September 27-October 12, 2017: Amazon Valley, Brazil
For two weeks, I traveled 900 miles along the Amazon River from Manaus in the west to Belem at the mouth of the Amazon. I stopped at Santarem, took a boat for two hours and then a car drive for one hour to visit Monte Alegre. I was visiting Franciscan Friars who minister in those cities. In 1943, four Franciscan Friars from my Province of the Sacred Heart in the midwest were missioned to preach in Santarem. At one time, there were 60 American Friars building the Kingdom of God in the villages along the Amazon and the Tapajos River, a tributary of the Amazon that is longer than the Mississippi. Today, there are seven American Friars in the Amazon Valley and 40 Brazilian Friars.
I was involved in two spirit-filled processions: on the Feast of St Francis, a procession carrying a statue of St Francis for an hour through the streets of Monte Alegre with hundreds of people praying the rosary and singing hymns to Mary and Francis. The second procession was a million people in Belem in honor of Our Lady of Nazareth. Two days of celebrating, of a parade of boats, of two processions with the 12 inch statue of Mary, carnivals, street celebrations.... Belem's population is 1.3 million people. During these days of the great Cirio (Procession), the population of Belem goes up to 2.3 million, people from all over Brazil come for this feast. Amazing!
I have heard of these cities on the Amazon since 1954, my first year in the seminary in Westmont. What a blessing to meet all the Friars ministering to God's people!
September 17-22, 2017: Memphis TN - Workshop on Psalms to Poor Clares
Twenty years ago, I preached a retreat to these Poor Clare Cloistered Sisters. Today there are six Sisters: one is in a Nursing Home, another was taken to the hospital early in the week, another spends the day at the nursing home with the Sisters who is there. So at time, twice there were four Sisters present, other times three and several times only two Sisters in me. But I carried on as if there were thirty Sisters present. I had a handout prepared for each session - two sessions each day for five days. I prayed the Liturgy of the Hours with the Sisters and celebrated Mass with them.
I have been offering retreats and workshops on the Psalms for the last six years because I wanted to learn more about the psalms. The old saying is still true: "If you want to learn something, teach it." And so I have been learning much about the "Poems to be sung" - the Greek meaning of the word Psalm or the Hebrew word use to described the Book of Psalms: "Tehilim" - Praises. The Psalms give us words to express our nitty-gritty feelings and experiences. The Psalms free us to stand before God as we are - honestly and freely.
August 28-September 13, 2017: Rome
Two plus weeks in Rome by myself with no group, no schedule, no plan, no bus to catch, no guide to meet and listen to. Just a leisure Roman Holiday. I stayed at the Hotel Il Cantico that is owned by the Franciscan Order and is located at the foot of the hill down from the General Curia of the OFM, Franciscan Order. I had stayed at Il Cantico twice before with groups. This new, modern hotel is a ten minute walk from St Peter's at the Vatican. Each day I would discover new places in Rome, revisit well known places and in each church, piazza, museum, fountain, monument I would spend from 15 min to five hours. I had in my hand two books of the history and description of each place. What a wonderful five hours I spent in Piazza Navona. Yes, of course I enjoyed the famous ice cream treat called Tartufo. A small string and piano orchestra was about to play I Quattro Stagione/The Four Seasons by Vivaldi. I bought a ticket and enjoyed this concert offered in the sacristy of Santa Agnese in Agone. One morning I walked to St Peter's to celebrate Mass at one of the "side" altars that are larger than most church altars. On one Sunday I concelebrated at the Sung Mass at St Peter's - one Cardinal, a few Bishops, several Monsignori, 40 priests, some 400 laity, full organ and men's choir --- Ah! "Just a little bit of heaven fell from out the sky one day." I returned that same afternoon for Solemn Vespers. Wow! I saw Pope Francis twice, always a blessing.
The food in Italy is so fresh and delicious. Il Cantico suggested
July 22-29, 2017: Preached retreat to Franciscan Sisters in Syracuse NY
For seven days, I preached 10 conferences and 7 homilies, celebrated mass each day and celebrated the Sacrament of Penance plus lots of individual conferences. 56 Franciscan Sisters were on retreat. A grand experience for me to preach and celebrate Liturgy - two of my great loves that I have been doing for 50 years. This could well be my last retreat to preach. "The old grey stallion ain't what he used to be." I flew home to Chicago Saturday evening and surrendered to the sheets for 10 1/2 hours. When I begin preaching for a week, the adrenaline starts flowing and does not stop until the last Amen of the last conference. Then the switch turns the adrenaline off completely. Tired? Beyond tired and exhausted. More like numb. But after a couple nights of good and long sleep in my old bed- ah! it feels so good to feel good again. The hospitality was warm and caring, loving and tender - Franciscan style. This is the community that gave us St Marianne Cope of Molokai - she left Syracuse in the 1870's to help St Damien of Molokai care for the lepers - the people with Hansen's Disease. St Marianne was canonized in 2012, a few years after St Damien. So one afternoon Sr Francis James drove me from the Franciscan Villa for 20 minutes to downtown Syracuse to visit the St Marianne Cope Shrine and Museum. So well done! Many professionally set up displays of her history and of the work she did on Molokai at Kalaupapa, caring for a thousand lepers. I had had the honor of standing at her grave in Kalaupapa, Molokai - Hawaii, two times when I celebrated Mass in St Francis of Assisi Church for the people with Hansen's Disease. So I left feeling blessed in so many ways. And a few pounds heavier from all that good Franciscan cooking.
June 26-July 6, 2017: Spain - 5 Art Museums and Footsteps of St Ignatius
June 18-23, Provincial Chapter in St Louis MO
June 4-9, 2017: Preached Retreat to Franciscan Sisters in Wheaton IL
May 22-26, 2017: Guest at St John Baptist Provincial Chapter
For the first time, five of the Province of OFM Franciscans in the USA held Provincial Chapters. Three Friars from the other five chapters could attend each of the other Chapters. So I took the opportunity to have the experience of "getting to know you, getting to know all about you." I was there for five days at St Meinrad's Archabbey Benedictine Abbey in southern Indiana. Wonderful experience of Brotherhood. I knew several of the Friars and got to meet many more. I even played the pipe organ for the last Mass. Each of our Provinces has its own history, spirit, cultural background...and we are all Friars with the same Rule of Life and Constitutions. We are all much older, fewer and have very few new vocations. So let's unite in ministry and in sharing life. Next May will be another meeting in each of the six Provinces. Then we will see. We can each decide to stay our own Province and leave the table of discussion about a shared future or vote to continue in the conversation and planning.
God help us all through this decision process. The who process will take another seven to nine years. How many of us will still be alive and well by then.
April 17-26: Poor Clares in Omaha NE
I flew on Southwest Airlines for the hour flight from Chicago to Omaha. I will be teaching and preaching to seven Poor Clare Nuns. The morning conference will be on the Liturgy (Mass, Sacraments, Hours) and the afternoon conference will be on singing - new chant tones, hymns, etc. I am in paradise - Liturgy and Music. My life! I preached a retreat to them all six years ago. Since several have died. Of the seven nuns here now, two are from Tanzania and one from Mexico. They are hoping for three new ladies who may be coming soon. Hope so!
My first time to Omaha was in 1955 - I was between freshman and sophomore year in High School. I accompanied Fr Tarsicius to Boys Town for a two week liturgical workshop. 62 years later I return to give my own workshop on liturgical music.
I may find time to visit the Priests' Section of the Catholic Cemetery in Omaha to find the grave of Msgr. Joseph Faso, who was from Caccamo, Sicily, ordained in Sicily, and ministered to the Sicilians and many others in Omaha. So another Faso in Omaha. I will check the phone book for any other living Faso's here. You never know!
Continue celebrating Easter for 50 days from yesterday, Easter, to Pentecost!
March 5-25: In the Holy Land with two different groups of pilgrims
Three weeks in the Holy Land with 20 pilgrims in the first group from Chicago and 44 pilgrims in the second group from Orlando, Florida to San Francisco, CA.
In between groups, I stayed with Amos and Nili Mazur in Tel Aviv - time to rest and do laundry in preparation for the next group. Great experience for everyone. That is the reason I continue to offer this pilgrimage to the Holy Land and this was my 39th and 40th pilgrimage. The reason is what happens to the pilgrims: their understanding and experience of the Bible, of Jesus, of the Biblical Stories all come to life and become real and three dimensional. Beside the religious and spiritual experiences, there is the understanding of the lived experience there today between Israel and Palestine. What a blessing for everyone, me too!
How can you share the experience of
Thoughts for Ash Wednesday from Fr. Chuck Faso OFM – March 1, 2017
March 1: Ash Wednesday & the beginning of Lent
Lent: a time for Fasting and Feasting!
Lent: Anglo-Saxon word that means Springtime!
March 1 begins the journey to Easter for the whole Church.
First of all, Lent is the final and intense preparation for Catechumens as they prepare to enter the Church at the Vigil Service on Holy Saturday night through the Sacraments of Initiation of Baptism, Confirmation and Eucharist. We who are baptized make this journey with the Catechumens as we support them with our prayer and example of conversion.
Secondly, these Forty Days invite us who are Baptized to greater conversion to the Gospel by means of Prayer, Fasting and Almsgiving.
At the Easter Vigil Service and at all the Masses on Easter Sunday, all Catholics will be invited to renew our Baptismal vows – those six questions which ask us what we reject and what we believe. And our answer to each question is the resounding “I do!” Our Lenten practice of prayer and fasting and reaching out to others in charity will prepare us to let our “I do!” response come up from a deep place within our hearts.
Remember THE question in the past for Lent was “What are you giving up for Lent? Candy, TV, movies, desserts, fighting with my siblings,…?”
Perhaps we need to ask another question:
What I am going to Fast from and Feast on during Lent? Perhaps:
-Fast from prejudice and Feast on understanding
-Fast from gossip and Feast of kindness
-Fast from impatience with others and Feast on Compassion
-Fast from words and Feast on Silence
-Fast from judging and Feast on Words that Build Up Others
-Fast from discontentment and Feast on Gratitude
-Fast from anger and Feast on patience
-Fast from pessimism and Feast on Optimism
-Fast from worry and Feast on God’s Providence
-Fast from complaining and Feast on Appreciation
-Fast from discouragement and Feast on Hope
-Fast from suspicion and Feast on Truth
Pick one of these Fasting and Feasting actions for each day during Lent. Add your own Fasting and Feasting actions to this list. Nature abhors a vacuum. So don’t just Fast, but also Feast. Don’t just give up. Also do something.
Fill up the hole from giving up with some “delicious” virtue and value. What a Lent this will be! What an Easter celebration of new life this Easter of 2017 will be – this Lent and Easter that never happened before and will never happen again.
Let’s pray for each other on this Lenten Journey.
What a glorious new Gospel “outfit” we will be wearing on Easter.
Happy Lent-ing all the way to Easter!
February 1-20, 2017: Chile, Argentina and Brazil
Thirty-four of us flew on United from Houston Non-Stop to Santiago, Chile. Our travels during this next three weeks took us to Argentina to see the Iguazu Falls and then to beautiful Buenos Aires - I thought I was in Paris. Two plane rides took us through Brasilia and on to Salvador then to Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo.
January 30, 2017: Another Birthday - #76, somehow, all of a sudden!
January 15-21, 2017: Retreat in Little Falls MN
I flew from Midway Airport to Minneapolis on Jan 15, then using the rented car that the Sisters arranged for me, I drove the two and a half hours further north to Little Falls. The Franciscan Sisters invited me to preach a retreat on the Psalms. I began preaching on the Psalms about four years ago because I wanted to know more about the Psalms myself. We pray the Psalms everyday in the Liturgy of the Hours, during Mass, and in the Sacraments. So, let's learn more about them. For example, the 150 Psalms in the Bible are divided into five books each book ending with a Doxology - a shout of praise. The word Psalm is a Greek word that means "a poem to be sung." The Psalms are a collection of songs, prayers, poems written over 400 years to express both individual and community needs, hopes, joys and sorrows. More later.
Forty Sisters participated in the retreat. I was truly blessed by being with the Sisters and praying with them at Mass and Liturgy of the Hours. The Sisters reminded me that I preached a retreat in their Motherhouse ten years ago. Was good to be back.
December 25, 2016: Christmas
December 11-17, 2016: Workshop on Psalms for Poor Clares in New Orleans
December 9-11, 2016: My Godson's Wedding in New Orleans
November 24, 2016: Thanksgiving Day
Much to be thankful for including all of you. I will spend the day with my sister Mary and friends in Chicago Heights. Mary lives in the same home our Father bought in 1950, where we all grew up, where we gathered to celebrate life and laugh and to cry about our losses of loved ones. Every room has tons of memories of Mother and Dad, of John, Joe, Mary, Polly and me. In one of the bedroom, in 1974, I was alone with my Grandmother as she breathed her last and died. Yes, "Let us give thanks to the Lord our God." May memories of your life stir deep and wide, joyous and uplifting gratitude in your hearts this Thanksgiving Day. Happy Thanksgiving!
November 10-14, 2016 - Visiting Friends in Kansas City MO
This morning Fr Charles Payne ofm with whom I live in Countryside drove me to Midway Airport to fly on Southwest Airlines for 59 minutes to Kansas City. Joe Ungashick picked me up and we drove to Q39 for a delicious Kansas City Barbecue lunch and then on to his home. Joe and I met in 1975 - Joe was a Sophomore at University of Notre Dame in South Bend IN and I was studying Liturgy. We have stayed in touch all these 41 years. Two months ago Joe stayed with me for a few nights with Buzz, Joe's classmate at ND and lives now in California. Friendship over the decades is a precious gift that one needs to hold and love and nourish. Thanks for this gift, O God, Giver of all good gifts.
October 26-30, 2016 - Visiting Friends in Teutopolis IL
I studied Theology in Teutopolis IL 1964-1968. During those exciting years of Vatican II Council in Rome, I was out and about Teutopolis and other towns in the area and thus got to know many families. In 1974, I officiated at the wedding of Karen and Bruce, baptized some of their eighty children and grandchildren. So every now and then I need to return to T-Town and Effingham Country to be face to face with these people who touched me so then and during the years. God bless T-Town!
September 14 - October 7, 2016 - Sicily & Rome/Assisi with groups
Two wonderful weeks in Sicily with 33 people and then two more weeks in Rome and Assisi with another 22 people who arrived from Chicago to Rome after the first group returned to Chicago. I stayed for three days with the Friars at the Antonianum which allowed me to do laundry from the Sicily Trip. All was good and beautiful and delicious and delightful. In Italy, we visited a city that I had never been to before: Bagno Regio (Bath of the King) where St Bonaventure, Friar and called the Seraphic Doctor, was born c. 1224. My 75 year old body was very tired/exhausted after these two weeks of busses and mountains,.... My spirit was elevated and blessed by it all!
August 22-26, 2016 - In Maine with Fr Bob Hutmacher OFM
Bob Hutmacher OFM and I have been spending wonderful days in Kennebunkport and Kennebunk, Maine. No talks, no schedule, no places we have to see. Vacation! We have stayed at the Franciscan Monastery in Kennebunk - from here we drove to Lewiston, Augusta, Portland, Saco and places in-between always coming back each evening to Kennebunk. Yesterday we enjoyed a bounding boat ride on the Atlantic Ocean and watched the crew pull up three lobster traps holding several lobsters. Learned much about the long life of lobsters unless they enter a trap. I enjoyed eating Lobster each day in many different forms. We return home today - drive for an hour to Boston Logan Airport and fly home - 2 hours and 15 minute flight. A most delightful and relaxing vacation!
August 21, 2016
Today was the third Sunday of the Month which means I drive 50 miles to Crystal Lake IL to participate in the Secular Franciscan Fraternity Gathering - we prayer, eat, learn about our common Franciscan Vocation - me as a Friary Priest of the 1st Order and the twenty Lay people who live the Gospel life in the world as married or single, working or retired, etc. My role is that of the Spiritual Assistant. Formerly called the Chaplain. I participate in the all the discussions and prayers and share in our discussions of Gospel Life. The Twenty people are committed and joyful in their spiritual journey. Today, we enjoyed our annual Mass and Picnic. We met at Laura's home in Union IL - west of Woodstock. Laura and her husband have seven acres. Laura invited friends and several children joined us too. A beautiful sunny August day!
From there, I drove to visit dear friends in North Barrington - I officiated at their wedding, baptized three of their children and am Godfather for of their three sons. A blessing to be with them and to catch up on their summer activities of a week of mission service in Guatemala and a family vacation on Shelter Island NY. Tomorrow two of them are off to school - Junior in HS and seventh grade. Another begins his second year at Catholic University of America while the second oldest begins his first year at St Louis University (Jesuits) in nursing. How good to see them growing in grace, age and wisdom.
August 1-14, 2016
These first two weeks of August had me traveling to Ft Myers Beach, Florida,
to Mishawaka IN, and to Valparaiso IN. Florida: as I did for a week in April, I taught seven Poor Clare Cloistered Nuns music and Liturgy. Mishawaka IN: to visit the Sisters of St Francis of Perpetual Adoration, my teachers at St Agnes Grace School from 1946-1954. Valparaiso IN: to visit my niece and three great nieces. Ever onward!
Two Prayers of St. Ignatius of Loyola on July 31st - his Feast Day
Take, Lord, and receive all my liberty,
my memory, my understanding,
and my entire will,
All I have and call my own.
You have given all to me.
To you, Lord, I return it.
Everything is yours; do with it what you will.
Give me only your love and your grace,
that is enough for me.
Teach us, good Lord,
to serve you as you deserve;
to give and not to count the cost;
to fight and not to heed the wounds;
to toil and not to seek for rest;
to labour and not to ask for any reward,
save that of knowing that we do your will.
July 30-August 5, 2016: Teaching Poor Clares in Ft Myers Beach FL
On July 30, my alarm rang loudly at 3:00 AM, the American Taxi arrived at our Friary of St Gratian in Countryside IL at 3:30 AM (Great time to take a taxi to Midway Airport - not another car on the streets), in line by 3:50 AM with hundreds of other travelers (Why weren't they in bed at the hour?), by 4: 30 AM I was at Gate B7 with a plane full of tired looking fellow passengers. Departure on time at 5:30 AM. By 9:45 AM we were landing in Ft Myers FL International airport. Pick up my suitcase, rented a car, and was at the Monastery by 10:45 AM. I spent a week at San Damiano Monastery of Poor Clares in March. So, I was coming "home." Got settled, unpacked, ate some lunch, slept for in hour and was ready for the first music session with the seven Poor Clare Sisters at 2:00. The Sisters sing mostly chant, in English. Their chant music is from two Monasteries in England. In the 1960's, I studied Gregorian Chant and Liturgical Music for seven summers and then finished a degree in Music Education at DePaul University in Chicago. It is good to be "doing" music again.
The Sisters are delightful - from 98 years old to the 40's. Sr Paschal who is the 98 yr old Sisters with still and always a lovely Irish accent. Four of the Sisters are from the Philippines. Two from New England. They buy thousands of communion hosts from a company in Pennsylvania, then bag them for the different parishes in the Venice, FL diocese. The people of the Island are very generous to the Sisters with all kinds of food - meat, vegetables, fruits. The Sisters invite me to enjoy 5:00 PM supper with them each evening. We laugh and tell stories and even get serious - for a few moments. Cloistered Poor Clare Sisters are full of faith, joy and love. My Sisters in St Francis. For the last 30 years or so, we Friars never mention the name of St Francis without also saying the name of St Clare - two souls filled with one love for Christ Jesus - in the Crib, on the Cross, and on the Altar in the Eucharist. The Primacy of Christ - human and divine - is at the center of our Franciscan Spirituality. What a blessing for me to be here this week - and hour and a half talk and music practice in the morning and an hour of talks on the Liturgy in the afternoon. Thank you, God.
June 30-July 1, 2016: Secular Franciscan National Convention in St Louis MO
I drove from Countryside IL to the Renaissance Hotel at the St Louis Mo Airport. 650 Secular Franciscans arrived from New York to Guam in the Pacific, from Puerto Rico and Florida to Oregan & California.
June 20-22, 2016
These days were difficult and holy. I did vigil at Elmhurst Memorial Hospital when our Brother Leon Beranek, OFM, lay dying. Sister Death gently came on June 22 at 5:53 PM and led Leon to the embrace of God's mercy and love. Leon had lived here at St Gratian for c. 20 years, ever since the Province bought this house. At 81 years old, Leon had difficulty with balance. In March, he moved to Westchester Rehabilitation Center only 4 miles from St Gratian Friary where six of us Friars have been living; I have been here only three years. Leon was born in Chicago, the youngest of eights children. The day before he died, his older sister (94 yrs old) Marianna sat at his bedside in ICU and held his hand while looking loving at her youngest sibling. Marianna's four daughters and and several grandchildren spent much of the day in Leon's room.
Leon was in the army in Korea. He joined the Friars worked as electrician, in the Business Office of the Franciscan Outreach, and many other ministries. Leon sat next to be when we prayed. I spent nine hours with him during the last two days of his life. I prayed and sang and chanted the hymns. I do not know if he heard a word or a note. I needed to be with him, to accompany him on his last hours before his Passover to the next chapter of his life. We miss him, his humor, his faith, his fraternally concern and support for what we all were doing.
Fly on, Leon, to the embrace of God's mercy and love! Pray for us, your brothers!
May 19 - June 2, 2016: Aston PA
On May 19, the American Taxi was at my home in Countryside IL to pick up me and my bags for the 15 minute drive to Midway Airport. I had to stand in line for the security check for only 25 minutes. The full Southwest plane left on time. One hour and fifty minutes later we landed in Philadelphia. Two of the Sisters from the Franciscan Spirituality Center met me and drove the 30 minutes to the Center which is the former Novitiate wing. For 20 years, this wing has served thousands of men and women, religious and laity with hospitality for retreats, recollection, meetings. I have been here many times since I first was here 40 years ago. The Sister who began and still runs the Center and I were graduates at the University of Notre Dame, South Bend, IN, together in 1976. So here I am again on this beautiful property. (Photos are on my FaceBook page. I am still learning how to add photos on this GoDaddy website. Perhaps this week.) Enjoy these days of May!
May 14, 2016: Joliet - Preached to Secular Franciscans "On Mercy"
May 8-13, 2016: Preached a Retreat to OFM Friars in Burlington WI
May 5-8, 2016: St Cloud MN to attend a wedding.
April 10-16, 2016: With the Poor Clares in Ft Myers Beach FL
In February when I was visiting Dan Dolesh here in Ft Myers Beach FL, I saw the sign on a building on the property of the Catholic Parish - the sign read San Damiano Monastery of St Clare. I visited the Sisters. The Abbess remembered meeting me in 1966 in New York at Manhattanville College of the Sacred Heart in Purchase New York where I was studying Liturgical Music at the St Pius X School of Liturgical Music. The Abbess was there on Campus for a Poor Clare Conference. Mother Mary Frances said that I was sent from God for the Sisters had been praying for someone to come to them to help them with their singing Chant in English and to help three of the Sisters with their organ playing.
What a wonderful week it has been! I prayed with the Liturgy of the Hours with the seven Sisters, celebrated the 6:45 AM Mass for/with the Sisters, had singing/chanting/liturgy class with them for two hours in the morning and an hour of organ lessons in the afternoon with three of the Sisters. Suddenly the week is ended and I return to Chicago tomorrow. The Sisters keep saying: Now when you return next time,....... So Return I shall. What a joy-filled, loving community of women living the Rule of St Clare of Assisi (1253) and praying to God for hours each day for the the Church, the world, and for all the many intentions they receive on the phone, in letters, in emails. In 1987, the first Bishop of Venice FL asked the Poor Clares to come from Delray Beach FL Monastery to his diocese to pray for the priests of the Venice Diocese. And so the Sisters have done for several
During this week, I drove twenty miles south to Naples to visit the Primavera family who were originally from Chicago Heights - my home town. I officiated at their weddings, baptisms, etc. They all live in Naples now. Another family from Chicago who live here are the DeFrancesca's. Again I have officiated at the Liturgical moments in their family's history. One of the joys of getting older is the number of friends and memories and blessings that you experience through the decades. Thanks be to God for the Primavera's and the DeFrancesca's!
March 24-April 3, 2016: To Italy with the La Valle Family
A few months ago, the La Valle Family invited me as their guest to join the seven of them on a trip to Venice, Florence, Assisi, and Rome. So I of course said yes. Off we went for eleven days of great fun and excitement. We stayed at the Gritti Palace Hotel on the Grand Canal in Venice - we departed Holy Thursday night and arrived in Venice on Good Friday. I was able to participate in the 3:00 PM Stations of the Cross in St Mark's Basilica. Awesome. Holy Saturday evening, I concelebrated with the Archbishop of Venice, many priests and a Cathedral full of People. This four hour celebrated included the Blessings of the Fire, the Exsultet sung perfectly in the Latin Chant, all nine Scripture Readings, ten people were Baptized and Confirmed and then they received their first Communion - those great Sacraments of Initiation. Mass continued with glorious music that rolled around this 1000 year old Cathedral. The ceiling and upper walls are covered with gold mosaic of sciences from the Scriptures.
Then to Florence with a stop at the Ferrari Museum. In Florence, we stayed on the Arno River at the Piazza Ognisanti (All Saints). The Church in the piazza was our Franciscan Church - old and beautiful - where Amerigo Vespucci is buried - he drew on of the first maps of America, so called because of his name. We visited the Uffici Museum, awed the Michelangelo's David, stood at his tomb and the tomb of Galelio, Rossini, etc. in the great Church of Santa Croce (Holy Cross) served by the Conventual Franciscan Friars. We visited the Piti Palace and the church of San Mineato, both across the Arno River.
On our drive to Rome we visited Assisi for several hours. We walked from St Clare's Church through the center of town down to the Basilica of St Francis. Our visit ended with a delicious meal at Da Cecco restaurant within the wall of Assisi. Da Cecco means at Frankie's - Cecco is a nickname of Francesco. Rome awaited us. Our two vans and drivers stayed with us from Florence to Rome and drove to the front door of our hotel, the Hassler, at the top of the Spanish Stairs. Rome is always overwhelming and magnificent. An new adventure for me in Rome was the three hour ride on the back of a Vespa - eight Vespas, eight drivers, and the eight of us holding on for dear life and enjoying every curve and tight traffic situation. We stopped at several places for an explanation of what we were riding around - the Colosseum, the Baths of Caracalla, the Aventino and the Gianicolo Hills, the Appia Way, etc. Wow!
After a ride thirty miles south of Rome, we enjoyed the Gardens and Fountains of Tivoli. There is a Franciscan Parish Church in Tivoli where four Friars serve the people. Of course, such a day ends with a magnificent meal, outside under a vine of blossoming flowers and wine from the region.
Our non-stop flight on American Airlines from Rome to Chicago was smooth with lots of movies to watch between sleeping. Ah! Great Memories with the La Valle Family whom I have known for twenty-five years - wedding and baptisms, etc.
God bless the La Valle Family with Peace and Everything Good!
March 5-14, 2016: Vacation in Cape Coral, Florida
I flew on Southwest from Chicago to Ft Myers FL, rented a car at Budget/Avis and drove for 40 minutes to Cape Coral to spend a week with my sister Mary and with her friend Pat. Three days later my only nephew arrived for a week stay with Aunt Mary. Lots of relaxation in this beautiful home that Mary and Pat rented for a month. I become good walking friend to Pat's dog Frankie - a Labrodoodle - 85 pounds and friendly, sweet, obedient and patient. I would walk Frankie or he would take me for a walk. We would meet old and young including 85 yrs old Moshe born during Nazi times in Lithuania and Russia, a few years in the army in Israel and then to New York. We meet grandmas and grandchildren. We stop to visit younger people working in their front yards, like Angela and Bradley. One day we drove south 25 miles to visit Ft Myers Beach and the Poor Clares whom I will return to teach in April. Another day we drove west to visit Pine Island with its many colored shops and restaurants. I enjoyed hours in the house's pool and on the dock next to the Canal. Did you know that Cape Coral has more canals than any other city in the world. Or so they say. I was supposed to fly home Sunday 6:00 PM. Southwest canceled all their flights into and out of Chicago. It has been a wonderful week with my sister Mary and Pat and John.
February 23-March 2, 2016: Washington DC to Preach, Teach, Visit
I spent a week at the Monastery of the Holy Land in Washington DC - 1400 Quincy St NE. I preached a two day retreat to the 17 Franciscan Friars who live and work at this great 100 year old Shrine that has shrines remembering the Holy Places in the Holy Land - Shrines that look like what a pilgrim sees in Nazareth, Bethlehem, Jerusalem. In the lower level, you walk through a replica of the Catacombs of Rome. Many other Shrines to Mary, Joseph, St Francis, St Anthony, etc. A wonderful place of pilgrimage. Then I visited new monuments for me: Martin Luther King, Franklin D. Roosevelt and Thomas Jefferson - all around the Tidal Basin. I also spent three hours touring the campus of Catholic University of American with a Paul, a freshman whom I baptized when he was an infant. I officiated at his parents' wedding at St Peter's c. 30 years ago. I also enjoyed a wonderful evening meal with a couple who live in Virginia and whose wedding I officiated at in Hinsdale IL. On the road again....and still!
March 5-13, 2015: Cape Coral, Florida
I am spending a week of vacation with my sister Mary and her friend Pat. They rented a home in Cape Coral, FL for a month. Supposed to be in the 80's & sunny all week. Here's hoping! Hope to visit some friends in Naples.
February 4-10, 2016: In Ft Myers Beach, Florida
For one week, three of us who were freshmen in the minor seminary high school in Westmont IL in 1954, yes, 62 years ago, laughed as we told stories of our youth and our growing up experiences. Dan Dolesh, Chuck Gunti and I were three of 76 freshmen at St Joseph Seminary - 13 years old and away from home. Dan was from Cleveland. Chuck, now Fr Chuck Gunti, OFM and a retired army Chaplain Colonel was from Memphis, and I was from Chicago Heights. We were classmates for 13 years. Dan left the seminary before Ordination and pursued a Doctorate in Theology at Catholic University in Washington DC, married, fathered and raised five children, taught theology in several colleges/universities, and now is a counselor/therapist in Cleveland. We stayed at his beautiful home in Ft Myers Beach. Fr Chuck Gunti - the other Fr Chuck - worked in parishes then joined the army and traveled from Korea to Europe as a Chaplain - and how he loved that ministry. He lives in San Antonio now with the Friars at San Jose Mission and celebrates mass for the various armed services in San Antonio.
We enjoyed a four hour boat ride in Dan's boat on the first day in 82 degree weather. For the rest of week, the temperature was between 40 and 60 degrees. An unusual cold spell. But no problem - we still walked the beach, told our stories, shared our insights and experiences of these last 62 years. We are all now 75 yrs old. I am the youngest in the class. On January 30, I joined the rest of the class in being 75 - all of a sudden as it were.
Within a mile, is the local Catholic Parish. We attended Mass there on Sunday. Before Mass, I entered the building on the property of the Church that is a Poor Clare Monastery. I met and talked with the seven Poor Clare Sister three times while I was there. They asked me come back to them and teach them Gregorian Chant in English and to give organ lessons to three of the Sisters. So, of course, for my Franciscan Sisters I will return to Ft Myers Beach from April 11 to the 15. Always good to say hello to folks.
Because I posted on FaceBook a Selfie of me standing on Dan's deck with palm trees and water behind me, I received a phone call from a couple whose wedding I officiated at 28 years ago in Ohio and who now live in Colorado. They were staying a block away on the Gulf side at a condo where the Ohio family has used for years. So I visited them twice. Small world. Great invention those Selfies.
The three of us traveled to the Ft Myers Airport on February 10 and said a grateful good-by as we went our separate ways and promised to do this Florida time together again, sooner than later. We are getting too old not to get together. During the week we FaceTimed and talked with three other classmates. The group will be larger next time, so many more laughs, stories, hope and dreams!
January 30, 2016: My 75th Birthday
I cannot believe that I am 75 years old, or I do not want to believe this fact. But the many Birthday cards, calls, emails, and gifts all point clearly to this fact. And I am so grateful for the gift of life and for these 75 years of living life as a Catholic, a Faso/Helsel, a Franciscan. What a great trip it has been and continues to be. Thank you to all of you who remembered the day and sent me greetings. Much appreciated! And now the question: How do I want to live out these remaining years whether two or twenty more years. I would like to live to be a hundred years old, but I want to know that I am a hundred years old. You know who wants to live to be a hundred? Someone who is 99 yrs old. I figure, we will be in Heaven forever, why rush it! Ever onward with life. And I am so blessed to have so many of you in my life, each a blessing indeed! Let's go into the future with hope and joy, with love and a generous spirit, with mercy flowing into us from God's love, and flowing out of us to everyone!
January 3-10, 2016 - Last Week of Christmas Season
Since the Christmas Season in the Church lasts from December 25 to January 10, the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord, it is now time for me to continue sending out my Christmas Cards with a page of eight photos of my travels in 2015 and a photo of the eight Friars with whom I share my life here at St Gratian Friary in Countryside. Two of the Friars live with 5 miles of our Friary. Six of us live here - we pray together the Liturgy of the Hours twice a day, share a full meal prepared by a wonderful cook on Tuesday evening, celebrate Mass together on Thursday afternoon before going out together for a meal. Br Clarence our Guardian is on his 37th month-long retreat in Texas and Fr Dennis flew this morning to Las Cruces NM for the USA Friars Retreat for about 40 Friars. Be well and blessed all through 2016! Now - to those cards.
December 25, 2015 - Beginning of the 12 Days of Christmas
December 16, 2015 - Vera Dolan died, 101 Years Old
In 1980, I met a lady at St Peter's and we were friends every since. Her name was Veronica Dolan who lived in Beverley area of Chicago, around the corner from her parish St Barnabas on 101st and Longwood Dr. Vera asked me to be her POA since she had no family, never married. She worked for 35 yrs in the Loop as Office Manager, etc, for four different Doctors. And she loved her work, her doctors, the patients. During those years, she would frequent St Peter's Church in the Loop, four blocks from her work. Vera traveled to Europe with groups that I led - to France, Malta, Germany. Vera loved to dine out and attend concerts and musicals - when I could drive her. In October 2014, Vera fell in her home. This last year of her life was spent at Smith Village retirement home on 113th Pl and Western Ave in Chicago. She never walked after that fall at home. Vera was in Skilled Care - wonderful care - on the 3rd floor. I would visit her weekly as did two friends, Mary Ellen and Maureen.
Vera always was always very grateful for anything and everything. Her great love was
Fanny Mae chocolate candy, and anything else made from or with chocolate. Her 100th Birthday was on May 6, 2014 with a dinner party for 20 friends. Her 101st Birthday was celebrated in a private dining room at Smith Village with 10 friends. Vera regularly asked about what we were going to do to celebrate her 102nd birthday.
This quiet and gracious lady died very peacefully while in transit to the dining room.
Onward to the Banquet in Heaven. Those of us who knew her - her positive spirit of gratitude, generosity and gentleness - will miss her greatly. Now Vera is reunited with her parents and her beloved sister Dolly who died in 1986 and with her friend Virginia who died 2014 - they were friends since first grade in 1920. May Vera rejoice in the presence of the Lord with all the angels and saints, now and forever. The funeral will be at St Barnabas on Dec 22, 2015: Visitation at 10:00, Mass at 11:00, Burial at St Mary Cemetery in Evergreen Park, lunch at Fox's on Cicero. A party with white wine and chocolates for sure - her favorites.
November 26, 2015 - Thanksgiving
I hope your Thanksgiving Day surrounded you with much love and gratitude, hope and lots of good food. After Morning Prayers with my Fraternity at St Gratian Friary, I joined my sister Mary at our friend's home in Palos Heights. Mary and Pat prepared a feast. Mary Ellen joined us with four most delicious cheeses from Mariano's. After enjoying the turkey and trimmings, we enjoyed watching the Chicago Bears beat the Green Bay Packers. Ah! how sweet it is for the home team to win! May we all be grateful every day for everything in life.
November 3-13, 2015 - Pilgrimage in the Holy Land for 25 pilgrims
The weather has been great - warm and sunny. I am trying to absorb sun rays - good old Vitamin D - to last me through the approaching winter. Looking forward to spending three weeks in Israel - first to preach a retreat on Mount Tabor in Galilee to English Speaking Friars who live and minister in the Holy Land Custody. Of course, the retreat is always on mind - what topics, what will move them, what do they need to hear, etc. These Friars are from Canada, USA, Australia, India, many countries in Africa. There is more that I do not know about them than what I do know. This will be my 37th pilgrimage to the Holy Land. In many ways, each trip is like my first. The group I lead will be experiencing the Holy Land for the first time so I see it through their eyes and wonderment. And at the same time, I feel like I am going home - I know my way around Jerusalem and Bethlehem, Nazareth and Cana, etc. I will fly by myself from Chicago through Istanbul and then on to Israel. I will have five days in Jerusalem to prepare for the Retreat. After the retreat, I will return to Jerusalem as I wait for the arrival of 26 pilgrims on November 4th. My joy is seeing their joy and excitement, their
"I can't believe that I am here!" walking where Jesus walked. I will continue to lead pilgrims on pilgrimages as long as I can. And then I hope that I will be able to remember that I used to do such things. Ever onward!
September 24, 2015: Pope Francis in DC
Pope Francis’s Visit to Washington DC – September 2015
Pope Francis continues to be the Good News for the poor and for those on the peripheries, for the forgotten and for those with no hope, for Catholics and for all people of Good Will, in his presentation to the Congress and everywhere!
I have been glued to the TV coverage of Pope Francis’ pastoral visit to all of us in the USA. Smiles and tears come easily in watching and listening to this humble Pope from Argentina, the son of immigrant parents from northern Italy.
A highlight for us Franciscans was the Canonization of the Franciscan Friar
Junipero Serra – a Philosophy teacher from Majorica off the coast of Spain who felt called to be a missionary in the New World of Mexico. His missionary heart to evangelize the peoples of California led him from the classroom to the coasts of Lower California and further north to Carmel where he died and was buried in the Mission of San Carlos (St Charles). This Friar founded nine Missions – centers for Faith and education – as he walked hundreds of miles up and down the coast while suffering greatly from an injured leg. Ever onward!
Our General Minister from Rome, Fr Michael Perry OFM, concelebrated the Mass 0f Canonization on the steps of the east side of the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington DC. Other Friars were present including the Friar who has been working in California and in Rome for the Canonization. He presented the formal petition to Pope Francis there at the Mass in DC. The Pope responded yes and declared Junipero Serra a Saint of the Catholic Church.
Did you notice the Statue of St Junipero Serra in the Capitol Building in DC – in his Franciscan habit/robe, holding high the cross in his right hand and holding a model of Mission Santa Barbara in his left? In the front office to the left of the lobby at St Peter’s in Loop, there has been a large, bigger than life statue of Junipero Serra. At the bottom front of the statue is his name but with a blank spot of five inches – space for his new title – SAINT.
The example of Pope Francis’ and Junipero Serra’s lives can model for us and challenge us to reach out to the forgotten, people on the periphery, people who are different from us in color of skin, with an accent that is not ours.
May we see and treat all persons as our brothers and sisters as St Francis and St Junipero Serra did in their lives! Saint Junipero Serra, pray for us!
August 31-September 5, 2015 - A very Busy Week
This week I celebrated 13 Masses in different places, one Bible Study, anointed a grade school friend at the Community Hospital in Munster IN, buried the ashes of my Uncle Shorty, etc. And I was tired. I have to start acting my age - whatever that means. At 74 yrs old,...what? Can't be! But it is for sure! Glad I made it this far and that I know that I am here. Ever onward! "God of mystery and light, we pray that you lead us from today's unknowing to tomorrow's amazing possibilities! Amen!" May I follow with trust!
Pilgrimage to the Holy Land for November 3 - 28 Pilgrims signed up
August 2-7, 2015 - Retreat for Srs of St Joseph of the Third Order of St Francis in Bartlett
I participated at St Raymond Cathedral in Joliet for the 150th Jubilee Mass of the Joliet Franciscan Sisters - this ended a year long celebration. A beautiful mass with Bishop Conlon presiding. After Mass, I drove for an hour to Bartlett to Clare Oaks to begin preaching the retreat for the twenty-four Franciscan Sisters. All went well. On Wednesday AM, I felt dizzy and not all right. I checked with their doctor at Clare Oaks. He checked me out and said to drink more water and check with him on Friday. Friday AM I woke with 10 minutes of Vertigo and then dizziness and feeling weak. I packed up since I had to vacate the room by noon and celebrated Mass quietly for the Sisters. I checked with the Doctor after mass. He called for an Ambulance and there I was enjoying my first ride in an Ambulance. I was taken to St Alexus Hospital in Hoffman Estates. After two days of MRI, CAT Scan, Echo Cardiogram, etc.....the doctors found nothing. Negative! Good news! However, my heart rate was down to 43. Saturday 6:00 PM I was leaving the Hospital with my heart rate up to 60. I owe the Sisters at Bartlett two talks and confessions. Sr Barbara said that we can make that up in September.
July 2015 - Suddenly the month of July is gone and August begins tomorrow. Finally, these last two week, it feels like summer - hot, humid weather. I learned from my mother to enjoy the hot summer and soak it in, after all there is nothing like Vitamin D from the bright sun. I ended the month by spending three days in Joliet with the Franciscan Sisters of Mary Immaculate. Each summer they gather from Illinois, Ohio, Arizona, Florida, Oregon, etc., both Sisters and Associates. I am an Associate of this group of Sisters whom I have known since 1954. These days were informative, prayerful, fun, with lots of sharing. I was challenged to live my OFM life with greater commitment and to expand my service to others.
May 30, 2015 - Finally, after two months of pneumonia, it finally feels so good to feel good again. April 1-5, as I returned from two weeks in Israel and Jordan, I was feeling very tired. April 6-10, I began coughing deeply all day and night. April 10, I drove to La Grange Hospital to the Emergency Room. Within three hours, I was diagnosed having pneumonia and was in a private room. Four days of receiving antibiotics and breathing treatments with two medicines. my blood count was normal. The doctor said I could go home. So I did. Then began two more weeks of coughing that finally cleared out the stuff in the lungs. Almost back to normal. These four days in the hospital were the first time I was ever a patient in a hospital. I learned lots and have become more compassionate and understanding of people who have/had pneumonia or spent time in a hospital. Good to be on the other side of pneumonia!