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Roman Catholic friar community growing
THE JOURNAL NEWS (New York) ^ | May 17, 2003 | GARY STERN

Posted on 05/22/2003 5:58:18 PM PDT by nickcarraway

YONKERS — Cardinal Edward Egan will ordain eight new priests this morning, but only four will go out in the world with the classic parish priest look: all black suits, white clerical collar, neat Eddie Haskell haircuts.

The other four will look as if they're auditioning to play medieval monks in some community theater, with their gray, hooded robes, shaved heads and long, unkempt beards of which Mrs. Haskell never would have approved.

Few at St. Patrick's Cathedral will stare with wonder at these men, though, because the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal have become a common sight at New York's annual ordination. At a time when the Roman Catholic Church is facing a worsening shortage of priests, these friars with the throwback look are part of a fast-growing and closely watched community.

That they make up half of this year's ordination class is not lost on the friars, who believe they offer a clear, straight-up Catholic message that is cutting through the me-first, celebrity-worshipping culture.

"The younger generation wants something that's real, authentically Catholic," said Brother Joseph Mary Deane, one of the friars being ordained a priest today. "We live an orthodox life in a dynamic way. We want challenges. I don't want an easy life. This is supposed to be a sacrificial life. Or what's the point?"

The Franciscan Friars of the Renewal, who work with the poor in the Bronx, Yonkers and Harlem, as well as in Honduras and England, are part of a movement of relatively young, growing conservative Catholic communities that are the pride of the orthodox Catholic world. Many point to the friars as proof that young men will hear God's call to the priesthood if they are offered an undiluted vision of loyalty to the pope and Catholic teachings.

A new book about the return to orthodoxy among young Christians, "The New Faithful," describes how Austrian Cardinal Christoph Schonborn, considered a possible future pope, was buoyed by visiting the Bronx and meeting so many young friars. Author Colleen Carroll's book, widely hyped among orthodox Catholics, has focused even more attention on this community that promises, in its very name, to renew the church.

"Known for their medieval dress and reputation as 'America's Mother Teresas,' " she wrote, "these young men seem to flout every stereotype about their postmodern, post-Christian generation."

Flouting convention was the basic idea in 1987, when eight Capuchin friars broke away to start a new community rededicated to poverty, chastity and obedience. The late Cardinal John O'Connor gave the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal approval to grow from within the Archdiocese of New York, even though he faced resistance from established communities with shrinking memberships.

From the start, the friars have been closely identified with the Rev. Benedict Groeschel, one of the founding eight and a favorite writer and spokesman for orthodox Catholics.

Despite the community's youth — it officially was recognized by the Vatican in 1999 — the friars now boast 21 priests, 12 seminarians and 14 men in formation who might or might not study for the priesthood. There are 20 brothers, and 15 new members, some of whom might also become priests, are expected to join the community in September

The friars live simply, pray together morning, noon and night, and serve the poor. Their patroness is Mary, and many friars take her name as their middle name. Their hero is Pope John Paul II.

In the Bronx, they run shelters for the homeless, a food pantry, a youth center and a medical clinic. They also run a Catholic social and education center in Yonkers for the Hispanic community. Among their residences are two friaries in Yonkers.

They sleep on mats, rely on unsolicited donations for daily sustenance and wear only their robes. What is most striking about the friars up close, though, is their untempered enthusiasm for their vocation. They speak directly and frankly about their mission in the church, and refer often to their joy.

"If you're going to follow the will of God, you want to follow it all out," said Brother Sylvester Mary Mann, who is being ordained today. "In my mind, I saw St. Francis as a person who really loved Jesus and challenged the cultural values of his day and age, the rich and haughty. When I visited different communities, I didn't necessarily see them living the ideals of St. Francis. When I came here, I did."

There is little doubt that newer, more conservative communities are connecting in a special way with young Catholics considering the priesthood, said Patrick Metress of the independent Catholic Research Center in Burke, Va.

"Most of these groups are orthodox or extremely orthodox," he said. "A lot have a special mission, like working with the poor or only doing the Latin Mass. They don't want to join old orders because they have too much baggage; they're too wrapped up in the politics of being Jesuits, Franciscans, what have you."

The conventional wisdom that new, orthodox communities are growing, and older communities are fading, is too simplistic for Brother Jack Rathschmidt, a Capuchin priest who was head of the Capuchin order in New York when the soon-to-be Franciscan Friars of the Renewal filed for divorce. Rathschmidt, who now works with Capuchin seminarians in Jamaica Plain, Mass., said that established communities are reorienting themselves after the transitional decades of the 1960s and 1970s, when many institutions foundered.

"I admire what the friars are doing, but we're doing pretty well, too, preparing fellas for a ministry of a similar kind," said Rathschmidt, who until recently was chaplain at the College of New Rochelle. "I wouldn't consider us a traditionalist movement, but we have talented people serving the poor in the inner city of Boston. We're also doing God's work, but without the power that the robe gives you. We're not as visible."

The image this morning of Egan ordaining an equal number of friars and new parish priests will drive home to a packed St. Patrick's both the growth of the friars' community and the priest shortage facing New York's 414 parishes.

But the comparison isn't quite fair. The friars do most of their work in New York but attract vocations from across the country. The archdiocese is mostly limited to the men of its 10 counties.

"We're not getting many vocations from New York, either, even though we spend all of our time here," said Brother Luke Mary Fletcher, an Indiana native who will be ordained today and will serve as the friars' vocations director. "There is an element of mystery here, why some groups are getting vocations and others are not. There is no recipe for vocations because the unknown ingredient is God's grace."

Whether the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal will continue to grow faster than most older communities is a relevant question. The Rev. Glenn Sudano, the friars' director, or "community servant," is confident that vocations will continue to come if the community maintains its vision.

"If service to God is not heroic, it won't stir the hearts of young people," he said. "If it's too middle class, bureaucratic, business as usual, safe, young people won't go there. I think young people want something counter-cultural, a challenge, an identity. We're not trying to look like some saint in a picture book, but truly want to pursue holiness and dig deep into prayer.

"Some people might think we're old-fashioned or are back in the '50s, but that's fine with us."


TOPICS: Activism; Catholic; Current Events; General Discusssion; History; Ministry/Outreach; Religion & Culture
KEYWORDS: catholic; catholiclist; franciscan
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1 posted on 05/22/2003 5:58:18 PM PDT by nickcarraway
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To: Lady In Blue; Canticle_of_Deborah; Desdemona; Siobhan; Maeve; JMJ333; NYer; Salvation; sandyeggo; ..
ping
2 posted on 05/22/2003 5:59:48 PM PDT by nickcarraway
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To: nickcarraway
"The younger generation wants something that's real, authentically Catholic," said Brother Joseph Mary Deane, one of the friars being ordained a priest today. "We live an orthodox life in a dynamic way. We want challenges. I don't want an easy life. This is supposed to be a sacrificial life. Or what's the point?"

BUMP
3 posted on 05/22/2003 6:03:04 PM PDT by Desdemona
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To: *Catholic_list; narses; Coleus; pseudo-justin; P.O.E.; TotusTuus; Cicero; Pyro7480; Loyalist; ...
ping
4 posted on 05/22/2003 6:04:24 PM PDT by nickcarraway
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To: nickcarraway
I'm not sure what this is all about. Would one of ya'll be so kind as to explain what exactly a friar is/does?
5 posted on 05/22/2003 6:35:22 PM PDT by Gamecock (The PCA; We don't have friars and I'm confused....)
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To: Gamecock
The friars live simply, pray together morning, noon and night, and serve the poor

It's about half way down the page.

6 posted on 05/22/2003 6:42:41 PM PDT by american colleen
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To: nickcarraway
nice article, thanks.

Interesting to see how this order grows in future years.

7 posted on 05/22/2003 6:45:59 PM PDT by american colleen
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To: nickcarraway
Encouraging news bump!
8 posted on 05/22/2003 7:03:37 PM PDT by Antoninus (In hoc signo, vinces )
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To: american colleen
I saw that, but I wasn't sure if that captured all of what they do....

Thanks

9 posted on 05/22/2003 7:18:17 PM PDT by Gamecock (The PCA; We don't have friars and I'm confused....)
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To: american colleen
Do Franciscans keep Terce and Sext, etc? Or are they more of an 'active' order?
10 posted on 05/22/2003 7:24:42 PM PDT by Cleburne (a sinner)
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To: nickcarraway
The folks who wanted watered down Catholicism are gradually leaving the Church. Young people are idealistic. They want challenges, they want to do something with their lives.

There are still some lousy bishops running the show, but the liberals are getting gray-haired and there's hope for the future.
11 posted on 05/22/2003 7:26:16 PM PDT by Cicero (Marcus Tullius)
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To: Gamecock
Like the monks of old, Friars take vows of poverty, chastity and obedience. Unlike the monks, friars mingle in the world. Chesterton says of St. Francis, "His idea was this: that the dedicated man might go anywhere among any kind of men, even the worst kind of men, so long as there was nothing by which they could hold him." p. 100 St. Francis of Assisi. V's wife.
12 posted on 05/22/2003 7:37:53 PM PDT by ventana
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To: Cicero
Young people are idealistic. They want challenges, they want to do something with their lives.

And it's driving our parents crazy.
13 posted on 05/22/2003 7:40:05 PM PDT by Desdemona
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To: nickcarraway
bump
14 posted on 05/22/2003 7:41:16 PM PDT by Canticle_of_Deborah
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To: ventana
Got it! Thanks...
15 posted on 05/22/2003 7:41:39 PM PDT by Gamecock (The PCA; We don't have friars and I'm confused....)
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To: nickcarraway
At a time when the Roman Catholic Church is facing a worsening shortage of priests, these friars with the throwback look are part of a fast-growing and closely watched community.

Wonderful news, nickcarraway. Thanks so much.

16 posted on 05/22/2003 7:45:51 PM PDT by Victoria Delsoul
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To: nickcarraway; Desdemona; cebadams; Gophack; patent; Salvation; american colleen; WriteOn
There is no doubt that the only growing seminaries and religious orders in this country are the solid, orthodox ones.

There is no doubt that the majority of those people, in their late teens to thirties, that are actively Catholic are solid and orthodox.

In ten years, when a whole bunch of people left over from the sixties are gone, and the currently young people begin taking leadership positions, it will be a very different day in the Church.

The difficulty is that there is a HUGE proportion of young Catholics that are so deficiently educated in elementary Catholic teaching, indeed, elementary Christian thought, that they could neither articulate nor defend it and so are essentially useless as protagonists of a Catholic worldview and social order.

But divine mercy is strange. The young Catholics who are so deficiently educated are, precisely because of that deficiency, unlikely to get involved in the Church. They are unlikely to take up significant leadership positions, and only rarely will some of them join a religious order. In other words, liberalism is so destructive that it destroys its very offspring. Think about it.

You have been taught your whole life that it does not matter what religion you belong to, it is okay to skip Mass once in awhile (so nothing really important is taking place at Mass), of course it is alright to use artificial contraception, of course it is okay for gay men to sodomize each other, of course celibacy is ridiculous as a rule for the whole clergy, of course Marian devotion is just a superstition, of course evolution implies that the teaching on original sin is false, of course tradition is the principle that impedes social progress, and when we become adults we must think critically, think for ourselves. Thankfully, a few years ago the Second Vatican Council SET US FREE of all that old time stuff left over from the dark ages. Now we know that CONSCIENCE is the ultimate arbiter of religious truth, of good and evil. Abortion is wrong, but there are exceptions. That is my personal belief, of course, but I will not impose it on anyone else. Why go to Church at all? Well, we want to bring an end to war, environmental destruction, and corporate greed.

Now suppose you were raised on this view. Suppose this was your primary catechesis. Where, if anywhere, would a motivation to go into religious life ever enter your mind save through a special illumination of the Holy Spirit? The closest thing to a motive would be to give oneself to a liberal cause, e.g. pacifism. But there is nothing in liberal theology that implies that poverty, chastity, and obedience are either necessary or helpful toward ending war on earth. To someone rasied on Fr. Fluff's catechesis, it must appear that a law degree would help more. So, the children of liberal Catholicism, precisely because they are children of liberal Catholicism, are so warped in their religious views that, for the most part, they are not motivated to get involved in Catholicism in any significant sense or they enter the working world and "fight for justice" using the world's ways and means and think that to do so just is to be a Catholic. For that is all Catholicism really is: a program for social justice. Given liberal theology as ones starting point, the vows are an absurdity.

This leaves mainly the solid, orthodox people to take the reins.

And that is no cause to rejoice. Liberals have souls too.

17 posted on 05/22/2003 7:49:50 PM PDT by pseudo-justin
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To: nickcarraway; Desdemona; cebadams; Gophack; patent; Salvation; american colleen; WriteOn
There is no doubt that the only growing seminaries and religious orders in this country are the solid, orthodox ones.

There is no doubt that the majority of those people, in their late teens to thirties, that are actively Catholic are solid and orthodox.

In ten years, when a whole bunch of people left over from the sixties are gone, and the currently young people begin taking leadership positions, it will be a very different day in the Church.

The difficulty is that there is a HUGE proportion of young Catholics that are so deficiently educated in elementary Catholic teaching, indeed, elementary Christian thought, that they could neither articulate nor defend it and so are essentially useless as protagonists of a Catholic worldview and social order.

But divine mercy is strange. The young Catholics who are so deficiently educated are, precisely because of that deficiency, unlikely to get involved in the Church. They are unlikely to take up significant leadership positions, and only rarely will some of them join a religious order. In other words, liberalism is so destructive that it destroys its very offspring. Think about it.

You have been taught your whole life that it does not matter what religion you belong to, it is okay to skip Mass once in awhile (so nothing really important is taking place at Mass), of course it is alright to use artificial contraception, of course it is okay for gay men to sodomize each other, of course celibacy is ridiculous as a rule for the whole clergy, of course Marian devotion is just a superstition, of course evolution implies that the teaching on original sin is false, of course tradition is the principle that impedes social progress, and when we become adults we must think critically, think for ourselves. Thankfully, a few years ago the Second Vatican Council SET US FREE of all that old time stuff left over from the dark ages. Now we know that CONSCIENCE is the ultimate arbiter of religious truth, of good and evil. Abortion is wrong, but there are exceptions. That is my personal belief, of course, but I will not impose it on anyone else. Why go to Church at all? Well, we want to bring an end to war, environmental destruction, and corporate greed.

Now suppose you were raised on this view. Suppose this was your primary catechesis. Where, if anywhere, would a motivation to go into religious life ever enter your mind save through a special illumination of the Holy Spirit? The closest thing to a motive would be to give oneself to a liberal cause, e.g. pacifism. But there is nothing in liberal theology that implies that poverty, chastity, and obedience are either necessary or helpful toward ending war on earth. To someone rasied on Fr. Fluff's catechesis, it must appear that a law degree would help more. So, the children of liberal Catholicism, precisely because they are children of liberal Catholicism, are so warped in their religious views that, for the most part, they are not motivated to get involved in Catholicism in any significant sense or they enter the working world and "fight for justice" using the world's ways and means and think that to do so just is to be a Catholic. For that is all Catholicism really is: a program for social justice. Given liberal theology as ones starting point, the vows are an absurdity.

This leaves mainly the solid, orthodox people to take the reins.

And that is no cause to rejoice. Liberals have souls too.

18 posted on 05/22/2003 7:49:56 PM PDT by pseudo-justin
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To: pseudo-justin
You have been taught your whole life that it does not matter what religion you belong to, it is okay to skip Mass once in awhile (so nothing really important is taking place at Mass)

No. Actually, I've been taught that nothing takes the place of Mass and religion does matter. As for the rest...depends on who you talk to.
19 posted on 05/22/2003 7:53:18 PM PDT by Desdemona
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To: pseudo-justin
You are right on the money.

What is really tough is raising your kids as Catholics while in a liberal Catholic parish. It would be wonderful to have a parish that backs up what you teach at home.

20 posted on 05/22/2003 8:55:17 PM PDT by american colleen
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