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!