Happy Valentine’s Day AND Ash Wednesday


The last time Valentine's Day fell on Ash Wednesday and Easter on April Fool's Day was in 1945. It seems strange when a day of fasting and penance coincides with a day more typically devoted to indulgence — beautiful red roses, dining out, and boxes of chocolates.


On Ash Wednesday 1945, World War II was and the United Nations was on the horizon. “Sentimental Journey” was the number one song for the year and “The Bells of St. Mary's,” starring Bing Crosby and Ingrid Bergman, was the top grossing movie. The NFL champions were the Cleveland Rams. People were reading “The Catcher in the Rye,” by J.D. Salinger. The Slinky was the most popular Christmas Gift. 


Some have suggested that we go ahead and share candy with loved ones (saving it for later, of course) and instead of fasting from food, turn off our cellphones and social media. Focus on being with one another in the present — being mindful of who and where we are with one another, and in that way draw closer to God.

Friar Vince Petersen recorded an episode for Franciscan Voice perfect for Valentine's Day this year: “Fall in Love with God Again.” Listen and choose God for your Valentine this year.


Come and See


This Saturday we are hosting a Come and See for single men between the ages of 18 to 40 years old. It will be held in San Antonio, Texas. These retreats are offered at no cost to the men attending. It is an opportunity to meet Franciscan priests and brothers, talk to some of our student friars, and to experience what our life is like.

We spend time in prayer and fraternity. The attendees get an opportunity to see first hand the life of the Conventual Franciscan Friars.

There are three more Come and See retreats scheduled this year:

March 23 to 25 at Mount St. Francis, Indiana

June 15 to 17 at Franciscan Retreats and Spirituality Center in Prior Lake, Minnesota

September 28 to 30 at Our Lady of Consolation in Carey, Ohio

October 19 to 21 at Holy Cross Retreat Center in Mesilla Park, New Mexico. 

To sign up for these retreats or to get more information click here.

The Friars at Mount St. Francis are also hosting two Vocation Discernment events:

Pray with the Friars - May 24, Dedication of St. Francis Basilica and October 4 for the Feast of St. Francis

For more information about vocations, please visit www.franciscanS.org

Please keep all those discerning a vocation in prayer.

Happy New Year from Zambia


The following is a letter from Br. Tony Droll. He updates us on the new auditorium at the school in Zambia as well as some big plans for the future. For more about Br. Tony's ministry in Zambia please click here.

You can learn more about the Conventual Franciscan Friars of the Province of the Franciscan Protomartyrs in Zambia by visiting their new website: http://www.ofmconvzm.org/

Dear Friends,

In the past 17 years, of my 52 Zambian years, my life has been largely consumed with the challenging and promising ministry of promoting education, the most imperative challenge for our disadvantaged youth. The school begun in 2000 grew from the initial stage of a Community Primary School for orphans to a High School for vulnerable students. It advanced to become a Secondary Technical School, with emphasis on carpentry and metalwork but mostly on Food and Agriculture.

In her 53 years of independence, Zambia has depended heavily on the sale of copper with less attention to agriculture. Few schools have the land, the teachers, or the capacity to do something about that. Now Government and the Ministry of Education realize how important agriculture is and are arranging teachers from the whole District for a seminar with St. Francis School fields and teachers. For our 750 students, who are coming from the nearby shanty compounds, academic and technical education is the greatest privilege they can imagine. Even with their best grades, they may not get a job nor have a chance for college, but they will leave the school with the skills of how to produce food.

2018 will see the school become even more unique. In the whole country there is no Secondary School which has what we have just constructed, thanks to very generous donors. The Catholic Minister of Education, with the principal donors from Washington DC, will celebrate with us the Mass, the Blessing and officially Open our newly built 2- story Lecture Auditorium. Its 10 decks for seating and projector on huge screen with built in audio, will serve our students with opportunity to experience audio-visual classes. The Minister will introduce our pilot project, which no other Zambian High School has – Philosophy for Youth.

In this country, as in others, the youth from affluent families are sent to Boarding Schools and other Private schools where they pay big fees. They naturally earn high marks and are offered opportunity for costly college or to secure the few jobs. For the disadvantaged students from poor families the opposite is often true. If they cannot pay school fees, some schools send them back to the streets. This past year only 36% of our students paid ‘something’ of our low fees, but we don’t send them home. Their chances for jobs are very slim and nearly impossible to find funds for College. The outcome is that the rich get richer and the poor poorer and the gap grows bigger. We strive to bridge the gap and offer our graduating students the Gospel values, unique advanced academic knowledge and the technical life skills of how to produce food.

I have shared about successes in the past but not about the challenges for the future. Yes, 64% of our village students could pay nothing of the $140 per year that the school asks and needs. The big auditorium is so perfectly constructed that it will need to serve more than for the students’ education. It is an Investment with more payback potential than any Bank. It will serve not only the students education but also for the many functions for which it will be rented. The profits will be able to meet the school budget and also be of support to our many seminarians in this young Franciscan Province.

The latest challenge is our desire to construct a Boarding School for Boys - perhaps for about 200 boys. We are already pouring over plans for dormitory, kitchen, dining room. There will be an instant demand of parents to enroll their boys. They will pay a greater price for the privilege of boarding. If there are 200 privileged boys, there will still be room for about 550 of the underprivileged students. All can share the educational benefits and be in competition for excellence.

Like our founder St. Francis and our Pope Francis, both whose ministry is founded on Jesus’s Gospel to the poor and oppressed, it gives me satisfaction reaching out to the Zambian youth who have little material wealth but great potential in intelligence and challenge.

BREAKING NEWS; We have just now received news that our 2017 students have scored highest grades in the District for the second year running.

With much gratitude and many blessings,

Brother Tony

Time Well Spent


With four Retreat Centers offering a diverse array of programs perhaps it is time for you to schedule some time for yourself, your family, and/or friends. Visit the website of the Retreat Center near you for a full schedule of activities and retreats.

Here are some of the offerings coming up over the next few months:

Holy Cross Retreat Center, Mesilla Park, New Mexico

Wed. Jan 24th Mass with Commemoration of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, 6:30pm. Rev. Jared Carson from Peace Lutheran Church will be the preacher.

The holy water font in the Chapel at Holy Cross Retreat Center.

Feb. 23-25 “Call to Conversion Walking in the Footsteps of Jesus and St. Francis.” Fr. Tom Smith invites us to examine those areas of our lives where we are called to conversion, to following Christ more fully. Individual room-$162.00. Shared room $128.00 each person. Commuter: $67.00 Call 575 524-3688 or email programs@holycrossretreat.org for more details and to make a reservation.

March 14 Lenten Day of Prayer 9:00 am till 7:00pm Holy Cross Retreat Center,
Fr. Tom Smith OFM Conv. will lead a day of reflection and prayer to help us begin Lent, addressing questions like... “What kind of fasting should we consider?”“How can we prepare best for Holy Week?” There will be time for individual quiet, and confession during the day, two light meals, and Mass at 6:30pm. Suggested donation $15.00 or $20.00. Call 575 524 3688

Mar 30-31 "Holy Week—Holy Days”Holy Cross Retreat Center, Mesilla Park, NM
How do we make Holy Week feel like a holy time? Consider coming to Holy Cross Retreat House for a day and a half of prayer, fasting, and reflection on Good Friday and Holy Saturday morning. The retreat will be led by Fr. Tom Smith OFM Conv. 8:30am Friday, March 30, Closing after lunch on Saturday, March 31st donation: single room $90.00; shared room $75.00 each; Commuter $45.00 Call 575 524 3688 to register.

Mar 23-25 Loosening the knots of anger, Healing through forgiveness
A women’s retreat led by Sr. Margarita Armendariz, Holy Cross Retreat Center in Mesilla Park, Individual room -$175.00 Shared room $135.00 each person. Commuter $75.00. Call 575 524-3688 or email programs@holycrossretreat.org for more details and to make a reservation. Deposit of $25.00 needed to hold a room. If finances are a concern, we will work with you.

Pilgrim House, Carey, Ohio

Our Lady of Consolation in Carey, OH

Feb 9-11, "MYSTICISM - The Heartbeat of God" - A retreat weekend for women and men to learn, discuss, and pray together drawing from treasures of the rich history of our Catholic spirituality. The offering for the weekend is $150/person for two nights accommodations, four meals and program materials. $95 for commuters.

Mount St. Francis Center for Spirituality, Indiana

Statue of St. Francis at Mount St. Francis, IN

Feb 16-18, Weekend of Peace for Women - led by Judy Ribar

Mar 23-25, Passion Retreat, led by Brother Bob Baxter

Mar 23-25, Vocation Discernment Retreat

Franciscan Retreats and Spirituality Center, Prior Lake, Minnesota

The Retreat Theme for 2018 is Towards a Spirituality of Joy: Love More - Laugh More - Be Not Afraid

The suggested offering for the weekend and midweek retreats is $160/person which includes room, meals, and program materials.

Feb 2-4, Men's Retreat Weekend

Feb 9-11, Married Couples Retreat - an opportunity to spend time together enhancing your relationship as well as your spiritual journey. Suggested offering is $320/couple.

Feb 16-18, Women's Weekend Retreat

Franciscan Retreats and Spirituality Center at Prior Lake, MN

Feb 22, Lenten Day of Prayer

Mar 1, Lenten Day of Prayer

Mar 8, Lenten Day of Prayer

Mar 15, Lenten Day of Prayer

Mar 23-25, Women's Palm Sunday Weekend Retreat (Silent)

Mar 29-31, Men's Holy Week Retreat

Fulfilling a Promise


Fulfilling a promise they made to each other on the day they were ordained, Friar Wayne Hellmann traveled to Rome to meet with his fellow ordinands from the Seraphicum Class of 1967 to celebrate their 50th Jubilee. They gathered on December 20, and the next morning, their ordination day, they concelebrated Mass with Pope Francis at the Vatican’s Casa Santa Marta. That evening they concelebrated another Mass, this time near the Seraphicum, at Sts. Peter and Paul where they were ordained. On the morning of the 22nd, they concelebrated Mass with Father General Marco Tasca in the Conventual Curia. The classmates came from the US, Italy, Okinawa, and Switzerland.

Let’s Go Sledding


Grab your sleds and head over to Franciscan Retreats and Spirituality Center in Prior Lake, Minnesota, on Friday, January 26th, for a morning of winter fun. Sledding will be from 9 a.m. to Noon with the opportunity to take breaks to enjoy hot chocolate and snacks in the Marian Lounge as well as participate in a winter craft project.

Also, the Retreat Center is offering a 'Buy one retreat - get one free' deal for the upcoming Women's Mid-week retreat (January 16-18) and the Men's Weekend retreat (February 2 - 4)

The retreat theme for 2018 - Towards a Spirituality of Joy: Love more - Laugh More - Be Not Afraid

Check out the full schedule at www.franciscanretreats.net


Sledding on the hill behind the Retreat Center at Prior Lake.

Don’t Be Afraid to Take Risks


"If we want to find Jesus, we have to overcome our fear of taking risks, our self-satisfaction and our indolent refusal to to ask anything more of life," Pope Francis said during a Mass celebrating the Feast of the Epiphany. "We need to take risks simply to meet a Child." He went on to say we can look to the Magi for inspiration. The Magi were not content with "just getting by, with keeping afloat." Instead, they looked up and followed the path to Jesus.

Friar Don Halpin OFM Conv. takes us on the journey of the Magi as they followed the star to Bethlehem.

The Adoration of the Magi by Bartolome' Esteban Murillo

Wishing You a Grace-filled New Year

By Friar David Lenz OFM Conv.

Now that the Christmas decorations are stored in boxes and the tree has been dismantled the post-Christmas 'blues' may hit us. But, as the angel said to the shepherds, "Fear not!" for now we may look forward to St. Valentine's Day in February and St. Patrick's Day in March. Before we know it Ash Wednesday will be upon us.

So what to do during this in-between time? 

As our heavenly Father extends His arms to embrace us and welcome us back to His forgiving and merciful love, this is a good time to celebrate the Sacrament of Reconciliation. May we not waste this opportunity for renewal and recognition of His love and tender affection for us.

May God grant you peace and comfort and a grace-filled New Year!

+Friar Larry Eberhardt – Obituary and Arrangements


Everywhere he served, Friar Lawrence Eberhardt OFM Conv. made everyone feel welcome with his wonderful smile and twinkling eyes, both having their source in his great heart. He was a great talker, but had an equal gift for listening to people with complete attention.

Br. Larry with his mother in 1992

Br. Larry died on December 23 in Louisville, Kentucky. He was born Richard Ronald Eberhardt on July 8, 1935, in Massillon, Ohio, to Richard and Hilda (Bettsnyder) Eberhardt. He was predeceased by his parents and by his brother Lawrence, and is survived by his sister Sherry Eberhardt. He professed Simple Vows as a Conventual Franciscan Friar on February 3, 1956, and Solemn Vows on February 3, 1959.

Br. Larry spent most of his life ministering within the Province of Our Lady of Consolation and with his fellow Friars. He began in the office of Assumption Seminary in Chaska, Minnesota, and later served on the team that founded Franciscan Retreats and Spirituality Center in Prior Lake, Minnesota. After a term as a formation director in St. Paul, Minnesota, he moved to Carey, Ohio, where he managed the gift shop at the Basilica and National Shrine of Our Lady of Consolation for 12 years. In 1987, with no prior training, he took on the task of establishing the Province Archives.

“One of Brother Larry’s greatest accomplishments was creating the Province archives from scratch,” said Lexington (KY) Bishop John Stowe OFM Conv. “He was determined to provide a professional quality archives that researchers could use. So he educated himself by joining a society of archivists, participating in their annual conventions, and learning from the archivists of religious sisters. Bringing his genetic German perfectionism to the task, he successfully inaugurated a state of the art archives.”

Opening the archives

But whether in the gift shop in Carey or the Archives at Mount St. Francis, Br. Larry’s priority was making people feel welcome – talking and listening.

“I have never known anyone who could talk as much as Br. Larry could, yet also one who could listen as much,” said Fr. Jim Kent OFM Conv. “He really engaged people with his great heart, and they were attracted to him.”

“Br. Larry had a deep, abiding faith in God which was unquestioning,” said Fr. Christian Moore OFM Conv. “He prayed for many people every day, and stayed in contact with most of them. He loved his own family and the Friars of the Province. All of them were constantly on his mind.”

Bishop Stowe agreed: “He was very conscientious about correspondence, especially greeting cards – not just Christmas and birthdays, but Easter, St. Patrick's Day, St. Joseph’s Day, Thanksgiving. I even received some Ash Wednesday cards!”

Br. Larry volunteered at the Franciscan Kitchen.

Br. Larry also helped develop the Association of Former Students of the Minor Seminary at Mount St. Francis. The Association hosts a popular bi-annual ‘reunion’ at Mount St. Francis. Several former students, some with their wives, return to the Mount to join with others who are now Franciscan Friars for a few days of sharing memories and meals together.

Visitation for Br. Larry will be at Incarnation Catholic Church in Louisville, Kentucky, Friday December 29 at 5 pm, with a Memorial Mass following at 7 pm. There will be a Wake in the Chapel at Mount St. Francis on Thursday, January 4. The Funeral Mass will be in the Chapel at Noon on January 5 with interment following in the Friars’ cemetery. Memorial gifts may be made to the Province of Our Lady of Consolation, 103 St. Francis Boulevard, Mount St. Francis, Indiana 47146 or by clicking here.


+Friar Ambrose Eischens – Obituary and Arrangements


After working 14 years for the US Postal Service, Friar Ambrose Eischens OFM Conv. joined the Conventual Franciscans in his mid-30s. From then on, in his service to God’s people and his fellow Friars, his work and prayer combined to the point where they became one and the same. A big man with a bass singing voice that matched his body, he overwhelmed people not with his size, but with his gentle nature and humble spirit.

Brother Ambrose in 1980 - Solemn Vows
At the Basilica and National Shrine of Our Lady of Consolation in Carey, Ohio - 2006

Br. Ambrose died Wednesday, December 20, in New Albany Indiana. He was born February 16, 1940, to Martin and Caroline (Schoenecker) Eischens in New Market, Minnesota. He was predeceased by his parents and his brothers Jerome, Harold, and LeRoy, and sisters Luella Tritz and Bernadine Benes. He is survived by his brother Wally, and a sister-in-law Ann Eischens (Jerome). He professed Simple Vows on August 1, 1977, and Solemn Vows on August 19, 1980.

Whether working with the poor and disadvantaged, running retreat centers, or serving within the Province, Br. Ambrose matched a dedication to people with attention to detail.

“In his various assignments over the course of his life, he was all about supporting and encouraging others,” said Fr. Dismas Veeneman OFM Conv. “At different points he took on difficult assignments. Some people would try to talk him out of it, but he would have none of it. That was where he felt he could make a difference in the lives of others.”

Brother Ambrose playing the organ at Mount St. Francis, Indiana, with (l to r) Friars Tom Smith, John Bamman, Miguel Briseno, and Martin Day

In addition to his various outside ministries and other service, Br. Ambrose was a choir member at different Franciscan parishes. In the early 80s, while serving at the Basilica and National Shrine of Our Lady of Consolation in Carey, Ohio, he directed the Shrine Chorale and the Young People's Choir. He played the organ on many occasions at Mount St. Francis in southern Indiana.

“His joyfulness was most evident in his love of music and care for the Friars,” said Fr. Tom Smith OFM Conv. “And he actually chose to seek out the Friars after working for several years. That shows his great desire to live as a Franciscan.”

Having spent time earlier as a Friar in social services and outreach to the disadvantaged in Dekalb, Illinois, in his later years Br. Ambrose volunteered regularly at the Franciscan Kitchen in downtown Louisville, welcoming people at the door and listening when they needed to talk to someone.

Br. Ambrose was dedicated to his family in Minnesota, often driving to visit and support them. “He will be greatly missed,” said his niece Peggy Nagele. “We loved to see him when we could, and always looked forward to his annual Christmas letter where he would tell us about what was going on his life.”

On a balloon ride in 1988

A memorial Mass will take place at St. Paul Catholic Church, Louisville, at 7 pm on Thursday, December 28. On January 2, in the Chapel at Mount St. Francis, Visitation will begin at 5 pm, the Wake at 7 pm, with a reception following. The Funeral will be at 11 am on January 3 , with interment following in the Friars cemetery, Mount St. Francis. Memorial gifts may be made to the Province of Our Lady of Consolation, 103 St. Francis Boulevard, Mount St. Francis, Indiana 47146 or by clicking here.