Dear Brothers and Sisters,
It is with joy in my heart that I wish to send you my best wishes on such an important occasion for the entire Franciscan Family, whose prayerful presence and filial closeness I have felt since the beginning of the Petrine Ministry. The eighth centenary of the confirmation of the Rule of the Friars Minor by Pope Honorius III which took place at the Lateran on November 29, 1223, is an auspicious occasion not only because it commemorates an historical event, but above all because it revives in you the same spirit that inspired Francis of Assisi to strip himself of everything, and give rise to a unique and fascinating form of life since it is rooted in the Gospel and lived sine glossa. May this jubilee be for each of you a time of inner rebirth, of a renewed missionary mandate for the Church which calls you to go out to meet the world where many brothers and sisters are waiting to be consoled, loved and cared for.
Therefore, moved by these sentiments, I am here to deliver you some exhortations that arise precisely from the words of the Poverello of Assisi, who advises his friars to “[…] observe poverty and humility and the holy Gospel of Our Lord Jesus Christ […]” (Regola bollata XII:4).
Observing the Holy Gospel
The Regola bollata in fact begins and ends with an explicit reference to the Gospel. The opening expression is an illuminating synthesis of the entire Rule: “The Rule and life of the friars minor is this: to observe the Holy Gospel of Our Lord Jesus Christ by living in obedience, without anything of one’s own and in chastity” (Regola bollata I:1).
For St. Francis, the Gospel was at the center of his existence; and the Church has approved its purpose, returning it to him and to all of you Franciscans as a text that no longer expresses only the spiritual intuition of a Founder, but a form of life. It is a message of joy that I have often wished to point out because it “fills the heart and the entire life of those who encounter Jesus.” (Evangelii gaudium, No. 1).
It is therefore urgent to return to the foundation of a Christian and baptismal commitment, capable of being inspired, in every choice, by the Word of the Lord: Christ is the focal point of your spirituality! Ben men and women who truly learn “rule and life” in His school!
Obedience to the Church
Beloved, to live the teachings of the Master it is necessary to remain in the Church. Francis manifests this in a decisive manner because to the introductory sentence which describes the desire to follow the evangelical counsels, he immediately adds suggestive words, singular in content and language: “Brother Francis promises obedience and reverence to our Lord Pope Honorius and his successors canonically elected and to the Roman Church. Let the other brothers be bound to obey Brother Francis and his successors. (Regola bollata I:2-3)
In that bond of “obedience and reverence” to the Pope and to the Church of Rome, he acknowledges an essential element for faithfulness to the call and for receiving Christ in the Eucharist; This is why he declares without hesitation his indispensable belonging to the Church. So then, live the spirit of the Rule by listening to and dialoging with one another, as the synodal path suggests doing. Support the Church with a firm hold, repair it by your example and by your testimony, even when it seems to cost more!
Going Out into the World
Finally, I want to take up an insight always found in the Regola bollata about going out into the world. Speaking in first person, the Seraphic Father articulates thusly: “I counsel, admonish and exhort my brothers in the Lord Jesus Christ not to quarrel or dispute or judge others when they go about in the world; but let them be meek, peaceful, modest, gentle and humble, speaking courteously to everyone, as is becoming. […] Into whatever house they enter, let them first say: Peace be to this house […]” (Regola bollata III:10-13)
Going around the world for you Franciscan friars and sisters really means realizing your itinerant vocation in the manner of fraternity and a peaceful life, without quarrels or disputes either between you or with others, giving proof of “minority”, with meekness and docility, announcing the peace of the Lord and entrusting yourselves to providence: it is a special plan for evangelization, possible for everyone.
From this perspective, it is good to rediscover the beauty of the characteristic Franciscan evangelization which is borne from a fraternity to promote fraternity; in fact, it is a life that speaks, love given in service is the greatest vehicle for proclamation. Find strength, therefore, in that peculiar vocation, proper to “minors” and “the poor,” such as you are by your desire and your sense of belonging.
It is given to you by Francis in his Rule and I am convinced that it is in tune with the invitation I address to the Christian Community to be a “Church that goes out”: “In fidelity to the example of the Master, it is vitally important for the Church today to go forth and preach the Gospel to all: to all places, on all occasions, without hesitation, reluctance or fear. The joy of the Gospel is for all people: no one can be excluded.” (Evangelii gaudium, No. 23).
And therefore I say to you: do not hesitate to go about the world in “fraternity” and in “minority” sharing the blessedness of poverty, becoming an eloquent sign of evangelism and showing to our age – marked so unfortunately by wars and conflict, by all kinds of egoism and rationale for exploitation of the environment and of the poor – that the Gospel is indeed the good news for man to find the best direction for constructing a new humanity together with the courage to set out towards Jesus, who “though he was rich, became poor for us, so that we might become rich through his poverty” (Cf. 2 Cor 8:9).
Dear Brothers and Sisters, I entrust to you the mission of recognizing the right paths you must follow in order to correspond boldly and faithfully to the charism you have received. As you prepare to recall the fundamental stages in the history of this vast Franciscan Family, I invoke the intercession of the Virgin Mary and Saints Francis and Clare of Assisi and I willingly send my Blessing, asking that you please continue to pray for me.
Rome, from St. John Lateran. November 9, 2023.
Anniversary of the Dedication of the Lateran Basilica Cathedral of Rome
Father Michael Heine, OFM Conv, minister provincial of Our Lady of the Angels Province announced the province has become the sponsor of the Franciscan Center (101 West 23rd St., Baltimore). The center offers a continuum of care that includes food, clothing, emergency services, counseling, culinary, and technology training to help clients become as self-sufficient as possible. The announcement was made on Nov. 29, the Feast of All Saints of the Seraphic Order when the Catholic Church celebrates the Franciscan saints who followed in the steps of St. Francis, and the 800th anniversary of the signing of the of the 1223 Rule of Saint Francis which marked the founding of the Franciscan order.
The Franciscan Sisters of Milwaukee including the Franciscan Sisters of Baltimore contacted Father Michael a number of months ago inviting the province to become the sponsors of the Franciscan Center. There is logic in the new arrangement: food grown at Little Portion Farm in Ellicott City, another ministry of the friars, is sent to the Franciscan Center to feed the poorest of the poor in Baltimore.
“The sisters opened the center in the late 60s with some of our friars,” Father Michael said. “But now as many communities are, the sisters are slowly divesting themselves and their sponsored communities. And so, we decided to say ‘yes’ to this invitation. I think this will open up wonderful opportunities for our friars information with our ministries in Baltimore and in Ellicott City, because it’s a way and a sign of new life as we follow our father, Francis, in reaching out to those people who no one else wants to deal with, the people on the margins.”
The Franciscan Sisters of Baltimore began their ministry in 1881, feeding the hungry and caring for orphans. With a single gift of Pioneer Natural Gas Company stock donated by Helene and Robert Rea of Philadelphia, and space provided by the Franciscans, the Franciscan Center opened on September 10, 1968. On a typical day 400 to 600 people visit the Franciscan Center to enjoy a healthy meal from fresh ingredients. More than 200,000 meals were provided in 2022.
“When we received word from Father Michael that the Conventual Franciscan’s Provincial Council had unanimously accepted our request to consider sponsorship of one of our most precious ministries, the Franciscan Center, we were not only delighted but relieved that this ministry would be in good hands,” said Sr. Joanne Schatzlein, OSF, Director of the Sisters of St. Francis of Assisi. “Our fervent wish was that our ministry would continue its Catholic Identity and remain faithful to the Franciscan Values. It is truly a gift of God that our Franciscan Brothers will continue the legacy of the Sister Founders into the future.”
“The sisters told me they need help feeding the souls of those they serve at the Franciscan Center. That’s where the friars will come in. We’ll continue the wonderful Franciscan spirit that was started by the sisters and will continue under Our Lady of the Angels Province,” Father Michael said.
This year the Feast of All Saints of the Franciscan Family falls on the day of the 800th anniversary of the approval, by Honorius III, of the Order’s Regula Bullata. “His holy sons,” we read in the Seraphic Missal, “of the First, Second and Third Orders, belong to every social condition and to every people. There are martyrs, doctors, priests, religious brothers, lay people, virgins, holy women. An immense multitude gathered around the great Poverello-the poor man, ‘bearing the sign of the living God.”
It is 800 years in which so many women and men have shared and lived Francis’ project, welcoming God without reservations, observing the Gospel in obedience, without anything of their own and in chastity, becoming people capable of loving their neighbour with generosity.
It was a worthy thing that Christ, in the seraphic apparition, imprinted His stigmata, as a seal of confirmation and authenticity, on the sacred flesh of this Poverello, who observed and taught evangelical perfection in the most genuine form, so that, in the dangerous gloom of the end times, we might be offered a clear sign that would illuminate the path of perfection.
It is by conditioning, however, that we learn not to desire what gives honour and prestige, but to prefer humble and hidden things.” By virtue of our baptism, we are all called to holiness, as Pope Francis reminds us in his Apostolic Exhortation “Gaudete et Exsultate.”
In the footsteps of Francis, Clare and all the Franciscan Saints, let us allow the Holy Spirit to guide us in our day and transform everything that seems ordinary, even that which may be discarded, into something extraordinary and precious in the eyes of God and our neighbour.
Happy Feast Day to one and all!
Friar Michael Heine, OFM Conv., Minister Provincial, Our Lady of the Angels Province
+Friar Romulus (Leonard Anthony) Rosolowski, OFM Conv., 77, a Franciscan Friar of Our Lady of the Angels Province, passed away peacefully on Saturday, Oct. 28, 2023, at Mercy Hospital in Buffalo, N.Y. Born in Buffalo on Sept. 15, 1946, he was the eldest son of the late Leo and Florence (nee Zielinski) Rosolowski. After graduating from Bishop Ryan High School in Buffalo in 1964, he entered the Novitiate of the Conventual Franciscans in Ellicott City, Md., professing first vows on August 15,1965.
He completed his undergraduate studies at St. Hyacinth College Seminary in Granby, Mass., during which time he professed solemn vows on August 15, 1968. After earning a bachelor’s degree in 1969, he traveled to Rome, where he studied at the Pontifical Faculty of Saint Bonaventure (“the Seraphicum”) until 1973. He completed his M.Div. at St. Anthony-on-Hudson Seminary in Rensselaer N.Y., in 1974. He was ordained to the priesthood on May 11, 1974.
His first assignment as a friar-priest was to the high school apostolate, teaching at Cardinal O’Hara in the Town of Tonawanda, N.Y., between 1974 and 1976. He then served as associate pastor of Corpus Christi Parish in Buffalo, until 1979, when he requested to work in the province’s mission in Ghana. He served in West Africa from 1979 to1983.
The remainder of Friar Romulus’ ministerial priesthood was spent in parochial settings: St. Francis of Assisi, Hamburg N.Y. (1983-86); St. Casimir, Baltimore Md., (1986-91); pastor of St. Paul Church, Atlas Penn. (1991-94); administrator of St. Stanislaus Kostka, St. Michael and St. Mary parishes, Shamokin Penn. (1994-95); co-pastor of St. Paul, Kensington Conn. (1995-96); pastor of Holy Family, St. Casimir & Emerich, and Șt. Columba parishes near Hooverville, Penn. (1996-2005); a second stint at St. Francis in Hamburg (2005-2008), and his final assignment was at Our Lady of Victory Basilica, Lackawanna N.Y. (2008-2023).
Friar Romulus is survived by his siblings, Robert (Kristin), Sr. M. Rosalind Rosolowski, CSSF, Dennis, David (Patricia) and like a brother to Mark Yourdon. He is also survived by loving nieces and nephews Thomas (Jessica), Natalie, Wade (Kathryn), Chelsey (Justin), Hannah (Erik); great nephew Parker; cousins, parishioners, many friends and the Conventual Franciscan Friars.
Visitation hours will be held Thursday, Nov. 2, from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m., at Our Lady of Victory Basilica (767 Ridge Rd., Lackawanna N.Y., with a Franciscan Wake Service at 7 p.m. A Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated by Our Lady of the Angels Minister Provincial Friar Michael Heine, OFM Conv., on Friday, Nov. 3, at 10 a.m., in the basilica, followed by burial in Saint Stanislaus Cemetery in Buffalo.
The funeral will be live streamed: https://youtube.com/live/BivxwDxQ0SU.