Christmas Letter

 

Dear Sisters and Brothers,

Have you ever been homeless?

By the grace of God, I was never without a home. It was hard for me to imagine how difficult it would be to have no place to call “home.” A place warm and comfortable to live with my family.

Over 2,000 years ago, Joseph and Mary walked for days in search of a home where Mary could give birth to our Savior, Jesus.  At one door after another, they were told, “there is no room in the inn.” Finally, a kind innkeeper allowed them to enter a stable behind the inn. It is there that the miracle of God becoming Man came about.

Jesus was born under the watchful eyes of Mary and Joseph and soon, shepherds appeared to see this newborn Babe. Shepherds who lived in the fields among their sheep were considered dirty and not approachable in the big cities. But Jesus had to be born in a stable that even the lowliest, the unclean, and the poor could come to him.

Last year, before the COVID pandemic restricted travel, I had the opportunity to visit the Philippines. Over 30 friars from the Assumption BVM Province served there for more than 75 years. The friars journeyed to the south to Samar, among the poorest areas of the Philippines. They did so to minister among God’s poor – the shepherds of today. Amazingly, with little money but with lots of determination, these friars set out to build schools and universities to provide an education for the people in the area. These same good schools are still in operation today.

During the final days of my trip, I visited the sick and infirm friars living in Cebu. Many of them fondly remembered the friars from our province who faithfully served the Church under difficult circumstances.

It was evident that the current Franciscan Retirement-Infirmary House needed a great deal of work in order to care for the sick and infirm friars that I was visiting. After sending some emails to the friars back home, it was decided that the Franciscans of the Assumption BVM Province would make a pledge of financial support to our Brothers in the Philippines. We will sponsor one room at the cost of $9,500 in honor of our men who served there as missionaries.

My visit reminded me of the friars of my own province who reside at Queen of Peace in Burlington, Wisconsin. There too, are gentle friars that struggle against the wrath of illness and the impact of growing older. It was painful to see the entire community struck by the COVID virus and locked down for 14 months. Our commitment to care for them will not decrease.

We are Franciscans in two countries – the United States and Philippines – who served the Church for generations. The work we began in the Philippines in 1951 continues with young vocations today.

Please join me this Christmas in assisting our Franciscans of the Custody of St. Anthony in the Philippines and the Franciscans of my own Province in providing a safe and healthy home for the friars in their senior years.

With your generous gift, your hands will become the hands of Jesus as we work to ensure a “room in the inn” for these senior Franciscans.

You and your intentions will be remembered in the prayers of the Franciscans in the United States and the Philippines. My fervent prayer for you is that you and your loved ones may have a holy and blessed Christmas.

Peace and good!

Fr. James Gannon

Provincial Minister

 

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