Fr. Mark David Skura, OFM Conv. is an actor and a director but his vocation is Franciscan Friar – how does that work? He talks about his vocation and his love of the fine arts in this interview. Bonus: There are a few clips of some of the shows he has directed at St. Francis High School in Hamburg (Athol Springs), NY.
Ordained to the priesthood on May 26, 1962, along with Fr. Ed Debono, OFM Conv. and Fr. Adam Keltos, OFM Conv., he will be celebrating 60 years as a friar priests, in just a few months. All three of these friars 1st professed their vows of poverty, chastity and obedience, on the Feast of the Assumption – August 15, 1956. Friar Robert was also born on the Feast of the Assumption, in 1935. His younger brother, Friar James, is a friar brother of our province, who celebrated his 60th Profession Anniversary last year, the same year Friar Robert celebrated his 65th Profession Anniversary.
More on Friar Robert’s service in Costa Rica:
A Video Visit with Friar Robert | Our Lady of the Angels Province, USA (olaprovince.org)
On October 28, 2021, the Minister General and his Definitory nominated Friar Michael LASKY as the new Delegate General for Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation (GPIC). He will take over for Friar Joseph BLAY who has been appointed the Co-Secretary for Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation for the International Union of Men’s and Women’s Superiors General (UISG and USG) in Rome.
Father John Burkhard, OFM Conv.
My name is John Jude Burkhard, a 79-year old friar of Our Lady of Angels Province. My middle name was given to me in honor of a Conventual Franciscan priest in the then Immaculate Conception Province who was a close friend of our family. My father was very formative of my faith life and accompanied me to Mass every Sunday. Later in life, my mother, too, challenged me to be more well-rounded and less rigidly demanding of others. I cannot claim that I have always measured up to her advice, but I keep trying. Since we worshipped at Our Lady of Angels Church in Albany, New York, ably and lovingly staffed by the Conventual Franciscans, and since we four children attended the parochial school of the same parish selflessly staffed by the Franciscan Sisters of Syracuse, I suppose my joining the Conventual Franciscans was somewhat providentially “predestined.” Be that as it may, I have never regretted this “destiny.”
I entered the seminary in my sophomore year of high school at the ripe age of 15. As strange as it might seem nowadays, in the Church of my youth before Vatican II it was not so unusual. My pastor, Fr. Denis Gallagher had encouraged my vocation by the novel tactic of teaching me Latin beginning in the seventh grade. Every week I would report to the rectory for a lesson. In this way, too, I got to know the other friars who also encouraged my fledgling vocation. The excellent education I received in the Order’s high school, junior college, and college imparted a life-long love of learning I have never regretted and has set me on my path to higher studies and a teaching career as a friar-priest. The Order permitted me to study theology abroad in Innsbruck, Austria, and Strasbourg, France. These two universities, my fellow students there, and the opportunity to meet Conventual friars and members of other religious communities on an international level were seminal experiences in my life.
Equipped with the appropriate degrees and formed by temperament to teach, research, and write, I have spent the last 53 years pursuing the passion of my life. I have never doubted or regretted my ministry as a teacher, but have rejoiced in God’s gifts to me and in the Order’s generosity and confidence in me by fostering my academic talents and propensities. I have taught at our Conventual Seminary of St. Anthony-on-Hudson, Rensselaer, New York, at St. Peter’s Regional Seminary, Cape Coast, Ghana, West Africa, and at the Washington Theological Union, Washington, D.C. I have always wanted nothing more than to teach my confreres, so anything beyond that goal has simply been a serendipitous blessing. I have had the joy and honor of knowing so many dedicated and outstanding men in the Order, not to mention the many fine lay men and women I have been blessed to have as students as well. An added joy of my life has been my activity as a translator, making theology originally in German and French available in English to others. Somewhere along my life’s journey I discovered that I actually love languages, classical and modern. Now in my final years as a retired professor, I continue to have the privilege of living with our young friars in formation in Silver Spring, Maryland. I often think of the fine example of so many of my Conventual teachers, directors of formation, staff, residents, and my fellow students in our seminary system, and I am profoundly grateful.
I have no particular spiritual wisdom to impart to our friars in formation or to prospective applicants to the Order except for the admonition to identify and accept your talents, thank God daily for them, develop them humanly with the help of the Order, and generously put them at the service of the Church’s universal mission. If you do this, your dreams and your life will be richly rewarded. I know mine have been!
Hello, my name is Noel Danielewicz. I am 71 years-old and Conventual Franciscan Priest in the Our Lady of Angels Province (USA). I am currently living at Franciscan Martyrs Friary in Columbus, Georgia where I minister as the Pastor of St. Benedict the Moor Church.
I was born on August 18, 1948 in New Britian, CT. I am the oldest of 7 children born to John and Jennie Danielewicz. I have 4 brothers (Francis, Tom, Bob and Paul) and 2 sisters (Joann and Mary). We are still reading Genesis and I have 11 nieces and nephews and 17 grand-nieces and nephews. Being part of a Catholic, Polish-American family, our life centered on God, the Church and extended family. We enjoyed summers at the beach , the importance of Mass and meals, and our parish school. My family has always been supportive of my vocation and the friars. Both of my parents and grandmothers were Secular Franciscans. ‘Franciscan’ is in my gene pool!
I began my vocation journey first with the life of St. Francis – his love for the poor and his community of brothers. Other influences: The Father Justin Rosary Hour, my Dad’s vocation story, his desire “to be a brother,” a Conventual Franciscan Friar, and awareness of our Friars at Kolbe High School in Bridgeport, CT. But it was the “Blue Book” that connected me to the Conventual Franciscans. Sustaining that connection was a “Friar Pen Pal”- Fr. Nicholas Swaitek.
I entered the Franciscan community on August 3, 1966 at St. Joseph Cupertino novitiate, Ellicott City, MD. I professed my first vows on August 15, 1967 at the chapel in the novitiate. +Fr. Dominic Slemba, OFM Conv. was my novice master. Friars Jude Surowiec, Vincent Vivian, Paul Miskiewicz, Martin Kobos, Kark Kolodziejski and +Pat and +Mike Mendola were my classmates. Three years later on August 15, 1970, I professed my solemn vows at Immaculate Heart of Mary Church, Granby, MA.
I received a BA in Philosophy at St. Hyacinth College/Seminary, Granby, MA and then a Masters of Theology at our Seminary in Rensselaer, NY (St. Anthony-on-Hudson). Later I received a Maters in Religious Education at Loyola University, Chicago, IL.
On May 15, 1976 I was ordained a priest at Immaculate Conception Cathedral, Albany, NY. Some of my classmates are Friar Curt Kreml, Martin Kobos, Paul Miskiewicz and the late Patrick and Michael Mendola.
Following my ordination, I was assigned as a theology teacher at Cardinal O’Hara High School, Tonawanda, NY. I would have to say that my ‘favorite’ assignment was the 19 years I spent at the St. Francis of Assisi Community, Bessemer, Alabama. It was there where I helped implement a planned vision of ministry for them, moving from “St. Francis Mission” to “St. Francis Community” with a ‘mission’, RCIA, Teen Club, Retreat ministry, reorientation for the people.
My favorite ‘spiritual devotions’ or prayer is the Jesus Prayer: “Lord Jesus, be merciful to me a sinner.” I also love Scripture, in particular, Matthew 11:28-30 “Let Jesus be your burden-bearer. I also loved ministering in Assisi and conducting pilgrimages to Assisi.
For those considering a vocation to our Order and Province I would say: “(1) Be open to the Holy Spirit in your discernment. (2) To listen and hear the Lord speak from family and friends and the fraternity. (3) To fall in love with God of the Call and the Lord of the Journey. (4) To be prepared to die and rise in Christ through your Franciscan formation and ministry. (5) to embrace the Gospel and fraternity. (6) Love the Church and the people of God. (7) Witness to the Kingdom.”
And to our student friars: “Be ready to walk with God. Be flexible, compassionate, pastoral; experience God as healer and reconciler. Be a ‘brother’ not only in the Order, but in the fraternity of the Church and Creation. Get to know our Mother – St. Clare. See the bigger picture that includes everyone!”
Some years ago, while I was the chaplain in Enfield, CT, Felician Sister Anastacia asked me: “What language do you think in?” My answer was: “I think in Gospel!” I find that it helps me to choose well.
Father Raymond Borkowski, OFM Conv.
Hello, my name is Raymond Borkowski. I am an 83 years-old Conventual Franciscan Priest in the Our Lady of Angels Province (USA). I am retired but I am active saying Mass, hearing confessions, participating in the RCIA program and church decorating at St. Paul Friary, Kensington, CT.
I was born in SCRANTION PA – July 30, 1936 and I grew up in THROOP PA. My Father, Henry Borkowski, was born in Poland, came to USA when he was eleven years old. Mother, Margaret Purta, was born in USA ; her parents were both born in Poland but met in USA. I have had one sister, Dorothy, two years older than I am. I attended the parish elementary school and St. Paul High School in Scranton. My father died when I was three years old. Mother worked in a sewing factory to support my sister and me. Father had died prior to social security. We lived across the street from the church and I volunteered for all kinds of help around the church.
Franciscan OFM Conv Friars from the former St. Anthony Province frequently came to the Parish Church to assist at Forty Hours Devotion and Parish Missions. Eventually four young men from the parish entered the Order. They all seemed happy and fulfilled in their vocation and provided a fine example which influenced me in my vocational discernment.
I entered the Order immediately following high school graduation at Becket, Massachusetts in 1953 with Fr. Cornelian Dende, OFM Conv. as my Novice Master. Fr. Cornelian came from Scranton PA and was one of the Friars who had assisted at my home parish of St. Anthony in Throop.
My Novitiate classmates were: Fr. Donald Kos, Stan Giermek, Ed Staniewicz and Richard Michanski. I made Simple Profession in 1954 and Solemn Vows in 1957. Donald and I were ordained in Rome in 1961. We had had the good fortune to be in St. Peter Square for the election of Pope St. John XXIII and in the Basilica for his Coronation Mass. While in Rome, I studied Theology at the Seraphicum and received the Licentiate in Sacred Theology (STL) in 1962.
I returned to the States in 1962 and my first assignment was as a faculty member at Cardinal O’Hara High School in Tonawanda NY. During this time, I completed graduate studies at Canisius College and was awarded a Master’s degree in Education.
In 1967, I was assigned to St. Hyacinth College and Seminary in Granby MA as a faculty member and spiritual director for the student friars. In 1971 I was appointed assistant novice director at St. Joseph Cupertino Novitiate in Ellicott City, MD and then Province vocation director. In 1979,
I returned to St. Hyacinth in Granby as Guardian of the community and as Director of the student friars. During this time, I also was elected for a three-year term to serve as a member of the provincial definitory (council).
In 1985, I was assigned as pastor for St. Stanislaus Church in Trenton, NJ. In 1988, I discerned a Missionary Vocation following a visit to our Province Mission in Ghana, West Africa. While in Ghana, I served several different ministries: on the faculty of St. Paul Regional Seminary in Accra and Guardian and Director of formation for the local Friars, as Chaplain to Poor Clare Nuns, as a Chaplain in Prison Ministry, and as founder of a new Diocesan Parish in the Archdiocese of Accra.
Upon my return to the USA in 1995, I became the first Franciscan Pastor of St. John Parish in Cromwell CT in the Diocese of Norwich where I remained for fifteen years. In 2010, I was assigned as Parochial Vicar at St. Paul Parish in Kensington.
I equally enjoyed all of my multiple and varied ministries. Each of them placed me in a strong supportive Franciscan community where I thoroughly enjoyed the dynamism of youthful communities, vibrant with Franciscan fervor and zeal in serving God’s people. I especially enjoyed the rhythm of the liturgical seasons, each with their particular devotional thrust.
One particular devotion which influenced my personal spirituality is Our Lady of Lourdes, especially because there, our Lady smiled, asked for prayer and penance, and accentuated her unique identity as the Immaculate Conception which is so central to our Franciscan Spirituality.
Advice to our Friars in Formation: “Always look forward and if you must look backward (rear view mirror) look only to avoid future mistakes. Place all your trust in the Lord.”
Father Anthony Kall, OFM Conv.
Greetings! My name is Anthony (Tony) Kall. I am 74 years-old and currently living and ministering as the Guardian Immaculate Conception Friary in Rensselaer, NY. I am a Conventual Franciscan Priest in the Our Lady of Angels Province (USA).
I was born on January 13, 1945 in Trenton, NJ. My family was a typical middle-income family and part of the ‘40s, ‘50s, and ‘60s culture and spirituality, etc. I attended Trenton Catholic Boys High School in Trenton, NJ and that is where I came to know the Conventual Friars.
After I graduated from high school, I entered the seminary at our Novitiate in Middldburgh, NY (1962). +Fr. Celestine Regnier, OFM Conv. was my Novice Master and two of the friars in my class are George Sabol and Edward Ondrako. We professed our Simple Vows at the Novitiate in Middleburgh, NY in 1963 and our Solemn Vows at the major seminary, St. Anthony-on-Hudson in Rensselaer, NY in 1966.
I completed all of my studies for the priesthood at St. Anthony-on-Hudson, Rensselaer, NY and was ordained to the priesthood in 1971 at the Immaculate Conception Cathedral in Albany, NY. There 11 friars ordained that year: 5 from the former Immaculate Conception Province and 6 from the former St. Anthony Province. Following my ordination, I was assigned as a teacher at Canevin High School, Pittsburgh, PA and I also earned an MA in Communication Arts from the University of Notre Dame.
I have had several different ministries but perhaps my ‘favorite’ would be when I was a teacher at our college seminary in Granby, MA. I really enjoyed working and living with the young friars there as well as the professed community.
My favorite type of prayer could best be described as contemplative spirituality.
For those considering a vocation to our Order and Province I would simply say: “Be open to life and to your experiences!”
And to our student friars: “Listen to your lived experiences and be open to them!”
Father Edward Debono OFM Conv.
My name is Ed Debono. I am an 86 year-old Conventual Franciscan Priest in the Our Lady of Angels Province (USA). I am in residence at St. Anthony Friary, Kingston, Ontario, Canada where I am the Chaplain for the Sisters of Providence.
I was born on November 29, 1932 in Toronto, Canada. My parents were immigrants from Malta! There were seven children in our family and I was #5. My family was very strong, very spiritual and very Catholic and my parents were always mentoring us with strong family values, and common sense. At the same time, they always allowed each one of us to determine our own vocation. Happiness and peace were criteria for my family!
I first learned about the Conventual Franciscan Friars though the Companion Magazine which was a publican of the Friars, published in Canada. My parents were subscribers. After reading about the Community, I applied and entered the Seminary in Staten Island, NY in September, 1951. A few years later, I entered the novitiate of the Conventual Franciscans in Middleburg, NY and then professed my first vows under the direction of my novice master +Fr. Celestine Regnier, OFM Conv. Some of the friars in my class were +Terence Pescatore, +Douglas Lawson, +Ray Yudin, +Isadore Blair, +Bill O’Donnell as well as Fr. Adam Keltos and Fr. Bob Amrhein. We professed our Simple vows on August 15, 1956 in Middleburg, NY and our Solemn vows on August 26, 1959 in Rensselaer, NY. I completed my formal studies for the priesthood at our seminary (St. Anthony-on-Hudson, Rensselaer, NY) and I was ordained a priest on May 26, 1962 in the Cathedral in Albany, NY with all of my classmates listed above.
Following my ordination, I was assigned as associate pastor of Holy Rosary Parish in Belleville, Ontario, Canada. I have had several different ministries but my current ministry is one I really enjoy because it is a very spiritual ministry.
My favorite ‘spiritual devotions’ are to St. Francis and to the Holy Spirit.
For those considering a vocation to our Order and Province I would say: “Observe the Gospel of Jesus Christ – that has to be our focus and do not let anyone deter you!”
And to our student friars: “I would say the same thing as above because our life is a wonderful and rewarding commitment…my vocation is the joy of my life!”
I would also like to see all the friars spend a year or two in Assisi. My time there was a profound experience and I believe it will be a profound experience for those who are open to the Spirit.
Father Joseph Angelini, OFM Conv.
Hello, my name is Joseph Angelini. I am 81years-old and currently living and ministering at Our Lady of Mercy Parish in Winston-Salem, NC. as the Associate Pastor as Spanish Pastoral Care. I am a Conventual Franciscan Priest in the Our Lady of Angels Province (USA).
I was born in September, 1938 in Albany, NY. My father was born in Switzerland and came to the USA when he was 19 years old. He spoke Italian, German, and French and worked in Keebler and Jack’s Oyster House in Albany, NY. He loved to tell stories to his co-workers of their homelands in Europe. My mother was three generations of German immigrants. She was very devoted to prayer and religious experience and taught us how to pray. She was a very hard worker and a “no nonsense” person!
Looking back over 60 years, I still recall with clarity my first encounter with a Franciscan friar. It was after a summer Sunday Mass at Our Lady Help of Christians, Albany, NY. Our diocesan pastor, Fr. Joseph Henrick was gravely ill, and the Franciscans from St. Anthony-on-Hudson, Rensselaer were helping out. I left the church after helping to clean up after Mass and came upon a group of youth listening to +Fr. Barnabas Eib, OFM Conv. telling stories about his mission work in Costa Rica. The group was in a semicircle and he was answering questions. It was like a bolt of lightning, a sudden illumination of “what I should do.” It was clear and concrete: I should join the Franciscans. I don’t remember exactly what he was saying and I said nothing, but I was drinking in the inspiration of the moment and I wanted to be a Friar. The next day, I went over to the seminary (St. Anthony-on-Hudson) and asked for papers to enter the Order. The rest is history.
Through the years, I’ve often recalled that moment. There was one special time when I recalled his talk. I had the opportunity to minister in Costa Rica and to go down the Coto River in the Puntareanas Province of Costa Rica and land on the beach at Playa Zancudo. Our group was warmly greeted and we proceeded to celebrate Mass, give catechetical instructions, play games, and have a delicious meal. At the end, I said a prayer of thanks giving for the grace of vocation that I had received many years before.
I entered the seminary in Staten Island, NY in 1953. A few years later, in 1958, I entered the novitiate of the Conventual Franciscans in Middleburg, NY and then professed my first vows under the direction of my novice master +Fr. Celestine Regnier, OFM Conv. Some of the friars in my class were Jim Manning, +Mel Madden, Julian Zambanini and +Robert Leahey. We professed our Simple and Solemn vows at the seminary in Rensselaer, NY.
I completed all of my studies for the priesthood at our seminary and was ordained to the priesthood at the Immaculate Conception Cathedral, Albany, NY in 1965. +Eugenio Rivera, +Mel Madden, Julian Zambanini and +Robert Leahey were ordained with me.
Right after my ordination, I was assigned as a chemistry teacher at Canevin High School, Pittsburgh, PA. Later, I had several different ministries but probably my ‘favorite’ ministry was working as the pastor of St. George Parish in Stockton, CA. The friars there were very cooperative and we worked hard and well for the people there for 10 years. I felt I did my best and everything went smoothly. Even now, 30 years later, I still have some very good friends there.
My favorite prayer and time of prayer is the Morning Offering. It is a time of thanksgiving for one more day in the Lord’s service, a blessed day for the friars I live with and prayer for the good things happening with the people I work with.
For those considering a vocation to our Order and Province and to our men in formation I would say: “There are many opportunities available to you with a positive Franciscan spirit. Find something you can do and with prayer and hard work it will give you a happy life.” I feel very blessed to have entered the Franciscans and given so many wonderful opportunities.
Fr. Richard Rossell, OFM Conv.
My name is Richard Rossell. I am 85-year-old and a retired member of the Conventual Franciscan friars of Our Lady of Angels Province (USA). Right now, I am missioned as the Guardian of St. Peter Friary in Pt. Pleasant Beach, NJ. I am from Trenton, NJ. My mother Marcella and my father Ralph taught me and my brothers Robert, Ralph, Ronald and Roger how to be persons who loved God and His blessed Mother. They were wonderful parents who worked very hard for our family. I was taught by the Franciscan friars at the legendary Trenton Catholic High School. It was a great experience and I got to know many of the friars.
I entered the Franciscan Order in 1952 at our seminary on Staten Island and then completed my novitiate in Middleburg, NY in 1955 and professed my first vows as a friar in 1955. The deceased +Fr. Celestine Regnier was my novice master. My solemn profession followed in 1958. After completing all my studies at our seminary, St. Anthony-on-Hudson, Rensselaer, NY, I was ordained on May 27, 1961 at the Cathedral in Albany, NY. +Father Canice Connors, Andy Dural and Joe Laufer were my classmates.
My first assignment as friar-priest was to return to my high school (Trenton Catholic) where I was a high school teacher but my ‘favorite’ assignment was and is right here at St. Peter Parish and Friary in Pt. Pleasant, NJ…a wonderful town and such good people! I also remember the wonderful people at Canevin High School in Pittsburgh, PA where I also tough high school and one of my students who died of cancer. That was tough.
I have a special devotion to the Blessed Mother and love the “Hail Mary.”
I would encourage anyone considering a vocation to our Order and Province to “pray and be open to the Holy Spirit.”
And to our current student friars: “Please trust in God and His Blessed Mother and be grateful for all of God’s gifts.”