So, What Does a Brother Do?

by Friar Ian Bremar, OFM Conv.

(Ed. Note: This reflection first appeared in 2016. We are sharing it again in honor of May 1st, the Feast of St. Joseph the Worker, and Religious Brothers Day.)

And the Lord gave me brothers…St. Francis

When I tell people I'm a Franciscan brother, one of the responses I often hear is, “So what does a brother do?” Usually I smile and say, “Well... it's not so much a matter of what we do as it is who we are.”

brothers at carey002Religious brothers do many different things. They are retreat directors, teachers, professors, missionaries, nurses, administrators, chaplains, campus ministers, social workers, carpenters, cooks, writers, artists, and many other things. But their unique and oftentimes overlooked vocation is to be a certain kind of man in this world.

All of the baptized have been called to a life of holiness and to give witness to Christ in their lives. Whether one is married, ordained, single, or a religious, each person expresses that universal call of baptism in a particular way. For religious, living the vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience give witness to the life of Christ, and to the future resurrected life of all humanity in the heavenly kingdom. Consecrated religious are called to be a light within the Church as the Church is meant to be Christ's light in our world.

Religious priests, sisters, and brothers all partake in this kind of witness, but each in their own way. They remind the Church that we are all sisters and brothers in Christ with the same Father in Heaven. Women religious offer the unique gift of sisterhood and make known the feminine experience and reality of a life in Christ. Brothers, as men who live in community and as brothers to the human family, similarly are witnesses to fraternity in a world that is so often divided and in which human relations at all levels are breaking down. Just as religious sisters bring to the Church their unique gifts as women, so brothers, with a masculine perspective, offer their gifts to the Church as men.

Ian and Joseph wash feetThere is something especially counter-cultural about the brotherhood vocation. Often I am asked, “So why don't you become a priest?” or “Why not go all the way?” There is something subversive about men who willingly choose to pursue paths in life which eschew roles of direct authority, that necessarily put them under the authority of others. It is startling to some that a man, who has not followed the path of father and husband for the sake of a life committed to the Church, would not readily seek to become a priest.

Herein lies, I think, the distinct perspective that the brotherhood vocation offers. A religious brother lives out a calling to service in ways that the world does not expect for a man. A brother is not a parent nor pastor nor priest, but his vocation is not defined by what he is not. A brother is a brother, and like a brother in a family, he serves and relates with the other members in that unique capacity.

I think of growing up with my own brother. We were not friends, and he wasn't a parent to me, but we shared a bond that was unconditional. We were equally loved by our parents, yet, as he was the older and more experienced brother, I looked to him for leadership and guidance. Likewise, it isn't that brothers forgo or run from leadership and responsibility, but that they exercise their responsibilities in the Church familially, as brothers and equals to their fellow sisters and brothers in Christ.

Again, I am reminded of my own brother, who, though he does not yet have a family of his own, is quite the “family man” when we all get together – setting a light-hearted tone, helping at the grill, playing games with the grandkids. So too the religious brother is like that “family man” of the Church – not the parental figure, but one who walks with the People of God and enjoys the life in Christ with and among them.

Whatever I “do” as a brother, I hope that I will do it sincerely as one called to be a brother to others, a family man in the Church.


Celebrating Brothers

 

May 1st is the Feast Day of St. Joseph the Worker. In 2017, this day was also established as Religious Brothers Day.

Religious brothers do many different things. They are retreat directors, teachers, professors, missionaries, nurses, administrators, canon lawyers, chaplains, campus ministers, social workers, carpenters, cooks, writers, artists, and many other things. In the photo above are three of the religious brothers that minister at the Basilica and National Shrine of Our Lady of Consolation in Carey, Ohio - Br. Randy Kin, Br. Ian Bremer, and Br. Angelo Catania.

Please take a little time to thank the Brothers in your life.

For a little more about Brothers, listen to the podcast from Br. Randy Kin - "Just a Brother?" and watch the video (part of a series about mendicant friars, especially the Conventual Franciscans and the Dominican Friars) "Friar Equals Brother."

 


Quadrennial 2018 Provincial Chapter

Provincial Chapter – Phase One

The Province of Our Lady of Consolation opened its quadrennial Chapter on Monday, April 16. Over the last several days, the Friars elected a new Definitory, the six men who will lead the Province for the next four years.

Chapter Delegates - Fr. Marco Tasca, Minister General for the Order, is in the front row, fourth from the right.

In pre-Chapter voting, Fr. Wayne Hellmann, OFM Conv., was elected as Minister Provincial. The other members of the Definitory are as follows: Fr. Martin Day (Vicar Provincial); Dcn. Nicholas Wolfla (Provincial Secretary); Fr. Miguel Briseño; Fr. Andy Martinez; Fr. John Pozhathuparambil; and Fr. Mario Serrano.

L to R: Friars John Pozhathuparambil, Miguel Briseno, Mario Serrano, Martin Day, Andy Martinez, Wayne Hellmann, Nicholas Wolfla

 


Dean of the Order

 

On Sunday, April 15, Fr. Marco Tasca, Minister General of the Order, visited the oldest friar in the world, Fr. Maurus Hauer, who turned 100 this past October.  Fr. Maurus shared his vocation story and his gratitude to God for all that He has done for him over the years.

Fr. Maurus worked full time until he turned 92, serving for most his life in the Southwestern United States. For a few years in between, he was pastor at St. Anthony Parish in Clarksville, Indiana.

Fr. Maurus came to the Mount as a high school student in the 1930s. He

Fr. Maurus continues to read Bible commentaries to work on his continuing formation.

professed solemn vows as a Conventual Franciscan August 17, 1942. He was ordained on February 24, 1945 at Holy Rosary Cathedral in Toledo, Ohio.

We thank God for the gift of Fr. Maurus to Our Lady of Consolation Province.

We are inspired by his example of service and devotion. He has touched the lives of thousands of people, from baptism to funerals, and continues to pray every day for his friends, his parishioners, and all who ask for his prayers.

Fr. Maurus Hauer, Dean of the Order, with Fr. Jim Kent, and Fr. Marco Tasca, Minister General of the Order (Photo by Fr. Jude Winkler, Assistant General)

A Glorious Day in Zambia

 

The dedication of the new auditorium at St. Francis Technical School took place April 5, 2018.

What follows is some of Br. Tony Droll’s description of the event:

Students pose in front of the new auditorium.

The day after!! Yesterday was grand glorious, but the preparations ran down to the last minute. We had been preparing the parking lot as best we could - filling holes in trenches and putting soil where the crane had made ruts in the road. Then the night of the 4th came a downpour and everything was MUD. Up at 05:00am and over to school …by 09:00am we had the road in pretty good condition ... 09:30am was the time to begin. But I had been getting phone calls from the Ministers protocol telling that they were still approaching Kitwe. That gave us about 20 minutes more to sweep, get the mud off our shoes and make last minute preparations.

The weather was perfect – sunshine but not too hot. We had worked till 9pm installing the air conditioners and they began working on the Dedication day morning. Meanwhile the ladies from Home Economics were at the mission in the kitchen preparing for the grand meal (and it was) after all the speeches and Mass.

Lunch was held in the yard at the Mission and was cooked by the ladies of the Home Economics department. Fr. Richard, the Provincial, is in front.

Every teacher was on their post ready for the entrances of the two Land Cruisers that brought the Minister. Then I get a call saying, we have reached the round-a-bout (4 minutes away). The Head Teacher Barry and Fr. Andrew and I moved to where the two vehicles would enter. When she

Minister Nkandu Luo

(Minister Nkanu Luo) stepped out of the vehicle, … she opened her arms for a hug for Andrew, and then Barry and me. What a lovely lady. She, a professor, was the first woman to get a doctorate in the early days of the country – a strong Catholic active woman. …

I made a strong appeal at the end of my speech asking the Ministry of Education for support for our project of starting a boarding school. It was also mentioned in the Head Boy’s speech. So as we sat down to eat with this grand lady, we kept the subject alive. She was quite positive and promised to send the other Minister, the one for High Schools, to our place and she felt confident that some funds might be found.

Brother Tony


“How can God love someone like me?”

 

We asked our Friars this question

Brother John Maurer answered by sharing his personal journey from pain and deep depression to discovering God’s mercy and love. Providing steps that we can take to begin our own journey, Br. John gives us insight into those around us - from the people we sit with in Church to the street people living under a bridge.

 

 

For more, please visit our symposium by clicking here -


+Brother Bob Baxter OFM Conv.

Teaching the Faith, Echoing God’s Laughter

A joy-filled Friar with a gift for teaching, Br. Bob Baxter OFM Conv. was known for his humor and quips. Though he could seem irreverent at times, those occasions only made more obvious his reverence for the most important things: his profound faith in God, his devotion to Franciscan life, and his love of the Scriptures, which he knew intimately.

Br. Bob passed away on March 22, 2018, in New Albany, Indiana. He was born Robert Byrne Baxter, Jr., to Robert Byrne and Theodora (Tuomey) Baxter on September 5, 1949, in Bay Shore, New York. He was predeceased by his parents and is survived by his uncle Robert N. Tuomey (Joan), sisters Anne B. Humes (Bill), Elaine B. Tracy (Bill), Julie Baxter (Rob Robinson), Clare Baxter, and Margaret B. Helmig (Albert), brothers William E. (Robin) and James E. (Felice) Baxter, and five nephews and nine nieces. He professed Simple Vows as a Conventual Franciscan Friar on August 5, 1972, and Solemn Vows on November 1, 1976.

The Baxter family 1960

As a native New Yorker, he loved the Yankees, “black and white cookies,” and combative conversation.

“He was uninhibited and larger than life,” said his sister Elaine Tracy. “He had charisma; people were drawn to him. He would go into a room and everybody wanted to talk to him. He also had a mischievous side with a twinkle, almost devilish look in his eye. He had one-liners and jokes about everything and everyone, but the joking was often at his own expense.”

For the first 25 years of his life as a Friar, Br. Bob was a high school religion teacher, director of parish religious education, and youth minister — sometimes all three at the same time. He served in schools and parishes in St. Louis, Missouri; Lorain, Ohio; and Indianapolis, Indiana.

“He was well-loved by his students for his humor and his knowledge of Scripture,” said Br. Randy Kin OFM Conv., who lived and taught with Br. Bob in Indianapolis. “They knew they could go to him, adults knew it too, and he was sought out for discussions on faith because they saw in him how faith is lived out. They had a figure in their lives who was their religious brother.”

In 2001, Br. Bob was elected Secretary of the Province of Our Lady of Consolation and in 2008 began serving as director of retreats at Mount St. Francis in southern Indiana. It was there that he established a reputation for bringing the Scriptures to life in his weekly Bible Study classes. Like St. Francis of Assisi, Br. Bob helped people understand that the Bible, the New Testament in particular, is about real people and real lives. Also like St. Francis, he loved Christmas and celebrating its true meaning: that through the Incarnation Jesus became a human being, just like each one of us.

Lexington (KY) Bishop John Stowe OFM Conv. was one of Br. Bob’s students at Lorain (Ohio) Catholic High School. He said: “Brother Bob had an incredibly quick wit and could deliver some lines with a straight face while everyone else was doubled-over in laughter. He had an engaging way of teaching the faith and the Catholic tradition which he loved, he knew the attractiveness and the joy of the Gospel, and embraced the freedom of living that Gospel in the spirit of Francis of Assisi.”

That Franciscan freedom from worldly attachment gave Br. Bob the ability to be completely open to others.

“His primary focus was on being a Brother,” said his sister Elaine. “He was asked once why he didn’t go on to ordination and being a priest. He never gave a real answer, but he always said ‘This is where I believe I can serve the best.’

“He was our brother, but also a brother to so many others. I think I know how he would console us all: He’d say to get over it; go out and do good things!”

Visitation will take place in the Mount St. Francis Chapel at Mount St. Francis, Indiana, on Tuesday, April 3, from 6 to 8 pm and on Wednesday from 3 to 7 pm followed by a Wake. The funeral Mass will be held in the Mount St. Francis Chapel at 11 am on Thursday, April 5. Interment and luncheon will follow. Contributions may be made to the Mount St. Francis Retreat Assistance Fund or to Province of Our Lady of Consolation. They may be made online by clicking here or may be mailed to 103 St. Francis Blvd., Mount St. Francis, IN 47146.

 


Jesus is a Tough Man

 

A Reflection by Fr. John Curran for Passion Sunday

The composer of the most famous Christian hymn, “Amazing Grace,” John Newton, was less than 20 when he became a successful captain of British slave ships. He was also notorious for his immoral life style. Later as an Anglican priest he would call himself the “old African Blasphemer.” Many times his life was in danger, but he refused to ask God for help. Finally he was converted to Christ on March 21, 1747, as the Greyhound was sinking during a violent storm. He called out to God to save the ship. Later as an Anglican priest in England, he said that only God’s amazing grace had saved “a wretch like me.”

God sent prophets like Isaiah to convert hardened sinners. They were like John Newton. The hardened sinners refused God’s grace and “set their hearts” to rebel against God. The sinners made their faces harder than a rock. (Jer 5: 3-4 and Zech 7:11-13)

Jesus was tough, because he was clear about his mission, and he faced opposition with courage. He moved toward his goal with unwavering firmness. Like Isaiah he “set his face like a flint.” (Is 50:7 and Lk 9:51) Finally from the cross Jesus declared that he had completed his mission. “It is finished.” Jn 19, 30 (See Jn 17,4)

A religion teacher explained to her children that the crowds welcomed Jesus as their king and they waved palm branches. At church the people will be given palm branches to remember this day.

Mosaic Cappella Palatine in Palermo, Italy

A little girl asked her teacher, “Are the branches free?” During Holy Week let’s follow Jesus on his path to Calvary. Jesus said “yes” over and over. He did the things that hurt him. Jesus is a tough man. His sacrifice was because of his love. It was free.


Happy Feast of St. Joseph

 

Today on your feast day and throughout our lives, St. Joseph, faithful servant, man of deepest faith and utmost courage, protector of Our Lord and His Blessed Mother, pray for us that we may imitate your virtues and bring Christ into our lives and our homes.

 

Painting by Gerard Van Honthorst (1592-1696)

Why God Loves Us and How to Pray!

 

Fr. Christian Moore discusses several important topics: why these are NOT the worst of times; end of life experiences; secularization; and more. He also shares practical advice we can use right now, including how to pray, that will improve our outlook on life and deepen our relationship with God.

Fr. Christian Moore serves as the pastor at Incarnation Parish in Louisville, Kentucky.