Ministry Highlight

On their last day, the St. Francis High School (Athol Springs, NY) Class of 2022 gathered in the quad with the rest of the student body and were given a final blessing by Fr. Michael Sajda, OFM Conv. Friar Michael has served as SFHS President for the past 16 years. After serving in province education ministries, from 1979-2001 (MD, NY & FL), he began serving at our Athol Springs, NY high school province ministry 21 years ago. Friar Michael was first assigned to St. Francis in 2001 to serve as Principal, and became President in 2006. As of June 25, 2022, the new President of SFHS will be Fr. Matthew Foley, OFM Conv., who currently serves there as an Instructor and as Campus Minister.

Note: The first class was enrolled at St. Francis High School in 1927. SFHS was founded under the leadership of the Very Rev. Justin Figas, OFM Conv., who had long desired to establish a secondary school for young men in the Niagara Frontier area.

Reflection by Fr. Ed Ondrako, OFM Conv.

From Newman as a Critic of Modernity
To Vatican II as Newman’s Council

“The world is content with setting right the surface of things;
the Church aims at regenerating the very depth of the heart.”

In the 21st century, does this aphorism[1] have traction or purchase, or attract anyone? Does it appear that the world is content at setting right the surface of things? John Locke defined how to be a good citizen and how to avoid religious wars by all religions keeping to very few beliefs. The less belief, the better for civil harmony. To some, that looks good for setting right the surface of things. Self-proclaimed referees, operating under the guise of neutrality, make the claim to set right the surface of things. The increasing breakdown of civility and overwhelming absence of nobility inundates us every time we turn on the news or look at our cellphones.
Are we convinced that what the Church is and what it does directly concerns the regeneration of the very depth of the heart? Edward Gibbon, a gifted historian, wrote that the Church was an authoritarian institution with too many rules, with the ability to be heavy handed so as to force its doctrines upon the faithful. John Henry Newman grew up with the prevailing Lockean and Gibbonesque thought in England. Newman’s aphorism from The Idea of a University tells a story. Christianity has a story to tell about what the Church’s mission is and what it has done or failed to do on the world stage for two millennia. We inherit this story.
What is the prevailing current today? Do we still live in the aspiration of the Kingdom of God? Has the real meaning of the sacramental been drained? Newman was dealing with a variety of ways to defend the reasonableness of belief in God and to allow the inclusion of the sacraments in the economy of Christianity. He drew attention to the phenomenon of Christian thought in the 19th century that was embedded in its practices and forms of life. My sketches have ranged from his teen to his golden years. A reflection upon the phenomenon of Christian thought from different periods in his life and the works he produced at those times offers a perspective to unite the ‘Anglican’ and ‘Catholic’ Newman and his writings.
Newman as Anglican and Catholic stands with a contemporary of his: Kierkegaard, a Lutheran who grasped well the all too easily changing nature of secular Christianity in modernity in Denmark between the 1830s and 1850s. A point by point comparison of the two thinkers would be very fruitful, despite Kierkegaard’s very different 19th century cultural situation. Kierkegaard is an instance of a particular ‘prophetic’ type of apologist who “is less interested in defending Christianity against the atheists than critiquing its self-preservation in modernity in which it makes its peace with reason, morality and with progress” (C. O’Regan). Kierkegaard is scathing in his criticism of the Lutheran bishops for their failure to stem the tide of adaptation to modern cultural and social norms in Denmark that have displaced authentic Christianity which, for Kierkegaard, is essentially Lutheran Christianity. Kierkegaard’s critique is ‘prophetic’ in substance and tone for its failure to bear any resemblance to the Lutheranism of the past.
Kierkegaard’s patterns present similarity and difference with Newman. For Kierkegaard, faith rather than reason, scripture rather than cultural accommodation that weakens a strong sense of sin and sinfulness, and knowledge of how the sinner has a sense of the transcendent Otherness of God and deep sense of the prerogatives of divine judgment that is not subservient to secular morality, confirms the mystery of the incarnation, passion and death of Christ. His prophetic critique of the degraded state of Christianity in modernity and his prophetic tone is unique and is as vehement as the biblical prophets, Hosea and Jeremiah. Newman believes in the power of argument and uplifts Christian believers with the skills of the scalpel of argument.[2]
Look to Vatican II, Newman’s Council. Lumen Gentium defines the mystery of the Church, not a common garden word. The source of the Church, its energy, power, and reality as an instrument as an institution is a mystery. The Greek mysterion means power and source. The Latin term is sacramentum. The Church is a vehicle of a symbol that stands for a reality that transcends it. The Church is nothing without representing Christ. It is the vehicle whereby Christ is made present and lives in our presence. God is in and with the Church, and is the vital principle within the Church. Christ is in the sacrament, and is present in the Church. The Church as an institution, animated by the Holy Spirit, has to be representative of Christ. The Church as mystery is alive, vital and not reduced to an institution with power locked behind walls.
A second Vatican II document on the Church and what it does in the world as a gift, Gaudium et Spes (Joy and Hope) lyrically draws us into what the Church is doing as the Church of the poor, the outsider, with an eye on eternal life. Newman’s Council has a shift in tonality from Vatican I. Christ lives in our presence now. God is in and with and is the vital principle within the Church. As an institution, the Church Is representative of Christ and animated by the Holy Spirit. The Church’s mission includes dialogue and encounter and recognition of human dignity. Human beings are made in the image of God, gifted with reason and freedom. Every person, most of all, persons with disabilities, reflect who we are as images of God.
The defining feature of Newman’s work is what he calls liberalism in religion. His account of its basic tenets and underlying principles is a vista that invites deeper study of Newman and how he goes beyond doctrine and tradition, encouraging a perception of greatness in the human being that may have been lost from view of historical Christianity but retrieved with Vatican II. Locke and his epigones, R. Whately at Oxford, and E. Gibbon with his historicist line, attempted to remove any belief in mystery. In our own day, two lines of interpretation of Newman’s Council often appear in competition in the Church’s ongoing updating, the competing interpretations which themselves risk obscuring the mystery. Pope St. John XXIII’s call to update the Church, is not a call to leave its identity behind, nor to be invidious or condemnatory. Social justice as the only purpose of the Church is a wrong interpretive strategy, but it continues to dominate.

Fr. Edward J. Ondrako, OFM Conv., Univ. of Notre Dame, Easter Reflection 3


[1] J. H. Newman, The Idea of a University (London, uniform edition), 203.
[2] See my earlier entries referencing Newman’s Oxford University Sermons and A Grammar of Assent. Newman never reduces argument to logic or syllogism or a version of biblical proof texting.

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
May 10, 2022

Minister General Visit with Toronto & Syracuse Friars

May 1, 2022: The Minister General of our Order, the Most Rev. Carlos Trovarelli, OFM Conv. (above pictured in front of the Tomb of St. Francis in Assisi) and Fr. Jude Winkler, OFM Conv. (Our Lady of the Angels Province friar serving as Assistant General for the Conventual Franciscan Federation) visited our Province’s Syracuse, NY pastoral ministry ~ Assumption Church, where our friars have been serving for over 100 years. Friar Carlos and Friar Jude toured the newly remodeled the lower level of the church; a space called the Grotto. The friars serving at Assumption Church use the space to invite local people of the area to join them for coffee, dinner, etc. The aim is to build friendships, which will hopefully lead them to deeper participation in the life of the community. It is hoped this program will lead some of them to want more, to participate in Mass which is celebrated in the upper level of the church. The program corresponds with St. Francis’ call to “heal wounds, bind what is broken, and bring home the lost.” Read More
Our newly elected Minister Provincial ~ the Very Rev. Fr. Michael Heine, OFM Conv. will be at Assumption Church, June 5, 2022, to celebrate Mass and bless the Grotto.

May 5-7, 2022: After visiting the Province Custody of St. Maximilian M. Kolbe of the Province of St. Maximilian M. Kolbe in Poland [Gdańsk] (May 2-5, 2022 Montreal, Canada) and before attending the United States for the provinces’ chapters, Friar Carlos made his first visit to Canada, including a fraternal visit to our Province’s Canadian Delegation of St. Francis of Assisi, with a stop at our St. Bonaventure Friary in Toronto, ON. The friars gathered with the general and Friar Jude to offer their opinions and hopes for the future as we work at re-founding the Order’s presence in Canada. After the meeting and following the Minister General’s encouraging words, the friars present took this picture in the friary chapel.

May 8, 2022 Weekend Celebrations

May 8, 2022: The postulants of our InterProvincial Postulancy (Chicago, IL) and their friar formators held the “May Crowning” Devotion and blessed a new garden statue of Our Lady of Guadalupe. The “May Crowning” is a time honored Catholic devotion to Our Lady, to whom the month of May is devoted through popular piety. They also extended well wishes to all mothers a very happy Mother’s Day, while asking for continued to pray for their vocations, as we also celebrated “Vocation Sunday,” the Fourth Sunday of Easter, known as Good Shepherd Sunday.

May 8, 2022: Mariella and Daniel, regular pilgrims at of The Shrine of St. Anthony (Ellicott City, MD) crown our Lady after the prayer for Mothers, at the Noon Mass.

At our Syracuse, NY pastoral ministry ~ Assumption Church, after receiving her First Eucharist, Grace honors Our Lady in prayer.

May 7, 2022 Baccalaureate Mass at UNC Chapel Hill’s Newman Catholic Student Center Parish: Fr. William Robinson, OFM Conv. (Parochial Vicar & Associate Campus Minister) with a sampling of the UNC Student Graduates

May 7, 2022: First Eucharist celebration at our Pt. Pleasant Beach, NJ pastoral ministry ~ St. Peter’s Roman Catholic Church

Closing Mass for the May 6-8, 2022 Toni’s Camp Retreat, of the Archdiocese of Atlanta, celebrated by the Archbishop of Atlanta and a friar of our province ~ The Most Reverend Gregory J. Hartmayer, OFM Conv.

CUA Announcement and Letter of Minister Provincial

Statement of the Franciscan Friars Conventual
on the Decision of The Catholic University of America
to replace them as Directors of Campus Ministry

The Franciscan Friars Conventual of Our Lady of the Angels Province are saddened and disappointed in the decision of The Catholic University of America to terminate the friars’ 24-year service as University Chaplains and Directors of Campus Ministry.
When the Franciscans assumed leadership of campus ministry at the University, they were mandated by the U.S. bishops to restore a fuller sense of Catholic identity in the ethos of life on campus – orienting the undergraduate and graduate students, along with faculty, administration, and staff, to the Church’s gospel principles of truth, charity, and justice.  For 24 years the friars, in collaboration with hundreds of lay ministers, have striven to create a faith community at the Catholic University, committed to the principles of the Christian intellectual tradition, the sanctity of life, the dignity of the human person, the culture of social justice, the witness of interreligious dialogue, and the sacredness of liturgical celebration.
The friars depart with profound gratitude to God for the privilege of having accompanied the Catholic University community on its journey of faith through 24 years of unprecedented times.  We hope, in the humble spirit of St. Francis of Assisi, that we have contributed to upbuilding the faith-life of the University.  We offer our support to those whom the University has chosen to replace us.  May the Franciscan blessing of “Pax et Bonum” (“Peace and Good”) descend upon all.


Vocations Director’s Reflection

Friar Nick Romeo talks about why wounded men make the best friars. Part of the hard work of formation is owning our less -than-idyllic reasons for joining, then permitting them to be chiseled away by the mercy offered by Christ

Congratulations, Friar Antonio!

Today, May 6, 2022, Our Lady of the Angels student friar Antonio Moualeu, OFM Conv. received a Doctoral Degree in Mechanical Engineering, from Georgia Institute of Technology.
Friar Antonio’s hooding at the 39:52 mark in this video of the Georgia Tech Ph.D. Ceremony:

Commencement Spring 2022 Program

Another one of our student friars ~ friar Franck Sokpolie, OFM Conv. was one of the friars on hand for the celebration. He was able to catch this quick video and a few photos prior to and during the Commencement.
Here are his comments on the day’s celebrations:

“It was a beautiful ceremony. The rain right came at the end but rain or shine we weren’t gonna miss it. I flew with friar Antonio from San Antonio
[they both live in the San Damiano Friary]. Fr. Paul Scholmer, OFM Conv. [Guardian and Co-Director of the Post Novitiate in Silver Spring] and friar Cristofer Fernández, OFM Conv. [another student friar of our province] drove up 11 hours just to be here to support our dear brother. Another interesting detail – Antonio, his brother and father our all engineers. His little sister Nelly gets her PhD next week in psychology. Two doctorates in the Moualeu family! After Commencement, we joined friar Antonio’s family at an authentic German restaurant (Fr. Paul was happy, because he is German). It was also friar Antonio brother’s birthday so we all sang happy birthday to him during dinner. Friar Paul, myself and friar Cristofer drove back 11 h to DC because I had my little sister’s Masters graduation to attend on Saturday (Biochemistry and Education).” ~friar Franck


Friar Paul, friar Cristofer, friar Antonio & friar Franck

Friar Antonio’s family, with the friars on hand, cheering from the stands.

Checking in with the Blessed Sacrament Catholic Church Little Portion Food Pantry

From Fr. Paul Lininger, OFM Conv. (pastor) of our Burlington, NC pastoral ministry ~ Blessed Sacrament Catholic Church:
Thanks to the Fantastic Volunteers and Supporters of the
Little Portion Food Pantry sponsored by Blessed Sacrament Church, we want to share with you a brief video of the recent major Food Distribution (Monday, May 2, 2022).

With Your Help – We served  922 families
consisting of 3668 individuals.

Thank You to all who help make this ministry of service possible: “for whatever we do for our sisters & brothers in need, we do for Christ Jesus”. Enjoy the following brief video produced and edited by Leo Quinn, the Coordinator of Youth Ministry at Blessed Sacrament:

San Damiano Friary Expansion Dedication

The San Damiano Friary, in San Antonio, TX, is home to several of Our Lady of the Angels Province student friars, as well as Fr. Gary Johnson, OFM Conv. (pictured seated center front row), who serves as Friar Guardian and Director of the Formation House. A part of the Our Lady of Consolation Province, this new expansion of the formation house will continue to form and educate friars from across the broad Franciscan families and countries worldwide. Currently, it forms friars from the United States and Mexico.  Details on the expansion and dedication can be found on the Province of Our Lady of Consolation website.

Responding to God’s Call

Our Lady of the Angels Province Vocation Director, Br. Nick Romeo, OFM Conv. chatting with the Curley Class of 2024, during their End of Year Retreat.

Archbishop Curley High School‘s entire Sophomore Class (Class of 2024) went on an End of the Year Retreat together. There, they were afforded time to reflect upon how they have responded to God’s Call over the course of this past school year and how they will continue to grow as Curley Men. Together they prayed, ate, rested, and played.

God bless the Curley Class of 2024!