Spriritual Testament ~ Friar Antone

Father Antone Kandrac, OFM Conv.
Spiritual Testimony ~ August, 2019

Hello! My name is Antone Kandrac and I will be 90 years old on May 10th next year. I am a member of the Our Lady of Angels Province (USA), and I am retired here at St. Catharine of Siena Friary in Seaside Park, NJ, one of our Province’s Senior Friar residences.
I was born in 1930 in Wilkes-Barre, PA to a VERY large, close-knit Slovak-Catholic family. I was the 11th child of my mother and father…and there were 14 children in our family all together. Needless to say, sibling rivalry was ‘red hot’ in my family with me and my 9 brothers! But my parents were very loving and kind to all of us. My father was a coal miner who originally came from Czechoslovakia. He was a good and kind man and very good looking (like all the Kandracs!). Unfortunately, he died when I was only 11 years old of coal miners ‘black lung.’ At that time, I was given a shoe-shine box and went around the neighborhood shining shoes to help out my mother. I was very, very close to my mother….I think she said I was her ‘favorite!”
My diocesan parish priest suggested that I become a priest, and he arranged several meetings with Religious vocation directors (Augustinians, Holy Cross, and Holy Ghost Fathers) and I also visited a Passionist monastery but that life was not for me. Then when I was a junior in high school, I met Conventual Franciscan Fr. Adrian Brennan. I loved his humor and his vocation talk and his music and I said to myself, “Great! This for me.” One of the Religious Sisters in my school, Sr. Laurentia, also gave me Johannes Jorgensen’s Life of St. Francis to read. I loved it.
I entered the Conventual Franciscans in 1948 at St. Francis Seminary, Staten Island, NY. Then two years later I entered the novitiate in Middleburg, NY and professed my first vows in 1950. There were 14 novices in my class. Some of my classmates were Carl Vino, Bruce Ritter, and Christopher Balas…all are deceased now.   My solemn profession was in our seminary, St. Anthony-on-Hudson, Rensselaer, NY. I finished my studies for the priesthood at The Catholic University of America and was ordained a priest in 1957.
My first assignment as friar was at Trenton Catholic Boy’s High School, Trenton, NJ but I was only there for a short time and then was assigned to St. Francis Hospital, Trenton. I have had several other assignments. For example, I was the Chaplain of the VA Hospital in Jamaica Plains near Boston, MA for several years but one of my favorites was being Pastor at St. Mary Parish, Nassau, NY. I was missioned there for about 20 years and was the last friar to serve there after 100 years of Franciscan service to that parish community.
My favorite prayer is: “Jesus meek and humble of heart, make my heart like unto Thine.”
I would recommend Johannes Jorgensen’s Life of St. Francis to any young person considering a Franciscan vocation, and I would tell all of our student friars to be sure to have a special devotion to our Blessed Mother, our spiritual mother.

Spiritual Testament ~ Friar Mark

Each week, check back for a new reflection.

Father Mark Steed, OFM Conv.
Spiritual Testimony ~ October, 2019

Hello! My name is Mark Steed. I am 79 years-old and I am a Conventual Franciscan Friar-Priest of the Our Lady of Angels Province (USA). I am currently retired and in residence at St. Bonaventure Friary, Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
I was born in 1940 in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. My Mom was Polish and my Dad was English.
I first learned about the Conventual Franciscan Friars at my high school in Hamilton. After learning more about the Community, I applied and entered the seminary in Watertown, NY in 1958. Later, I entered the novitiate of the Conventual Franciscans in Middleburg, NY (1960) and professed my first vows under the direction of my novice master +Fr. Celestine Regnier, OFM Conv. in 1961. Some of the friars in my class were +Phil Kelly, John Burkhard, Ed Handy and Ernest Rudy. We professed our Solemn vows in August, 1936 in Rensselaer, NY. I completed my formal studies for the priesthood and I was ordained a priest on March 21, 1987 at our St. Bonaventure Parish here in Toronto.
Over the years, I have had many different and varied ministries, everything from being a maintenance man, assistant novice director, teacher, director of a shrine for Native Americans and parish priest but I would have to say that my ‘favorite’ ministry was working in the northern missions in Canada with First Nations peoples there. I enjoyed living and learning about Native peoples and sharing their lives and stories. As a result, I would have to say that my favorite spiritual devotions would be Native spirituality. I also enjoy the spirituality of Fr. Richard Rohr, OFM.
If someone was considering a vocation to our Order and Province I would say: “Learn who you are in relationship with God and the Friars…and make that relationship real!”
And to our student friars: “Don’t get stuck in any particular devotion…stay open to the Holy Spirit and share your faith and insights and love of God…don’t be afraid of your relationship with God! Always look outward!”

Spiritual Testament ~ Friar Stanley

Father Stanley Sobiech, OFM Conv.
Spiritual Testimony ~ August, 2019

My name is Stanley Sobiech I am an 86-year-old Conventual Franciscan Priest. I was born in Poland on July 20, 1933 in a large village of about 400 families, one hundred miles north of Warsaw. Currently I am retired and live at St. Hyacinth Friary in Chicopee, MA Senior Friar residence for members of our Province.
My life is like a serial TV soap opera “Days of My Life.” I still do not understand my childhood and high school life and now I know that this was Mission Impossible. I still don’t know why God put in my heart the dream to be a priest.
To understand my life, we need to understand the culture, traditions and circumstances – in a special way – of the German Nazi invasion, Communist rulers, revolution and divide and conquer.
Seventy-two years ago, on Thursday, September 12, 1940, I received my first Holy Communion. During the final examination the priest whom I did not know because he was hiding underground, gave us a simple question – and did not ask for an answer. His question was “Maybe someday one of your will become a priest?” The room was very quiet – no emotion – but I still can see his face. I still can hear his voice and I still keep in my heart my answer. Yes, I will be a priest.
At this time, from 1939-1945, Poland was occupied. There was almost 24 hours of martial law. Study was illegal and was punished by being sent to a concentration camp or even execution. From my village, four men were arrested and never came home. At this time, I helped my parents on the farm. When I was eight years old, I was almost a professional farmer – but I was really a professional shepherd for cows, horses, lambs and even pigs. As a child, I was physically abused many times, but my parents comforted me and helped me defuse my anger.
In 1945, when I was 12 years old, I met a real teacher for the first time. At this time, we did not have a school building, books, paper, pencils or text books. Close to Christmas 1945, we received a delivery from Santa Claus from the USA, including fish oil. This time a second professional teacher came to our village. After five years of study in my village, when I was 17 years old, I was sent to high school. This was the first time I saw a school building and a dormitory. I had my own bed – and we also had a dining room with tables and utensils. In our school there was no bathroom or running water, but close to the school was a special building and this was the bathroom – but no water, no toilet, no toilet paper…but we did have newspaper and many flies!
In the dormitory we had water and real toilets – but that building was 200 yards from the school. Later my school’s name changed to Joseph Stalin School. This school taught no religion – no crosses were in the classrooms – only pictures of Stalin, Lenin, Marx and many Communist officials. The dormitory schedule had no place for prayer or for church services. Each Saturday after regular classes we had about three hours of good dancing and then a good supper. On Sunday, we slept longer and had a good breakfast and then two by two they took us to the movies. First we had about one half hour Communist indoctrination and then a nice Russian movie. One Sunday, I visited my parents in order to practice my religion. While walking to Church, I looked over a stone wall and saw many people. In curiosity, I went through the front gate. To my surprise, a pastor whom I knew smiled and said to me: “Stanley, Stanley, stay here, stay here.” I asked what was happening. He answered: “Confirmation.” A couple of minutes later some woman I knew came to me and asked for my Confirmation name. Later some man put his hand on my shoulder, the Bishop touched my forehead and cheeks and my Confirmation was finished. I don’t know how many made Confirmation with me.
In 1954, I finished high school and passed the test of maturity. With the diploma in my pocket, I separated myself from Communist indoctrination. A couple of days later I visited Warsaw. The Father Provincial of the Warsaw Province was the first person with whom I shared my 14-year secret of dreaming to become a Franciscan friar. In friendly conversation, he asked me for my diploma. The Provincial saw that my diploma was from Joseph Stalin High School and it was a good reason for him not to trust me. He was afraid I was a spy. So he refuse me – but he gave me hope to try again the next year. This meant I must go to work. During this year I visited my family for a couple of days at Easter – and the first days of July for vacation. The first question I received from my parents was: “How long is your vacation?” My simple answer – “I’m leaving on the 9th of August.” My parents were very happy because I was able to help on the farm. Sunday, the 7th of August, was the first time I showed my mother my invitation to become a Conventual Franciscan.   She had been outside milking the cows to bring me some milk and she came home to clean the stove of ash and cook me something to eat. Her first reaction was to sit down and cry loudly as she called my name. To understand my mother’s reaction, you must know our tradition and circumstances. I was the oldest son. I had four sisters and one brother eighteen years younger than me. She was sure the priestly life was not for me. If I left the Franciscans later this meant public shame for my family. So her first reaction was fear and shock. I’m sure my family prayed hard for my perseverance and they were only very happy after my ordination.
On Tuesday, August 9, 1955, I came to a friary in Niepokalanow. My first surprise – after I finished my first cigarette – was the Novice Master saying to me: “Choose cigarettes or Niepokalanow.” The next surprise was having my hair completely cut off – my head was completely white – the halo a sign of holiness! The worst surprise came the first day of an eight-day retreat. The Novice Master said to me: “Young man, you need a dispensation from the Joseph Stalin High School diploma. My group all received the Franciscan habit – but I was still waiting for my dispensation. Now I am sure that my haircut was a problem for my Provincial. What are we to do with this young man with a halo on his head! But seven years later on Sunday, July 8, 1962 in Niepokalanow I received the gift of Jesus Christ’s priesthood.
My soap opera life ended when I asked my Provincial for a mission in Africa, but the Communist government sent me to the USA. So far, it has never been in my mind to be “the big boss” – but only a poor missionary in Africa. My happiness was – and is – to be a good “secondary” actor.
“Not to me – not to me, O Lord, but to Your Name be the glory. Amen”
My favorite type of prayer is personal conversation with God. I am in awe that God is so good to me. God knows my needs, and I am thankful for what I have received. My favorite prayer is “Angel of God”
To my younger student friars and men considering a vocation I would say: Our life without real faith is nothing. Faith is a gift from God. I believe God loves me. Being a Franciscan without faith is a waste of time. God called me to be a Franciscan, but I had a choice and said yes. My life is fulfilled.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Spiritual Testament ~ Friar Hugh

As part of a Four-Year Plan, the friars of Our Lady of the Angels Province drafted a vision statement which included priorities such as Fraternity, Ministry, JPIC Culture, Vocations, Senior Friars, Our Custodies, and in turn, objectives to enact through the work of our varied Commissions and Initiatives.
In accordance with two of the objectives for Senior Friars, in order to provide both the care of our elder friars and their continued inclusion in the fraternal life of our Province, our Senior Friars Commission requested that those friars share Spiritual Testaments, in their own words.
Each week, check back for a new reflection.

Brother Hugh Dymski, OFM Conv.
Spiritual Testimony ~ August, 2019
My name is Hugh Dymski and I am a 76-year-old Conventual Franciscan Religious Brother in the Our Lady of Angels Province (USA). I am currently in residence at St. Hyacinth Friary in Chicopee, MA one of our Senior Friar residences. I am from Chicopee. My Dad was a butcher who died of a stroke when I was only in the seventh grade and my Mother was a cook who worked at St. Stanislaus Parish in Chicopee. I came to know the Conventual Friars by one of our Friar-priests. In 1961, I entered the novitiate of the Conventual Franciscans in Ellicott City, MD. I professed my first vows on August 15, 1962 and my solemn vows in November, 1965. My novice master was Fr. Alurelion Brzeznick, OFM Conv. And some of my classmates are Fr. Conrad, Fr. Blasé, Fr. Linus and Fr. Bede.
My first assignment as friar was at St. Francis High School in Hamburg, NY and I really don’t have a ‘favorite’ assignment. All of my assignments were good.
My Franciscan prayer life is good and I consider it a very personal prayer life.

Spiritual Testament ~ Friar Jude

Each week, check back for a new reflection.

Father Jude Surowiec, OFM Conv.
Spiritual Testimony ~ July, 2019
My name is Jude Surowiec I am a 71 years-old Conventual Franciscan Priest in the Our Lady of Angels Province (USA). I am in residence at St. Hyacinth Friary in Chicopee, MA and am a professor at Holy Apostle’s College in Cromwell, CT . I was born on May 1, 1948 in Detroit, MI and I am primarily of Polish descent. I have one sister, one brother and many nieces and nephews. The parish where I grew up was very instrumental in helping me to get to know the Friars and my Uncle was a member of the Franciscans (St. Anthony Province at that time). I later attended St. Francis High School in Hamburg, NY which is staffed by the Conventual Friars so I knew the community very well.
I entered the novitiate of the Conventual Franciscans in Ellicott City, MD in August, 1966 and professed my first vows under the direction of my novice master +Fr. Dominic Slemba, OFM Conv. Friars in my class Martin Kobos, Vincent Vivian, Noel Danielewicz and Paul Miskiewicz. Several of my classmates are deceased. I professed my solemn vows on August 15, 1970 in Granby, MA.
I was ordained a Franciscan priest in Rome, Italy on June 29, 1975 after completing my studies at the Pontifical Biblical Institute in Rome. I later was assigned to teach at our seminary, St. Anthony-on-Hudson, Rensselaer, NY and I consider teaching my favorite assignment/ministry.
Various texts in Sacred Scripture come to mind when asked if I have a favorite prayer or devotion, so I would have to say Romans 8: 36-39 and Philippians 3: 7-16.
For those considering a vocation to our Order and Province I would say: “Reflect upon the ‘signs’ that the Lord provides for you in your life’s journey. It will help you discern where the Lord in leading you.”
And to our student friars: “Be open to the guidance of the Spirit – reorganize your gifts and talents and be willing to share them with others.”

Spiritual Testament ~ Friar Boniface

As part of a Four-Year Plan, the friars of Our Lady of the Angels Province drafted a vision statement which included priorities such as Fraternity, Ministry, JPIC Culture, Vocations, Senior Friars, Our Custodies, and in turn, objectives to enact through the work of our varied Commissions and Initiatives.
In accordance with two of the objectives for Senior Friars, in order to provide both the care of our elder friars and their continued inclusion in the fraternal life of our Province, our Senior Friars Commission requested that those friars share Spiritual Testaments, in their own words.
Each week, check back for a new reflection.

Father Boniface Reinhart, OFM Conv.
Spiritual Testimony ~ September, 2019

Greetings everyone! My name is Boniface Reinhart and I am a 92 years old member of the Our Lady of Angels Province (USA). I am retired now and reside at St. Bonaventure Friary in Toronto, Canada, and am happy to say that my ministry is prayer!
I was born on September 19, 1927 in Breslau, Ontario, Canada to wonderfully holy and devote Catholic parents. I was the 10 and last child of this family and we have always been very close all of our lives. When I was growing up, my mother was a subscriber of the “Companion” magazine, a publication of the Conventual Franciscan Friars. I read the magazine and saw the vocation notification and so I contacted Fr. Celestine Regnier and that was the beginning of my vocation story.
In September, 1945 I entered the Franciscan Minor Seminary which was on Staten Island at that time. Later (1948), I entered the novitiate which was in Cohoes, NY. My novice master was +Fr. Engelbert Eichenlaub, OFM Conv. We had a big class of novices but not all were professed at the end of the year. Some of my classmates were: +Otto Fouser, +Fermin Finn, +Camillus Murray, +Charles Nelipowitz, +Longinus Lynch. We professed our Simple vows on August 21, 1949 and our Solemn Vows on October 4, 1952.
I completed my studies for the priesthood at our Seminary (Collegio Serafico) in Rome, Italy and I was ordained in Rome on July 4, 1954. I returned to the States and was first assigned as a parochial vicar at St. Francis Parish in Hoboken, NJ.
I too have had many different assignments but one of my ‘favorite’ assignments was at St. John’s parish in Kingston, Ontario, Canada. I was the first Franciscan to be pastor there so it was challenging but very, very rewarding. I have so many good stories of all of my assignments, I couldn’t begin to recount them all. I just know that I have been blessed.
My favorite prayer/devotion is praying the rosary daily. It has always been my favorite devotion.
I would like to say to any young person considering a Franciscan vocation that I have always been content with my decisions and assignments and living in community with others has been a great support to my vocation. And I would say to our current student friars: study St. Francis! In today’s world we cannot live exactly like he did but we can with the grace of God live the same spirit! And growing older…the older you get, the more you learn of God’s love for us and you appreciate it.

Spiritual Testament ~ Friar Stephen

As part of a Four-Year Plan, the friars of Our Lady of the Angels Province drafted a vision statement which included priorities such as Fraternity, Ministry, JPIC Culture, Vocations, Senior Friars, Our Custodies, and in turn, objectives to enact through the work of our varied Commissions and Initiatives.
In accordance with two of the objectives for Senior Friars, in order to provide both the care of our elder friars and their continued inclusion in the fraternal life of our Province, our Senior Friars Commission requested that those friars share Spiritual Testaments, in their own words.
Each week, check back for a new reflection.

Brother Stephen Murphy, OFM Conv.
Spiritual Testimony~ June, 2019
My name is Stephen Murphy and I am a 65-year-old Conventual Franciscan Religious Brother in the Our Lady of Angels Province (USA). I am happy to say that I am currently retired and live at St. Hyacinth Friary in Chicopee, MA one of our Senior Friar residences. I am originally from Holyoke, MA and grew up in a large close-knit Catholic family where I was educated and grew in my love for people and service. When I was younger, I was considering a vocation to religious life and my Mom suggested I look into the Franciscan college seminary in nearby Granby, MA. At that time, I didn’t even know that seminary existed, but after one visit, I was hooked. And so, in 1975 I entered the novitiate of the Conventual Franciscans in Ellicott City, MD where I professed my first vows under the direction of my novice master Fr. Alex Cymerman, OFM Conv. Friars Tim Kulbicki, Richard-Jacob Forcier, Dennis Grumsey and Daniel Fink are classmates of mine.
My first assignment as friar was at St. Joseph’s Parish in Mt. Carmel, PA. Later, I was missioned at my “favorite” assignment, Mater Dolorosa Parish, Holyoke, MA. It was my longest assignment, 21 years, and this is where I helped out in one of our parishes. During my time in Holyoke, I also had the opportunity (5 summers) to be the Master of Ceremonies for Bishop Dupre. It was a memorable and excellent experience.
I enjoy my Franciscan prayer life very much and have a special devotion to the Miraculous Medal Novena. I also pray the rosary daily.
I would like to share this with anyone considering a vocation to our Order and Province: “Don’t be afraid to listen to the call!   Try it. You may not have any satisfaction in your life without trying out this call first.”
I would also like to share with our student friars: “Be faithful in your learning. Learn well that we are all human beings and that we make mistakes! Stay faithful to your vows in spite of any health or problems you may encounter.”

Spiritual Testament ~ Friar Paschal Mary

As part of a Four-Year Plan, the friars of Our Lady of the Angels Province drafted a vision statement which included priorities such as Fraternity, Ministry, JPIC Culture, Vocations, Senior Friars, Our Custodies, and in turn, objectives to enact through the work of our varied Commissions and Initiatives.
In accordance with two of the objectives for Senior Friars, in order to provide both the care of our elder friars and their continued inclusion in the fraternal life of our Province, our Senior Friars Commission requested that those friars share Spiritual Testaments, in their own words.

Each week, check back for a new reflection.

Brother Paschal Mary Kolodziej, OFM Conv.
Spiritual Testimony ~ June, 2019
My name is Paschal Mary Kolodziej and I am a 69-year-old Conventual Franciscan Religious Brother in the Our Lady of Angels Province (USA). I am the Guardian and Director of Senior Care Friars at St. Hyacinth Friary in Chicopee, MA. I was born in 1949 in Buffalo, NY and was one of the sons of two very hard-working parents who sacrificed much for us kids. When I was a boy, I knew about the Franciscan friars because they staffed the next parish over from our home parish. In 1975, I decided to enter the novitiate of the Conventual Franciscans in Ellicott City, MD. I professed my first vows in 1976. Fr. Alex Cymerman, OFM Conv. was my novice master and some of my classmates are Friars Joe Bayne, Stephen Frenier, Albert Scherer and Kevin Kane (deceased). In 1979, I professed my solemn vows in Holyoke, MA.
I completed my degree in nursing at D’Youville, College, Buffalo, NY. Later, my first assignment was at Corpus Christi Parish in Buffalo. I have to say that my ‘favorite’ assignment was from 1981-1985 in Ellicott City, MD with our novices. We had a very good professed community there at that time. I would also like to share that one of my more difficult yet very rewarding assignments was caring for a bed-ridden friar for two years. It was a very special time.
My Franciscan prayer life very important to me. I have a special devotion to the Blessed Mother and love praying the rosary.
I would like to share with anyone considering a vocation to our Order and Province: “Pray. Get a spiritual director and the vocation a try.”
I would also like to share with our student friars: “Consecrate yourself and your religious life to the Blessed Virgin and keep up your daily prayer life.”