Spiritual Testament ~ Friar Raymond

A few times a week, check back for a new reflections.

Father Raymond Borkowski, OFM Conv.
Spiritual Testimony ~ November, 2019

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.”

Advent Events around the Province

Throughout our province, our varied ministries will be holding many events of preparation for Advent 2019. Take a moment to find the ministry nearest to you by using the Locations page on this website. Follow the links provided and look through the calendars, bulletins and social media postings on the individual ministry websites. You will find many choices to add to your personal preparation as well as events for family and friends to share.

In the year 1224, in the Italian Town of Greccio, St. Francis of Assisi was inspired to recreate the birth of Jesus Christ. At his invitation, the townspeople gathered outside at sundown and sang hymns, listened to the Gospel Nativity Story at a simple manger surrounded by livestock. With their voices raised in song and prayer they realized and experienced what Mary and Joseph experienced as they entered Bethlehem. Here are some examples of upcoming Greccio Events around our province:

Greccio Living Nativity ~ Service of Prayers, Christmas Carols, and a Living Nativity outside at the Shine of St. Antyony’s red barn, on Saturday, December 7 & 8, 2019, at 7:30 p.m. (12290 Folly Quarter Road, Ellicott City, MD 21042) Bring your family and friends and encounter the true meaning Christmas! In case of weather, Greccio will be celebrated in the Shrine’s Chapel. Refreshments to follow, free of charge. 
Living Nativity Greccio Service ~ In the parking lot at our St. Kateri Tekakwitha National Shrine  and Historic Site (3636 NY-5, Fonda, NY 12068, USA), on Sunday, December 8, 2019, at 4:30 p.m., join our friars, and the Shrine staff & pilgrims for a brief Christmas experience as we welcome once again the birth of the Baby Who Changed Everything. The celebration will be held outside in the dark and cold to remind us of the faith Joseph and Mary had in God’s Desire for them and for us as His Chosen Children. The Shrine’s Grassmann Hall will be open for anyone who desires to join in prayer and song but would prefer the heat and light. Bring a flashlight and a Christmas dessert to share with the coffee and hot chocolate provided afterwards. The gift shop will be open for Christmas shopping on Saturday and Sunday from 1-3 p.m.
Live Nativity at Assumption Church ~ A dramatic telling of the Nativity story with Carols, Live Animals and Refreshments, on Sunday, December 15, 2019, at 2:00 p.m. (812 N. Salina Street, Syracuse NY 13208) It’s a wonderful event for children and also a great way to invite friends and neighbors who may have been away from the church.






Advent Message from Fr. Donald Grzymski, OFM Conv.,
president of our high school ministry in Baltimore, MD – Archbishop Curley High School.

Spiritual Testament ~ Friar Tony

A few times a week, check back for a new reflections.

Father Anthony Kall, OFM Conv.
Spiritual Testimony ~ November, 2019

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!”

Fr. Jude ~ Zambia

Our Lady of the Angels Province friar, Fr. Jude Winkler, OFM Conv., serves the Order as Assistant General for the Conventual Franciscan Federation (CFF). This November, he conducted three formation meetings in Zambia.

Minister Provincial – Fraternal Visitation

November 2019: Our Minister Provincial, the Very Reverend Fr. James McCurry, OFM Conv. traveled to the Rio de Janeiro district of Brazil for his annual Fraternal Visitation with our Provincial Custody of the Immaculate Conception. The visit commenced at our Order’s Interprovincial Novitiate for Brazil, near the borders with Argentina and Paraguay. Our Immaculate Conception Custody has one novice, Frei Fernando Pereira Júnior, OFM Conv. (above with Friar James). He is joined by 7 other friar novices, under the leadership of two Formation Directors.
Coinciding with Friar James’ visit was that of Friar Joseph Blay, OFM Conv., a Ghanaian friar who serves in Rome as our Order’s JPIC (aka GPIC) Delegate General. Friar James, Friar Joseph, along with a group from the Novitiate, took the opportunity to visit the nearby Monastery of Poor Clares (above) – whose contemplative spirit overflowed in an abundance of sisterly joy. Post on Order’s Site

Not far from the novitiate are the famous Iguazú Falls. Novices Herivelto and Fernando delighted in sharing this awe-inspiring site with Fr. James.

The next stop of Fr. James’s fraternal visitation in Brazil was the large city of Belo Horizonte. The Custodial Chapter of 2017 voted to open a presence of the Order there.   At the invitation of the local Archbishop, the Friars assumed pastoral care of Paróquia Santa Cecília, which had been without priests for many years. Fr. James’s visit coincided with the Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe (see below) newly inaugurated parish Dia de Santa Cecília 2019 (Festival of St. Cecilia).

See more photos from the Solenidade de Cristo Rei (Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe) celebrations from the Facebook page of Paróquia Santa Cecília, by clicking on this photo.

The Custodial Definitory met with our Minister Provincial – Friar James – at our former seminary in Andrelândia – now our experimental hermitage – all day on the 28th of November – America’s Thanksgiving Day. While signs galore commemorate “Black Friday” in Brazil, the unique American holiday of Thanksgiving is unknown. (more photos) – São Francisco em Conversa Facebook Page

The Friars of our Provincial Custody of the Immaculate Conception have begun steps towards opening the Cause for Sainthood of the late +Frei Martin de Porres Maria Ward, OFM Conv. Frei Martin was an early missionary friar of our province, who died in while serving the people of Brazil.  He was also the first person of African lineage to enter the Order in modern times. His grave in Andrelândia (at left) is now a place of pilgrimage by the local faithful.

The friars and parishioners of all ministry sites in our Immaculate Conception Custody made their 3rd Annual Pilgrimage to The Cathedral Basilica of the National Shrine of Our Lady Aparecida (Nossa Senhora da Conceição Aparecida) ~ Patroness of Brazil. On Saturday the 30th of November, Friar James was welcomed by the pilgrims. Following the Liturgy, our group of 600 held a spiritual convocation of music, talks, and prayer on the Shrine premises.

No fraternal visitation of our Brazilian Custody feels complete without spending time with Mother Pacifica (Abbess) and the Poor Clares at Our Lady of the Angels Monastery in Rio. For over 50 years as Abbess, Mother Pacifica has served as the Clarissan Matriarch in Brazil. Due to her failing health, the Friar James and the Custódio Provincial, Frei Ronaldo Gomes da Silva, OFM Conv., were allowed to visit inside the enclosure behind the grill. 

Visit to Bolivia

Friar James with some of the Postulants at the Custody’s Formation House in Historic Sucre.

November 19-22, 2019: Our Lady of the Angels Province Minister Provincial, the Very Reverend Fr. James McCurry, OFM Conv. visited our Order’s missions in Bolivia, to explore new ways of collaboration between the Friars of the Provincial Custody of St. Francis (of the Krakow Province) and our Province. This collaboration began 40 years ago, when the late Friar Flavian Goral, OFM Conv. started mission support and vocational promotion for the then new Bolivian mission launched by missionaries from Poland.

Former Custos – Friar Ronald Armijo, OFM Conv. shows Friar James the “Campana de la Libertad”

Sucre’s San Francisco Basilica (Bolivia) is under the care of the friars. The bell tower contains Bolivia’s “Campana de la Libertad” (Liberty Bell) – first rung in 1809 to announce their Declaration of Independence signed in Sucre, and again when Independence from Spain was attained, in 1825. The Liberty Bell – which is actually named “Immaculate Conception” – is rung once a year on August 6th – Bolivia’s Independence Day, despite its crack.

In the Andean city of Cochabamba, the Friars of Bolivia serve in parochial ministry as well as at the University. While there, Friar James enjoyed some time in the friary garden with the Custodial Vicar – Friar Orlando Montaño Palma, OFM Conv., another former Custos – Friar Anthony, and the present Custos – Friar Carlos Antonio Catalán Melgar, OFM Conv. Friar Carlos attributes his vocation to our late Friar Flavian Goral, OFM Conv. Those early missionaries are honored in many ways, including the artwork in the Quintanilla church (at left) of the early missionary Friars from Poland and the first generation of Bolivian vocations. Friar James also enjoyed a visit with Friar Roberto Tomichá, OFM. Conv. Ennobling the Franciscan intellectual tradition at Bolivia’s Catholic University in Cochabamba, Friar Robera is the well-known Conventual scholar and Author, as well as the Director of the Institute of Missiology of the Catholic University of Bolivia.

The Curia of the Bolivian Custody is now transferred from Cochabamba back to its original foundation house in Montero (on the outskirts of Santa Cruz). The people of Montero honored the friars with special Franciscan touches when the built the new church there to replace a much smaller chapel. The Bolivian Friars took the inspiration for the Church’s tabernacle (at fight) from its prototype in our St. Joseph Cupertino Friary, in Ellicott City, MD.

Consecration to the Immaculate

Consistent with our Franciscan charism and tradition of devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary, our province has been progressing in our efforts to more fully tap into this devotion from our Kolbean heritage, through the example of St. Maximilian M. Kolbe, OFM Conv., and the continued efforts of his Militia of the Immaculata’s (M.I.) unconditional consecration to the Immaculate. With a view to promoting consecration to the Immaculate among the faithful served through the ministries of our friars of Our Lady of the Angels Province, Fr. Jobe Abbass, OFM Conv., who serves as our Province MI Assistant, has completed the thirteenth successful and rewarding stop on our Province M.I Initiative Tour of our pastoral ministries. Over the next few years, Friar Jobe will preach at the Masses to encourage the faithful to consecrate themselves to the Immaculate and to enroll in the M.I.

Basilica of St. Stanislaus, Bishop & Martyr ~ Chicopee, MA

On the weekend of November 16-17, 2019, Friar Jobe was welcomed by the friars of our St. Stanislaus Bishop & Martyr Friary, in Chicopee, MA: Br. Michael Duffy, OFM Conv. (Friary Guardian, Province Regent of Studies, Professor at the College of Our Lady of the Elms School of Nursing, Creator of the Elms caRe vaN, & VP Board of Directors ~ Lorraine’s Soup Kitchen & Pantry), Fr. Joseph Bayne, OFM Conv. (Pastor ~ Basilica of St. Stanislaus, Bishop & Martyr), Fr. Paul Miskiewicz, OFM Conv. (photo cred: Parochial Vicar ~ Basilica), Fr. Mieczysław “Mietek” Wilk, OFM Conv. (Parochial Vicar ~ Basilica) and Fr. Nicholas Spano, OFM Conv. (Operations Manager ~ Lorraine’s Soup Kitchen & Pantry and Mass Assistance at the Basilica). At the six weekend Masses in the parish, which is already well-known for its Marian devotion, the invitation regarding consecration to the Immaculate was warmly received.

A sampling of the many of the parishioners who enrolled in the M.I. gathered in the Lower Basilica for a photo with Friar Jobe and Friar Mietek.



November 14, 2019: the Conventual Franciscan Federation (CFF) hosted the annual St. Francis Forum in Ellicott City, Maryland. This year, the coordinators, Friars Michael Joseph Lasky, OFM Conv. (Our Lady of the Angels Province) and John Ronald Heinz, OFM Conv. (St. Joseph Cupertino Province), organized a symposium to commemorate the 800th anniversary of the meeting of Saint Francis and Sultan Malik Al-Kamil. The symposium was designed to complement a similar event held at the Seraphicum in Rome on October 31, 2019.

Spiritual Testment ~ Friar Julian

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Father Julian Maria Zambanini, OFM Conv.
Spiritual Testimony ~ October, 2019

My name is Julian Maria Zambanini. I am 80 years-old and a Conventual Franciscan Priest in the Our Lady of Angels Province (USA). I am in residence at Immaculate Conception Friary in Rensselaer, NY and I am retired.  I was born in Brooklyn, NY on January 20, 1939. My mother, Alvia Trentini was born in 1913 and one of 11 children in a small soft coat mining town in western Pennsylvania, the daughter of immigrants from northern Italy (Previously part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire). My father, Lino Zambanini, also born in western Pennsylvania in 1910 to immigrants of northern Italy before they returned to what is now a small town not too far from present day Trento, Italy. My paternal grandfather immigrated to the U.S.A. about 1905 and my father and his brother were born in the U.S. The family returned in time for my grandfather, Massimiliano, to be drafted into the Austro-Hungarian Empire army which was at war with Russia (War of 1916); he was captured by the Russians and sent to Siberia; after 8 years he escaped and returned home. When my fathers was 18, my grandfather sent him back to the U.S. so that he would not lose his US citizenship.
I met the Conventual Franciscan Friars because they staffed Our Lady of the Angels Parish in Albany, NY. I attended OLA school grades 5-8. I was also an altar boy in the parish. In the 7th grade at OLA school, Sister Cassilda, OSF asked us to put down on paper what we would like to be or do in life. For the first time I indicated that I wanted to be a Teaching Brother and gradually a Franciscan….and Priest and most of my life I have been involved in teaching at the high school level, university level and in our seminaries in the U.S. and in Italy. I remember +Fr. Dennis Gallagher also tutored a number of us (Fr. John Burkhard and I) in Latin at OLA school.
I arrived at St. Francis Seminary on Staten Island, NY in September, 1956 after graduating from Vincentian High School, Albany, NY. Two years later, I entered the novitiate in Middleburg, NY (August 1958-1959). +Fr. Celestine Regnier, OFM Conv. was my Novice Master and for three months +Fr. Rayner Schram, OFM Conv. was the Assistant Novice Master. +Fr. Giles Van Worner, OFM Conv. was the assistant for the remainder of the year. Some of my classmates were: +James (Elias) Manning, Joseph (Barry) Angelini, +Robert Leahey, +Mel Madden and +Thomas Larity. We professed our first vows on August 12, 1959 at the Novitiate and then our Solemn vows on September 8, 1962 at St. Anthony-on-Hudson Seminary, Rensselaer, NY. Then, after studying at the seminary there and receiving an STB degree, I was ordained a priest on May 29, 1965 at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, Albany, NY. Some of my ordination classmates were: Joseph (Barry) Angelini, +Mel Maddon, +Robert Leahey, +Elias Manning (in Brazil) as well as Alexander Cymerman, Herman Czaster and Herman Obijiski. I later received and MA in Classical Languages from The Catholic University of America (1969).

My first assignment was to teach Latin and Religion at Canevin High School in Pittsburgh, PA. Since then, I have had so many “favorite” assignments. These include:
1965-1978 Canevin High School, Pittsburgh, PA and President of the Province Formation Commission
1978-1979 Director of Religious Brothers at St. Anthony-on-Hudson, Rensselaer, NY
1979-1982 Student at the Biblicum, Rome, Italy
1982-1989 Assistant General for Formation and Vice Rector and Rector at the Seraphicum, Rome, Italy
1989-2002 Secretary General of the Pontifical Theological Faculty of St. Bonaventure, Rome, Italy
2008-2016 Guide at the Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi and de familia a the Sacred Convent, Assisi, Italy
May-July 2019 The only time I worked at one of our parishes: St. Lucie, Port Saint Lucie, FL

All of my assignments involved working with persons, young, middle aged, seniors and are my favorite assignments. In every instance, I learned a great deal from students, parishioners, friars, et al. Special to me were those times of celebrating the Sacrament of Reconciliation at St. Peter’s Basilica, Rome, St. Francis Basilica, Assisi and in all of my assignments. I have many “special stories” and some of them are: Celebrating the reunion of the Canevin Class of 1969, my interactions with the other Assistant Generals in Assisi and the Seraphicum, working on the saintly ‘cause’ of Friar Martin de Porres Ward, OFM Conv., the miracles of the people to guide in Assisi and the conversion of a Canadian banker to name only a few.
All of my Franciscan prayers are special to me including the greeting that St. Francis asks us to use from his Testament: “May the Lord give you peace!” I also love the Peace Prayer attributed to St. Francis: “Make me an instrument of your peace” and the Our Father.
A piece of advice I would like to share with men considering a vocation to our Franciscan Order and Province is this: Let the Lord lead…listen intently…don’t be afraid to respond to His call…you are never alone. Investigate all the possibilities the Lord is calling you to. Choose one that with the Lord’s help you can live with joy and love. Be patient. “Life is not a problem to be solved, but a mystery to be lived!” The Lord wants us to be happy…Whatever we freely choose…it is important that we speak and live our lives continuously making Him present in the world.
And to our student friars I would like to say: Continuously pray and recognize how much the Lord loves you. “Accentuate the positive, eliminate the negative.” Do not become discouraged. Have a spiritual guide that you can confide in Continuously listen to the Lord. Seek always the truth…study hard…count your blessings…we can learn a great deal from our mistakes and failures…and only with the Lord’s help we will succeed. May the Lord give you peace!

Click to read a brochure concerning the Cause for Sainthood for our confrere, Friar Matin de Porres Ward, OFM Conv.