Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Giving One's Life for Others

Bro. Jason Welle, OFM professed solemn vows as a Friar Minor on the Solemnity of the Assumption of Mary, 15 August 2008. A previous article on this blog went into some details about that event.

What I'd like to invite you to consider is how God calls you -- and me -- to give our lives over, like Jesus, for others.

Bro. Jason Welle, OFM kneeling after the Litany of the Saints at the Solemn Vow ceremony (Photo courtesy of Fr. Brendan Wroblewski, OFM)

Simply put, a Christian vocation teaches us that our lives are not our own! It's all about the Lord Jesus. When we Franciscan Friars profess our vows, according to the Rule of St. Francis of Assisi, we are giving ourselves over to the Lord and to the operation of the Holy Spirit. St. Francis taught his friars that the Holy Spirit is the General Minister of the Order of Friars Minor.

Bro. Jason Welle, OFM professing solemn vows into the hands of our Provincial Minister, Fr. Leslie Hoppe, OFM

Professing vows like this hearkens us back to our baptismal commitment, from which all other Christian vows come. It is in the name of the Lord Jesus, believing that he has called us to this path as Friars Minor that we place our trust in God the Father and the work of the Holy Spirit.

Bro. Jason Welle, OFM's Dad and Mom at the celebration of solemn vows.

This is an act of faith. We put our faith in the Lord and his call to live the holy Gospel in the footsteps of St. Francis of Assisi. It is an adventure to give our lives for others -- the Lord, our brothers, the Church and the poor. And all for Jesus!

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

New Franciscan Outreach in Milwaukee

Fr. Joachim (Kim) Studwell, OFM and Fr. James (Jim) Gannon, OFM
at the Franciscan Pilgrimage Program tent
at Fiesta Italiana in Milwaukee, Wi in July 2008
(Photo courtesy of Don Rosen)

Thanks to the Franciscan Pilgrimage Office (FPP) housed in the same building as the administration of the Assumption BVM Province (SS. Francis & Clare Friary) in Franklin, WI, the Franciscan Friars were able to be present at two of the several ethnic festivals in Milwaukee.

Fr. John Cella, OFM, the executive director of FPP and the pilgrimage staff had the foresight to promote their programs at Festa Italiana and Irish Fest, the first held in July and the second in August of this past summer. The FPP focuses most of its attention on the Franciscan holy sites in Italy (particularly Rome and Assisi). They are also beginning a pilgrimage to Ireland and have had several to the California missions founded by Bl. Junipero Serra, OFM and other Spanish Franciscan friars as well as the Holy Land where the Franciscan friars have been serving since the 14th century.

Fr. Paul Reczek, OFM is a graphic artist and works also for the pilgrimage program. He put together a few banners advertising both the pilgrimage program and the vocation office. (Some of his work can be seen in the photo above.) Which leads me to how this became -- at least partially -- a vocation event!

I was asked by Fr. John to helps staff the FPP tent at Maier Festival Park on Milwaukee's South Side adjacent to Lake Michigan for these two ethnic events. One reason was to help our vocation promotion efforts. Fr. James Gannon, OFM, who works for Cardinal Stritch University (CSU) in Milwaukee in administration and pastoral care also volunteered. He was able to have CSU materials and I was able to have vocation materials available for folks to peruse. Three Secular Franciscan women also helped staff the booths the separate weekends -- thanks, Bonnie, Laurel and Suzanne!

Fr. Jim and I wore our habits and several people favorably commented to us about how important it was for them to see a Franciscan witness. Although the festivals were different in their "feel", many people stopped by our tent to engage in conversation -- some wondered if we were in costume or if we were "for real"; others expressed curiosity about who the Franciscans are; still others asked the difference between a tour and a pilgrimage; some were intrigued by the notion of "Secular Franciscan" and requested information. And some people recognized friars' pictures on the banners and the Vocation Office display board whom they knew from ministries in the greater Milwaukee and Chicago areas!

Fr. Kim being interviewed on Sunday afternoon at Festa Italiana in Milwaukee on the radio program. (Photo courtesy of Don Rosen)

A curious thing happened during Festa Italiana -- our tent was adjacent to a tent housing a few radio stations' tent (each day a different radio station occupied the same tent). The announcer for one, which emitted from Racine, WI asked to interview me -- live! So, we did. In a brief amount of time he asked me the difference between a tour and a pilgrimage and then he asked what I did as Vocation Director. At the end of his broadcasting shift he made a special plug for the Franciscan friars! On Sunday, a radio station from Kenosha, WI was broadcasting their weekly Italian-language afternoon show, and also asked if I could say a few words about the Franciscan pilgrimages and vocations. Great exposure for the Franciscans, no?

Fr. Jim and I both thought that these experiences were positive and offered us ample opportunities for evangelization. Fr. Jim even heard a few people's confessions! It was also a good opportunity for some catechesis. And Fr. Jim had an opportunity to speak with a curious young man from northern Illinois who asked about the Franciscan friars and who we are.
It was a great opportunity for young and old alike to meet the Franciscan friars and for us to be in the mix of people, many of whom never expected to see or meet the friars at these festivals!

Monday, August 25, 2008

Bro. Jason Welle, OFM Professes Solemn Vows

Congratulations, Bro. Jason! Welcome to our brotherhood!

Bro. Jason Welle, OFM, prostrate befor e the Lord's altar, during the Litany of the Saints prior to profession his solemn vows
Assumption BVM Parish Church, Pulaski, WI
(Photo courtesy of Jose Martinez)

Bro. Jason Welle, OFM professed his solemn vows as a friar minor in the hands of our Provincial Minister, Fr. Leslie Hoppe, OFM on Friday, 15 August 2008 at Assumption BVM Parish in Pulaski, WI.

His mother and father, his brother and other relatives from his hometown of Albany, MN along with long-time friends from his college days (St. Olaf in Minnesota and the University of Notre Dame in Indiana) joined the Franciscan Friars of the Assumption BVM Province (plus some other Franciscan Friars from the provinces of St. Barbara in CA, Sacred Heart in St. Louis, MO, Our Lady of Guadalupe in Albuquerque, NM and St. John the Baptist in Cincinnati, OH).

Bro. Jason Welle, OFM with the "Li'l Bros" club from St. Stanislaus Parish in Cleveland, OH at Assumption BVM Parish Church in Pulaski, WI (Photo courtesy of Jose Martinez)

The friars who joined in the festivities included our men from throughout the Midwest, from as far away as Cleveland, OH, Cedar Lake, IN, Chicago, IL, Franklin and Milwaukee, WI. His Vocation Director, Fr. Linus Kopczewski, OFM and his Novice Director, Fr. Edward Tlucek, OFM we gathered with the other friars to see this part of Jason's vocation story brought to completion.

The Solemnity of Mary's Assumption, body and soul, into heaven is not only a Holy Day of Obligation among Catholics, it is also the patronal feastday of our Franciscan province! So, it was with great joy that we joined our brother and welcomed him with great warmth and genuine affection to full membership in our provincial brotherhood as Franciscan friars.

Bro. Jason Welle, OFM, newly solemnly professed Franciscan in the Order of Friars Minor (OFM) signs the sheet of his vow formula (wrtiten by his own hand) in the presence of our Provincial Minister, Fr. Leslie Hoppe, OFM (left) and the Secretary of Formation, Fr. Bernard Kennedy, OFM (right) who is also his Post-Novitiate Formation Director (Photo courtesy of Jose Martinez)

It was quite a diverse event -- friars who were originally from Mexico and Vietnam, as well as US-born Franciscan friars, Roman and Byzantine Catholic Rite, parishioners from St. Stanislaus Parish in Cleveland, OH and Sacred Heart Parish in McAllen, TX (both of which hosted Bro. Jason during his post-novitiate formation), plus his family and friends from Minnesota and other parts of the USA -- all joined to celebrate what God has accomplished in the life of our brother -- so far! There is more to come.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Eleven Friars Make Solemn Vow Retreat

From Bro. Jason Welle, OFM

From June 27th to July 27th, I was blessed to spend a month in the mountains of Colorado on retreat with ten other Franciscan friars preparing to make their solemn vows. Our group was a snapshot of the Church around the world, with friars hailing from Vietnam, Mexico, Syria, and Palestine, as well as the United States. All of these friars had discerned a permanent commitment to the Franciscan way of life, and sharing prayer, input, recreation, and fraternity together, for thirty days enabled us all to deepen this commitment.

Road to Bear Lake, Rocky Mountain National Forest

Our group resided at St. Malo’s Retreat Center an hour and a half north of Denver. When John Paul II came to Denver for World Youth Day, he took some personal time for hiking and prayer at St. Malo’s and we were very conscious of his presence among us; we spent many hours hiking the trail now named for the Holy Father, in addition to many other trails in Rocky Mountain National Park.

Amid this breathtaking scenery, Fr. Francis Di Spigno, OFM, and the rest of the retreat committee organized several complementary components to help us explore the meaning and gift of our Franciscan vocation. Fr. Tom Hartle, OFM, the guardian of the retreat, provided a stable and supportive presence for the month, which began with Fr. Bill Beaudin, OFM, preaching a week of conferences on the prayers and writings of St. Francis.

The second week, facilitated by Fr. Jerry Bleem, OFM, focused on Christianity and the Arts. Fr. Jerry led us in both imaginative activities like sketching and painting and repetitive activities like calligraphy and crochet.

These helped us touch our more creative sides, opening channels for the week-long directed retreat with Fr. Tom and Sr. Doris Gerke, OSC. These directors met with each retreatant for an individual conference each day, with the rest of each day free for silent prayer and reflection.

St. Catherine of Siena Chapel, St. MaloRretreat Center

Three special wisdom figures provided the input for the final week. Fr. Nicholas Lohkamp, OFM, reflected on his life as a moral theologian; Fr. Daniel Barica, OFM, on his ministry as pastor of California parishes and missions; and Fr. Mark Soehner, OFM, on his work in psychology and parish ministry.

Listening to these three very different friars comment on the blessings and challenges of their Franciscan vocations and their hopes for the community’s future rounded out our thirty days of prayer and growth in fraternity.

When the retreat ended, we scattered to return to our home provinces, conscious that even though we would profess our solemn vows in different places this fall, we are deeply united in our common vocation to the Order of Friars Minor.

Bro. Jason Welle, OFM, on his way to his Solemn Vows at Assumption BVM Church in Pulaski, WI!