Friar Don Miller. OFM
I am a Franciscan priest. I spent my early years of ministry in New Mexico working among the Pueblo Native Americans and the Hispanics. In 1978 I began my years in academics working as a chaplain, faculty member, and administrator at various universities in the southwest and the midwest. I taught various course in theology, especially in my area of specialty which is moral theology. I have been the Vocation Director for the Province of Saint John the Baptist since 2003.
 
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Grand Opening of St. Francis Bookshop

This afternoon Jeremy_and_elaine_1we celebrated the Grand Opening of the Saint Francis Bookshop's new location here in Cincinnati. Since 1950 the shop had been in the Over the Rhine area across the street from Saint Francis Seraph Friary, our provincial headquarters. Times have changed and the bookshop was running into hard times. The on-line sales were not enough to makeup for the loss of drop in trade. So a new sight was sought and found where business has picked up well.


Toni_bishop_cyrianAuxiliary Bishop Carl Moeddel of Cincinnati (pictured on the left being interviewedFred_jeremy_bishop by Toni Cashnelli, our Provincial Director of Communications) blessed and dedicated the new store. Bishop Moeddel had worked at the old shop before he entered the seminary. The Bishop was assisted by our Provincial Minister, Fr. Fred Link, O.F.M. (with the microphone) and Fr. Jeremy Harrington, O.F.M. who is presently the Publisher of Saint Anthony Messenger Press.


Jeremy_fred_antawon_bishop_and_markThe theme of the Prayer Service centered on the Ministry of the Word--getting the Good News out through various media; print, video, audio. Saint Anthony Messenger and Saint Anthony Messenger Press are our biggest ministries for spreading the Word of God. The Bookshop is a commercial outlet for the Press. The staff of the Bookshop deserve much credit and thanks for their continued ministry and dedication to their/our ministry. (Pictured at the top right is Sr. Elaine Becker talking with Fr. Jeremy. At the right in the background are Antawon Ingram and Mark Utley who is Store Manager.)


You can learn more about Saint Francis Bookshop--and order books, videos, or audios-- at: www.stfrancisonline.com.

St. Anthony Messenger Features Fr. Bart Pax, O.F.M.

Bart_paxIn the last post I mentioned that the last place the Postulants, Richard Goodin and Dennis Geib, and their Directors, Frs. Carl Langenderfer, O.F.M. and Frank Geers, O.F.M., are going on the Provincial Ministries Tour will be New Orleans where Fr. Bart Pax, O.F.M. is trying to rebuild St. Mary of the Angels parish and church. Well, it so happens that next month's issue of Saint Anthony Messenger has a feature article on Fr. Bart and his work. You can access the article on the Saint Anthony Messenger web page at: http://www.americancatholic.org/Messenger/Aug2006/Feature4.asp. Just click this link or copy it onto the internet address bar and you should be able to read it. The article is a good example of a friar in action for God's people.


Also, in case you haven't read the comments from the last post, Michael asked if the tour Scott_obrechtis going to include the Appalachian Missions in Kentucky. Michael visited them earlier this summer and feels they are also a good example of Franciscanism. I responded in a second comment that Bro. Scott Obrecht, O.F.M., our Moderator of Missionary Evangelization and the Director of the Franciscan Missionary Union will take the Postulants on a visit to the Kentucky Missions next Spring.


The dedication of Fr. Bart in New Orleans and the priests and brothers in Kentucky are part of what gives our province its character and personality--something we are proud of and thank God for.

Postulants' Trip to Provincial Ministries Begins

In_van If you come across two old men and two young guys in a black Ford Minivan somewhere in Missouri or Louisiana during the next two weeks, you may have happened upon the Postulants and their directors on the annual trip to the Provincial Ministries in the South. The group left fairly early this morning and headed to Ava, MO to visit the Interprovincial House of Prayer this evening and tomorrow. Our Brothers Mark Ligett and Josef Anderlohr along with two friars from Sacred Heart Province are at the House of Prayer, a fairly new endeavor which appears to be doing very well.


Portrait_1Tuesday it's off to Shreveport, LA to visit Fr. Andre McGrath and Bro. Giovanni Reid and their ministries, Our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament Parish and the Christian Service Program. Thursday the group will visit Fr. Page Polk in Houston, TX. Fr. Page is the head of the Catholic Chaplains Corp at the Houston Medical Center Hospitals. Then it's on to Galveston, TX to St. Patrick Friary and Parish and the University of Texas Medical Branch Newman Center and Frs. John Bok, John Paul Flajole, and Dennis Bosse.


Saturday the team moves on to Lafayette, LA to St. Paul the Apostle Friary and Parish where Frs. Robert Seay and Bill Ollendick, and Bro. Juniper Crouch minister. Sunday they will travel to Holy Rosary in Houma, LA after experiencing a Gospel Mass in Lafayette. Both Frs. Frank and Carl spent a good number of years at Holy Rosary in Houma, a parish we just recently returned to the diocese.


Tuesday and Wednesday the trip wraps up in New Orleans, LA where Fr. Bart Pax hasFrank_richard_and_carl been struggling to rebuild a parish community at St. Mary of the Angels after the hurricane damaged the property as well as the lives of the parishioners. Thursday and Friday are travel days to return to Cincinnati.


Before you think that this adventure is all work and no play, the itinerary that is hanging on our friary bulletin board mentions things like swimming in the Gulf at Galveston, a possible swamp tour (with alligators and snakes) in Houma, a tour of the Benedictine Monastery in Ave (the House of Prayer is located on the monastery property), and God-only-knows-what in New Orleans (it's not the Postulants we worry about, but the "old guys." :-)).


Dennis_with_frankSeriously, this annual trip has proven to be a very significant part of the Postulant Program. It not only sets up a context in which the directors and Postulants get to know one another, it also introduces the new members of the province to the rich Franciscan ministries in the South as well as to a number of Friars.


(The folks in the picture of the foursome are: Fr. Frank Geers, O.F.M., Associate Postulant Director; Richard Goodin, a Postulant; Fr. Carl Langenderfer, O.F.M., Director of Postulants (in the goofy hat); and Dennis Geib, a Postulant. If Dennis can transmit photos back to me during the trip we may have some pictorial updates during the two week adventure.)

Friars and their families

Sailboat_on_illinois_river_1After severe heat and haziness and then two days of rain, the weather in Peoria finally broke just this morning. On my way out of town to return to Cincinnati I drove to Grandview Drive and got a couple of shots of the Illinois River. The far shore is Tazwell County while the near shore is Peoria.


As I was driving home and thinking about the fantastic week I had with my family, I remembereLake_peoriad how often I am asked by prospectives as well as their families about how we friars relate with our families. Do we ever get home to see them? Are we allowed to travel to family events like weddings, baptisms, funerals, etc.? Do we get a vacation?


The simple answer is "yes." We keep in close contact with our families and take time to visit with them on vacation and on special occasions. The only year when that is less true is the year of novitiate which is the most intense year of training in the sequence of the formation process. Actually, I think I could safely say that in some ways we remain closer to our families than do our married brothers and sisters because we do not have our own family. In that sense we always belong to our family of origin, although the Franciscan community does become our new home and primary source of support and relationships. I could also say that we get home probably as frequently as do some of our married siblings--taking into consideration the distances that we and they sometimes experience due to our assignments and their jobs.


This week I enjoyed the company of my two sisters and their families. My oldest nephew stopped by to see me while he was in town on business and a niece called from St. Louis to say "hi." Of course, some of my nieces and nephews are raising their own families now and I have a new great niece due in November. I have had my one sister's wedding (my other sister married before I was ordained so I couldn't have hers) as well as all of the next generation of weddings with a couple of more still possible. I have also gotten home for a number of First Communions and done a few baptisms. So we definitely keep in close contact with our families and support them with our presence, our prayers, and our affections.

Friars in Peoria, Illinois

For many years, the Franciscans of Saint John the Baptist Province staffed a number of parishes in the Central Illinois area. Two of these were Sacred Heart and Saint Boniface in Peoria. Sacred heart was downtown and was less of a parish than a service church to the business/commercial area of the city. Saint Boniface was one of four Catholic parishes on the southside. As the years passed those four parishes merged into one, Saint Ann, and the friars no longer had a presence in that part of town.


Saint_josephWhile the parishes were merged, there were still two church buildings in operation. The old Saint Joseph had become Saint Martin de Porres. A few years ago the friars at Sacred Heart moved their living quarters to St. Martin. Not too long after that, there was a damaging fire at St. Martin and the building was closed. But due to its historic nature, the church was rebuilt. About the time it was ready to reopen, the decision was made to remodel Sacred Heart. So the congregation of Sacred Heart moved to St. Martin and the friars were asked to staff both churches. When the church was reopened it reverted to its original patron, Saint Joseph.


Sacred_heart_exteriorSo Sacred_heart_insidepresently, the friars are serving the downtown and near southside of Peoria. All services are being conducted at Saint Joseph because now  Sacred Heart Church is under construction. Once both buildings are up and operational, the friars will continue with their ministry to the area using two refurbished buildings.


If all this seems a little confusing, welcome to the emerging scene of parish structures in the present Church. Buildings, congregations, as well as diocesan priests and priests of various Religious Orders and Congregations have to remain flexible as formats change, but the People of God continue to worship and celebrate God's goodness. Even little Peoria has not avoided the great shuffle--all to the greater glory of God and the service of His people.

Restored phone service and Vacation

Phone_1The 1-800-827-1082 line has been restored--after being down for two months. I was now aware that it was down until this past week when I found out by accident. With some begging and cajoling, I was able to get the number that we have had for years (and the one that is printed on everything that goes out from the Vocation Office) restored. My apologies to anyone who tried to reach the Vocation Office and was unable to do so. If you use the number now you should get through to the office.


Mountain_scene_1Yesterday I drove to Peoria, IL where I will be vacationing until next Saturday. The weather here is very hot and humid, so I put in a refreshing picture of the Colorado mountains. Thought it might help distract from the discomfort of summer in middle America.


Vacations are wonderful things. To take a break from the routine of work and spend a little time doing something out of the ordinary is healthy for our bodies, minds, and spirits. Enjoying a vacation does not mean that we do not enjoy work. I enjoy my work as a Vocation Director very much as I enjoyed teaching and serving as a College Chaplain very much. But a break from the routine is still healthy and necessary.


What do I intend to do this vacation? Very little of anything. I have been doing a lot of travel recently and will be doing much more later this month and into the fall. Thanks to God's generosity, I have a good number of men to visit from many places who are interested in looking into the possibility of joining our community. To visit them and spend time learning about their hopes and dreams is aMvc006f part of my work that I find very rewarding. I meet some very generous and Spirit-filled men and I thank God for the chance to get to know them--whether they are called to join us or not. So this week I intend to relax, read, enjoy the members of my immediate family, and refresh myself for the work ahead. Oh yea, I also get the chance to visit the cat that I had with me at my previous assignment. One of my sisters now cares for him, but it is good to see him once in a while.

1-800 Line Lost

Just a quick note to explain why you may not have been able to reach the Franciscan Vocation Office via our toll free number. This morning I discovered that our 1-800-827-1082 line has been disconnected--not too sure exactly what happened. We are in the process of attempting to regain access to that specific number and to resume service.


In place of the toll free number, please use: 1-513-542-1082.


Sorry about the inconvenience.

Life at the Postulancy House

Picture_0025 What happens at Saint Anthony Friary in Cincinnati--the Postulancy House--an any given day? Well, things can vary considerably, but generally we follow a fairly similar routine on weekdays and another on weekends. A "typical" weekday begins with Morning Prayer at 7:00 a.m. followed by Eucharist at 7:30 a.m. Anywhere from 20 to 35 people from the area join us for Eucharist. Breakfast is on one's own, so some eat early before prayer, some after. But by 8:30 a.m. or 9:00 a.m. the day's work has begun.


The day's work is very different for each friar. The postulants and their directors have classes in the morning and afternoon. These are not "academic" classes as one might take in college, but instructions on Franciscan Spirituality, the Documents of Vatican II, liturgical music, how to pray the Office of the Hours, etc. The rest of the priests and brothers in the house scatter to their "jobs". One is a hospital chaplain, others are the Associate Provincial Archivist, the Vocation Director, Director of the Mission Office, the Provincial Treasurer, the Provincial Secretary, etc. Another takes care of the phone and door and is guest master, while yet another is retired.


By 5:15 p.m. all have returned home for Evening Prayer and supper follows at 5:30 p.m. The evenings are time for personal prayer, reading, projects, etc. with some common recreation usually just before going to bed. One evening a month we have a house meeting (called a House Chapter) and once a month we have a Day of Recollection. Also once a month we celebrate birthdays and name's days.


Weekends are less scheduled with Eucharist at 8:15 a.m. on Saturday and 10:00 a.m. on Sunday. The Sunday Eucharist consists usually of 120 to 150 people including the friars that are home. Some of the priests help out at local parishes, etc. Meals on the weekends are on one's own, but sometimes someone gets ambitious and cooks something special for the group. There are always plenty of left overs and things to prepare in the refrigerator.


July_4_picnic On holidays we usually gather either here or at one of the other friaries in town. On the 4th of July, St. Anthony Friary hosts a city-wide friar party which this year was affected slightly by a couple of down pours. I heard that from others since I was in Colorado in the Rocky Mountain State Park. (See the earlier post on our conference at St. Malo Conference Center.) Our two new postulants posed for a picture at the picnic. (They don't look like the rains affected them too badly.)

Postulants Formally Received

Richard_and_dennisIn a simple ceremony within the context of Evening Prayer, Dennis Geib and Richard Goodin have been formally received into the Postulancy Program of St. John the Baptist Province. The two men had begun their life with the Franciscans at Mt. Airy a week ago, but their formal reception took place yesterday, Friday July 7th.


Fred_preachingCarl_addresses_postulantsProvincial Minister, Fr. Fred Link, O.F.M. (see picture on left) presided at the ceremony. After his brief reflections, Fr. Carl Langenderfer, O.F.M., the Director of Postulants, (see picture on right) reminded the two men of the goals of the Postulancy year and the entire Franciscan community then pledged our prayerful as well as practical support. Briefly stated, the goals of the year are to work toward becoming a more wholesome human being, a better follower of Jesus and, in time, a good Franciscan all with the grace of God.


Fred_blesses_crosses


Fr. Fred then blessed two Tau Crosses and presented them to Dennis and Richard repeating the blessing of St. Francis to Bro. Leo (one of St. Francis' most trusted companions): GOD BLESS YOU AND KEEP YOU. MAY GOD SMILE ON YOU AND BE MERCIFUL TO YOU. MAY GOD TURN HIS COUNTENANCE TOWARD YOU AND GIVE YOU PEACE. MAY GOD BLESS YOU.


Richard_receiving_crossThe Tau Cross (shaped like the letter "T") was dear to St. Francis. He often usedDennis_receiving_cross it as a signature for his letters and he painted it on the walls of the rooms where the early friars lived at St. Mary of the Angels on the plain below Assisi. It has become a symbol among the Franciscans of the ongoing conversion required of the Gospel life and of the poverty or disappropriation to which we are called in our following of Jesus.


Let us remember Dennis and Richard as well as our three novices (Michael Newsome, O.F.M., Thomas Olsen, O.F.M. and Peter Muhwati, O.F.M.) in our prayers. We might also remember Christopher Meyer, O.F.M. and Al Mascia, O.F.M. who are presently on retreat preparing to make their Solemn (final) Profession of Vows August 12th.

Fraternal Conference Concludes

Friars_at_workJoe_chinnici While we did take Tuesday afternoon, July 4, off, the rest of this week has been busy and very, very rewarding. Fr. Joe Chinnici, O.F.M., from the Santa Barbara Province in California, led us in a workshop on the Franciscan understanding of priesthood and how it fits into the Franciscan vocation. Fr. Joe explained how the early writings of the Order, especially those of Saints Francis, Bonaventure, as well as others, present a very Scripturally based notion of both the ministerial priesthood and the priesthood of all stemming from baptism. This proved to be a very relevant topic for this group since we are all involved in the formation of men entering into Franciscanism, some of whom will also be ministerial priests. (I cannot take the time to explain these notions in this post, but will be addressing them in the very near future.)


Finnian_mcginn A very special guest at our conference was Fr. Finnian McGinn, O.F.M. Anyone Chapel2who followed this blog when I visited Rome and Assisi a couple of weeks ago may  recognize his name. Fr. Finnian is the General Counsel for the English Speaking friars to our General Minister in Rome. (Father took me out for dinner when I passed through Rome on my way back from Assisi.) Since this was a gathering of the formation teams of the English Speaking Provinces of the Order, Fr. Finnian joined us and Chapel_on_the_rock2 addressed us this afternoon. He then led us in the Eucharist in the quaint, historic chapel on the property. Fr. Finnian is also from the Santa Barbara Province.


Yesterday afternoon we met in common groups. I led the Vocation Directors in a session discussing various aspects of our ministry. It is good to meet with my counterparts from other provinces to compare notes and share support and fraternity. As I have mentioned before on this blog, I am very conscious of belonging to an international Order and meeting like this, even though it was limited to English speaking provinces, supports my awareness.


Tomorrow evening, Friday, July 7, our two new Postulants will be formally received into the Postulancy by our Provincial Minister. I will post pictures of that event tomorrow or Saturday.