Here is an update on the activity with our Vocation Office so far in 2019, and of the good work that our friars are doing to encourage vocations to the Franciscan Friars Conventual of Our Lady of the Angels Province. This a busy time with applicants getting in their documents, as they seek to make application for the next year’s postulant class.
At the end of January, Fr. Russell Governale, OFM Conv. – Vocation Director was invited to our province pastoral ministry in Winston-Salem, NC (Our Lady of Fatima Mission & Our Lady of Mercy Church, under the leadership of Fr. Carl Zdancewicz, OFM Conv. – Pastor & Fr. Joseph Angelini, OFM Conv. – Pastor Emeritus) to speak to the youth of the parish about vocations. It was a joint effort with Sr. Maria (Peaches) Dela Paz, OSF, of the Sisters of St. Francis of Philadelphia, who is a novice and was serving at the parish at that time. It was encouraging to see how much the students knew about St. Francis and how attentive they were to our presentations.
In February, Friar Russell led a pilgrimage for students from our high school ministry of St. Francis High School (Athol Springs, NY) to Assisi and Rome. Fourteen men attended and their desire for God and to know St. Francis and St. Clare was truly palpable. It was a moving experience for the students, their chaperones, Friar Russell and Fr. Alvin Te, OFM, who also led the pilgrimage. (Our friars serving at the high school are Fr. Michael Sajda, OFM Conv. – President, Fr. Matthew Foley, OFM Conv. – Director of Campus Ministry & Instructor, and Fr. Maximilian Avila Pacheco, OFM Conv. – Instructor.)
In mid March, Friar Russell was able to be present for the Sophomore Retreats of our high school ministry of Archbishop Curley High School (Baltimore, MD), held at our Shrine of St. Anthony (Ellicott City, MD). Although those students are young, seeds of vocation are being planted. He looks forward to returning to St. Francis High School to attend their Sophomore retreat in April, where he is sure the young men there will also have vocational awareness presented to them. (Our friars serving at Archbishop Curley High School are Fr. Donald Grzymski, OFM Conv. – President, Br. Lawrence LaFlame, OFM Conv. – Instructor, Br. Nicholas Romeo, OFM Conv. – Instructor, Friar Chris Dudek, OFM Conv. – Campus Minster & Instructor, Br. Emmanuel Wenke, OFM Conv. – Instructor) (Our friars serving at the Shrine of St. Anthony include Fr. Ericson de la Pena, OFM Conv. – Director, Fr. Hilary Brzostowski, OFM Conv. – Shrine Associate, Br. Douglas McMillan, OFM Conv. – Shrine Assistance, Fr. Thomas Lavin, OFM Conv. – Chaplain at Our Lady of Good Counsel High School & Shrine Assistance, Fr. Angelo Geiger, OFM Conv. – Shrine Assistance, Fr. Michael Lasky, OFM Conv. – JPIC Commission Chairman & Shrine Assistance and Fr. Emmanuel Oposika Acquaye, OFM Conv. – Shrine Assistance.)
Last week, Friar Russell was once again invited to our ministries served by our friars of St. Anthony of Padua Friary, in Durham, NC. There the friars are very present to promoting vocations to our way of life. He was able to meet with seven men from Duke University and UNC Chapel Hill while he was there. We pray that the witness of the friars and the Holy Spirit inspires them to continue discerning Religious Life. (Our friars of St. Anthony of Padua Friary are Fr. Brad Heckathorne, OFM Conv. – Guardian, Continuing Formation Commission & Associate Director of Campus Ministry at Duke Catholic Center, Fr. Bart Karwacki, OFM Conv. – Pastor of Holy Cross Catholic Church, Fr. Bill Robinson, OFM Conv. – Parochial Vicar & Associate Campus Minister at Newman Catholic Student Center Parish ~UNC Chapel Hill, Fr. Michael Martin, OFM Conv. – Director of Campus Ministry at Duke Catholic Center, Fr. Nicholas Spano, OFM Conv. – Pastor & Campus Minister at Newman Catholic Student Center Parish ~UNC Chapel Hill.)
We pray that the spirit of St. Francis inspires others to follow Jesus, as Francis did. Please keep encouraging vocations.
Each Spring and Fall the friars of the Our Lady of the Angels Province gather for a day of on-going formation and fraternity. Because of the tremendous geographical distance among the friars there are generally four planned days: metro-Baltimore, Western New York, Western Massachusetts and Connecticut, and either Georgia or North Carolina. Topics for each gathering are planned in advance.
Spring Friars Day #1
March 26, 2019
Hosted by Blessed Sacrament Friary, Burlington, NC
Continuing Theological Formation: “Flesh Considered Theologically”
Presenter: Dr. Paul Griffiths
Spring Friars Day #2 March 28, 2019 Hosted by St. Michael Friary, Baltimore, MD Continuing Theological Formation: “Flesh Considered Theologically” Presenter: Dr. Paul Griffiths
Spring Friars Day #3 April 2, 2019 Hosted by Our Lady of the Angels Care Center, Enfield, CT Continuing Theological Formation: “Flesh Considered Theologically” Presenter: Dr. Paul Griffiths
Sr. Bernadine, Superior of the Sisters of St. Felix of Cantalice serving in Enfield, welcoming the friars
Friar Michael presents the 1st Night of a four night Pastorate Lenten Mission – Church of the Annunciation
This week, (Monday, March 25th until Wednesday, March 27th) a Lenten Mission entitled “Go To Your Inner Room,” was hosted by the Archdiocese of Baltimore’s Pastorate which includes the three parishes of Church of the Annunciation, St. Michael the Archangel Church and St. Clement Mary Hofbauer Church, and led by Fr. Michael E. Heine, OFM Conv ~ Vicar Provincial of the Our Lady of the Angels Province. The faithful gathered for 7:00 p.m. Mass each of the three days of preaching and on the fourth day of the Lenten Mission (Thursday evening, March 28th) they will gather to celebrate a “Pastorate Penance Service,” all with the hope of renewing faith in Jesus on a journey together through the Lenten Season.
Friar Michael presents the 2nd Night – St. Michael the Archangel Church
On Tuesday evening, all of our friars serving the Pastorate concelebrated the Mission Mass at St. Michael the Archangel Church. (L to R): Fr. Timothy Dore, OFM Conv. (Pastor of Pastorate), Fr. George Sabol, OFM Conv. (Assistant Pastor for Pastorate), Fr. Michael Heine, OFM Conv. (Vicar Provincial of Our Lady of the Angels Province), Fr. Romuald Meogrossi, OFM Conv. (Pastoral Assistant for Pastorate), Fr. Edward Ouma Owino, OFM Conv. (Assisting Clergy In Residence) and Fr. John Ruffo, OFM Conv. Parochial Vicar for Pastorate)
After the Wednesday evening Mass, Friar Michael stopped for a photo with former Conventual friar-seminarian and current permanent deacon candidate John Micciche! On March 27th, Friar Michael preached the third night of the Pastorate’s Lenten Mission at St. Clement Mary Hofbauer Church. John Micciche is a devoted parishioner of St. Clement, who ministered as an Acolyte for the Mass. John will be ordained to the Permanent Diaconate by Baltimore’s Archbishop Lori at the Cathedral of Mary Our Queen, on Saturday, May 25, 2019. This will be a great moment for John and his family, for the Parish of St. Clement, Mary Hofbauer, for our “Franciscan Pastorate,” and for the Province of Our Lady of the Angels! Let’s pray in gratitude for John’s and his wife’s marital vocation, for their children, for his deaconal vocation, and for his continued friendship and fraternal love for the friars of our province!
Sunday, March 17, 2019: The Sisters of the Good Shepherd were honored at the 10:30 a.m. Mass at Ascension Catholic Church, in Halethorpe, MD, celebrated by Bishop Adam J. Parker, an Auxiliary Bishop of Baltimore. Our Lady of the Angels Province Secretary ~ Fr. Richard-Jacob Forcier, OFM Conv. (pictured far left in both photos) was invited to attend. The Mass was highlighted by the work of the Good Shepherd Sisters who left the Archdiocese of Baltimore last year, after 153 years of service (specifically in Halethorpe for over 50 of those years). The Sisters from the Baltimore area now reside with the Sisters of Cyril and Methodius in Danville, PA.
Through the years, our friars living and serving in the area, provided spiritual care (Mass, Confessions, and Spiritual Direction) for the sisters of St. Joseph’s Residence as well as the residents of Good Shepherd Services. Due to their move to Danville, the Sisters serving in the Archdiocese of Baltimore have gifted several of the beloved statues and other artwork to parishes and other sites and organizations with whom they served; including a beautiful portrait and landscape gifted to our friars. To the parishioners of The Catholic Community of Ascension and St. Augustine, they gifted their statue of Our Lady of the Good Shepherd.
After the Mass, Bishop Parker blessed the outdoor statue of Our Lady of Good Shepherd, which was on the property of the Sisters, in Halethorpe. A reception was held in the church hall for the Sisters and their invited guests, many of whom had been on the staff at their facility.
Friar Richard-Jacob (far left), Most Reverend Adam J. Parker (top center) and Fr. John A. Williamson (far right) – Pastor of Ascension Catholic Church [Vicar Forane for The Catholic Community of Ascension and St. Augustine], along with Sr. Jude Ellen Golumbieski, RGS (middle standing) [US Contemplative Councilor] and the other Sisters of the Good Shepherd who were on hand for the Mass and Reception for the Blessing of the Our Lady of the Good Shepherd outdoor statue.
Our Lady of the Angels Province friar, Fr. Tim Kulbicki, OFM Conv. has been busy of late beginning the process of helping the friars to “receive” the new Constitutions. He presented at two academic occasions: on the Feastday of the Faculty of St. Bonaventure on “Narbonne and Nemi: Bonaventure’s Franciscan Constitutions and the New Ones,” and at a conference on the particular law of the Order sponsored by the General Procurator “The Criteria and Process for the Revision of the Constitutions;” both will eventually be published. He also presented workshops to the friars of the Custody of the East in Büyükdere (Turkey) and Sin-El-Fil (Lebanon), and to the friars of the Sacred Convent in Assisi; he will do the same next month in Dar-Es-Salaam for the friars of the Custody of Tanzania. His commentary on the new Constitutions (co-authored with Friar Robert Leżohupski, OFM Conv.) was recently published by the Friars’ Press of Niepokalanòw, and is being translated into several other languages.
+Fr. Canice (Donald) Connors, OFM Conv. was born in Hazelton, PA, December 3, 1934, and passed away on March 17, 2019. He was the son of the late James and Elizabeth (née Roarty) Connors. In addition to his Franciscan family he leaves his brother James and his wife Christine Connors of Fayetteville, NY, a sister, Dolores Cea, sister-in-law Mary Ann Anderson and 10 nephews and nieces, as well as several great nephews and nieces. He was predeceased by his brother Robert Connors.
Fr. Canice entered the Franciscan Friars Conventual Novitiate in Middleburg, NY, on August 15, 1954. He professed his Temporary Vows on August 16, 1955 and his Solemn Vows on September 27, 1958. Fr. Canice was ordained to the priesthood on May 27, 1961.
After his ordination, Fr. Canice attended The Catholic University of America and received an M.A in Philosophy, in 1962. He attended the University of Ottawa, from 1962-1963, receiving a M.A. in Psychology. Fr. Canice served as teacher and Headmaster at Canevin High School in Pittsburgh, PA from 1964 to 1975. During that time, from 1969 to 1971, he also studied at the University of Pittsburgh and he was awarded a Ph.D. in Psychology, in 1971.
A man of dauntless energy, Fr. Canice served in the Chancery of the Archdiocese of Baltimore, from 1975 – 1979. Using his skills in Psychology, Fr. Canice was asked to be the Director of Southdown Institute, in Holland Landing, Ontario, Canada, where he served from 1979 to 1986. After serving a year (1986-1987) as Rector of St. Anthony-on-Hudson, in Rensselaer, NY, Fr. Canice was asked to be the Pastor of Our Lady of Mercy Parish in Winston-Salem, NC, where he served from 1987 to 1992.
Returning to the use of his skills in Psychology in 1992, Fr. Canice became the Director of St. Luke’s Institute in Silver Spring, MD, where he worked until, in 1997, when Fr. Canice was elected as Minister Provincial of the Immaculate Conception Province. This was ministry that he offered until 2005.
Fr. Canice was a well-respected Guest Speaker in both the U.S and Canada. He received the Annual Touchstone Award in 1997, which is the President’s Award of the National Federation of Priests Council, given to one whose service in the Gospel of Jesus Christ exemplifies the goals and purposes of the NFPC. Fr. Canice was the Vice-President and President of the Conference of Major Superiors of Men (CMSM) and a member of the Board of Directors from 2001 – 2004.
From 2005 to 2008, Fr. Canice served as the Rector of the Franciscan Church of Assumption, in Syracuse, NY. For health reasons, in 2008 Fr. Canice resigned from this position and was assigned to St. Bonaventure Friary, Toronto, Canada. Despite his illness, he became the effective leader of “Tea and Theology” discussion groups in Toronto. As his health declined, Fr. Canice was transferred in 2015 to Mercy Nursing Facility at Our Lady Victory, Lackawanna, NY. For most of his time there, he was still able to minster the sacraments to his fellow residents. Sister Death called him home on March 17, 2019.
Fr. Canice will lie in state at St. Francis of Assisi Church, Hamburg, NY 14010 from 4:00 – 7:00 p.m. on Thursday, March 21, 2019, with a Franciscan Wake Service at 7:00 p.m. On Friday, March 22, 2019, a Mass of Christian Burial will be held at 11:00 a.m. Interment will be in St. Stanislaus Cemetery, Buffalo, NY after a repast in St. Francis of Assisi Parish Hall. A Memorial Mass will take place at Immaculate Conception Church, Fayetteville, NY, in the Spring. Memorial Donations may be made to the Franciscan Education Burse, 12300 Folly Quarter Road, Ellicott City, MD 21042, or to Francis House, 108 Michaels Avenue, Syracuse, NY 13208.
Funeral arrangements are by Lakeside Funeral Home, Hamburg, NY.
Funeral Homily for +Friar Canice Connors, OFM Conv. Delivered by Fr. James McCurry, OFM Conv. St. Francis of Assisi Church, Athol Springs, New York 22nd March 2019
[Readings: Job 19:1, 23-27 2 Cor. 1:3-7 John 17:20-26]
Upon learning of the death of Friar Canice Connors, many church leaders from around the United States, and indeed the world, have written to me with encomiums of praise and expressions of sympathy. One Minister Provincial from afar wrote: “What a giant among us he was! A man of prophetic vision and insight!” This “Giant of the Order” could also be controversial – in substantive matters of great consequence. He could also be “cute” in the Irish sense of the word. As one of his successors in the role of Minister Provincial, I only had one quaint controversy with Canice – about the proper pronunciation of his name. Countless times, I reminded him that the correct Irish pronunciation was CAN-ice, not Can-ICE! He jovially humoured me, conceding to let me keep saying CAN-ice. I suppose the fact that he died on St. Patrick’s Day confirmed that I won the argument!
A genuine Renaissance friar, Canice loved the British-American poet T.S. Eliot. His favourite passage from the “Little Gidding” section of Eliot’s masterpiece Four Quartets was imprinted upon every fiber of Canice’s being: “We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.” We friars of Our Lady of the Angels Province are immeasurably indebted to Canice for applying this “exploration” principle to the whole process of unification between his former Province of the Immaculate Conception and the former Province of St. Anthony.
Canice’s brilliant speech at our Malvern Assembly in 2006 sounded a clarion call for unification – or better stated, “re-unification” – of our two Franciscan province fraternities. In that speech, he carefully traced the close friendship between the early IC Provincial (later General) Friar Dominic Reuter and the founding SA Provincial Friar Hyacinth Fudzinski. For Canice, the “exploration” of re-unification was a process by which the friars of both Provinces would arrive back where they began: “…and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.”
When I went to visit Canice at Our Lady of Victory Home in Lackawanna immediately upon the conclusion of our 2014 OLA Provincial Chapter of Unification, he was positively radiant hearing every detail about the Chapter and its dynamics. Indeed, Friar Canice’s passion in life was UNITY – unity in its deepest sense – both natural and supernatural – true communion of persons. Today’s Gospel passage – Jesus’s classic Last Supper prayer for Unity – expresses the profundity of Canice’s own prophetic vision: “Holy Father, I pray… that they may all be one, as you Father are in me and I in you, that they… that they may be one, as we are one… that they may be brought to perfection as one” (Jn. 17:20-26, passim).
When Canice as a friar undertook studies for his doctorate in psychology, he began applying this theological principle of unity in new pioneering ways to the broken human condition – particularly to exigencies of vulnerable victims of abuse and violence, as well as to the mysterious dysfunctions of those who perpetrate abuse. During the 1980s and 1990s – in his seven years as Director of Southdown Institute in Ontario, Canada, and in his five years as Director of St. Luke’s Institute in Silver Spring, Maryland – Canice encountered human fragmentation at levels he could have never anticipated. Even though he humbly realized that he could never succeed 100% in putting “Humpty Dumpty together again” as he counselled thousands of broken persons, Canice strove with each for the ideal of reclaiming their human integrity. INTEGRITY, or wholeness, was the new face that God gave to his quest for natural and supernatural UNITY. For Canice, integrity breeds unity, and unity breeds integrity.
God raised up Friar Canice at a critical moment in the history of the Church in the United States and the world. He became a renowned speaker and expert on the sex abuse crisis. Prior to the Dallas Charter of 2001, he courageously challenged the American Bishops to mobilize a plan of action that would safeguard victims of abuse and do justice towards the vulnerable. His methodology of “tough love” never mollycoddled clergy and religious who abused and committed crimes, but nonetheless sought ways for them to confront their own inner darkness and find healing through therapy, prayer, and penance. Throughout those difficult years, Friar Canice never compromised his own integrity. He was no shrinking violet! Sometimes he was like an Old Testament prophet – He called a spade a spade, not an agricultural instrument.
Working with broken humanity year after year takes a heavy toll on the labourer. Friar Canice was no exception to this precept. His work with victims actually forced him to draw out of the depths of his own painful memories the victimization that he himself had suffered at the age of 12 – when a florist in Syracuse, New York sexually abused him. Today’s passage from St. Paul’s Second Letter to the Corinthians lends understanding to the ways in which God used Canice’s own experience of victimhood as a springboard to compassionate and encourage fellow victims: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.” (2 Cor. 1:3-4). Friar Canice Connors would become an icon of the “wounded healer.”
Throughout his incredibly important and serious ministry, Friar Canice never lost his Irish sense of humour. Because of his association with the Polish-Americans of the former St. Anthony Province, he even spliced Polish jocularity into the mix. In the 1970s, while working in the Baltimore chancery, Canice lived at St. Stanislaus Friary of the former SA Province, where the loud, rough-and-tumble, down-to-earth likes of Friars Cyprian Sondej and Lambert Sidor introduced him to kielbasa, Polish jokes, and card games (whose names cannot be pronounced). Their rapport was fraternity par excellence – and it actually set the stage for Canice’s future work towards the Union of our two Provinces.
In the final phase of his life, Canice bore the cross of suffering – not only in emotional and psychological ways – but physically. His affliction with a paralyzing sclerosis left him utterly helpless, needful of 24-hour skilled care for years. Tribute must be paid to the friars of Toronto, and Hamburg for their loving fraternal attentiveness, and to the parishioners of St. Bonaventure’s in Don Mills (30 of whom traveled here today for the funeral). Canice never ceased singing all their praises to me. With due respect for his former guardians, Canice remarked countless times that Friar Ross Syracuse here in Hamburg was the best guardian that he ever had in his 65 years as a Franciscan Friar Conventual. I also want to pay tribute to our Province Healthcare Director, Mrs. Pat Ashburn, who tended to Canice with such gentle and loving dedication in his years of illness.
During these final years, the two things that infirmity never forced Canice to stop were his praying and his reading. He took great consolation from the Scriptures and his theological exploration of their deepest import. You would see him reading the philosophical works of Heidegger, and the theological tomes of Rahner. What sustained him as a man of spiritual integrity was his ultimate vision of the Resurrection. Today’s first reading from the Book of Job foreshadowed that reality. Its words express Canice’s final hope: “For I know that my Redeemer [Vindicator] lives, and at last he will stand upon the earth; and after my skin has been thus destroyed, then from my flesh I shall see God, whom I shall see on my side, and my eyes shall behold, and not another. My heart faints within me!” (Job 19:25-27). He died with this vision.
Just as Friar Canice loved the poetry of T.S. Eliot, he held in highest esteem of all the great English Jesuit poet Gerard Manley Hopkins. Indeed, Canice bore an uncanny similarity to Hopkins, who suffered agonizing depression during the final years of his life. Out of his misery in Dublin, where Hopkins died in 1889, there emerged the greatest of all his poems “That Nature is a Heraclitean Fire and of the Comfort of the Resurrection.” This poem both haunted and consoled Canice, the Job figure, throughout all the agonies of his own earthly pilgrimage. Like Job, like Hopkins, Canice’s life was a vale of soul-making – with an eternal destiny to claim. Job, Hopkins, and Canice all knew that their Redeemer lives! O the comfort of the Resurrection! Hopkins’ final lines are the most apt of epitaphs for our Friar Canice:
“In a flash, at a trumpet crash, I am all at once what Christ is, since he was what I am, and This Jack, joke, poor potsherd, patch, matchwood, immortal diamond, Is immortal diamond.”
Our friars hold the people of Jamaica close to our hearts. In addition to the many years we served there as Missionaries, several of our friars have taken student groups there on Missionary trips. None have gone back more often than Our Lady of the Angels Province friar, Br. Michael Duffy, OFM Conv. (pictured in the blue scrubs).
From 2005-2011, Friar “Duffy” served as a Missionary, at St. Mary above the Rock, in Kingston, Jamaica, with our current Vicar Provincial, Fr. Michael Heine, OFM Conv. After accepting his assignment back in the States (2011), serving as a Professor and Coordinator of the Accelerated Second Degree Program at Elms College School of Nursing (Chicopee, MA), he has returned with his students for nursing clinical experience.
Read more: https://www.olaprovince.org/?s=Jamaica
On March 16, 2019, our Minister Provincial, the Very Reverend Fr. James McCurry, OFM Conv. (pictured top right) presented a seminar on “Franciscans & Mariology” at our Order’s Novitiate in Arroyo Grande, California. Novices from other Franciscan Orders, including Capuchin and Observant Friars, joined our Franciscan Friars Conventual for an enlightening experience of Franciscan “ecumenism.”
Franciscan Friars Conventual currently in formation at the Novitiate:
friar Antonio Moualeau, OFM Conv. (Our Lady of the Angels Province), friar Raad Eshoo, OFM Conv. (Our Lady of the Angels Province) – 3rd from top right, friar Joseph Krondon, OFM Conv. (Our Lady of the Angles Province), friar Kyle Banks, OFM Conv. (Blessed Agnellus of Pisa Custody), friar Peter Flynn, OFM Conv. (Blessed Agnellus of Pisa Custody) – 5th from bottom left, and friar Matthew Bradley (St. Bonaventure Province) – 3rd from top left.
Serving there as formation leadership are two more of our friars; Fr. Alexander Cymerman, OFM Conv. and Fr. Maurice Richard, OFM Conv. – Assistant Director. The Director of the Novitiate is Br. Joseph Wood, OFM Conv. of the St. Bonaventure Province.
friar Joseph Krondon, OFM Conv. (Our Lady of the Angels Province Novice) was missing from the top photo. He was probably working hard in the kitchen.
Our Lady of the Angels Province friar, Fr. Alexander Cymerman, OFM Conv. (center) provides a wise voice of experience for the Novices.
Br. Joe Wood, OFM Conv. (St. Bonaventure Province) is the Director of the Noviciate. he is pictured here with friar Kyle Banks, OFM Conv. (Blessed Agnellus of Pisa Custody), friar Antonio Moualeu, OFM Conv. (Our Lady of the Angels Province) and Fr. Maurice (Moe) Richard, OFM Conv. (Our Lady of the Angels Province), who serves as Assistant Director.
Sr. Régine Canetti, NDS and Fr. Jobe Abbass, OFM Conv. at the graveside of Fr. Marie-Alphonse Ratisbonne
During my study here at Tantur Ecumenical Institute, Jerusalem, I took advantage of a free day to make a pilgrimage to the tomb of Fr. Marie-Alphonse Ratisbonne. Born to a Jewish family of bankers in 1814, Ratisbonne was highly critical of the Catholic faith and Marian apparitions. However, on January 20, 1842, when Ratisbonne visited the Basilica of Sant’Andrea delle Fratte in Rome, the Blessed Virgin Mary appeared to him and he was immediately converted. St. Maximilian M. Kolbe, OFM Conv. always marveled at Ratisbonne’s conversion and he celebrated his first Mass (April 29, 1918) at the “Altar of the Miracle” where Mary had appeared to Ratisbonne. Because the City of Jerusalem figured prominently in the apparition, Ratisbonne, who became a priest and missionary, headed to the Holy Land where he founded the Congrégation Notre Dame de Sion (the Sisters of Our Lady of Zion).Fr. Ratisbonne remained in the Holy Land until his death in 1884 and is buried in the cemetery of the sisters’ convent in Ein Karem. On the day I made my pilgrimage, I was met by one of the sisters, Sr. Régine Canetti, NDS. Born in Bulgaria (May 16, 1921) of Jewish parents, the family subsequently escaped the Shoah and, although Sr. Régine lost her mother and brother when their ship sank, she eventually made it to Israel, became Catholic and entered the Sisters of Zion. A remarkable woman, Sr. Régine’s inspiring life’s story made my pilgrimage to Fr. Ratisbonne’s tomb and Ein Karem truly unforgettable.
~ Fr. Jobe Abbass, OFM Conv. (M.I. Assistant for Our Lady of the Angels Province)