Rev. James W. Sichko, a priest of the Diocese of Lexington, Kentucky, is this year's Preacher for the annual Novena to Our Lady of Consolation at the Basilica and National Shrine of Our Lady of Consolation in Carey, OH. During the Jubilee Year, Pope Francis has appointed Fr. Sichko as one of 100 Missionaries of Mercy in the United States out of 800 worldwide. The evening Novena services take place at 8 p.m. Confessions are heard weeknights during the novena at 7 p.m., and will be available all day on August 14th and until the procession on the 15th.
Friars are gathering at the Basilica and National Shrine of Our Lady of Consolation to minister to the many hundreds of pilgrims who come for the annual Novena to Our Lady of Consolation, culminating in the celebration of the Vigil and Feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary into Heaven.
Rev. James W. Sichko, a priest of the Diocese of Lexington, Kentucky, is this year's Novena Preacher. During the Jubilee Year, Pope Francis has appointed Fr. Sichko as one of 100 Missionaries of Mercy in the United States out of 800 worldwide. The evening Novena services take place at 8 p.m. Confessions are heard weeknights during the novena at 7 p.m., and will be available all day on August 14th and until the procession on the 15th.
On August 14, the Vigil of the Assumption, the final prayers of the novena will be prayed from the front steps of the basilica when the statue of Our Lady of Consolation is brought out at 9 p.m. Immediately following is the the candlelight procession to Shrine Park where Most Reverend Daniel Thomas, Bishop of the Diocese of Toledo, will preside at the Vigil Mass.
Between 1841 and 1869, more than a quarter million people set out for California, seeking land, gold, and adventure.
This summer of 2016, seven men arrived in Arroyo Grande, California, searching for a different treasure: the Pearl of Great Price. On July 20, they were invested in the Conventual Franciscan habit and professed first, or simple, vows, beginning their year as Franciscan novices. This first step in their journey toward full Franciscan discipleship will be followed over the next few years with other training and education, but this experience will be the foundation of all that follows.
As part of these first steps, I was invited by Fr. Giles Zakowicz, OFM Conv., the Novice Director, and Fr. Maurice Richard, OFM Conv., the Assistant Director, to direct the men on a retreat focused on the parable of the “Prodigal Son.” As with the young man’s return to his father in the parable, each of the novices was challenged with the idea of “conversion of life,” reflecting on and preparing for the decision making that takes place when preparing for the vowed life of a Catholic religious.
We concluded the retreat with by pondering the devotion promoted by Pope Francis: “Mary, the Undoer of Knots.” This seemed especially fitting during this Holy Year of Mercy.
In the photo above from left to right front row: Fr. John Bamman, Novice Adam Jandro, Fr. Andy Martinez, Novice Alberto Bravo, Novice Calin Vidaurri, Friar Jacob Minjarez, Br. Tim Unser; left to right second row: Friar Jaime Zaragoza, Fr. Jim Kent, Fr. Miguel Briseno, Fr. David Lenz, Novice Pedro Lopez, Friar Andrew Hennessy.
Please join me in keeping the Conventual Franciscan Novices in our prayers.
On Thursday, July 21, Friars Jacob Minjarez and Jaime Zaragoza professed their first vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience. Five Friars from other Provinces also professed first vows: Brian Tougher and Marco Didden (Angelus of Pisa); Roberson Lubin (St. Jospeh Cupertino); and Timothy Blanchard and Franck Lino (Our Lady of the Angels).
On Wednesday, July 20, Alberto Bravo, Adam Jandro, Pedro Lopez, and Calin Vidaurri were invested with the Franciscan Habit and entered Novitiate.
Please keep all these men in your prayers as they continue their formation as Conventual Franciscan Friars.
The Most Reverend John Stowe, OFM Conv., Bishop of Lexington, presided at Mass and delivered the homily for Br. Angelo Catania's 50th profession anniversary. Here is the homily given on July 16, 2016, at the Basilica and National Shrine of Our Lady of Consolation in Carey, Ohio.
In the early morning hours on July 3rd I was in Vatican City on the steps of St. Peters Basilica waiting for the gates to open. I noticed the sign that read Santa Porta (Holy Door) and walked over and stood at the gate. Well aware of my great need for the Lord’s Mercy and this being the Year of Mercy, I prayed to the Holy Spirit (as I usually do) and asked to be made aware of His eternal presence in me, and my presence in Him.
I also asked for intercessions from St. Anthony to help me find the lost connection and oneness I and all humanity were given with the Holy Spirit through the Incarnation, life, death and resurrection of Christ Jesus.
Soon after the gates opened, I walked near to the Holy Door, paused and prayed for the sanctification of the Holy Spirit, that being sanctified I may also be transformed spiritually. That the Light, Love and Spiritual Gifts of the Holy Spirit may flow through me and be shared wholly, perfectly and completely with all humanity, creatures and creation. That just for this day I may be Christ to all I encounter.
This is a prayer I have recently found myself praying with great frequency with an increased desire to bring Christ's presence into all I do. I stepped up to the Holy Door and put my hands on the door panel of Christ crucified and prayed to Jesus. I cannot describe what happened but I can say just for an instant I felt a Peace and Presence, which brought tears to my eyes.
I knew my prayers had been heard and God in His Infinite Mercy showed me, a sinner, what is to be. It was only an instant, but I felt it was a true gift. The Mass I attended was at a side alter along with about twenty or so people, and the priest spoke about the changes Jesus can make and bring us Heaven here in this time and space.
Tears sprung up once again as I had been meditating on time and space in my earlier contemplations at the Basilica of St. Anthony of Padua. I believe the time spent in preparing for my second novitiate was, if not verified, at least acknowledged with this gift that brought tears of Joy.
I plan to reflect upon experiences and summarize the week or if moved by particular experiences perhaps mention those in more detail. Pace e Bene.
Today we made our way up north of the city to the mountains and the little town of Tagliacozzo. Two Franciscan friars who are twin brothers greeted us and it is wonderful to see the strong religious ties in a family.
In the little church of the friars there was a large cross hanging over the alter that captured my attention. While looking at the cross I thanked the Holy Spirit for allowing us to arrive safely. I then quieted myself interiorly and I began to gaze intently at the cross.
Since I began praying more intently to become like Christ and share the Light and Love of our heavenly Father with all He created, Christ crucified has grasped my attention in a different way. I have used in prayer a paraphrase of the words St. Paul “that I may die and it be Christ who lives."
Suddenly, springing up in my mind were the words "there is no greater love than this to lay down ones live for another." I have been praying to God to allow me to die to myself that Christ may live...In love I offer my life for Christ's life. Pace e Bene
Today we walked over to St. John Lateran, the earliest basilica in Christendom. This was the Popes' cathedral for the first 1000 years of our heritage. Constantine dedicated this basilica to Jesus our Savior.
Large statues of Christ and the Doctors of our faith greet the pilgrims as we arrive. While many renovations have taken place, there are remnants of the original basilica from the 300s, such as the depiction of Christ on the outside and the Pope's private chapel on the inside.
In today’s reading for Mass we heard the words: "do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God's Spirit dwells in you?" These words echoed the words of my earlier ponderings and drew my mind back to the Holy Spirit within us.
The Gospel reading with Zacchaeus climbing the tree had me wonder about my own life. To what lengths have I gone to encounter Christ? Have I become discouraged by the crowd and missed opportunities? Or have I gone the extra step, have I made the extra effort to rise above the daily deterrents and keep my vision and my focus on Christ? Pace e Bene
In his quiet, caring manner, Friar Benjamin Knopp, OFM Conv. devoted his life to pastoral service in parishes, and as a hospital and Navy chaplain. He had a sweet tooth, a passion for cheeseburgers and classical music, and an eternal openness to trying something different, taking up bingo and yoga after moving to Nazareth Retirement Home in Louisville, Kentucky. Fr. Benjamin died Friday, July 8, 2016, at Nazareth Home in Louisville, Kentucky.
He was born Alfred Leo Knopp August 13, 1928, to Ulysses B. and Ann Ruby (Ballard) Knopp. He entered the Conventual Franciscan Order in 1947. He professed Simple Vows on July 13, 1947, and Solemn Vows on July 14, 1950. He was ordained a Priest on May 30, 1955.
He came from a family committed to service of the Catholic Church – one of his sisters was a Sister of Charity of Nazareth, two of his brothers were Conventual Franciscan Friars, and another was a priest of the Archdiocese of Louisville. In 1949, his mother received the Donna Pica Award (named for the mother of St. Francis of Assisi) as the Franciscan Mother of the Year.
He was a devoted chaplain, spending many years in hospital ministry in Louisville, Kentucky, and Lansing, Michigan. People still approach Friars in the Louisville area, saying they remember Fr. Ben from his service at Sts. Mary and Elizabeth Hospital in the South End. He also spent six years as a Navy chaplain in Japan, the Philippines, and Adak.
Although his taste in music was classical, Fr. Ben had simple tastes in his food. He was a well-known candy enthusiast, and his favorite meal consisted of a cheeseburger, french fries, and a coke, even when dining at a nice steak house. An introvert by nature, Fr. Ben endured long Chapter Meetings, often remarking that “A little community goes a long way.” He spoke of his first assignment, as Assistant Pastor at the National Shrine of Our Lady of Consolation in Carey, Ohio, where he served under the direction of the very disciplined Fr. Hubert Kobunski, OFM Conv., as his “second novitiate.”
He was predeceased by his parents, his sisters Anna Louise and Mary Jane (Sr. Paula Ann, Sister of Charity of Nazareth), brothers Raymond Benjamin (Fr. Leo, OFM Conv.), Paul Joseph (Fr. Xavier, OFM Conv.), John William, and Fr. Henry Robert, a priest of the Archdiocese of Louisville. He is survived by his sister, Marguerite Joanna Beha, six nieces (Linda DiDonato, Mary Kaye Welch, Diane Lange, Roseann Harwood, Julie Dicken, Amy Tindel, and Nancy Stocker), four nephews (Steve Knopp, Michael Knopp, George Beha, and Paul Beha), and numerous great-nieces and –nephews.
A funeral Mass for Fr. Ben took place Tuesday, July 12, at St. Paul Catholic Church, Louisville, KY. The following is a recording of the homily.
Burial followed at the Friars’ Cemetery, Mount St. Francis, Indiana. Memorial gifts to support the Missions of the Conventual Franciscan Friars may be sent to The Province of Our Lady of Consolation, Development Office, 103 St. Francis Drive, Mount St. Francis, Indiana, 47146 or by clicking here.
Ciao! From Italy!! I am blessed to spend a week prior to making my solemn vow retreat in Italy and wanted to share some experiences.
I spent my first two days in Italy at a little Commune called Torri del Benaco that hugs one side of Lake Garda. The lake was beautiful, surrounded by tall mountains, and I was shoulder deep in the cool water and could see my feet just as clear as day. I reflected how in preparing for the retreat, spiritually speaking, this was like a cleansing baptism in nature surrounded in one of God’s many cathedrals.
The remainder of my days I have been here in Padua at our friary attached to the Basilica of Saint Anthony. I spent time in preparation by prayer, fasting, sacramental oil and salt, recollection, spiritual readings, and just received the sacrament of reconciliation as well. I reflected how his time was more like a clearing out of sorts – clearing the weeds and tilling the soil of my soul in preparations for the spiritual seeds the Holy Spirit will give us during our retreat. I went outside the friary only once to mail off postcards and was pleasantly surprised to find a gelato shop two doors down. God is good.
One very prominent, recurring thought during my preparations for the solemn vow retreat has been space. I am blessed to have this time to make space for the Holy Spirit. I have a daily prayer as I put on each part of my full habit; a prayer for the habit, the cord, and the capuche. For the cord, I kiss it and pray “gird me O Lord with the censure of purity, extinguish within me the flames of concupiscence, that the virtues of countenance and charity may abide in me.”
I pondered how this girding of our minds is an essential part of making space during our everyday busy lives. Even if we can only connect with the Holy Spirit for a short period because of time constraints, this will undoubtedly bear good fruit.
St. Paul tells us in Philippians 4:6-7: Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
This peace of God is the spiritual recharge our busy lives so desperately need. Without this time and space for contemplation, we can become fixated on our own problems and even overwhelmed to extremes.
I pondered how spiritually this space we create is likened to the tabernacle in our chapel at San Damiano Friary in San Antonio, Texas. I often go to the chapel in the early morning hours when it is still dark outside. The perpetual burning candle is there to guide me into a closer space near Christ who is present, waiting in the tabernacle.
The only begotten Son of our heavenly Father patiently waits for us to make the space to come and visit Him, not only in the chapel tabernacle but in the space we can make for Him in our hearts where we may visit Him daily if we only make space.
The Conventual Franciscan Friars of the Province of Our Lady of Consolation gathered at Mount St. Francis in southern Indiana for a week of remembering the past, planning for the future, and praising God in joyful prayer and liturgy.
Minister Provincial Jim Kent, OFM Conv., and Province Secretary Nick Wolfla, OFM Conv., welcomed the Friars with an agenda filled with time for work and fellowship.
Diocese of Lexington Bishop John Stowe, OFM Conv., returned to the Province to lead sessions on the work and words of Pope Francis, and how they may inspire the Friars to a deeper relationship with Jesus and an embrace of their Franciscan charism.
Our Conventual Franciscan novices began their journey west today. They were sad to say goodbye to the Sisters of St. Francis of Perpetual Adoration, who have supported for many years the Novitiate in Mishawaka, Indiana, with their friendship and prayers. They honored the Sisters with a farewell celebration on May 26.
The Novices were busy packing last week. After beginning their drive today (June 15) they expect to be at the new novitiate in California by Saturday, June 19.
Please keep all our men in formation in your prayers.