Remembering +Friar Donald Kos, OFM Conv.

Thursday, February 21, 2019: Our Order’s friars of the General Houses, representatives of various tribunals of the Holy See, friends and colleagues gathered at Santi Apostoli Basilica to remember +Fr. Donald Kos, OFM Conv., one year after his death, in the light of his lifetime service to the General Curia and to the Holy See. Bishop Gianfranco Girotti, OFM Conv., +Friar Donald’s long-time colleague and Regent Emeritus of the Apostolic Penitentiary, presided at the Eucharistic liturgy. Apostolic Major Penitentiary Cardinal Mauro Piacenza JCD was scheduled to preside, but had to cancel at the last moment, due to illness. Below is his homily, which was read by Friar Robert Leżohupski, OFM Conv., +Friar Donald’s successor at the Apostolic Penitentiary and a Member of the General Procuration, in which the Cardinal praised +Friar Donald as one who “thought, acted and lived under the light of God,” someone in whose work at the Tribunal “always sought both the glory of God and the care of souls with justly merciful criteria, both attentive to the particulars of the case and to the wider context.”

Homily – Eucharistic Celebration
One-Year Anniversary of the Death of +Fr. Donald
(Rome, February 21, 2019, Basilica of XII Apostles)
Translated by Our Lady of the Angels Province friar, Fr. Timothy Kulbicki, OFM Conv.

Mauro Cardinal Piacenza
Major Penitentiary
Liturgical Texts: Genesis 9:1-13 and Mark 8: 27-33

Today’s Gospel presents us with an instructive contrast.

St. Peter, inspired by the Father, recognizes Jesus as the Messiah, the Chosen of God. Almost immediately afterwards Peter opposes the divine plan by reproving Jesus for speaking about his suffering, rejection and death, such that Jesus severely rebukes him: “Get behind me, Satan! Because the way you think is not God’s way but man’s.” How difficult it is to be continuously under God’s light!

St. Peter, happy to have proclaimed Jesus as the Christ and sure of doing so by divine inspiration, certainly believed to be acting under that same inspiration in opposing Jesus’ teaching. One can easily find any number of arguments against such a vision of a Messiah, who must suffer, be rejected, and be killed. It would not be very difficult to show that such things cannot be part of God’s plans.

The first reading presents us with the covenant with Noah, in which God expressly forbids the shedding of blood: “From one person in regard to another I will demand an accounting for human life.” It is therefore not the will of God that someone be killed. By reasoning a bit one can arrive at the conclusion that it was not the will of God that Jesus be killed. You may also point to the prophecies that present the Messiah as someone who will triumph over all his enemies and reign gloriously forever. This is the plan of God! St. Peter had more than enough arguments for rebuking Jesus and telling him that he was introducing a perspective not part of God’s plan: the Son of Man suffering, being rejected by the scribes and the high priests and being killed, apparently did not fit into God’s plan.

But Jesus is completely docile to the plans of God: he knows how to choose which Scriptures are apt for every situation, and how to understand every situation. He recognized from the Scriptures that the Messiah had to suffer (look at Isaiah’s prophecy regarding the Suffering Servant, or the Christ-figures like Abel, Moses, and Joseph). God does not wish death, God does not wish betrayal, but he takes the world as it is. Because the human heart tends to evil, God decided to triumph over evil by assuming it and transforming it with the strength of love. Therefore Jesus could say to Peter: “You do not think in God’s ways but man’s.” It can happen to us as well to begin with a light coming from God but arrive at an end of human perspectives.

It is vital to remain very docile to God and to be attentive to not add human things to His inspirations. Unfortunately we often reason based on our own psychology and human impulses, finding many justifications along the way for that which is merely our own natural inclinations. We can be very rigid, and convince ourselves that we are only doing God’s will; on the other hand, we can be easy-going and convince ourselves that we are imitating the great mercy of God. We must always be attentive and docile to the Spirit of the Lord, seeking to do His will at every moment, avoiding self-delusions. Let us ask the Lord for such docility to follow His will without adding anything of our own, without fear of the difficulties, without departing from the company of Jesus, even when that entails suffering and humiliation.

Fr. Donald, in his generous and professional service to the Holy See, especially at the Apostolic Penitentiary, was in the right place. He fits well within this brief reflection on the Liturgy of the Word. He thought, acted, and lived under the light of God! In his official judgments on the many and wide-ranging cases that daily arrive at the Tribunal of the Apostolic Penitentiary, he always sought both the glory of God and the care of souls with justly merciful criteria, both attentive to the particulars of the case and to the wider context.

I would say that Fr. Donald had the sense of God! While we are not here to eulogize our dear brother but to pray for his eternal rest, we do so with great affection as we try to better ourselves, as we seek to see the things which the Lord wishes to tell us by means of his life.

Fr. Donald received a solid theological formation before his juridical one. Since the juridical one came after the theological one, logically even the juridical became spiritual. By fixing his gaze squarely upon God, in his eternal laws which regulate the world and all of creation, he always avoided the temptation “to live and let live” or to look for a comfortable conformism, both in the difficult post-conciliar years as well as those which came later but were still no easier. The Absolute, with its infinitude ad extra and with its co-eternal norms, was his life criterion, from the observance of which norms flows order, justice, peace, serenity, and that common sense which always characterized him. Just as a mirror reflects images of otherwise unreachable reality, Fr. Donald found in God an entire universe in its varied aspects, with its needs and difficulties for sure, but also with every indication needed for human progress and happiness.

By meeting and judging every eventuality with eternal and unchanging truth, he was able to make pronouncements on an infinity of questions with the security of someone who draws from God the infallible criterion of judgment, sure not of himself but of God, and for this reason incapable of compromise.

By freeing his office of any kind of conceptual aridity, he found in eternal truth the way for his life. This is seen in the fact that every one of his sentences, every one of his opinions, every one of his pronouncements as precise as they were essential, always carried this trademark. He was always in line with God, and when the case called for it, he was always coherent regarding the language of the cross, never easy but always opportune, and under which “the night becomes clear as day.”

Since God was for him the true reference point for everything, Fr. Donald lived the presence of God in a singular way. He made a point of saying “to live the presence of God,” not “to live in the presence of God.”  To live “in the” presence of God, beneath his gaze, is to feel oneself the object of both attention and concern, but above all of judgment. It is certainly a wise counsel to remember that God sees us and that nothing escapes his gaze, but the feeling that comes from that is still fear, no matter how holy it might be! To live “the” presence of God, on the other hand, establishes a personal relationship that leads to intimacy and love. To fear God is the beginning of wisdom, but to love Him is the foundation of wisdom itself.

In the regular give-and-takes with Fr. Donald, which in any case always resolved themselves, one came to understand that he clearly grasped in a very Franciscan manner that with God, the smallest things, even the sharpest of them, mean something. With Him nothing is useless or insignificant. In Him “the great and the small are alike.” We share in this incarnation of the divine, without even being able to theoretically explain it: it overturns the parameters of our judgment, it changes our ways of thinking, it fills up our solitude, it makes us believe in the value of things hidden, it provides certainty even against the headwind of uncertainty. God is light, the true light which grants immeasurable value to whatever the human person does in order to temper a person for infinity.

Those who live the presence of God like Fr. Donald did, understand the meaning of simplicity of life, poverty, the fatigue of work, and finally both suffering and death: all is colored by the Paschal Mystery.

Fr. Donald had a clear conviction that God is not beyond any act that we perform or that God is not some kind of disinterested spectator, but rather that God is within what we do, day in and day out of our lives. He is the Eternity which fills all time with Himself; He is the Immensity which is not beyond the place where we currently find ourselves. Fr. Donald knew how to see his life as a mystery, as something filled with infinity because it is filled with God. He experienced in his life the truism that the one who only seeks things will always be suffocated by them, while the one who finds God is infinitely enlightened and fully breathes with both lungs.

By reflecting upon these things one can understand the world Fr. Donald inhabited, and what interior movements might be possible for someone, even in the midst of everyday things.

Did not Jesus tell us: “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be?”

Dear Fr. Donald, we pray that you might be with your Treasure for all of blessed eternity, but we also ask you to pray that those of us down here might walk daily both with our feet on the ground and with our heart above where our Treasure is.

Friar Marek Facilitated Retreat for Polish Youth

Follow link for article and additional links for photos.
Over the weekend of February 16-17, 2019, Our Lady of the Angels Province friar, Fr. Marek Stybor, OFM Conv. facilitated a retreat for the 250 teens at the Shrine of Our Lady of Czestochowa (Doylestown, PA). The theme of the retreat was a follow up of Holy Father Pope Francis’ WYD in Panama: “I am the servant of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.” (Lk 1:38). Fr. Marek took the opportunity to promote Franciscan Spirituality with the youth.

Silver Jubilee Celebration ~ Brazil

Saturday, February 9, 2019: Our Province Custody of the Immaculate Conception of Rio de Janeiro (Brazil) celebrated the Silver Jubilee of professed religious life of our brothers Frei Ronaldo Gomes da Silva, OFM Conv., Frei Carlos Roberto de Oliveira Charles, OFM Conv., Frei Donil Alves Junior, OFM Conv. and Frei Ignácio Silva Fábregas, OFM Conv.  The Celebration Mass was presided over by the Auxiliary Bishop of São Sebastião do Rio de Janeiro (Brazil), Bishop Roque Costa Souza, and concelebrated with the Bishop Emeritus of Valença, Rio de Janeiro (Brazil), Bishop Elias James Manning, OFM Conv.  The Mass was held in the São Francisco de Assis Mother Church, Rio Comprido, Rio de Janeiro, and attended by parishioners from several parishes assisted by the friars, as well as friends, diocesan priests and other Religious men and women. The festivities continued with a fraternal welcome to all participants with a cake reading: “Our lives will be what our choices are.”

Friary Renovation Blessing

Saturday, February 16, 2019: Our Minister Provincial, the Very Reverend Fr. James McCurry, OFM Conv. blessed our newly renovated St. Catharine Friary and Senior Friars Residence in Seaside Park, New Jersey. Friary community pictured left to right: Fr. Michael Lorentsen, OFM Conv., Fr. Thomas More Bahn, OFM Conv., Br. Stephen Merrigan, OFM Conv., Br. Jim Moore, OFM Conv. and Br. Vincent Vivian, OFM Conv. (seated). Not depicted is Fr. Antone Kandrac, OFM Conv., who was feeling unwell that day.

Fr. Piotr Tymko’s 25th Anniversary Celebration

A sampling of the friars on hand for the celebration: Fr. Michael Englert, OFM Conv., Fr. Raymond Borkowski, OFM Conv., the man of the hour – Friar Piotr, Fr. Mitchell Sawicki, OFM Conv., the Very Reverend Fr. James McCurry, OFM Conv. and Fr. Joseph Benicewicz, OFM Conv.

Sunday, February 17, 2017: The Friars and Parishioners of our pastoral ministry of St. Paul Catholic Church (Kensington, CT) hosted a celebration for Fr. Piotr Tymko, OFM Conv. in honor of his 25th Anniversary of Priesthood. Friar Piotr was the main celebrant of a concelebrated liturgy before a packed congregation. Our Minister Provincial, the Very Reverend Fr. James McCurry, OFM Conv. was the homilist, where he emphasizing Jesus’ formation of the Twelve to a “missionary” vocation. Friar Piotr, a native of Poland and a friar of the Krakow Province, served ten years as a Franciscan missionary in Czechoslovakia, three in Uganda, and eleven in the USA. A large representation of friends and sisters from St. Stanislaus Parish in Chicopee attended, enjoying a delicious luncheon afterwards, featuring pierogis and kielbasa, along with ample portions of other delicacies.

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)

Pilgrimage to the Holy Land

An Invitation to an Extraordinary Experience:
Journey in the footsteps of Jesus through the Holy Land where He was born, lived, walked, preached, healed, suffered, died, and rose! We Franciscans have been guiding pilgrims through the Holy Land for over 700 years. Under the sponsorship of our Friars’ MI (Militia of the Immaculata) ministry, the Franciscans of Our Lady of the Angels Province will be conducting a pilgrimage through Nazareth, Galilee, Bethlehem, Jerusalem, and numerous sacred sites sanctified by Jesus, Mary, Joseph, John the Baptist, and the holy men and women of the Bible.

Our Franciscan pilgrimages are a unique mix of people – young and old, lay and religious, married and single. Our daily Masses, devotions, scripture meditations, cultural experiences, and the simple joys of being together will become memories that you will cherish for your lifetime. We journey as pilgrims of peace, bearing the hope of the Beatitudes.

Per person, the all inclusive cost to join us from October 21-31, 2019 is $3,540. 00. If you would prefer a single room, please note there is an additional room supplement of $1,100.00. The fees include round trip flights from New York’s JFK to Tel Aviv, all airport taxes and fuel surcharges, accommodations in first class hotels, breakfast and dinner each day, round trip airport/hotel transfers, transportation by air-conditioned motor coach with free Wi-Fi, sightseeing and admission fees to all sites on itinerary, baggage handling for one bag each person, professional Christian guides and gratuities.

For more information, please contact Pat Tours at or call 1-800-388-0988. Be sure to let them know you are interested in the Pilgrimage to the Holy Land 2019 led by the Franciscan Friars Conventual, October 21-31, 2019. A deposit is required at time of booking, so request your information soon. We would love for you to experience this pilgrimage with us.

Please Join Us!
Fr. Jobe Abbass, OFM Conv. ~ Pilgrimage Director
The Very Reverend Fr. James McCurry, OFM Conv. ~ Spiritual Guide


Gdańsk Provincial Visit

January 15-16, 2019: Our Minister Provincial, the Very Reverend Fr. James McCurry, OFM Conv. (second from right) and our Province Secretary, Fr. Richard-Jacob Forcier, OFM Conv. (far left) welcomed the Minister Provincial of Prowincja św. Maksymiliana Marii Kolbego w Polsce (Gdańsk), the Very Reverend Fr. Jan Maciejowski, OFM Conv. (second from left) and their Treasurer, Fr. Leszek Łuczkanin, OFM Conv. (far right) to the Portiuncula Friary & Provincial House Offices for a few days during a visit to the USA.

Friar Leszek especially enjoyed his first introduction to an American favorite:

2019 Catholic Social Ministry Gathering

One of our province’s simply professed student friars, friar Fabian Adderley, OFM Conv. (second from left) was recently given a scholarship to attend the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) Catholic Social Ministry Gathering (CSMG). The four day conference was held in Washington DC and organized by the USCCB The Department of Justice, Peace & Human Development (JPHD), which promotes awareness of Catholic social teaching and opportunities to live the Baptismal call to love God and neighbor. In collaboration with seven additional USCCB departments and fifteen National Catholic organizations, the gathering of Catholic social ministry leaders in the U.S. annually brings together hundreds of participants whose faith inspires them to respond to pressing current domestic and global challenges relating to poverty, war, injustice and the promotion of human life and dignity.
Friar Fabian served as a Delegate to the Diversity Outreach Initiative (DOI), which seeks to develop leaders from diverse Catholic communities for ministry in the Church, encouraging members to lift up the richness and diversity of their gifts in a shared mission. Leaders from under-represented ethnic, racial and disability communities working in Catholic institutions were be eligible for limited financial assistance.
Friar Fabian is currently continuing his academic studies, while living in community with other friar students from different provinces, in the San Damiano Friary, in San Antonio, TX. At left, you will find friar Fabian second from left and Our Lady of the Angels Province friar, Fr. Gary Johnson, OFM Conv. fourth from left, celebrating Mass in the friary chapel with their confreres there.
Friar Gary serves as Guardian & Director of the San Damiano Friary, as well as a member of the Our Lady of the Angels Province Definitory.

Minister Provincial’s 1st Visit to New Friary & Ministries

Friar Noel (at left) serves as pastor of St. Benedict the Moor Catholic Church.

Friar Bob serves as pastor of Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church and St. Mary Magdalen Mission.

Over the weekends of January 26-28 and February 2-4, 2019, our Minister Provincial, the Very Reverend Fr. James McCurry, OFM Conv. visited our province’s newest friary, the friars living in community there, as well as their ministry sites (Columbus, GA). Franciscan Martyrs Friary is home to five friars of our province: Fr. Robert Schlageter, OFM Conv. (pastor of St. Anne Catholic Church), Fr. Noel Danielewicz, OFM Conv. (pastor of St. Benedict the Moor Parish), Fr. Mark David Skura, OFM Conv. (parochial vicar at St. Anne Catholic Church), Fr. Bob Benko, OFM Conv. (pastor of Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church and St. Mary Magdalen Mission), and Fr. Manny Vasconcelos, OFM Conv. (parochial vicar of St. Anne Catholic Church).
This friary, and our ministries served by the friars living there, are located in the Diocese of Savannah, GA. Fr. James was also able to take the opportunity to visit with another one of our friars living and serving there; Bishop of Savannah, The Most Reverend Gregory J. Hartmayer, OFM Conv.
Besides being a guest of honor at the Diocese’s annual Deimel Legacy Ball at Fort Benning, Fr. James celebrated and preached at the principal liturgies in all three parishes (St. Anne Catholic Church, Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church, and St. Benedict the Moor Parish), as well as the small mission church of St. Mary Magdalen in Buena Vista.
Fr. James also celebrated Mass for the 730 students of St. Anne-Pacelli Catholic School to mark the opening of Catholic Schools Week. Parishioners repeatedly expressed their gratitude for the reviving presence of the Franciscan Friars in their local churches.

Please note that Bishop Gregory has invited Fr. Bortolino Maistrello, OFM Conv. of the Basilica of St. Anthony (Padua, Italy) to the Diocese of Savannah to visit with two holy relics of Saint Anthony of Padua, from February 22 – March 3, 2019. One of the stops near the end of the tour is our pastoral ministry at St. Anne Catholic Church, on March 2nd. If you are in the area, our friars welcome and encourage you to visit. Clicko on the insert and follow to the link for more details.