Saturday, October 26, 2013

"Making Known His Merciful Love"

Given free rein to choose whichever religious orders I wished for the Our Sunday Visitor Newsweekly article I was assigned last summer, I had to include a personal favorite, the Franciscan Sisters, TOR. This fairly new order is a beautiful fruit sprouting from Franciscan University of Steubenville, my alma mater, and I went to school with some of the sisters.
     What is immediately striking about them is their joy.

     Whenever I go back to the Steubenville area and see them around town or on campus, their peace and unusual joy is practically palpable. They move in an aura of goodness and bring with them a breath of heaven.
     This year is the order's 25th anniversary. In that time, their numbers have grown to 37, serving in a motherhouse monastery in Toronto, and three mission houses, with talk of another opening someday at Ohio University.
     The Franciscan Sisters, like many Franciscan orders, blend the contemplative and apostolic life. Their mission is somewhat broad; as their website puts it: "The heart of our life of ministry is to make known God’s merciful love, particularly among the poor, the sick, and those in need of renewal of faith." As Sister Della Marie Doyle, Vocations Coordinator, explained it to me, "Our ministries fall under the umbrella of evangelization and works of mercy. So there’s a wide variety of things that can be done."
     What that looks like in daily life ranges from serving the poor in downtown Steubenville through a thrift-store and soup kitchen, to campus ministry at Franciscan both in Ohio and its campus in Austria, to tending the sick, and leading parish missions and retreats. 
     It all begins in prayer though: "As contemplative penitents committed to works of mercy, prayer is our primary ministry. Our life and mission flow from our life of prayer," the website states. 
     "Our work is an extension of our prayer," Sr. Della Marie adds. "But it’s necessary to have that time first where you’re just before the Lord and open yourself up and it helps you to really enter into your work in a more contemplative spirit."  
     To learn more about them, visit their website or Facebook page.
     Their hand-made religious articles are also worth checking out.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

After Francis' Own Heart

Of the religious orders I interviewed recently, the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate  (FI) was the one with which I had worked personally: about 20 years ago, as project manager for their then-new book publishing arm, the Academy of the Immaculate.

     A relatively new religious institute, the friars strive, in the words of their website, "to be perfectly conformed to the poor, humble, crucified Jesus through a life of charity, supernatural obedience, and poverty. They are totally consecrated to the Immaculate Virgin after the recent example offered by St. Maximilian Mary Kolbe.” The FI continue the work of this Polish martyr through evangelization and serving the poor in a variety of ways internationally.

 When I interviewed Fr. Johannes Smith, FI,  I was touched, as with the other orders, by the friars’ life of complete self-gift and service. Most inspiring to me was their utter reliance on God. Witness Fr. Johannes’ answer to my question "Do the friars ever actually go hungry?"

FrJS: A lot of people don’t know that our Lord promised St. Francis that no Franciscan would ever die of starvation. And you look back 800 years later and there have been hundreds of thousands of Franciscans, ... but there isn’t one recorded case of a Franciscan who died of hunger, despite the fact that we beg for our meals.
There is one case that we know of where they tried to starve a Franciscan, and it didn’t work: and that’s St. Maximilian Kolbe. They put him in the starvation bunker. Already he had been giving away most of his food ration to the other prisoners; he had tuberculosis—he was a sick man to begin with—and yet he survived. He was one of the last of the prisoners to go...
JF: And they gave him an injection finally... 
FrJS: Yes, a lethal injection; that’s how he was killed. So it’s one of the beautiful things about being a Franciscan: on the one hand, we don’t know humanly speaking where our next meal’s coming from, but on the other hand, we know it will be coming from Divine Providence.

To learn more about the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate, click here or visit their website. See also the group website on their related orders.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Serving "the Least, the Last, the Lost, and the Lonely"

This past summer I was asked by Our Sunday Visitor Newsweekly to write an article on a new book, Camerado, I Give You My Hand. And thus I had the honor of interviewing two very special people: Father Dave Link, the subject of the book, and Maura Zagrans, its author.
     Not only is Fr. Link an amazing person, but Maura is pretty interesting herself. They were kind enough to give me one of the first copiessigned by them bothand I read it in just a few days (between taking care of the baby, my other kids, the house, and my freelance work). To find out what makes this man and his story so engaging, click here for the article.

And here's the book:

Father Link book

published by Image Books.