+ Fr. Justin (Leonard) Anthony Ratajczak, OFM Conv. (1949-2023)

+ Fr. Justin Anthony Ratajczak, OFM Conv.

Sister Death embraced +Friar Justin Ratajczak, OFM Conv., on Wednesday, Oct. 25, 2023. Our brother died at Lorien Health Services in Columbia, Maryland at the age of 74.

+ Fr. Justin (Leonard) Anthony Ratajczak, OFM Conv. was born in Baltimore, Md., on  Feb.  2, 1949, and died on Oct. 25, 2023, in Columbia, Md.  He was the son of the late Leonard and Agnes (nee Guraleczka) Ratajczak. In addition to his Franciscan family, he leaves his brother Timothy Ratajczak. He was predeceased by his sisters, Denise and Jeanine.

Having grown up around the Franciscans as a parishioner and elementary school student at St. Casimir Parish in Baltimore, and having worked for a time in the family grocery store, Friar Justin entered the Novitiate of the Conventual Franciscans in Ellicott City, professing first vows on Aug. 15, 1968. He then studied at St. Hyacinth College in Granby, Mass. (earning his B.A. in Philosophy in 1972), during which time he professed Solemn Vows on Aug. 15, 1971. He completed his M.Div. at St. Anthony-on-Hudson Seminary in Rensselaer, N.Y., in 1977, and was ordained to the priesthood on May 7, 1977.

Fr. Justin’s first assignments were in the high school apostolate.  From 1977 to 1982, he taught at Cardinal O’Hara High School in Tonawanda, N.Y. He taught at St. Francis High School in Hamburg, N.Y., until 1987.  He then transitioned to the parochial ministry, serving at St. Anthony of Padua, Fairfield, Conn. (1987-88); St. Stanislaus, Sharon, Penn. (1988-97); and St. Clement Mary Hofbauer, Baltimore (1997-2002). He was beloved at All Saints Parish in Boswell, Penn., where he served as pastor from 2002-2010. Fr. Justin’ last parochial assignment was as pastor of the Church of the Annunciation in Baltimore, from 2010 to 2016.  Due to illness, he was transferred to St. Joseph Cupertino Friary in Ellicott City, Md., before being moved into skilled nursing care at Lorien Health Services in Columbia, Md.

Viewing will take place on Monday, Oct. 30, from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m., at the Church of the Annunciation (5212 McCormick Avenue, Baltimore), with a Franciscan Wake Service at 7 p.m. A Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated on Tuesday, Oct. 31, at  11 a.m., also at the Church of the Annunciation.  Internment will follow at 1:30 p.m., at St. Stanislaus Cemetery, Baltimore. Memorial Donations may be made to the Franciscan Education Burse, 12300 Folly Quarter Rd., Ellicott City, MD 21042.

Inspired Participation in Franciscan Action Network Justice Leadership Conference

Our Lady of the Angels Province was one of the major sponsors of the Franciscan Action Network Justice Leadership Conference (Oct. 13-16) in Washington, D.C. Participants were inspired by the speakers at the conference and by the diverse group of young people acting as bearers of God’s dreams and instruments of restorative justice.

Video courtesy of Fr. Jacek Orzechowski, OFM of Immaculate Conception Parish in Durham, North Carolina.

Friar Richard Rome Ordained a Deacon

Most Reverend Adam J. Parker, auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Baltimore, ordained Friar Richard Rome, OFM Conv. to the Order of Deacon on Oct. 6, at the Shrine of St. Anthony in Ellicott City, Md, a ministry of the Franciscan Friars Conventual. Friar Richard can now proclaim Gospel readings, preach homilies, and preside over baptisms, weddings, and rites of Christian burial.

Most Reverend Adam J. Parker lays hands on Friar Deacon Richard M. Rome, OFM Conv.

“It is a joy and privilege to be here,” Bishop Parker said as he opened the Mass. “This celebration is a reminder of our Lord’s mandate to make disciples and lived as disciples.” Bishop Parker was filling in for Most Reverend Dennis J. Madden, auxiliary bishop emeritus of Baltimore, who was sick and unable to attend. Bishop Parker delivered the homily Bishop Madden was to give. “This diaconal year is a special time that God provides you with in order to perfect as best you can the gift of service which He has already implanted in you.”

“Friar Rich’s unassuming personality will serve him well as he performs his ministry as a friar-deacon,” said Minister Provincial Friar Michael Heine, OFM Conv. “His homilies are well prepared and truly touch the hearts of his listeners. I know that the people at Saint Casimir’s Baltimore will help him develop his skills as together they build the Lord’s Kingdom.”

Mass of Ordination to the Diaconate: Investiture with stole and dalmatic.

Friar Rome will perform his diaconate ministry at St. Casimir Church in Baltimore, where he will be ordained to the priesthood by Archbishop Gregory J. Hartmayer, OFM Conv., Archbishop of Atlanta, on June 8, 2024.

“I feel like I am entering into a different kind of ministry for the Church, a ministry of service,” Friar Rich said. “Having said that, I’ve been in a ministry of service the whole time I have been a friar. But I feel like this is a call to serve at table, the table of the Word and of the Eucharist.”

Born in Norfolk, Va., Friar Rome is the son of  Sharon and Kenneth Rome, Captain U.S. Navy (Retired). He has a brother, Jim. He grew up in the Military Archdiocese, moving every two years. He lived in Virginia, Maryland, Rhode Island, and Italy. Friar Richard is a graduate of The College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Va., where he earned a Bachelor of Arts in History and Classics. He received a Master of Science in Supply Chain Management at Towson University in Towson, Md., and is completing his Master of Divinity at Catholic University of American in Washington, D.C. Before entering the order, he spent eight years as a United States Army Civil Servant working in logistics.

Friar Deacon Rome (center) with (left to right) Minister Provincial Friar Michael Heine, OFM Conv., Kenneth and Sharon Rome (his parents) and Bishop Parker.

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

Mass of Ordination to the Diaconate: Litany of Supplication.

“I have thought about the images of St. Francis at Greccio, such as in the Assisi Upper Basilica, where he is leading the faithful in making the first live Nativity scene,” Friar Rome said. “In those images, St. Francis is dressed as a deacon holding the Christ-child. In that image, I see what I am to aspire to as a friar-deacon: to bear the Word of God in a way that others can experience Him.”

Turkish Friar-Archbishop visits province

Friar-Archbishop Kmetec with friars at St. Bonaventure Friary.

Friar-Archbishop Martin Kmetec, OFM Conv., of the Archdiocese of Izmir (Smyrna), Turkey, visited the friars of Saint Bonaventure Friary, Silver Spring, Maryland in September 2023. On Sunday, Sept. 10, the archbishop celebrated the 10:30 a.m. Liturgy at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. Prior to the Mass, he met with Cardinal Wilton Cardinal Gregory, archbishop of Washington, D.C.

Cardinal Wilton Gregory, archbishop of Washington, D.C., met with Friar-Archbishop Kmetec.

Blessing of Little Portion Farm Fruit Tree and Flower Garden

Vice Provincial Friar Gary Johnson, OFM Conv., offers the blessing while Minister Provincial Friar Michael Heine, OFM Conv., looks on.

Little Portion Farm hosted the blessing of the new Fruit Tree Orchard and Wild Flower Garden on Saturday, Sept. 9. Supporters who donated resources for the purchase of the trees and flowers were among those in attendance with many dedicated in the name of beloved family members and friends of these benefactors. Vicar Provincial Friar Gary Johnson, OFM Conv., offered the blessing, assisted by Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation Director Friar Paul Lininger. Minister Provincial Friar Michael Heine, OFM Conv, whose family purchased and dedicated one of the fruit trees, was also in attendance.

Little Portion Farm is a ministry of the Franciscan Friars Conventual and focused on providing fresh food to those in need while using sustainable farming methods to restore the health of our land. The three-acre farm, located in Ellicott City, Md., functions as an “agro-ecosystem,” with a diversity of plants and habitats to support the life of this “little portion” of creation. As the food harvested from the farm is donated to the Franciscan Center in Baltimore, the overarching mission of this ministry is, using the words of Pope Francis, to “hear both the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor.”