelian might say: “I too am God.” For believers:  “The word of God is able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Heb 4: 12 “No one who has given up everything for my sake and the sake of the good news, will not receive a hundredfold now, persecutions—and eternal life” (Mk: 10).

In Celebration of My Golden Jubilee Year of Priesthood, Fr. Edward J. Ondrako, O.F.M.Conv.


[1] Ken Starr, Religious Liberty in Crisis (New York: Encounter Books, 2021), 163-173.
[2] J. H. Newman, “Difficulties of Anglicans” in Letter to the Duke of Norfolk (London: Longmans, Green, and Co., 1914), vol II, 261.
[3] J. Ratzinger, Faith and Politics (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2018), 95-151, especially 125-126.
[4] Religious Liberty in Crisis, 177.
[5] Faith and Politics, 125-126.
[6] Faith and Politics, 126.
[7] Pope Francis frequently refers to Gnosticism and Pelagianism as two troublesome errors of our times.
[8] See M. Borghesi, The Mind of Pope Francis (Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 2017), 122-130, especially 125.
[9] Pope Francis is critical of a purely scientific interpretation such as a technical-positivistic model.
[10] Pope Francis recognizes this political anthropology. See Borghesi who narrates Jorge Bergoglio’s formation.


Fr. Edward J. Ondrako, OFM Conventual
Research Fellow Pontifical Faculty of St. Bonaventure, Rome
Visiting Scholar, McGrath Institute for Church Life
University of Notre Dame
October 4, 2021


October 5, 2021 – Shrine of St. Anthony, Ellicott City, MD: Last year, due to COVID restrictions, our province could not celebrate our 2020 Jubilarians, in our usual way. We are happy to share as we gather to celebrate them, along with our 2021 Jubilarians, now that some of the restrictions have lifted. On Tuesday, October 5th, our friars gathered at the Noon Mass at The Shrine of St. Anthony, to fraternally concelebrate the Liturgy, followed by a luncheon. The presider is Fr. John Burkhard, OFM Conv. who will be honored for his 60th Anniversary of his Profession. The homilist is Fr. Donald Grzymski, OFM Conv. who will be honored for his 50th Anniversary of his Profession and 40th Anniversary of his Ordination. The Director of our Province Healthcare Ministry – Mrs. Pat Ashburn – was invited to serve as lector.

Other honorees are:

2020 & 2021 Profession Jubilarians

65th Anniversary of Profession:
Richard Rossell: August 16, 1955
Edward Debono: August 15, 1956
Robert Amrhein: August 15, 1956
Adam Keltos: August 15, 1956
Stanley Sobiech: September 16, 1956

60th Anniversary of Profession:
Hilary Brzostowski: August 15, 1960
Romuald Meogrossi: August 15, 1960
Nicholas Swiatek: August 15, 1960
Charles Jagodzinski: August 15, 1960
Stephen Merrigan: September 24, 1960
John Burkhard: August 12, 1961
Edward Handy: August 12, 1961
Mark Steed: August 12, 1961
James Amrhein: August 12, 1961
Dominic McGee: August 12, 1961
Nicholas Lorson: August 12, 1961
Dennis Sokolowski: August 15, 1961
Martin Breski: August 15, 1961
Joachim Giermek: August 15, 1961
Anthony Francis Spilka: August 15, 1961

50th Anniversary of Profession:
Thomas Reist: August 15, 1970
Vincent Gluc: August 15, 1970
Raphael Zwolenkiewicz: August 15, 1970
Gregory Hartmayer: August 15, 1970
Michael Sajda: August 15, 1970
Joseph Dorniak: August 15, 1970
Brian Newbigging: August 15, 1970
James Moore: August 16, 1970
Tom Purcell: August 16, 1970
Douglas McMillan: August 16, 1970
James McCurry: August 15, 1971
Donald Grzymski: August 15, 1971

40th Anniversary of Profession:
Thomas Lavin: August 15, 1980
Michael Martin: August 15, 1980
Michael Englert: August 15, 1980
Maurice Richard: August 1, 1981
Brennan Joseph Farleo: August 1, 1981
Jobe Abbass: August 1, 1981
John Koziol: August 15, 1981

25th Anniversary of Profession:
Gary Johnson: August 5, 1995
Andrzej Brzezinski: September 26, 1996
Grzegorz Wierzowiecki: September 26, 1996

2020 & 2021 Ordination Jubilarians

60th Anniversary of Ordination:
Richard Rossell: May 27, 1961
Raymond Borkowski: December 23, 1961

 50th Anniversary of Ordination:
Michael Kolodziej: May 23, 1970
Conrad Salach: May 22, 1971
Anthony Kall: May 22, 1971
Edward Ondrako: May 22, 1971
Francis Lombardo: May 22, 1971
George Sabol: November 20, 1971

40th Anniversary of Ordination:
Donald Grzymski: May 10, 1980
Paul Lininger: May 9, 1981
Robert Twele: July 18, 1981
Jude Winkler: July 25, 1981

25th Anniversary of Ordination:
Stephen King: May 26, 1996

A sampling of the Jubilarians on hand


If you would like more information on life as a Franciscan Friar Conventual,
contact our Province Vocation Director:
Br. Nick Romeo, OFM Conv. at
and visit Vocations | Our Lady of the Angels Province, USA (

Consecration to the Immaculate

Over the October 2-3, 2021 weekend, the 27th stop of the M.I. Initiative to promote Consecration to the Immaculate and membership in the M.I., took Friar Jobe to St. Anne Church, in Davidsville, PA. After a fire that destroyed the rectory and church hall at Holy Family Parish in Hooversville, PA, many of the faithful followed their pastor, Our Lady of the Angels Province friar, Fr. Karl Kolodziejski, OFM Conv., to join his new pastoral ministry of St. Anne Parish, where he serves as Administrator. Church attendance at this Stop was the best our Province M.I Initiative Tour has seen in these weeks of the ongoing pandemic. Many of the new M.I. members are pictured here with Friar Karl (center back) and Friar Jobe (center front).

St. Anne Church, in Davidsville, PA

Posted in MI

Reflection by Fr. Ed Ondrako, OFM Conv.

Post-Christian Culture, the Eucharist and Francis of Assisi
Texts: Sir 50: 1, 3-4, 6-7; Gal 6: 14-18; Mt 11: 25-30.
Theme “Behold him whose time the house of God was renovated” (Sir 50).
Subtheme “…a new creation is everything!” (Gal 6: 15).
Subtheme: Jesus exclaimed: “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth,
because you have hidden these things
from the wise and the intelligent and have revealed them to infants” (Mt 11:25).

Chapter 50 of the Book of Sirach refers to renovating the house of God. Francis of Assisi is the iconic saint of rebuilding the Church. He is known for responding literally to the Most High: “Francis, Rebuild My Church, you see it is falling into ruin.” He seems to have tried to escape what God was asking of him for a short while, then aligned with the message he heard as he was praying before the crucifix. From then on, he chose to conform to the Second Person of the Trinity. He put on a yoke that bound him to Christ as married couples freely choose a yoke binding them in the sacrament of matrimony. [While touring the new home for the priests and brothers of the Congregation of the Holy Cross at Notre Dame, I saw the yoke from the team of oxen that brought Fr. Sorin to Notre Dame in 1842. Who knew that a renowned Catholic university entrusted to Our Lady of Grace would be born?]

In the 1220’s, St. Francis instructed his friars: study without losing the spirit of prayer and devotion. By the 1250’s St. Bonaventure systematized Francis’ guidance. By the early 1300’s, Bl. John Duns Scotus fine-tuned Francis’ instructions. In the 1850’s, St. John Henry Newman amplified the meaning where faith and reason would intersect in response to the “secularizing” called the Enlightenment. By the 1930’s, the secular invasion was being mounted with full vigor. St. Maximilian Kolbe countered the secular invasion with a distinctive Franciscan inflected Marian cast. Pope St. John Paul II gives an unforgettable image to renovate and to build up the Church: “Faith and reason are like two wings on which the human spirit rises to the contemplation of truth. God has placed in the human heart the desire to know the truth—in a word, to know Himself—so that by knowing and loving God, men and women may come to the fulness of truth about themselves” (Fides et Ratio, 1).

The sobering reality is that many external factors react against the human spirit that is free to employ faith and reason rising to contemplate truth. Some say there is a freefall of truth. Yet, God has placed in the human heart as exemplified by all the saints and faithful the desire to know the truth. As a person checks his or her alignment and choices in freedom, they come to the truth about themselves.  The journey into wisdom is to come to the fulness of truth about oneself. Yes, our times throw many hindrances in the way. Partial answers are put forth that deceive, that appear as truth. We see in those who align with the traditionalism of the right or modernism of the left, possibly very sincere faithful, but unwittingly allowing a veil to cover clear headed thinking. The result is a serious impairment in knowing and loving God so that they might come to the fulness of truth about themselves.

Francis of Assisi found the balance. He would say: Be Catholic! It took me a long time to understand why Francis was saying: Be Catholic! I concluded that he meant: know your Catholic faith; avoid misinterpretations; guard against them, whether unintentional or worse, intentional. The latter is repackaging doctrine which is very dangerous to faith. First as Anglican and then Catholic, St. John Henry Newman chose the via media. Pope Saint John Paul II chose wisdom as the sure and final goal of all true knowing and to be freed of every hindrance by the intercession of the one who, in giving birth to the Truth and treasuring it in her heart, has shared it forever with all the world” (FR, 108).

Francis became this Marian trajectory underlying Pope John Paul’s Fides et Ratio on every page. Francis became totally devoted to the Mother of God. His writings radiate: “Holy Virgin Mary, among women, there is no one like you born in the world: you are the daughter and the servant of the Most High Supreme King and Father of heaven, you are the mother of our most holy Lord Jesus Christ, you are the spouse of the Holy Spirit” (Off Pass). Francis had become “a [living Pauline inflected] new creation” by seeking perfect conformity to Christ. Franciscans interpret his vocation: “Rebuild My Church” not as a self-aggrandizing egotist, nor as a self-proclaimed savior of the world. Rebuilding the Church with his brothers and devoted faithful is for the long haul. Reform and renewal for the Church are constants. Listen to Francis: “After the Lord gave me brothers, no one showed me what I was to do, but the Most High Himself revealed to me that I should live according to the form of the Holy Gospel.

To live the Gospel is Francis’ uncompromising goal by avoiding extremes of modernism or traditionalism; of being faithful to the Church’s irrevocable and unchangeable doctrine. Francis commanded his friars to work together, to faithfully respect and format Church teaching in a way that demonstrates the friars know how the doctrines match the requirements of our time. To Francis and Anthony, living the Gospel is good theology and does not minimize nor threaten the importance of good theology. To live the Gospel is neither liberal nor conservative as in political, much less traditionalist. To live the Gospel is “liberal” as St. John Henry Newman took the view of a university, a place of teaching universal knowledge, with its object as intellectual, not moral, the diffusion and extension of knowledge rather than the advancement. It is the seat of literature and science. (Preface, Idea of a University).

The vocation of theologian is to serve the truth. The words liberal-conservative as they are used today almost always have a political perspective. While there are similarities and dissimilarities, the categories are not appropriate to clarify matters in theology. In his Testament, Francis understood: “We should honor and respect all theologians and those who minister the most holy divine words as those who minister spirit and life to us (cf. Jn 6:64). Fr. Peter Damian Fehlner, O.F.M.Conv. (1931-2018), understood Francis. There can be tensions when theologians are described as conservative or liberal by our culture in a modern political sense which is not at all helpful. Fr. Fehlner’s adage is: “A good theologian need not be a good politician and a good politician need not be a be a good theologian.”

Many in our post-Christian culture choose something other than the light, a routine that is comfortable, a low ceiling for individual and social behavior. Does repairing and fortifying the house of God in the Book of Sirach serve as a light? The context is fortifying the temple. Possibly. Ours is a developing post-Christian culture. Catholic Christianity plays a part by reacting poorly to external factors. The secular invasion is undeniably visible. When Catholic Christianity temporizes, or delays, post-Christian culture grows. In addition, there is complicity to invite in the secular without the skills and competence to Christianly regulate. This diagnosis of post-Christian culture satisfies and convinces me.

The Eucharist sealed for Francis a reverence in churches and respect for and worthy reception of the Eucharist. Testament: “I would simply pray…We adore You, Lord Jesus Christ, in all Your churches throughout the world, and we bless you, for through your holy cross you have redeemed the world.” Ep Ord: “At the mention of Him who redeemed us and washed us in His most precious blood, you must adore Him with fear and reverence, prostrate on the ground.” Ep Cust II: “I ask you in the sight of the Lord Our God, as much as I can to give the letters which treat of the most holy Body and Blood of the Lord to the bishops and other members of the clergy. Ep Ord: “I admonish and urge that only one Mass according to the rite of the holy Church be celebrated each day where the brothers stay. Our Lord Jesus Christ fills those who are present and absent who are worthy of him.” In sum, Francis models living joyfully because he understood Jesus exclaim: “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and the intelligent and have revealed them to infants.”

In Celebration of My Golden Jubilee Year of Priesthood, Fr. Edward J. Ondrako, O.F.M.Conv.,


Fr. Edward J. Ondrako, OFM Conventual
Research Fellow Pontifical Faculty of St. Bonaventure, Rome
Visiting Scholar, McGrath Institute for Church Life
University of Notre Dame
October 4, 2021

The Feast of St. Francis Celebrations

A contemplative statue of St. Francis of Assisi greets visitors as they enter the Ellicott City, MD complex, which is home to ten of our province ministries, including the Provincial House and The Shrine of St. Anthony.

Our friars of St. Bonaventure Friary, in Toronto, ON: (left -right) Fr. Mark Steed, OFM Conv., Br. Manny Wenke, OFM Conv., Br. Tom Purcell, OFM Conv., Fr. Dennis Mason, OFM Conv., friar Fabian Adderley, OFM Conv., Fr. Peter Knaapen, OFM Conv. and Fr. Joseph Connick, OFM Conv. [To virtually join them for Mass each day on the YouTube channel of The Franciscan Church at St. Bonaventure, click on this photo.]

TRANSITUS: Each October 3rd, friars from all over the world gather to celebrate the Transitus of St. Francis of Assisi. Transitus is Latin for crossing or passage. It is commemorated on the Vigil of the Feast of St. Francis with prayer, scripture readings, joyful songs of praise and thanksgiving. The often candle lit night service commemorates the 1226 death of our beloved Seraphic Father, as he crossed over from life on earth to eternal life with the Lord. Traditionally the celebrations of these Feast Days are chosen to mark the date of a saint’s death and are remembered by the faithful with special mention, prayers, and scripture readings.  For Franciscans, the Feast of St. Francis of Assisi (October 4th) is much more. It is a day filled with celebration and joy, including the traditional Blessing of the Animals and gatherings of fellowship with our brothers and sisters, in Christ.
Archbishop Curley’s Transitus Service 2021

The Transitus was celebrated jointly by the friars of our St. Francis of Assisi Friary and our Fr. Justin Senior Residence (Hamburg, NY), in the St. Francis High School Chapel, along with a couple students from the high school. Br. Michael Duffy, OFM Conv. – principal – provided the reflection for the evening.


FEAST DAY FRATERNAL FELLOWSHIP: Throughout Our Lady of the Angels Province, our friars share this joyful day with the people we serve. We also take the opportunity to celebrate our Franciscan Brotherhood with Mass, prayer, meals and laughter together in our friaries and in our ministries.
A tri-lingual Mass at our Brooklyn, NY pastoral ministry of Most Holy Trinity – St. Mary was celebrated by all three friars serving there: Fr. Raphael Zwolenkiewicz, OFM Conv. (pastor), Fr. Tomasz Ryba, OFM Conv. (parochial vicar) and Fr. Nader Ata, OFM Conv. (parochial vicar).

Frei Michel da Cruz Alves dos Santos, OFM Conv. (pastor) Blessing of the Animals at the Paróquia São Pedro e São Paulo, in Paraíba do Sul, Brazil. Learn more about our Province Custody in Brazil: Custódia Provincial Imaculada Conceição do Brasil « Ordem dos Frades Menores Conventuais (

BLESSING OF THE ANIMALS: On the days surrounding the October 4th Feast Day, friars from throughout our province ministries enjoy the traditional Blessing of Animals; a simple act that helps us share the charism of St. Francis by blessing these special “companions” of those we serve. It is always a source of great joy for our friars and it was wonderful to have others who serve through several of our special ministries there to join in the fun.


Blessing of the Animals 2021

Kicking off the weekend of celebrations for the Feast of St. Francis of Assisi, is Fr. Paul Lininger, OFM Conv. (pastor of Blessed Sacrament Catholic Community – including Blessed Sacrament School, in Burlington, NC), as he blesses the animals of the school community families.

Fr. Tim Kulbicki, OFM Conv. serves as pastor and campus minister at UNC Chapel Hill Newman Catholic Student Center Parish. A nice crowd gathered in the parking lot for this year’s Blessing.

Pilgrims to The Shrine of St. Anthony, in Ellicott City, MD were greeted by Fr. Richard-Jacob Forcier, OFM Conv. and Fr. Grzegorz (Greg) Wierzowiecki, OFM Conv., as they gathered for the Blessing. [Friar Richard-Jacob also serves as Province Secretary and as the Spiritual Guardian for The Companions of St. Anthony.]

As part of the St. Casimir Church Fall Festival 2021, Fr. Andy Santamauro, OFM Conv. (parochial vicar) and Fr. Dennis Grumsey, OFM Conv. (pastor) bless the animals brought to them by Baltimore City’s Canton neighborhood residents.

CNY Central online article featuring the Blessing
with Friar Rick Riccioli, OFM Conv.
– pastor of Assumption Church, Syracuse, NY.