Helping to Turn Strangers into Neighbors

Franciscan Friars Conventual Responding to Real Needs –
Helping to Turn Strangers into Neighbors

On February 21, 2017, Pope Francis in an address to the VI International Forum: Migration and Peace, felt compelled to address the nature of contemporary migratory movements, which increases challenges presented to the political community, civil society and to the Church, and which amplifies the urgency for a coordinated and effective response to these challenges. Our shared response, according to our Holy Father Francis, “may be articulated by four verbs: to welcome, to protect, to promote and to integrate.”
Have you ever wondered what it is like living in a world, city, or local neighborhood, where your very presence arouses contempt, suspicion, prejudice or common indecency? Where judgements are made of you based on the tone of your skin, the first language you speak or the accent present in your words? Where you as the stranger are literally untrusted, despised or rejected? Where your description begins with a negative – illegal? Where the term friend, neighbor, brother or sister are unspoken?
Sometimes we forget that the words we choose to identify another person do make a difference in whether they meet with our approval, are treated with respect and dignity or vilified and turned away.
Ever given a second thought, to what is to be in hand to enter your child’s school, pick-up a pharmacy prescription, enter a hospital, sit in a library or present when you use a credit card?
Ever question, why we do what we do to others who like ourselves are merely looking for opportunity and means to provide for themselves and those they love and care for?
Most of us perhaps fail to ponder and take for granted that when a person, be they an officer of the law, pharmacist, teacher, sports coach or cashier, ask for a picture identification we readily show a driver’s license, passport or BJ’s / Costco ID which has a picture, address and baseline information stating who we are and where we live. It is not so easy for everyone. Essentially, it is the reality of tens of thousands reaching into the millions now living within our country’s borders, cities, villages, towns and rural areas. They are the souls we greet in the market, on the streets, in our churches, work places and gatherings. They are the anawim of God, loved and cherished by Jesus, and named by him as our brothers and sisters.
As part of small but growing effort, the Blessed Sacrament Faith Community and the Franciscan Friars Conventual together with the local Burlington Police Chief, law enforcement officers, and a dedicated group of volunteers representing various religious traditions and families came together two years ago – May 2015 – hoping to make a meaningful dent into a lived problem. Namely, “How to help turn strangers into neighbors”. The result of our coming together was the formation of the Faith ID Card Task Force of Alamance County.

With financial and moral support from the Conventual Friars of Our Lady of Angels and Our Lady of Consolation Provinces and the approval of Bishop Burbidge, then Bishop of the Diocese of Raleigh, we setup a specialized FAITH ID CARD PROGRAM linked to an expanding program here in North Carolina known as the FaithAction Network.

So What Is A Faith ID Card Program?
An ID card is just a piece of plastic until a person gives it a face and story, and our community gives the card value. We believe each person in our community, regardless of race, culture, nationality, sexual orientation, gender identity, immigration or socio-economic status has inherent dignity and worth, and is deserving of a valid form of identification.  At this particularly divisive time in state and national politics on issues of immigration and diversity, community ID programs bring greater dignity, access and hope to our newest neighbors, while building safer, more inclusive and united communities for all.
The Faith ID Card Program is a connected group of faith communities, nonprofits, and grassroots movements that recognize the urgency of valid ID cards for members of our community who may have limited access to government issued forms of identification, and the importance of creating a unified model and vetting process that community partners (law enforcement, health centers, schools, businesses, and other city agencies) can trust and use to better identify, serve, and protect all residents in cities across North Carolina and the United States.

The Blessed Sacrament Faith ID Card Program is part of the FaithAction ID Network. We are proud to say we are the first franchise so to speak. We call ourselves In the past two years the network has experienced tremendous growth and community ID programs now exist in Guilford, Alamance, Forsyth, Randolph, Orange, and Mecklenburg counties, and may soon be expanding to Wake, Moore, Montgomery, and other counties throughout North Carolina and there is a satellite sponsored by Catholic Charities in Cincinnati, Ohio.  Network members agree to utilize the same community ID model to ensure the integrity and further the growth of new and existing programs.  Shared hallmarks of FaithAction ID network programs include:

  • Ensuring each program has a strong home base that can effectively communicate and coordinate a community ID drive with staff and volunteers
  • Utilizing the same policies, procedures, and vetting process to receive an ID card
  • Ensuring partnership with local law enforcement and other community partners who formally agree to support the program and attend ID drives
  • Utilizing the 4 stage ID drive model in a large, safe space (welcome, orientation, document check, photo/computer intake)
  • Facilitating dialogue throughout the ID drive between ID participants and law enforcement and other community partners with the goal of building greater understanding, trust and cooperation
  • Providing the same or similar look as other network programs on the front of the card, and signifying you are a part of the FaithAction ID network on the back
  • Printing and distributing hundreds of ID cards within two weeks of each drive, and securing the personal information of all participants
  • Participating in monthly calls to share experiences and best practices with other network programs

*There may be some flexibility and unique characteristics of each program, depending on the needs of each community. *All participants must attend a mandatory orientation at an ID drive, and provide proof of photo identification (passport, foreign national ID card, driver’s license, matricula consular) and proof of address (utility bill, bank statement, current rental agreement, medical record) in order to receive an ID card from a FaithAction ID Network member.
Finally, network members believe it is crucial we continue to work for a driver’s license for all residents at the state level, as well as lasting immigration reform at the federal level.  In the meantime, we believe community ID programs represent a very important step forward in creating safer, more inclusive, and united communities for all – a much needed example of positive collaboration at this divided time in our nation’s history.

In closing let me say, Thank You, to our Conventual Franciscan Provinces’ leadership and members for helping make this program possible. To date, the Faith ID Card Program here in Burlington, NC, has distributed over 5000 Faith ID Cards. Without your financial and fraternal support, the effort might never have gotten off the ground. The challenge now is to keep moving forward towards the realization of its mission and vision, a place where strangers become neighbors.

Respectfully submitted by,
Fr. Paul Lininger, OFM Conv.
Blessed Sacrament Church, Pastor


An article entitled, “Community ID Program Builds trust between migrants and police,” by Maria Benevento, appeared in the April 5, 2019 online edition of the National Catholic Reporter. To read the full article, click on the following link: ID Card Program

Lenten Mission – St. Philip Benizi Catholic Church

In English with Fr. Michael Lasky, OFM Conv. – Our Lady of the Angels Province JPIC Chairman

St. Philip Benizi Catholic Church (under the pastoral leadership of Our Lady of the Angels Province friars, Fr. John Zoziol, OFM Conv. – Pastor, Fr. Vincent Gluc, OFM Conv. – Parochial Vicar, Fr. Luis Palacios Rodriguez, OFM Conv. – Parochial Vicar and Fr. Martin Breski, OFM Conv. – in Residence) celebrated a Lenten Parish Mission on March 23-27, 2019 with the theme: “Racism: Moving through Resistance to Reconciliation.
The Parish Mission was presented in English by Friar Michael Lasky, OFM Conv. (Our Province Chairman of JPIC – Justice, Peace, and Integrity of Creation) and in Spanish by Fray (Friar) Fabián Esteban Arrieta Botero, OFM Conv. (Vocation Director for the Franciscanos Conventuales Friars – Columbia – and Parochial Vicar for Immaculate Conception Parish in Filandia, Colombia). Friar Michael and Friar Fabián began the Mission by preaching during all of the weekend Masses, then preached during the Morning Masses, Monday-Wednesday, followed by Mission talks after each Mass. The 7:00 p.m. evening presentations were followed by a reception.

In Spanish by Fr. Fabián Esteban, OFM Conv. – Franciscan Friars Conventual of Columbia Vocation Director

Day 1: Refining Our Images of Jesus –
Turning the Other Cheek and Non-Violent Resistance with Friar Michael
~ In Spanish with Friar Fabián ~

Day 2: Images of Reconciliation: The Cross and Mary  –
Two Difficult Stories to Hear: The Lynching Tree, and Our Lady of Guadalupe with Friar Michael

~ In Spanish with Friar Fabián ~

Day 3: Seeing through Tears of Faith and  Responding with Broken Hearts of Love –
MLK on Racism: An Examination of Conscience with Friar Michael

~ In Spanish with Friar Fabián ~

Photo and Video Credit:
Our Lady of the Angels Province friar, Fr. Martin Breski, OFM Conv.
who is currently in residence at the friary, assisting at the parish.


“We see the sun as our brother … and the sun is a gift of energy to give to us that’s meant to be shared.”

WYD2019 with Christopher M. Fernández

Reflection from the 15th international World Youth Day in Panamá City

Dear Friars, Family, and Friends,

What a whirlwind of a January! I am very excited to be writing you all about my recent pilgrimage to World Youth Day (WYD) in Panamá City! I got permission from my formators to attend this international gathering when I was applying to postulancy. I had registered to travel as an individual young adult with my home diocese, the Diocese of Arlington (right outside of DC in Northern Virginia), before applying to postulancy. Thanks to all of you who were praying for me on pilgrimage and especially prayerfully supporting us postulants during this first year of initial formation! You have no idea how important those graces are in the times we most need them!

Before flying out to pilgrimage in Panamá, all of us postulants were on our respective province tours. In a sense priming my pilgrimage with a fraternal/ministerial experience in our province, I found myself excited to interact with friars from around the world!

Thanks to the help of Our Lady of the Angels Province JPIC Chairman, Friar Michael Lasky, OFM Conv., and his connections to friars in Latin America in his travels through his Justice, Peace, and Integrity of Creation (JPIC) ministry, I was able to connect with Franciscan Friars Conventual present for the pilgrim festivities. There were in all about 10 friars from Central and South American custodies and provinces, in addition to 2 friars from Europe that I got to meet, not including a handful of others that were traveling as chaplains with pilgrim groups. The friars were helping with various events around Panamá city, alongside friars from the other branches of the order, in promoting prayer and conversations surrounding Laudato Si. In partnership with the Global Catholic Climate Movement (GCCM), the friars were also able to participate in animating and singing to many young pilgrims from center stage after a couple of the main events with Pope Francis. Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle of Manila, Philippines gladly accepted the “Laudato Si Manifesto” on behalf of the greater church, this document presents the GCCM’s, Youth Franciscans (YouFra) and the friars’ challenge to the Church to actualize more action and consciousness in living out the lessons of Laudato Si and to reiterate (on the behalf of Young Catholics around the world) the need to incarnate and exemplify gospel values in our day to day lives as Christians caring for our common home—as promulgated by the Social Doctrine of the Catholic Church (DOCAT). I was very fortunate to spend time with the friars and experience the graces of international fraternity, live out the missionary charism of Franciscan itineracy, and be present to the young church gathered before us.

Having experienced WYD once before in Madrid Spain 2011, it was exciting to be participating once again this year! It was actually back in Madrid where my experiences of the universal church really moved me to be more open to exploring my faith as a high school student. Little did I know that the graces I received on pilgrimage in 2011 cultivated the soils of my vocation today. Now returning on pilgrimage as a Franciscan Friars Conventual postulant made the experience all the more edifying.

Being functionally bilingual and further along in my faith life, it was neat to notice the details I was not aware of as a high schooler just eight years ago and even continue to unpack blessings from pilgrimage in Madrid. It’s funny, in English we call this pilgrimage “World Youth Day” but the majority of the other language groups and even the organizers refer to this pilgrimage as “la Jornada Mundial de la Juventud” (JMJ) which translates to “the World Journey of the Youth.” I have become a lot more fond of this title because I think it best encapsulates the experience and festivities. Getting to bump into youth of all ages—from middle school to young adult (<30’s)—and their accompanying family, Lay ministers and chaplains from all over the world and exchange fraternal cheers, songs, laughs, and even the few words that they can communicate in that moment (regardless of language) make the youthful energy very palpable. People from various walks of life journey to these youth pilgrimages all round the world to commune with the wider church and give witness that young people are still very much engaged as part of the mystical body of Christ and passionate about the gospel! Many fundraise and work real hard in the span of every two to three years to be able to travel on pilgrimage. Some have more arduous journeys than others to make it to respective JMJ sites. But in the end all return home convicted with the same drive to be missionary disciples and to live out our faith more authentically.

The Secretaries General for Mission Animation (SGAM) of the different obediences of the Seraphic Order encouraged the friars to participate in the youth festivities and pilgrim events with Pope Francis. The “Franciscan Ecological Village” hosted by the Franciscan Sisters of Mary Immaculate hosted friars, Franciscan youth, and volunteers on their school ground. Together they mobilized various activities throughout the week (several I was able to partake in) motivating pilgrims to take time to reflect on modifying their lifestyles to live more simply in solidarity with the poor and heed the call for an ecological conversation. One evening, I was asked by our friars to help facilitate a small group in a wider panel discussion with YouFra (Youth Franciscans) and Ministers General from the different Franciscan branches about how the friars can improve their ministry and support of youth around the world. At the close of the JMJ a document summarizing the major points of the dialogue was sent to the Curias of the Orders in Rome.

The Holy Father encouraged us throughout our days with him to look to Mary for inspiration in her a humble and fearless fiat for how to live and love God’s mission for us. He exhorted us “You, dear young people, are not the future but the now of God. He invites you and calls you in your communities and cities to go out and find your grandparents, your elders; to stand up and with them to speak out and realize the dream that the Lord has dreamed for you.”

Now a two time veteran of JMJ experiences, I can’t emphasize enough how empowering it is to attend these pilgrimages. Whether youth or youth at heart, we should encourage youth to embrace opportunities to take pilgrimages and spiritually prepare for the blessings our Lord grants on such powerful experiences. I for one am grateful for the influence pilgrimage has had on my life discerning a religious vocation!

Pray for youth today, they are as much a part of the Church as the rest!

Peace and all good,
Christopher Fernández
OFM Conv. Postulant (of Our Lady of the Angels Province)


Follow this link to read the English Translation of “HAGGLING FOR THE COMMON GOOD” written by Friar Michael Lasky, OFM Conv, the Director of the Justice, Peace, and Integrity of Creation Ministry for our province, as presented by the Seraphicum Press Office.


September 8, 2018: The postulants helped raise funds and awareness to end hunger, through the 33rd Annual Hunger Walk – supporting the Greater Chicago Food Depository’s network of soup kitchens, pantries, and shelters. It is Chicago’s largest annual anti-hunger rally and this year over twelve thousand participants raised more than $190,000.

The week after Thanksgiving, Friar Michael Lasky, OFM Conv. of our province’s Justice, Peace, and Integrity of Creation Ministry met with all of the postulants of the Conventual Franciscan Postulancy USA, in Chicago, IL for two days of JPIC workshops.

Here are some of their reactions :

Joshua (Our Lady of Consolation Province):
We are all called to a life of poverty, so that all may live rich with dignity. ”

Roberto (Our Lady of Consolation Province):
I can personally relate to a lot of what was being mentioned in the workshop. Coming from México and being raised in two different cultures was a challenge but it is certainly one that helped me to more fully understand our current political climate. Definitely learned a lot and am looking forward for what God and the world has to offer in my vocation. Gracias y que Dios los bendiga.”

Luke (Our Lady of the Angels Province):
Social justice begins in our stories. As Christians our stories carry the power and presence of Christ, our Brother and Healer. Humanity today is ‘Doubting Thomas’ and we must show unbelieving Thomas our wounds, which have become scars by the life and light of Christ. Catherine Doherty says it well enough: the time of ‘mere talking is over.’ We must live the Gospel without compromise, because when we don’t, who will?

Alex (Our Lady of Consolation Province):
I gained a substantial knowledge on how to live out the vow of poverty in a way that supports the poor and the environment. Spending a little extra and investing a little more energy in order to support the poor is a part of our charism.”

Christopher (Our Lady of the Angels Province):
In the past 10 years of my life I have been very humbled in encountering the cry of the poor and the cry of the earth around the world. It’s been really eye opening to meet people and explore places that experience varying dimensions of poverty—even here in the US. What a blessing it is now at this point in my life and my vocation to begin developing my understanding of JPIC in a Franciscan framework. With my continued exploration of foundational principles in caring for creation and for our common home I have become more confident in living out Laudato Si and integrating a more holistic lense and approach to matters of poverty and environment. I consider it an obligation in our world to use the privileges afforded me as a first-generation, Latino-American, Catholic, Ecologist, to aid in local and global discussions regarding JPIC and actually heeding the gospel calling to be Christ to others and renew the face of the earth for the glory of our Creator.”


The encyclical — as well as the government’s report — serves to remind the human family that the focus is not what’s best for an individual or one country, but what’s best for the entire planet, said Father Michael Lasky, a Conventual Franciscan who serves as director of Justice, Peace and Care for Creation Ministry for the order’s Our Lady of Angels Province based in Ellicott City, Maryland…
“We are brother and sister to one another. In that context, don’t you sacrifice for the one you love, especially if the one you love is hurting? That means we have to live differently. We have to do a radical shift,” Father Lasky said


Back in March of 2018, in preparation for the 2019, 800thAnniversary of the meeting of St. Francis and Sultan Al-Kamil, Our Lady of the Angels Province friar, Fr. Gerry Waterman, OFM Conv., who serves as Campus Minister for the Syracuse University / SUNY ESF Catholic community, joined the students he serves in welcoming the SU Muslim Student Association to share in a delicious Mediterranean dinner, followed by the viewing of the movie The Sultan and the Saint, at the SU Catholic Center on Walnut Place. Conversations at dinner and the dialogue that followed the movie were heart-warming as well as challenging. Muslim Chaplain – Amir Duric and Friar Gerry shared stories of their personal faith journeys as well as their collaborative inter-faith work in which they are engaged via the university’s Hendricks Chapel. Another inter-faith event is planned at the SU Catholic Center for Thursday, November 29th, when all three Abrahamic faiths (Judaism, Christianity and Islam) on the Syracuse University campus will come together to make sandwiches for the poor in downtown and Northside Syracuse.


Back in April 2018, Fr. Michael Lasky, OFM Conv., Chairman of Our Lady of the Angels Province’s Justice, Peace and the Integrity of Creation (JPIC) Ministry hosted an Interfaith Forum and Symposium on Environmental Justice and Service to Vulnerable Populations, at our Shrine of St. Anthony, in Ellicott City MD. One of the relationships to evolve and flourish from the event was between our friars, Howard County conservation organizations and the area’s Presbyterian faith community.
On October 9, 2018, Friar Michael (at left) joined volunteers from our Shrine’s Garden Ministry, Earth Forum of Howard County and First Presbyterian Church of Howard County to plant seven Cherokee Brave Dogwood trees and three Rising Sun Redbud trees in the area around the Shrine’s Outdoor Stations of the Cross. Instrumental in this undertaking was Nancy Fayer, the Coordinator of Earth Forum of Howard County, at First Presbyterian Church. This organization partners with other environmentally conscious groups such as The Municipal Online Stormwater Training (MOST) Center and Howard County’s Restoring the Environment and Developing Youth (READY) program, which created and maintains the rain-gardens on the Ellicott City Complex. Nancy was able to obtain the ten trees donated through Sun Nurseries, while working closely with Friar Michael and Shrine staff members – Carol Derenge and Jared Luttrell to plan and execute the planting, including procuring the compost, leaf grow, or organic soil amendment needed to maintain an environmentally conscience planting process.


The majority of the friars of our province live and minister in North America. For all of the citizens of Canada and the USA, November 11th holds a special place in our hearts. We take a moment to remember.


Remembrance Day in Canada: Flanders Fields and the Poppy click here.

Veterans Day in the United States: Prayers for veterans, soldiers, their families, refugees of war, and more click here.