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