We want to shine a light on some of the people we serve next to and the communities in which we operate. These are examples of bold action despite the challenges of COVID-19. The people we work for and work beside inspire us. Together we become “lesser than the least.” We are serving those on the margins, often overlooked, those who need it most.
New Hope Through Virtual Learning
By Jacqueline L. Walter, MA
Director, Center for Women in Church and Society at Our Lady of the Lake University
During this Lenten season, in light of the COVID crisis, I have committed myself to observe these 40 days with a renewed hope in God’s Providence and a renewed sense of dependence on God’s healing power in the world.
At the beginning of the COVID crisis as a Theological Field Supervisor of a friar, I had to make a pivot to cultivate new ways of fostering the intellectual, ministerial, and personal growth for this future minister. The new ways cultivated grew out of a need. Together we created a virtual space where students felt comfortable sharing what they were feeling, how they were coping during the COVID crisis, and where they felt God’s presence. The gift and new hope we received came when we were able to reach across the screen, touch the minds and hearts of those we encountered, and offer comfort.
Repairing Our Church
By Sue Kurita
Texas State Judge and Diocesan Tribunal member in El Paso, TX
Franciscans have always been in my life. My parents were married in a Franciscan parish, and a year later, I was baptized in that church. I made many retreats at Holy Cross Retreat Center in Mesilla Park, New Mexico, and enjoyed Franciscan hospitality at the San Damiano Friary in San Antonio for three weeks in 2008.
These times with the friars have deeply impacted my spiritual growth.
It was devastating when the churches closed in March 2020. The social distancing attacked our sense of community, and our church seemed to be in ruins.
The friars quickly began to repair the quarantined church. Our Lady of Mt. Carmel immediately began to stream virtual Masses and provide food for the needy. Father Charles McCarthy prepared home Triduum services to allow families to worship together while being apart, and he continues virtual outreach. Friar Jarek Wysoczanski witnesses about the Blessed Franciscan martyrs, prompting daily prayers throughout the world for a five-year-old cancer patient.
It is inspiring to see the Conventual Franciscan Friars of the Province of Our Lady of Consolation repairing our church to prevent it from succumbing to COVID.
Dedicated to…The St. Kateri Tekakwitha Friary
By Friar Mario Serrano, OFM Conv.
As the pandemic of COVID-19 unsettled our lives, we quickly became aware that a century ago, our ancestors also lived through a similar epidemic, the Spanish Flu of 1918. However, if we push further than 100 years, we can also recall that with the migration from Europe to the Americas, disease ravaged the natives and destroyed their way of living also.
St. Kateri Tekakwitha, “Lily of the Mohawks” (1656 – April 17, 1680) and her family, became victims of smallpox and she experienced deep loss. Her family died. Her face was scarred. She survived and lived with physical and emotional scars. It is said that her scars vanished and her face appeared radiant and beautiful when she died at the age of 24.
As we begin 2021, the friars in the Southwest celebrate 30 years of Franciscan presence in El Paso, Texas. The friars have ministered to the People of God in diverse ministries: (i.e. parish, university, tribunal, vocation), and from the very beginning, ministered to the Tigua People, a ministry to the Native Americans who had built up and worshiped in the Mission of San Antonio since 1682. It is there that St. Kateri Tekakwitha is honored on one of the side altars.
We are aware that our ministerial presence in El Paso speaks volumes of our spirituality and charism as Franciscan Friars in the Southwest. Yet, hope is made visible by the resilient presence of the Tigua People and of St. Kateri. So, we choose to dedicate our friary to St. Kateri Tekakwitha by renaming our friary in her honor and by building a sacred space where she and our beloved who died of the COVID pandemic will be honored. We choose to act by honoring our past and moving forward with hope. Knowing all our scars will be healed as well.
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Continuing To Feed Our Brothers & Sisters
By Mary Carol Kelly
Volunteer and Board Member at Franciscan Kitchen in Louisville, KY
My husband Don and I have been friends with the Friars for many years. We believe in and support their great works. My ministry with the Friars intensified when I began working at the Franciscan Kitchen. The Kitchen continues the great work started by Br. Jim Fields 40 years ago. My volunteerism quickly became a passion and focus of my efforts to help others in need. I am so grateful to work there with various friars and volunteers every Friday and serve on the Board of Directors. The mission carried out at the Kitchen is nothing short of the Lord’s work. Most days, Friars will be there cooking, serving, and ministering to those on society’s margins. It is inspiring to work with these devoted men, and I am blessed to be a part of this tremendous ministry. While the way we serve people has changed during COVID as we move from indoor dining to to-go boxed lunches, we still serve over 400+ meals a day, on average.