Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Pulling the Plug...

Because of other obligations, I have decided to stop trying to post Advent reflections for this year.

Come, Lord Jesus--and the sooner, the better.

Peace and every good,

Fr. John, OFM

Please visit the Franciscans at:

Franciscan Charities

Monday, December 12, 2016

Our Lady of Guadalupe, 12-12-16

Today's Readings

Sing and rejoice, O daughter Zion!
See, I am coming to dwell among you, says the LORD.
Many nations shall join themselves to the LORD on that day,
and they shall be his people,
and he will dwell among you,
and you shall know that the LORD of hosts has sent me to you.

When the Spanish invaders landed in Mexico in 1519, their skin color and facial features were obviously different from those of the native population.  When the Virgin Mary appeared to Juan Diego in 1531, she appeared as a mestiza, that is, a woman of mixed race.  That led to the Virgin of Guadalupe being referred to as "La Morenita"--the Brown Lady.  (If you go online, you'll find that many Mexican businesses are named "La Morenita.")

The language used by the Lady as she spoke to Juan Diego was not Spanish but Nuhuatl--the language of the people.  The image imprinted on the tilma of Juan Diego clearly shows the maternity band, signifying that the woman is pregnant.

Prior to the apparition at the hill of Tepeyac, the Catholic Church was able to convert only a few of the natives.  Within seven years of the apparition, there were over 8 million converts. 

It's pretty obvious why this reading from Zechariah was chosen for this feast: "Many nations shall join themselves to the LORD on that day, and they shall be his people, and he will dwell among you, and you shall know that the LORD of hosts has sent me to you."

Holy cards printed in the US typically show Jesus as having fair hair and white  skin.  I have known Catholics in the US who get upset when other cultures show Jesus as being African or Asian or Native American--little realizing that their own images of Jesus have been culturally formed.

During Advent, we celebrate the fact that Jesus came "as one like us."  As the Church continues to spread that Good News, it is important that we help people see that Jesus is not a foreigner--He comes to dwell among them and to share their lives.

Please visit the friars at:

Franciscan Charities

Friday, December 9, 2016

Friday, 2nd Week of Advent, 2016

Today's Readings

For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they said,
‘He is possessed by a demon.’
The Son of Man came eating and drinking and they said,
‘Look, he is a glutton and a drunkard,
a friend of tax collectors and sinners.’

We've all run into people (and, perhaps, at times have been people) who seem to live by the motto: "My mind is made up, don't confuse me with the facts."  The lack of civil discourse during and the contentious discord following the recent presidential election may have roots in such at attitude.

Jesus recognized this attitude in the religious leaders of his time.  They were convinced that their view of religion was the correct one, and so they were able to write off the lifestyle and preaching of John the Baptist as the rantings of a religious lunatic.  When Jesus arrived with a more moderate lifestyle, he was written off as a glutton and drunkard.  Their minds were made up.  No wonder that Jesus would chide them for being stiff-necked and hard of heart.

Going back to the Peace Prayer of St. Francis, we pray that we "may not so much seek to be understood as to understand."  One project we could undertake today is to listen with open minds to the voices of the people we encounter.  We ought not compromise the truth as we see it, but let's be open to the possibility that we may be wrong.  Or, as one bumper sticker warns: "Don't believe everything you think."

Please visit the Franciscans at:

Franciscan Charities

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Immaculate Conception, 12-8-16

Today’s Readings:

            While I was in the car the other day, I heard the Beatles’ song “Let It Be.”  It made me think of today’s feast.  If you are a Boomer like me, you probably remember that the song starts: “When I find myself in times of trouble, Mother Mary comes to me, speaking works of wisdom, ‘Let it be.’”
       Music historians are clear that Paul McCartney did not write this as a religious song.  It is about his deceased mother (Mary) who came to him in a dream while he was dealing with personal turmoil.  She advised him not to worry because everything would work out well.
   Be that as it may, the song echoes the docility of Mary who acquiesces to the mysterious will of God.  Could she foresee all the ramifications of her “yes.”  I doubt it.  Yet her faith led her to exclaim, “Let it be done to me according to your word.”
I don’t know if archangels ever retire, but it would be helpful to us if Gabriel were a little more active.  If he or another angel were to tell us “this is God’s will for you”; I would like to think that most of us would respond, “let it be done.”  The problem for us is that we are not always able to discern which situations are God-ordained and which situations are, in a favorite phrase of one of our friars, “not of God.”  That makes it difficult for us to know whether we should accept or resist.
   As we daily pray “thy kingdom come, thy will be done,” let us pray also for the gift of discernment, that, as St. Paul said, we might “discern what is the will of God, what is good and pleasing and perfect.” (Romans 12:2)  Then: “Let it be done!”

Please visit the Franciscans at:

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Wednesday, 2nd Week of Advent, 2016

Today’s Readings:

Though young men faint and grow weary,
and youths stagger and fall,
They that hope in the LORD will renew their strength,
they will soar as with eagles’ wings;
They will run and not grow weary,
walk and not grow faint.

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome is a fairly recent diagnosis.  CFS is a condition, once thought to be psychosomatic, whose underlying cause seems to be still a mystery to experts.  The syndrome is characterized by an inability to successfully perform daily tasks.  Physical and mental activity can increase the effects of CFS; rest does not ameliorate the symptoms.

In the spiritual realm, the counterpart to CFS is known as “acedia.”  Though some texts equate acedia with the sin of sloth, it seems that many monastics preferred to refer to it as the “noonday demon.”  Acedia is a spiritual listlessness that makes it difficult for a person to engage in his/her daily tasks.

Maybe the readers have experienced acedia.  I know I have.  There were times I felt that I should be busy about something; but I couldn’t bring myself to read, write, pray, practice music, or undertake any kind of manual labor.  Acedia creates an uncomfortable feeling of being spiritually disconnected.

Isaiah’s words may or may not be a way to cope with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, but I think they are a very positive way to deal with acedia.  “They that hope in the LORD will renew their strength.”  Or as Paul would say in his letter to the Philippians, “I have the strength for everything through him who empowers me. (4:13)  In times when we are dry, listless, and lifeless, we turn to the Living Water of Jesus Christ to find renewed energy and strength.

Please visit the Franciscans at:

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Tuesday, 2nd Week of Advent, 12-6-16

Today’s Readings:

A voice says, “Cry out!”
I answer, “What shall I cry out?”

Preaching is a tricky business.  There are times when homilies or sermons seem to almost write themselves as the Word of God is read.  But then there are times—and sometimes this can happen several weeks in a row—when there is no inspiration or any sign of infused wisdom.  Sometimes a homilist feels that he has crafted a masterpiece only to find that the result sounds flat, even to himself.  But that is somewhat balanced by those times when the preacher feels he has failed in his duty only to have someone say after Mass, “Father, you said exactly what I needed to hear; I thought you were talking directly to me.”

“What shall I cry out?”  That’s not just Isaiah’s question; it should be the question of everyone who presumes to speak in the name of God.  Please pray that God will guide all those who have been called to the ministry of preaching.

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Monday, December 5, 2016

Monday, 2nd Week of Advent, 12-5-16

Today's Readings

Kindness and truth shall meet;
justice and peace shall kiss.
Truth shall spring out of the earth,
and justice shall look down from heaven.

I happened to notice that "The A-Team" is in reruns on the TV these days.  I was never a big fan, but I did take a certain delight in Hannibal Smith's signature statement: "I love it when a plan comes together."

I have a soft heart for plans that come together--like songs or movies that turn out just the way I think they should.

God has a plan for humankind.  We see that plan expressed during Advent through the words of the prophet Isaiah and, today, in the words of Psalm 85.  No movie or book comes to its happy ending without some adversity along the way.  The violence that humans perpetrate against each other might make us wonder when--or even if--the Kingdom of God will ever come to fruition.  Will there ever be "peace on earth, good will toward men"?

At one point in the gospels, Jesus tells his disciples that they are blessed because they see and hear what the ancients hoped for but never saw or heard.  In the same way, we may never see in our lifetime the fulfillment of Scripture's promise. 

But God has a plan--a plan of kindness truth, justice, and peace.  It has been promised, and I believe it will happen.  And I love it when a plan comes together.

Visit Us at Franciscan Charities

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Saturday, Advent Week 1, 2016

Today's Readings

Then he summoned his Twelve disciples
and gave them authority over unclean spirits to drive them out
and to cure every disease and every illness. 

The official name of the our Franciscan order is the Order of Friars Minor--or as we often refer to ourselves: "Lesser Brothers."  The implication is that we are called to associate with the lowly and, in humility, to not seek  power over other people.  In reality, though, it doesn't always work that way.  When I was a principal, my role gave me a certain level of authority over the teachers.  As a pastor, I shared in the authority of the bishop.  Now that I am the Director of Development for the Sacred Heart Province, I have authority over my staff and can make decisions that affect our daily operations.

It is sometimes uncomfortable to have a position of authority and to cope with the responsibility that comes with such a position.  Still, I am somewhat envious of the Twelve who were given "authority over unclean spirits to drive them out and to cure every disease and every illness."

I think of my family members who are battling serious medical conditions.  I know people who are chronically depressed.  A former parishioner/student has been struggling with neuroblastoma for over a year.  More and more of our friars are being diagnosed with cancer.  The members of my CUSA group all have chronic conditions.  It would be great if I had the words and the power to make them all whole.

But I don't.  That authority has not been given to me.  And so, like many people, I feel helpless to do anything else but pray and to offer support.  Until such a time as I am given authority over unclean spirits and disease (and, really, that seems unlikely at this point), I turn daily to the Divine Physician and ask Him to do what I cannot do--to speak words of healing over those who are not whole.

[I apologize for missing several days.  Recent travels have thrown me off schedule, and I have been trying to get caught up both in the office and at home.]

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Tuesday, 2nd Week of Advent, 11-29-16

Today’s readings:

On that day,
The root of Jesse,
set up as a signal for the nations,
The Gentiles shall seek out,
for his dwelling shall be glorious.

Lighthouse, Ashland, WI
As children growing up on the shore of Chequamegon Bay in Ashland, WI, we would occasionally hear the deep bellow of the fog horn sounding from the lighthouse.   Lake Superior is dotted with lighthouses whose purpose was to alert ships about possible dangers while guiding them safely to their destinations.  Though modern navigational technology has rendered the lighthouses obsolete, many continue to stand as monuments to the dedication of so many “keepers of the light.”

One longstanding Advent tradition is the creation of a “Jesse Tree.”  Typical representations would show Jesse sleeping with a tree growing from his side.  The branches of the tree would show the ancestors of Christ—with Jesus himself displayed at the very top of the tree.

Certainly Christians think of Jesus as that “root of Jesse” who is “set up as a signal for the nations.”  It would be a pretty easy step from there for believers to think of Jesus as a lighthouse who guides us through the treacherous waters of life and brings us safely to heaven.  “"I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”  (Jn. 8:12)

Here’s a link to an appropriate song:

Monday, November 28, 2016

Monday, First Week of Advent, 11-28-16

Today’s Readings:

“Lord, I am not worthy….”

            Some social scientists may decry the fact that we are living in the “Age of Entitlement.”  There are certain elements of US society—often the  young, often the rich, but others as well—who believe that certain benefits are owed to them simply because of who they are.

            A number of television commercials play to this type of thinking by telling the viewers that “you deserve” this beer or hair care product or car.  To which I find myself thinking, “And just what have I done to deserve it?” 


            Perhaps it’s a matter of semantics that some would consider trivial, but when I use the word “deserve,” it implies some reciprocity for a good deed or a good job done.  So while I believe that people in Ethiopia have a fundamental right to adequate food and safe drinking water, I probably wouldn’t agree, as some promoters might say, that they “deserve” those things.  I hope I’m making myself clear.  Some people should receive assistance not because they “deserve” it but because they have a basic right to it.

            The centurion in today’s gospel would have been entitled to certain privileges because of the rank he had attained.  By rights, he probably could have made certain demands on Jesus.  But this Roman official had two laudable insights: 1) he knew how authority worked and 2) he recognized that Jesus could exercise that authority over disease even from a distance.  Though we have never known his name, his faith and humility are etched in the annals of Church history as we echo his words at every Mass: “Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof….”  Lord, I do not deserve a soul-healing; I am not entitled to it; but I hope your mercy will provide it.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

First Sunday of Advent, 11-27-16

In days to come,
the mountain of the LORD’s house
shall be established as the highest mountain
and raised above the hills.
All nations shall stream toward it;
many peoples shall come and say:
“Come, let us climb the LORD’s mountain,
to the house of the God of Jacob,
that he may instruct us in his ways,
and we may walk in his paths.”

As I have in the past, I will try to offer some reflections on the daily readings for Advent.

This morning I was able to attend one of the Spanish Masses at St. John the Baptist Church in Joliet, IL.  For the Responsorial Psalm, the choir sang one of my favorite songs.  It begins Qué alegría cuando me dijeron: "Vamos a la casa del Señor.”  Or in English: “I rejoiced when I heard them say, let us go to God’s house.”  (Psalm 122) 

Having been involved in parish ministry for nearly 40 years, I sometimes wondered how many people in the congregation rejoiced to come to God’s house.  Or were they there simply out of habit or a sense of obligation?

“Zeal” is a word we don’t hear much any more—perhaps because in modern times it has picked up overtones of being inflexible and lacking in compassion.  But essentially zeal is the eagerness to do God’s will and to enter into God’s Presence.

Zeal is an eagerness to “climb the Lord’s mountain…that he may instruct us in his ways, and we may walk in his paths.”  It is the grace that allows us to rejoice in the opportunity to enter into

God’s house.

Beyond the preparation for the coming feast of Christmas, Advent calls us to ready ourselves for the Lord’s Second Coming.  If we are zealous in entering into the Presence of the Lord on earth, the Second Coming should hold no fear for us.  Rather, we will transition gently from earthly Presence to eternal Presence.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

More Celebrations

This past Sunday, June 5, I was in Chicago for Mass at Corpus Christi Church.  The parish was honoring Sr. Marilyn Freking and Sr. Ann Rubly who have decided to retire and move to the motherhouse in Dubuque, IA.  Sr. Ann has served at Corpus Christi for 44 years; Sr. Marilyn for 53.

The Mass was well-attended by parishioners, former students, and the Dubuque Franciscans.

To honor the Franciscan Sisters as well as the friars of Sacred Heart Province, the pastor dedicated the courtyard in the name of the Franciscans.

On Monday, June 6, at St. Peter Cathedral in Belleville, IL, Bishop Edward Braxton presided at a Mass to honor the priests celebrating milestone jubilees of ordination.  One of the honorees (or some might say "orneries" in this case) was Fr. Christian Reuter who is celebrating his 50th jubilee of ordination.  Chris worked for years at Hales Franciscan High School in Chicago and followed me as pastor at Corpus Christi.

O God, please call more women and men to generously serve the Church as sisters, brothers, and priests!

Friday, June 3, 2016

Celebration of the Sacred Heart of Jesus: Litany

Today, June 3, is the feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus--the patron of our Franciscan Province.  May the wounded Heart of Christ inspire the friars and all Christians to be more generous in their love and in their willingness to sacrifice for others.

Here is part of the Litany of the Sacred Heart that is found in our Province's Franciscans at Prayer.

God our Father in heaven  (Have mercy on us...)

God the Son, Redeemer of the world

God the Holy Spirit

Holy Trinity, one God

Heart of Jesus, Son of the eternal Father

Heart of Jesus, formed by the Holy Spirit in the womb of the Virgin Mother

Heart of Jesus, one with the eternal Word

Heart of Jesus, infinite in majesty

Heart of Jesus, holy temple of God

Heart of Jesus, tabernacle of the Most High

Heart of Jesus, house of God and gate of heaven

Heart of Jesus, aflame with love for us

Heart of Jesus, source of justice and love

Heart of Jesus, full of goodness and love

Heart of Jesus, well-spring of all virtue

Heart of Jesus, worthy of all praise

Heart of Jesus, king and center of all hearts

Heart of Jesus, treasure-house of wisdom and knowledge

Heart of Jesus, in whom there dwells the fullness of God

Heart of Jesus, in whom the Father is well pleased

Heart of Jesus, from whose fullness we have all received

Heart of Jesus, desire of the eternal hills

Heart of Jesus, patient and full of mercy

Heart of Jesus, generous to all who turn to you

Heart of Jesus, fountain of life and holiness

Heart of Jesus, atonement for our sins

Heart of Jesus, overwhelmed with insults

Heart of Jesus, broken for our sins

Heart of Jesus, obedient even to death

Heart of Jesus, pierced by a lance

Heart of Jesus, source of all consolation

Heart of Jesus, our life and resurrection

Heart of Jesus, our peace and reconciliation have mercy on us

Heart of Jesus, victim of our sins

Heart of Jesus, salvation of all who trust in you

Heart of Jesus, hope of all who die in you

Heart of Jesus, delight of all the saints

Father, we rejoice in the gifts of love we have received from the heart of Jesus, your Son.  Open our hearts to share his life and continue to bless us with his love.  We ask this in the name of Jesus, the Lord.  Amen.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Hospital Sisters of St. Francis: Springfield, IL

On Saturday and Sunday of Memorial Day weekend, I got an opportunity to visit with the Franciscan friars in Springfield, IL.  The friary is on the grounds of the Hospital Sisters of St. Francis.  This is where the sisters have their motherhouse, retirement center, and the Chiara Center, a retreat facility that is much-appreciated by those who have been there.  Here are a few photos:

The statue in the cemetery reminds me of an experience
 in Assisi back in  1995.  I was looking for a statue of
Francis with the wolf of Gubbio for one of my sisters, and the
owner of the store showed me a small statue similar to this one
and then tried to convince me that the animal was really a wolf--
it just looked like a sheep.

There were several cemetery areas.  It made me think about all
the sisters who had dedicated their lives to caring for the sick.  How
many people living today are descendants of ancestors whose
lives were saved through the ministrations of the sisters?

Entrance to the Chiara Center

Entrance to the main church

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Advice from St. Clare (2nd Letter to Blessed Agnes of Prague)

Here are words of advice offered by Clare to Agnes.  The centuries have not weakened the power of that advice:

What you hold, may you continue to hold, 
what you do, may you keep doing and not stop,  
but with swift pace, nimble step, and feet that do not stumble 
so that even your walking does not raise any dust, 
may you go forward tranquilly, joyfully, briskly, and cautiously 
along the path of happiness,  
trusting in no one and agreeing with no one 
insofar as he might want to dissuade you 
from pursuing your founding purpose 
or might place a stumbling block in your way, 
preventing you, in that perfection 
with which the Spirit of the Lord has called you, 
from fulfilling your vows to the Most High.

Monday, May 9, 2016

Franciscans in Northern Wisconsin: Ashland, the Early Years

While the friars of the Province are familiar with it, not many others know about the book Heralds of the King by Fr. Marion Habig, OFM.  The book, published by the now-defunct Franciscan Herald Press, was compiled to celebrate the centennial anniversary of the friars' arrival from Germany.  It is a history of the Province up until 1958, and records many of the significant events and pioneer friars who helped make us who we are today.  I hope to publish occasional excerpts from Heralds of the King to help others appreciate the work of the friars who came before us.

Here is an excerpt concerning my hometown of Ashland, WI.  The church, while I was growing up, was placed under the patronage of St. Agnes.  When Holy Family Parish and St. Agnes were combined, the name was changed to Our Lady of the Lake.

St. Francis  Friary  and  Parish  in Ashland

The first settlers came to Ashland in 1854; but, as in the case of Superior, the town began to decline in 1857, and two years later only one family remained. Some of the former settlers returned in 1872, but in 1878 when Father Verwyst first visited Ashland it was only a poor hamlet with a few dozen houses. At that time it was served by only one railroad, the Wisconsin Central. By 1904, three other lines, the Northern Pacific, the Chicago and Northwestern, and the Omaha Railroad, came into Ashland; and the city had several large ore and coal docks, saw mills, blast furnaces, and other manufacturing establishments.

In 1855, Father Augustine Benoit offered up holy Mass for the first time in Ashland in an Indian wigwam; and from 1872 to 1878, Fathers Quigley and Schuettelhofer held divine services there occasionally. When the Franciscans came to Bayfield in 1878, Ashland became one of their mission stations. At that time there ,were 25 Indian and White families in the town who were Catholics. 

A small church which had been begun by Father Schuettelhofer in 1874 was completed by Father Casimir in 1879.  The following year he added a belfry. In 1882, Father Eustace Vollmer built an addition to the church, 22 by 30 feet, and added  a small room in the rear for the use of the priest. The latter was so small that two single bedsteads filled all the available space. Before this room was built, the visiting missionary friar often spent the night in a small, partially open compartment in the belfry, surrounded by sleeping birds and flying bats. A school was opened at Ashland in 1883.

By 1886 the parish in Ashland had grown to such an extent, that  the building of a new church of brown sandstone and a brick veneered residence was commenced. The latter was completed the same year and erected into a separate friary. The work  on  the  church, however, progressed rather slowly, since the contractor proved to be inefficient. A part  of  the wall,  being  out  of plumb, had to be torn down and rebuilt; and a part of the steeple collapsed. The work was then placed in the hands of a capable contractor;  and  in  1887 the church  was  roofed  and  its  basement was made ready. The basement was then used  for divine services while the upper part of the church was being completed.  Finally in  1888  the church was dedicated under the patronage of St. Agnes.

The teachers of the parish school are Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration, who also founded an academy for girls. By  1904 the school was attended by 810 children, and the parish comprised about 640 families or 3,000 souls. It was a truly cosmopolitan parish, and in the course of time included Poles, Irish, Germans, Scotch, Bohemians, Lithuanians, English, Italians, Belgians, French, and Indians.  A new high school, called DePadua High School, was blessed, January 5, 1930.

Before 1904 the Poles had been  organized  into  a  separate  parish,  which in that year comprised about 1,500 souls and had 215 children attending its school. Since  the  number  of  Polish  families  was  increasing steadily, they had begun  already  in  1889  to  organize  themselves  with  a  view  to forming  a  separate  parish.  In  May,  1893, separate services for the Poles began to be held once a month in the basement of St. Agnes Church.  From about  1895  these  services  were  held  every   other   Sunday   and  on  holy   days   of   obligation.  

 Ground for a church and  school  of  their  own  was  purchased  in  1899  three blocks distant from St. Agnes Church; and in the fall of  the  following year, the school  and  the  basement  walls  of  the  church  were  built.  Holy  Mass  was celebrated  for  the  first  time  in  the  basement  on January 26, 1902, the feast  of  the  Holy  Family,  under  whose  patronage the church was to be dedicated.  The dedication took place on September  28  of  the  same year. The church  is  a  brick  structure,  128 by 54 feet, and cost $30,000. One of  the Franciscans  residing  at  St.  Agnes Friary is  the  pastor  of  this  parish.  And the  teachers  in  the  school are Franciscan Sisters of LaCrosse, Wisconsin.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Franciscans in Africa: Article on the Year of Mercy Project

The St. Louis Review (the archdiocesan newspaper) has an article about the Sacred Heart Province's Year of Mercy project in the current edition.  To see the article, use this link:

St. Louis Review article

If you would, please pass this information along to your various contacts.  Thanks!

Peace and every good,
Fr. John Eaton, OFM
Director, Franciscan Charities

Monday, April 25, 2016

Sweet Holy Spirit: Annual Revival, St. Augustine of Hippo, East St. Louis, IL

St. Augustine Parish in East St. Louis, IL, recently celebrated their annual revival.  This year's revival preacher was Fr. Maurice Nutt, C.Ss.R.

Father Nutt is currently a member of the Redemptorist Parish Mission Preaching Team based in Chicago, IL.  Additionally he is a member of the faculty of the Institute for Black Catholic Studies at Xavier University of Louisiana, New Orleans, where he teaches Preaching.  He has written three books:  Thea Bowman:  In My Own Words, Advent and Christmas Wisdom from St. Alphonsus Liguori, and Lent and Easter Wisdom from St. Alphonsus Liguori.  Father Nutt is also a contributor to the African American Catholic Youth Bible, a collaborative project between the National Black Catholic Congress and St. Mary’s Press.  He has also published many articles about preaching, evangelization and stewardship.

For the closing evening of the revival, the choir from St. Alphonsus Parish (aka, the Rock) in St. Louis helped provide the music.  The youth choir from St. Augustine also did a wonderful job as did the Praise Dancers.  Here are some photos:

Fr. Maurice Nutt

The St. Augustine Praise Dancers

Choir from "The Rock" Catholic Church in St. Louis

Sr. Thea Bowman Catholic School: Spring Concert

Sr. Thea Bowman School is the only Catholic grade school in East St. Louis, IL. My brother, Br. Tom Eaton, OFM, teaches religion and computer classes there.

The school curriculum is unusual in that it features music and dance components. All the students from kindergarten through 8th grade receive violin lessons. All the students learn the elements of dance, and the older students receive additional lessons in ballroom dancing. Here are some photos from the spring concert on April 24.

The school is doing a great job with limited financial resources and recurring problems with the physical plant (roof, windows, etc.) If you would like to make a donation or receive more information about how you can help, please contact Roberta Trost at 618-397-0316.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Franciscans in Asia: Friar Jeff Haller, OFM

Sacred Heart Province recently received the following report from Fr. Jeff Haller, OFM.


I just returned from a month of teaching in Yangon, the largest city and former capital of Myanmar (Burma).  Last year the friars of the Myanmar (OFM) Foundation and the FMM (Franciscan Missionaries of Mary) in Myanmar decided to collaborate in organizing a teaching program---which will perhaps develop into an institute---open to the public. Since we had a break in our academic year in Thailand, and the Minister General encouraged us in Thailand to seek closer collaboration with our brothers in Myanmar, I offered to help them in their program during the brief period I was available. Most of the students were of university-age or close to it. 

What struck me as commendable, in addition to the educational assistance in English that was being given, was the way that Christians, Buddhists and Muslims were coming together with mutual respect to further their education. We teachers were all friars and sisters of St Francis, but we made the classes very inclusive to those who came through the door.  In addition to the different religious identities represented, we had a variety of Myanmar’s ethnic identities: those who were of the majority Burmese population, but also those who were of Tamil and Telugu backgrounds (India) and some from the Myanmar states of Chin, Mandalay, Kachin, Kayin, and Shan.

One of the benefits of being in Yangon at this time was the opportunity to celebrate Holy Week with the Burmese.  Probably the highlight for me was to attend Easter morning mass at the cathedral in Yangon’s city center; the celebrant was Cardinal Charles Bo, who last year made history for the Church in being named Myanmar’s first cardinal ever. [ Catholic new sources state:  “Bo's appointment as Myanmar's first cardinal is seen as support for his efforts to push national reconciliation, peace, justice and freedom as his people struggle with religious and ethnic tensions and other problems.”] 

Cardinal Bo gave a homily which probably would have been unthinkable even 5 years ago. He cited some of the problems that have plagued the nation in the past and kept it in a “crucified” state.  Not surprisingly, he mentioned Aung San Suu Kyi and the obstacles she has had to overcome to reach her current role in the new government (which became empowered on March 30---the first civilian-elected government in 50 years). He also included Martin Luther King and Barack Obama among the persons who represent hope over oppression.  I was able to chat briefly with Cardinal Bo after mass and thanked him for the very upbeat tone of “resurrection” he shared with the congregation;  Easter as it should be!     

  --Jeff Haller, ofm

[Article appeared in the Sacred Heart Province ATP April 12, 2016]

Displaying Cardinal Charles Bo Easter Day  2016.JPG

Franciscans in Africa: Fr. Damien Isabell, OFM

Fr. Damien Isabell has been serving in the Democratic Republic of Congo (formerly Zaire) for over 30 years. Besides teaching in the local Franciscan seminary, he has also taken on the job of housing, feeding, and providing education and technical training for some of the homeless boys in the area.  The last I heard, there were 27 boys in his care.

Fr. Damien recently sent some photos.  Since the DRC does not have a celebration comparable to the USA's Thanksgiving day, the boys designed their own thanksgiving celebration.  The local bishop and some Third Order members came to join in the festivities.  Fr. Damien's note indicated that when the kids started dancing, others in the area joined in.

Also, Fr. Damien got the rare privilege of being invited to baptize some of the boys during the Easter celebration.  Here are some of the pictures we received.

To make a donation to support Fr. Damien's work in the DRC, please contact Br. Joseph Rogenski, FMU, 3140 Meramec St., St. Louis, MO, 63118.  If you wish to donate online, please click on this link which will take you to the Franciscan Charities webpage:  Franciscan Charities

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Extension Society Lumen Christi Awards

Every year, the Extension Society recognizes a Church minister to receive the Lumen Christi award.  This year there is a long list of nominees.  I was pleasantly surprised to see Sr. Phyllis Wilhelm on the list.  Sr. Phyllis is a Joliet Franciscan.  She and I worked together in Bayfield, WI, where she was responsible for ministry and catechesis on the Red Cliff (Ojibway) Reservation.  Sr. Phyllis has dedicated a significant portion of her religious life ministering in the Native American community.

To see the list of nominees and to read Sr. Phyllis' and others' summaries, please click on this link.

Lumen Christi Nominees

Kevin Delgado

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Quincy, IL: One of USA Today's top college towns

In case you missed it, Quincy, IL, was ranked #19 on USA Today's list of the 25 top college towns in the country.  In part, here's what was written:

Although its population isn’t as young, on average, as most of the other cities in our analysis, Quincy made the cut by largely by virtue of its low rent prices, which gave it a rent-to-earnings rank of fourth. It also ranked 13th for bars, with more than four per 10,000 residents. Located along the Mississippi River, Quincy gives residents plenty of options for things to do, including local museums, historical architecture and access to the Mississippi Valley Wine Trail. Quincy University, founded in 1860 by Franciscan Friars, today opens its doors to students of all faiths and enrolls around 1,500 students.
As a Wisconsin native, I should also point out that LaCrosse and Appleton made the list at #7 and #8 respectively.

I'm not sure why the number of bars plays into the ranking.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Franciscans in Alaska

A recent news article concerns a snowmobiler who hit and killed a sled dog during the famed Iditarod race.  The incident took place near Nulato, Alaska--where one of our friars, Br. Bobby Joe Ruzicka, is currently serving as the director of pastoral ministry.

After serving as a cook in Quincy and St. Louis and then as the Provincial Director of Vocation Promotion, Bobby Joe was among the first friars to go to the Diocese of Fairbanks in 1986.

Fr. Joe Hemmer was active in our education ministry from 1956 - 1979.  He then served as pastor of St. Jude Parish in Cleveland before spending a year doing campus ministry at Quincy (IL) University.  Fr. Joe came to Alaska in 1988 and is currently serving at Kaltag and Ruby.  Getting pretty close to 90 years old, Fr. Joe has enjoyed relatively good health for most of his life.  More recently, however, he has been battling cancer and some eye problems.

Br. Justin Huber is one of those men who can fix anything.  He worked at the brothers' school in Oak Brook, IL, from 1967 - 1980 before spending 10 years as a missionary in Zaire.  Back in the States, Br. Justin served as a technical consultant at Padua High School (Parma, OH) and then headed the maintenance staff in St. Francis Village in Crowley, TX.  From 1995 - 2000, he joined Fr. Tom Vos in the Franciscan Mountain Ministries in northeast TN.  Justin went to Alaska in 2000 and is currently living in Galena.

These three friars were nominated to receive the Extension Society's Lumen Christi award in 2014.  Here's a link to an article about them:

Franciscans in AL

Other friars from Sacred Heart Province have made the trek to the Fairbanks diocese in order to provide assistance as needed.

To support the friar missionaries in Alaska, please contact Br. Joe Rogenski at the Franciscan Missionary Union at 314-655-0547.  To donate online, please find us at

Friday, March 11, 2016

Franciscans in Prison Ministry: Fr. Christian Reuter, OFM

During this Year of Mercy, we remember that one of the Corporal Works of Mercy is to "visit the imprisoned."  I received a recent e-mail from a long-time friend, Martin A. Berg, which provided links to a wide spectrum of information on prison ministry.  Marty went on to say that he felt that prisoners were population most underserved by the Church.

Fr. Christian Reuter (whom I live with in East St. Louis) is the coordinator of prison ministry for the Diocese of Belleville.  On March 9, he and his associates were in Joliet, IL, to give a presentation to about 70 people interested in prison ministry.  The presentation was based on the dynamics of the Easter Vigil and was so named: "This Is the Night When Christ Broke the Prison Bars of Death."

Here is Chris' summary of the presentation:

The program was entitled: "This Is the Night When Christ Broke the Prison Bars of Death", a quote taken directly from the Easter Proclamation. It was loosely modeled on the liturgical structure of the Holy Saturday Vigil. I did the oral presentation from notes while the Power Point slides were projected on a large screen. We also used a Paschal candle, water sprinkling, and a number of musical selections.

In the first half ("Light the Fire" and "Tell the Story"), the goal was to get the participants to understand how criminal justice, which the U.S. bishops have labeled "a broken system", got into such a dark night. This entailed a look at incarceration through long ages of civil and church history. The second half ("Sign Me Up" and "Open the Door"), invited participants to renew their baptismal promises in a creative way and to consider how they might offer themselves in some form of criminal justice ministry--either in Justice Advocacy or in Pastoral Care.

I was assisted in the oral presentation by two eloquent "witnesses". In the first half, a former prisoner who had spent twelve years in solitary confinement gave a riveting description of what that does to an incarcerated person. In the second half Lou Slapshak, who is my "Co-Coordinator" of Prison Ministry in the Belleville Diocese, spoke of his calling to lay ministry and how that has radically changed his life. The program ended with "Open the Door of Mercy," an original composition from Immaculate Conception Parish in Columbia IL. The song's composers (Karen Lundy and Marybeth Babcock) journeyed all the way to Joliet to teach and conduct the commissioning song that concluded the evening.

Anyone seeking more information can contact me by email ( Also, the website of our developing reentry house ( contains a wealth of content and links on Catholic prison ministries.

Fr. Chris and his committee are actively working to found a "reentry" house to help ex-convicts to transition back into the larger society.  Chris has given the website above; donations are welcomed.

Disqus for Fr. John Eaton, OFM