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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Profession and New Novices

Tom_olsen_profession_dayI returned from Canterbury, England last Monday and have been trying to re-establishToms_knotted_cord  some sense of order in the Vocation Office. I'm making significant headway, but . . . . Anyway, while I was away two significant events took place in our provincial formation programs. The first was Friar Tom Olsen, O.F.M. made his first Profession of Temporary Vows at the Novitiate in Cedar Lake, IN on June 15. At that time, Tom received a cord with knots. Since the knots represent our vows, the novices wear a habit with a cordTom_receives_cord  without knots. They receive a knotted cord when they make their profession of vows. Toms_profession_of_vowsOur Provincial Minister, Fr. Fred Link, O.F.M., was there to receive Tom's Profession. Pictured on the left are Fr. Fred receiving Tom's profession with Fr. Ed Tlucek, O.F.M. in the middle and Fr. Dennet Jung, O.F.M. on the right. Frs. Ed and Dennet are the Directors of Novices. Fr. Ed is a member of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary Province and Fr. Dennet is a member of our Saint John the Baptist Province. Cedar Lake is the site of our interprovincial novitiate which serves Assumption, St. John the Baptist, and Sacred Heart Provinces.

Postulants_leave_for_novitiateThe second big events was that Dennis Geib and Richard Goodin returned from a brief Dennet_richard_ed_and_dennisvacation on June 23 to pack their  belongings to head for their novitiate year which began on June 25. On the left, Richard packs the van while Dennis and Fr. Frank Geers, O.F.M. assist. Fr. FrankRichard_in_room is our Associate Director of Postulants. On the  right, Frs. Dennet Dennis_in_room_2(left) and Fr. Ed (second from right), the Directors of Novices, pose with Richard and Dennis, our new novices. On the left, Dennis poses in his new room and Richard (on the right) does likewise. (It appears that Richard got the corner room with two windows.)

Fr. Carl Langenderfer, O.F.M., our Director of Postulants, attended Tom's Profession and drove Richard and Dennis to Cedar Lake. He graciously offered to share with us all of the photos in this post. Tomorrow and Sunday our five new postulants will arrive here at St. Anthony in Cincinnati. These are busy days for the formation programs of our province.

Final Day in Canterbury

Overview_of_canterbury2Canterbury continues to hold its charm even after coming back here and spending anotherFront_entrance month. Each time I walk to the bus line and see the city spread out at the foot of the hill with the majestic cathedral as its highlight, I am moved by the beauty and history of this place. (The picture on the left is of the newer part of the city which still has a rather medieval look while the picture on the right is of the front entrance of the Canterbury Cathedral.) For more pictures of the enchanting city see this blog May and June of last year.: and

This year I did more traveling around England itself and found much beauty to enjoy. The magnificentHouse_of_parliament architecture that I found in London, exemplified in the House of Parliament in London pictured on the right, and the scenery and buildings in Dover, Deal, and Durham all made the time and effort of travel worthwhile. (See the posts from the past few weeks for further photos of this year's travel.) Of course, the ease of train travel in this country makes getting around so much more enjoyable.

But the real gift of both visits to Canterbury is the Franciscan International Study Centre itself. I have posted a number of reflections about the variety of people and cultures represented in this place. We all speak English but with many, many accents, and some do far it more fluently than others. We are also all tied into Franciscanism in one way or another. These facts have been brought home to me again the last few days as the students leave for foreign lands. Franciscans all heading back to their native lands or palaces of mission having benefited from the experience here of study and personal sharing. It is a privilege to have been a tiny part of their lives and the working of this place.

I fly back to Cincinnati tomorrow (Monday, June 25th); the day that Richard Goodin and Dennis Geib and Christopher Leigh will be received at Cedar Lake, IN as members of the new novitiate class of Friars. My prayers go with them and all of the students of FISC--they really have a great deal in common as developing Franciscans.

Day in London

Big_ben2Yesterday, Wednesday June 20, I took the train into London for my first visit of the city. Victoria_station I have been through Gatwick Airport a few times, but I have never visited the city to see the sights. Rail travel in this country is extremely easy and economical. For £18.50 I got a pass for the round trip to the city as well as all underground trains and or buses I wanted to us. I actually ended up using five or six underground trains to get around. (Left is Big Ben at the House of Parliament and right is Victoria Station, a main national train station.)

Trafalgar_squareHorse_guard_closeup_2 I started at Trafalgar Square. From here I followed Whitehall StreetDowning_streetWestminster_palace1 toward Westminster Abbey and the House of Parliament. Along the way I saw the changing of the horse guard, looked down Downing Street through the gate, and passed the government building referred to on some maps as Westminster Palace.

House_of_parliament2Westminster_abbey_side I eventually arrived at the House of Parliament and Westminster AbbeySt_margaret_church_of_house_of_comm (which I was too cheap to enter since it would have cost me around $20.) I did go into St. Margaret Church which is the church of the House of Commons next to the Abbey. Of course, these are all Anglican Churches although that would often be hard to tell by looking at them.

Westminster_cathedral1 I then walked down Victoria Street and came to Westminster Cathedral which is theSide_street Roman Catholic Cathedral of the London. By this time I was getting hungry so I started looking for a place to have lunch. I purposely avoided McDonald's and Burger King and tried some local fare. Along the way I took a picture of a busy little side street which are somewhat common in the city.

Buckingham_palace1After lunch I walk to Buckingham Palace. The walk took me pasGate_at_end_of_mall1sed a good deal of supportThe_mall_from_buckingham_palace building and galleries but then I got to the open area in front of the palace and looked down The Mall which is a very wide street running through Saint James Park ending back at Trafalgar Square. (The gate at the end of the street is pictured on the right.)

Tower_bridge_from_london_bridge_2 Although I was getting fairly tired by this time I hooped the underground to make myAll_hallows_by_the_tower1 way to the east of the city to see the Tower of London and Tower bridge. I ran out of energy before I found the Tower of London but I did come across All Hallows Church where the bodies of Saints Thmas More and John Fisher were received after their executions by Henry VIII. It is also the church where William Penn, founder of Pennsylvania, was baptized and John Quincy Adams was married while Ambassador to the Court of Saint James.

This evening we have the conferring of diplomas and certificates at Evening Prayer followed by a BBQ and  "Barn Dance."  Tomorrow noon we have the closing Mass and banquet for the year. I will be returning to the States on Monday. It's been a full four weeks!

Weekend in Durham

Canterbury_train_station Saturday I boarded an early train for London's Victoria Station where I took theDurham_2 underground to Kings Cross Stations to board another train to Durham in northern England. Durham is a very old city which played a significant role in English history in the defense of the northern and eastern boarders. The castle and the cathedral, dating back to about 1000, were built on a wooded bluff above the Wear River.  In its early days, the Archbishop was also a Knight with both civil and ecclesiastical responsibilities.

Cathedral_and_castle While I was not able to take any pictures inside the Cathedral, I did spend some timeDurham_cathedral2 within and visited the shrine of Saint Cuthbert who is pretty popular in the area. When we arrived there Saturday afternoon, there was a very young orchestra from the local college of music rehearsing. The conductor was no more than in his early twenties, and the sound was fantastic. The music made an interesting background for touring such an ancient building.

St_joseph_chapel_ushaw SMain_chapel_at_ushawaturday night I stayed as a guest of a friend at Ushaw college which is a diocesan seminary for the northern British dioceses. The institution dates back to the 1500 where it was foundedUshaw_college in France during the persecutions. The present complex of building was built in 1880. I Concelebrated the Eucharist in Saint Jospeh Chapel  (on left) and got a picture of the main chapel (pictured on the near left).

Wear_river_walk_2 Durham_train_bridge_copy AMarket_in_durhamfter Mass we returned to town (the seminary is about four miles from the city) and walked along the Wear River. The weather both days was cloudy and often rainy so many of the pictures were taken in dull light, but I think that the beauty of the area is still obvious. As I returned to the train station I was taken by the train bridge which looms over the city and the medieval look of the city itself as depicted in this shot of a market place.

Saint Anthony Day Party

Dscf0454Last evening the Conventual Friars hosted a Saint Anthony Day party for the communityDscf0459 here at the Centre and some friends from the wider community. It was both an occasion to celebrate a great saint of the Franciscan movement, but also to say "Farewell" to one of the Conventual Franciscans who has been assigned to a local parish in Rye. At the left is Antony Jukes, a member of the English Franciscan province, who is about to make his final profession of vows. Antony is one of the Level III student I have this semester. On the right, Antony is joined by his classmate Alvydas and others in song. Alvydas is a Franciscan from Lithuania who is also preparing to  make his final vows later this summer.

Dscf0458 Two distinguished participants at the gathering were Fathers Ninian and Pasquale. Fr. Ninian is a member of the English Franciscans and Fr. Pasquale is an Italian Capuchin. I caught them conversing over a glass of wine and a sandwich and thought that the picture captures more than two friars sitting on a bench. While the two belong to different branches of the Franciscan First Order and have spent their lives as friars in different countries, yet there is much that they have in common as followers of Saint Francis. Their venerable ages and their wisdom stemming from their years of living the life are an inspiration to all of us here at the Franciscan International Study Centre.

A Reflection on Franciscan Brotherhood

Chapel_at_centreI've stayed close to home this weekend. Academics tied me down as I marked term papers and prepared for my classes this week. I also did some mundane activities like cooking and doing laundry. We actually had a dry, sunny day yesterday which makes doing the laundry much easier. There are no dryers so things need to be either hung outside (on a line where they dry in a few hours) or on a make-shift line in one's room (where it takes a couple of days). So far this year I've been able to use the outdoors. Thank God.

One of my students told me that a Chinese Friar studying here has some home-made movies of his friary in China. Since he and I live in the same dorm we were able to get together last night and look at the pictures. But more importantly, I had a chance to watch him as we viewed the movies and to listen to him talk about the brotherhood back home. I went to my room very moved by his love for his home community and his excitement about sharing his life with me. This friar has been solemnly professed for four years and ordained for three. He is a young man just getting started in life and is filled with hope and enthusiasm for our way of life and the Church. The life of the friars in China is not easy, but it is obvious that they share close bonds among themselves and truly live a faith-filled life.

The thought also crossed my mind that while we are from two very, very different cultures and generations, we share a common faith and a common life as members of the Order of Friars Minor. We wear the same habit and celebrate the same sacramental life, but we live in very different conditions (due to both cultural and governmental situations). Our diets differ and many of our customs vary, but it was good to see pictures and movies of the friars praying, working, studying, recreating (the younger friars like basketball and ping-pong), and celebrating the Feast of Saint Francis much as we do--and did when I was a young friar. Formation and Franciscan life seem to have similarities all over the word.

In a couple of weeks, each of us will return to our respective friaries (both under the patronage of Saint Anthony, by the way) and resume our community and ministerial lives. But I will return with a new awareness of what it is that I have given my life to--a world-wide movement that is committed to living the Gospel of Jesus according to the vision of Saint Francis of Assisi. How that medieval Italian mystic has captured the hearts of people all over the world. Because of him, a young man from China and I can call each other "brother" and truly mean it.

Mid-week Update

Shops_in_sandwichI had every intention of posting every other day at least while here, but my schedule has been rather hectic. I arrived late in the term and this has put a lot of pressure on the students and myself to complete our work in very few days. So I have been putting in some long days basically rewriting my courses. The marriage/sexuality course is the new one this year and I am having to do a lot of reading and note taking to adapt things as we go. I have not been able to present it as I had planned.

But the international and intercultural life here at the Centre continues to inspire me. We have students from all over the world and from every conceivable Franciscan community--many that I have never heard of. Just among the men we have Capuchins, Conventuals and OFMs from America, England, Ethiopia, Philippines. China, Lithuania, Italy, Croatia, Zambia, and more. It is so good to be with brothers who share my vision of life and yet come from another part of the world from cultures I know little about. Franciscan brothers and sisters all.

Maybe this weekend I will get some more local pictures. I cannot go too far because I have to mark (grade) term papers. Four of the friars I am teaching are due to graduate with their BA degree and we need to get their work completed.

Ben wishes Richard and Dennis well

Ben comments:

Awesome, my prayers are out to these two during the summer.

God's Speed to Dennis and Richard

Ff_geibdennis Today Dennis Geib and Richard Goodin complete their Postulancy Program and begin aFf_goodinrichard well deserved break with their families before entering the Novitiate on June 24.

Richard and Dennis arrived at Saint Anthony Friary, Cincinnati, Ohio in early July 2006 to begin their year of training. For the past eleven months they have lived with the Professed Friars praying and sharing in our Religious Life. While they had their own daily program of instruction and training, they became an integral part of the life of the friary.

Our prayers go with them as the take a break and then begin their first year as Friars Minor.

I made it to Dover, Deal, and Sandwich

Bus_station_in_canterburyThis morning I caught the bus near the Centre and bought a. Explorer Pass for £5. I wasDover_with_castle_in_background able to use it as many times and on as many buses as I wanted all day as long as I stayed in Kent. So I headed off to Dover on Bus #15. When I got there I found that getting to the cliffs would be impossible today so I climbed up to the castle (yes, I actually walked all the way up there). It is a medieval fortress that was also used by the British during more modern times. It is a very impressive location, but the castle itself  is not unlike others here in England.

St_mary_dover_front When I got back into town I had some time before I could reboard a #15 for Deal, so ICastle1 visitedSt_mary_interior St. Mary Church. It is a beautiful church in the typical British style. I got there just as they were closing it to visitors, so the gentleman who let my in anyway suggested that I might want to make a "small" donation to the upkeep of the building. Which, of course, I did.

Then I caught the #13 for Deal which proved to be a rather disappointing stop. About all I could do is walkSea_coast_and_pier_in_deal out the pier and take some pictures of the city that has built up along the shore of the English Channel. The location of the bus stop was such that I really couldn't get into the city without knowing where I was going. So I stopped in a pub and had a pint of ale and then walked the pier. As I returned I decided I actually was also hungry so I stopped at a little coffee shop and bought a scone with jam.

St_peter_nave_in_sandwich Then it was time to board the #13 again for Sandwich. This turned out to be a very historic citySt_peter_in_sandwich that has played a major role in English history. It used to have a dock in the 17th century which made it a port from the mainland, but today it is inland. Old Saint Peter church is no longer in use, but it is an historical building that is undergoing repair. The bus stop in Sandwich afforded me a little more opportunity to wander around before catching the #14 back to Canterbury.

Me_at_castle_entranceAs I arrived at the castle above Dover, I was walking with four young people who offeredSea_gull_on_chimney to take a picture of me. So, here is yours truly just outside the gate to Dove Castle. Also, as I was walking back through Dover toward the bus station, a sea gull on a chimney caught my eye. The style chimney is how I picture the homes in Dickens' novels. The multi -flu chimney is seen  frequently and the sea gull perched on top just spoke "England" to me; so I took the picture on the right.

All in all it was a good, but tiring, day.