Fr. Aidan is a friar of our Blessed Angellus of Pisa Custody.
This month, he celebrated his Golden Jubilee – 50th Ordination Anniversary.
Take a few moments to listen about his life, including his vocation story.
Watch through the end for a special blessing.
For more information on becoming a Franciscan Friar Conventual of our province,
contact Br. Nick Romeo, OFM Conv. at email@example.com.
This week, our province will joyfully celebrate the Simple Profession of Vows of four of our friars, as we gather at our Chapel at The Shrine of St. Anthony, in Ellicott City, MD. Over the past year, friar Michael Boes, OFM Conv., friar Edgar Varela, OFM Conv., friar Jonathan García Zenteno, OFM Conv., and friar Bram De Backer, OFM Conv. spent a “year and a day” as Our Lady of the Angels Province Novices, in the Franciscan Friars Conventual Inter-Province Novitiate, in Arroyo Grande, CA, along with two other friars of other provinces.
On Thursday, July 29, 2021, they will profess their first vows of poverty, chastity and obedience before moving on to continue their studies at The Catholic University of America, living in community with other student friars and their formators, in Silver Spring, MD.
Keep them and their vocation journey in your continued prayers.
Friar Michael Boes, OFM Conv. is from Scotch Plains, NJ. After high school, he enrolled at Belmont Abbey College in North Carolina, a Benedictine foundation whose members were inspiring enough for him to join the Order after graduation. He loved the life, but took some time away from the monks while discerning a desire for a more active life. Michael has always had a service-oriented personality. Before joining the friars he trained as a Medical Technician and a Personal Care Assistant. He also worked as an assistant teacher in a number of settings, but mostly enjoyed his time working with special need and autistic children.
Friar Edgar Varela, OFM Conv. is from Phoenix, AZ. He met the Conventual friars while he was a Carmelite studying at Loyola University in Chicago, and again at Catholic University in Washington, D.C. Some years after leaving the Carmelites, his continued desire for religious life inspired him to reach out to the Conventual Franciscans since he had been impressed by the fraternity they witnessed from his time together with them in school. In his free time, Edgar enjoys hiking, listening to music, playing volleyball, and experimenting with cooking and baking.
Friar Jonathan Garcia Zenteno, OFM Conv. is from Pueblo Nuevo Solistahuacan, Chiapas, Mexico. He had been a Conventual friar in his home country for a number of years. After he left the community, he worked in a state office as an archivist and researcher. He also taught some classes on Franciscan history to the Poor Clares in his home town. Ingrained with the ideals of service – especially through his family’s foundation of assisting the poor with healthcare – Jonathan felt a strong desire to return to religious life. He petitioned to return to the Conventuals in the U.S., a new home country.
Friar Bram De Backer, OFM Conv. is from Zottegem, Belgium. He received a degree in theology from the Katholieke Universiteit in Louvain. Always having a great interest in mental health issues, Bram worked as a caregiver for adults with severe learning disabilities. He also ministered as a lay chaplain at a psychiatric hospital, and then served as a lay missionary in Cambodia, again working with physically disabled youth. Having discerned religious life for a number of years, he discovered the Conventuals on the Web, immediately felt attracted to their way of living out the Franciscan charism.
For more information on life as a Franciscan Friar Conventual of Our Lady of the Angels Province, check out our Vocation Page and Franciscan Voice.
On Wednesday, July 21, at 11:30 a.m. in Buffalo, New York’s Niagara Square, the Most Reverend Michael W. Fisher, of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Buffalo, hosted a prayer gathering for the community, in response to a high level of violence in the City of Buffalo and Western New York. Our Lady of the Angels Province friars, Br. Michael Duffy, OFM Conv. (left) and Fr. Max Avila, OFM Conv. (right) were among those present, which included government officials and representatives of New York Pastors for Life, Buffalo Peacemakers, PeacePrints of WNY, Stop the Violence Coalition, as well as other members of area faith communities and concerned citizens. They all gathered to pray for peace and an end to the violence threatening their community. Both of these friars as assigned at our St. Francis High School, in Athol Springs, where we have six friars of our province serving in varied capacities. Br. Michael Duffy, OFM Conv. will begin the new 2021-2022 school year as Principal and Fr. Maximilian Avila, OFM Conv. has served as an instructor there since August 2018.
Consistent with our Franciscan charism and tradition of devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary, our province has been progressing in our efforts to more fully tap into this devotion from our Kolbean heritage, through the example of St. Maximilian M. Kolbe, OFM Conv., and the continued efforts of his Militia of the Immaculata’s (M.I.) unconditional consecration to the Immaculate. Fr. Jobe Abbass, OFM Conv., who serves as our Province MI Assistant, began our Province M.I Initiative Tour of our pastoral ministries, in May 2o19. Due to the COVID-19 Pandemic, the tour had to be halted as of March 2020.
Given the lifting of many pandemic restrictions, the remainder of the M.I. Initiative Tour has been re-scheduled to resume as follows:
THE 80TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE MARTYRDOM OF ST. MAXIMILIAN KOLBE (1941 – August 14 – 2021)
Dear M.I. Members,
As the Covid-19 pandemic winds down in North America, we remember in prayer those who contracted the illness, those who continue to suffer from the virus and those, over four million persons worldwide, who have died on account of the disease. In a special way, we give thanks to the Lord for the sacrifices made by heroic front-line health care and other essential workers who risked, and even lost, their lives to protect us over these eighteen months. After the example of Christ, who laid down his life for us, these dear souls came to know and embody the love of God by laying down their lives for others (see 1 Jn 3).
This year, we commemorate the 80th anniversary of another heroic act of sacrificial love. On August 14, 1941, St. Maximilian Kolbe was martyred after he had volunteered to take the place of Franciszek Gajwoniczek, the father of a family and a prisoner condemned to die at the Auschwitz concentration camp. Even as Father Kolbe awaited a sure death with fellow prisoners in the starvation bunker, he repeated to them what might be called his axiom for life, “Hatred destroys; love alone creates.” How could he have come to know and live the depths of such love other than through his total consecration to the Immaculate Mother of God? After all, Mary is the creature most completely filled with this love, united as She is to the Holy Spirit as His Spouse. Indeed, the Mother of Jesus, who is Love, is also fittingly venerated as Our Lady of Charity. Molded as an instrument in the hands of the Immaculate, Maximilian’s consecration to Mary was not an end in itself but, rather, a means through Mary of leading all souls to the very source of love, the Sacred Heart of Jesus. The zeal with which Father Maximilian proclaimed the Kingdom of Christ’s Sacred Heart ultimately merited for him the martyr’s crown as, for the first time in the Church’s history, Pope St. John Paul II canonized St. Maximilian Kolbe for his ultimate witness as a martyr, not in defense of the faith, but in the living out of supernatural charity.
To commemorate the 80th anniversary of St. Maximilian’s martyrdom, the Militia of the Immaculate of Our Lady of the Angels Province is sponsoring the first annual pilgrimage to the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C. on Saturday, April 30, 2022. This will also be a time to celebrate the 40th anniversary of St. Maximilian’s canonization (October 10, 1982). So please organize, involve your friars and pastors, drive in groups or rent a bus and come to join us for this special Marian pilgrimage and Mass. Individual groups may plan and schedule their own activities both before and after the Saturday festivities. We look forward to seeing you!
August 14, 2021
Friar Jobe Abbass, OFM Conv.
Our Lady of the Angels Province M.I. Assistant
Be sure to mark your calendars and check back as more information will follow about the First Annual Pilgrimage to the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, in Washington D.C., on Saturday, April 30, 2022.
July 15, 2021: On the Feast of St. Bonaventure – Seraphic Doctor of the Universal Church, in the hands of our Minister Provincial, the Very Reverend Fr. James McCurry, OFM Conv., witnessed by Friar Martin Kobos, OFM Conv. (Guardian of Mother Cabrini Friary and Pastor of Mother Cabrini Catholic Church, Shamokin, PA) and Friar Michael Lasky, OFM Conv. (Province Commission Chairman of the JPIC and Pastor of St. Patrick Parish, in Trevorton, PA & Our Lady of Hope Parish, Coal Township, PA), Our Lady of the Angels Province friar, Fr. Angelo Geiger, OFM Conv. professes his Solemn Vows as a Franciscan Friar Conventual and takes the name Friar Timothy Geiger, OFM Conv. during the Noon Mass in our Chapel at The Shrine of St. Anthony, in Ellicott City, MD. Fr. Tim is the former Rector of The Shrine and currently serves our province as Parochial Vicar at St. Patrick Parish and Our Lady of Hope Parish.
Also on hand to celebrate were Fr. Richard-Jacob Forcier, OFM Conv. (Province Secretary, Director/Rector of The Shrine of St. Anthony and Spiritual Director of the Companions of St. Anthony), Fr. Louis Maximilian Smith, OFM Conv. (Associate Chaplain at The Catholic University of America), Fr. Tom Lavin, OFM Conv. (Guardian of St. Joseph Cupertino Friary and Chaplain of Our Lady of Good Counsel High School, Olney, MD) Br. Paschal Kolodziej, OFM Conv. (Staff Friar – The Shrine of St. Anthony), Br. Brian Newbigging, OFM Conv. (Director of Franciscan Soy Candles), Br. Douglas McMillan, OFM Conv. (In Residence at St. Joseph Cupertino Friary), friar Bram De Backer, OFM Conv. (to be Simply Professed on July 29, 2021), and Fr. Paul Schloemer, OFM Conv. (Our Lady of Consolation Province friar and Formation Director – St. Bonaventure Friary, Silver Spring, MD).
Top Row Left to Right: Br. Paschal, Fr. Louis Maximilian, Fr. Tom, friar Bram, Fr. Michael, Fr. Martin, Fr. Paul – Bottom Row Left to Right: Fr. Richard-Jacob, Fr. Tim, Fr. James, Br. Brian
Fr. Edward J. Ondrako, O.F.M.Conv., Feast of St. Bonaventure, 15 July 2021 Theme:
“Wisdom I loved and sought after from my youth, as my bride.”
Wis 8, 2-7, 16-18; Subtheme: “We speak in words taught by the Spirit interpreting spiritual things in spiritual terms.”
1 Cor 2, 6-13; Subtheme:
“You are the salt of the earth, you are the light of the world”
Mt 5, 13-19
Truth and the Justifying Power of the Subjective Conscience Who is the instructress of understanding God? How do I know each person’s innermost self? Sacred Scripture answers: With Wisdom. Today, few have doubts that America has potentially dangerous enemies to religious liberty. Some are in high places. Remember how Justice Amy Coney Barrett’s ascension to the High Court bench not long ago brought promise for the future of religious liberty in America? What is religious liberty? What is truth? What is conscience? These questions call for a thicker development.
If I claim that the judgment of conscience is always right, that has to mean my own truth. How does my subjective truth fit into the broader world where we are all brothers and sisters? If we think it through, this brings human existence and freedom, into the realm of something deeper. Does truth align with the justifying power of the subjective conscience?
Today we find ourselves asking: what if a person takes the judgment of conscience to be always right? What if judgments of conscience contradict each other? First, it is undisputed that a person must follow a certain conscience, or at least not act against it. Second, we are at the core of the moral problem, existence itself, and the story of our own encounter with the problem of existence.
Being Christian is to recognize that God came to fulfill the law and the prophets, … not the smallest part of the letter of the law shall be done away with (Mt. 5, 18). God cares about everyone and allows many unbelievers in good conscience. A person in good conscience can still achieve salvation. Vatican II states: the Catholic Church (NA 2) rejects nothing of what is true and holy in the different peoples and different religions, but proclaims Christ as the way, the truth and the life (Jn. 1:6).
The high road to truth challenges. To retreat into oneself may seem comfortable but does it lead to the discovery of beauty that lies in truth? Is it an imposition to have faith as a Catholic in what constitutes redemption, even a kind of punishment? If God gifts a person with faith, believing and submitting to the faith of the Catholic Church gives rise to joy and the desire to pass the faith on. [Thank God my ancestors had joy and the desire to pass on the faith to me] Living triggers tensions. Often a so called erroneous conscience appears to make life easier, happier, and more human. It is a shock to wake up to say an erroneous conscience is a real grace of God, a normal course to salvation. An erroneous conscience shelters the person from the exacting demands of truth.
Truth connects to the essence of conscience. Great witnesses attest to the Christian doctrine of living according to truth and one’s conscience. St. John Henry Newman is one who chose Catholicism not as a matter of personal taste or of subjective spiritual need, but was taken by the necessity to obey recognized truth as more important than personal preferences. He listened to all views, recognized consensus, but never at the expense of truth. He had no intention to become a Catholic.
Newman’s view of the papacy and the primacy of conscience may be a huge surprise. To our new saint, the papacy is based on the primacy of conscience and guarantees it. To presuppose the opposition of authority to subjectivity is to have difficulty understanding that St. John Henry Newman stands on the side of subjectivity and expresses the very freedom of the person. The truth connects authority and subjectivity. For Newman, his pivoting point is the primacy of conscience.
Fifty years ago, the voice of conscience led me to accept the duties of the Catholic priesthood. When I was ordained, I was familiar with abstract moral principles such as an erroneous conscience. Living hammers abstract principles. For one, St. John Henry Newman’s thought is unequaled on the primacy of conscience vis-a-vis a counterfeit conscience. He said it is impossible to “put into a tea cup.” With the grace of God and Franciscan formation, St. Francis of Assisi, St. Clare, St. Anthony of Padua, St. Bonaventure, Bl. John Duns Scotus, and St. Maximilian M. Kolbe took deep roots and have been guides to recognition and respect of the personal quest for truth that every person has in life. Following in the tradition they laid down, as a priest, the primacy of conscience and recognition of error never left my pastoral care, especially when preaching.
In his long pastoral and writing career, Joseph Ratzinger, Pope Benedict XVI, has written about erroneous conscience with a tender heart. He analyzes in the context of tolerance, success, concern about one’s public standing and the need for the approval of public opinion at the expense of truth. These are concepts that a preacher or teacher ought never rush when trying to explain the Catholic Church’s teaching such as on the primacy of conscience. Haste can turn a person who is searching away not towards truth.
I share a story of rushing to explain Catholic teaching. I put my arguments in a “tea cup” that St. Newman warned about. Amy Coney Barrett who was not on the High Court yet, was at Mass with her family. I intended to help persons struggling to form conscience, but I confused them. Instead, I had justified the power of conscience at the expense of truth. First, conscience is not identical to personal preferences. Second, conscience cannot be reduced to some kind of personal or social advantage, or to fit in with group consensus, or to cave into political and social trends. I have never doubted that but on that particular Sunday night I dropped the ball by trying to say too much in too short a time. Justice Coney Barrett’s gentle head shake did not escape me.
Truth and the primacy of conscience in the Franciscan tradition, especially for St. Bonaventure and St. John Henry Newman, as an indisputable honorary Franciscan, guided every moment of their scholarly lives. Justice Amy Coney Barrett may never know that her subtle head gesture rightly challenged my words on conscience as using a “tea cup.” I respectfully thank her.
Living the Gospel, we learn the beauty of lessons about religious liberty, truth, and conscience, together. We are the salt of the earth, together, the light of the world, together, living in the city set on a hill, together. What we say and do cannot be hidden when we are together. If we break what appears to be the least significant of these commands and teach others to do so, we will become the least in the kingdom of God. If we fulfill and teach these commands, we shall be great in the kingdom of God (Mt 5, 19). In our post Christian culture, there is no other way to live the Gospel except together in faith.
Delivered on the Feast of St. Bonaventure, The Life Center, South Bend, IN.
 Joseph Ratzinger, Faith and Politics (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2018), ch. 6: Truth, Values, Power, 95-130.
 Ken Starr, Religious Liberty in Crisis (New York: Encounter Books, 2021), see Appendix, 175-178.
 E. J. Ondrako, Rebuild My Church (Hobe Sound, FL: Lectio Publishing, LLC., 2021). ISBN 978-1-943901-18-0
 C. O’Regan, “Newman: Apostle of Fear and Trembling to Liberal Christianity” in Church Life Journal, McGrath Institute of Church Life at the University of Notre Dame (14 October 2019); “Newman and the Dis-Asters of Modernity” in C L J (10 October 2019). I endorse O’Regan as a most accurate and faithful interpreter of Newman. Proof is that he is a sought-after teacher of undergraduate and graduate students at the University of Notre Dame.
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
July 15, 2021
Morning Mass on the Feast of Saint Kateri Tekakwitha, with the friars of St. Bonaventure Friary (Toronto, ON), celebrated by Fr. Mark Steed, OFM Conv., former director of our Saint Kateri Tekakwitha National Shrine and Historic Site, in Fonda, NY.
The student friars of our province are spending their summer break from study, living in community and serving with our friars in various ministries around the province: friar Antonio Moualeu, OFM Conv. – Atlanta, GA, friar Cristofer M. Fernández, OFM Conv. – Columbus, GA, friar Joseph Krondon, OFM Conv. – Pt Pleasant Beach, NJ, and friar Raad Eshoo, OFM Conv. – Port St. Lucie, FL.
Part of the ministry service friar Raad is experiencing while living in community with our friars of the St. Lucie Friary has been working with the Youth of St. Lucie Catholic Church during their July 12-16, 2021 Service Mission Week. This week of service affords the young people of the parish the opportunity to show mercy to those in need. The youth and their adult leaders, including friar Raad, start with Mass every day. Each morning, they serve in many different outreach facilities such as food banks, thrift shops, and feeding homeless. In the afternoon, they continue to help in the St. Lucie Parish Community, by doing yard work at parishioners’ houses, for those who need the extra help. It has been an enjoyable experience for friar Raad and he sends his blessings and well wishes to all.
Friar Raad’s “Goodbye” to the parish at the end of his Summer Assignment: