Dear Brothers and Sisters, “So Father, when do Franciscans retire?” asked the young man who had been taught by a particular friar more than forty years ago.
“We don’t retire,” said the friar humorously, “we simply expire!” The friar’s point was that as Franciscans, we never retire from our call as professed religious. While age and health may prevent friars from actively serving in ministries such as parishes, soup kitchens, teaching or other ministries, the mind and heart continue to be actively engaged in serving God through prayer, contemplation and other ministries.
In the past, we were able to pay for the care of our senior friars with the salaries that our younger Friars earned. This has changed over the last 10 years, with more of our friars requiring nursing care, and fewer friars able to earn a salary.
Today we have to invite friends like you to help us bridge the gap between what we can provide and what is necessary for the care of our senior friars. Your generosity will help us pay their housing costs, and provide food and medicine.
Every gift helps, and every gift is greatly appreciated! It is through your generosity that our senior brothers can continue to grow old along with the Lord and with one another, serving God and the people of God through their unique “ministry of Prayer.”
Can I count on your generosity to help me this year? Please help me say “thank you” to our brothers who have served our Church is many different ways. Please help me in saying we care for you in your senior years. For your love and support to our Friars, I am most grateful. Enjoy the relaxed peace the season of summer offers us. I hope you enjoy a few of the stories we’ve printed about some of our amazing senior friars.
Fr. Jim Gannon, OFM
Fr. Stephen Malkiewicz, OFM, 76, who hails from Garfield Heights, NJ, was recently honored by Sacred Heart School of Theology in Hales Corners, Wisconsin, having served on their faculty for the past 7 years. Beloved by his students and the people of St. Joseph’s Church in Wauwatosa where he continues to celebrate Mass, Fr. Steve has primarily been involved in teaching a subject he is passionate about: liturgy.
“I come alive when I teach liturgy,” said Fr. Steve, “and I have a great love for the liturgy of the Roman Catholic Church.”
Earning his Master’s in Liturgy at Notre Dame, he not only introduced to the young friars under his charge many aspects of liturgy that were insightful and creative, but taught at Newman Theological College in Alberta, Canada and St. Francis de Sales Seminary in Milwaukee. Priests serving throughout the United States who were trained at Sacred Heart and in Canada trained at Newman have felt his influence. He continues to serve our Province as our Director of Liturgy and serves on the American Franciscan Liturgical Commission.
While his workload may have lessened, Fr. Steve still continues to serve the local church of Milwaukee, and in 2011 was the recipient of the Archbishop’s Vatican II Award for his service in liturgy. This past June, he also helped coordinate the Sunday Mass for Polish Fest, a yearly celebration in Milwaukee that attracts thousands throughout the Midwest.
“I’d like to use this time to discern different ministries, so I can still serve,” said Fr. Steve. “as well as catch up with old friends.” And then, with a sheepish grin, “loose some weight!”
At age 87, Fr. Leonard “Len” Stunek, OFM, recently left his position as chaplain at Clement Manor, a Catholic nursing home in Greenfield, Wisconsin. The post operative surgical effects, his age, and diminished ability to drive, were factors moving him to leave his ministry and settle in our provincial headquarters in Franklin, Wisconsin. Born in Cleveland, Fr Len professed as a friar in 1952, and ordained in 1960.
“Most of my life, I’ve been involved with education and parochial ministry, and I enjoyed both,” said Fr. Len.
In 1987, he was appointed principal of the world’s largest Catholic high school, located in Philadelphia. Archbishop Ryan High School was co-institutional at the time, with a boys’ and girls’ school. With his leadership skills, Fr. Len was able to combine both faculties and staff to form one entity. He was also credited with not only updating the school’s curriculum, but various enhancements, such as the chapel and auditorium.
Even at 87, Fr. Len does not waste time. He enjoys catching up on reading materials pertinent to the Church, politics, social issues, the Saints and going on-line to read about other areas that interest him. Prayer is also a central part of his life, where “keeping God in the forefront of our life is very essential.”
“I find it inconceivable to become and remain a friar without a strong, permanent commitment to prayer,” he said.
In 2005, at the age of 62 having served as our Minister Provincial, Fr. Thomas Luczak, OFM, entered a new phase of life that was both heroic and challenging. He decided to serve the people in the Rio Grande Valley within the Archdiocese of Brownsville, Texas. Fr. Tom would find himself once again a student, learning Spanish in order to serve the people of the Valley.
“I didn’t struggle too much learning Spanish,” remarked Fr. Tom, “and I was more apprehensive than nervous when I first started celebrating the Mass and preaching in Spanish.”
One of Fr. Tom’s blessings at the parish was a native Spanish speaking woman who not only helped him with his translation, but her positive affirmation along with critical feedback helped him immensely as he celebrated and preached at Mass.
Now living with two other friars in Edinburg, Fr. Tom continues to serve the people of both Holy Family Parish in Edinburg, and Sacred Heart Parish in McAllen, the later being a 25 minute drive from the friary.
“Each ministry, whether it was teaching, an administrator or parish work, is unique in its own way,” commented Fr. Tom. “It seemed at some point I felt I did what I was called to do and was free to move on to something else.”
Taking the brown habit of a friar minor in 1962, Fr. Tom, who was born in Michigan, was involved for many years in the Bartlett Learning Center, sponsored by a community of Franciscan Sisters based in Steven’s Point, Wisconsin. As both a teacher and later its administrator, the Center assisted learning and developmentally challenged youth and adults in developing their highest potential in order to function with adequate living skills.
Now approaching 75, Fr. Tom has asked the Bishop of Brownsville to be relieved of his responsibilities of being pastor, having faithfully served the diocese in various capacities these past 13 years. However, that doesn’t mean Fr. Tom is hanging up his (pardon the pun) sandals! However, his hope is to remain in the diocese, and assist other priests in the area. In his outreach to the immigrants who come across the nearby US-Mexican border, often without food, shelter and little clothing, Fr. Tom has tried to express the heart of Jesus, eschewing the rancor of our nation’s debate on the subject.
“Prayer and contemplation are absolutely necessary,” stated Fr. Tom. “The challenge is to be in sync with the mind and heart of God as much as possible so that you know what you do or don’t do flows from the right source and reflects the mind and heart of Jesus.”