by Toni Cashnelli, Communications Director
He wrote more than 100 books, was poet laureate of his
homeland and blazed a trail for generations of writers. But most Americans have
never heard of Rudolf Dilong, the literary legend who was first and foremost a
One hundred years after his birth on Aug. 1, 1905, Rudy is
best remembered by the people of Slovakiathe country he fled to avoid
Communist persecutionand by the friars of the Vice Province of the Most Holy
Savior, with whom he spent the last years of his life. (Holy Savior has been
part of St. John the Baptist Province since 2000.)
He was a priest with a poets mind, says friar John Joseph
Gonchar. He was an artist. He played the organ. He did some nice drawings. He
was eccentric in the best sense of the word.
Born and raised in Trstena, Slovakia, Rudolf Alphonse Dilong
took up writing as a creative outlet for grief after the deaths of his mother
and his beloved older sister. He entered the Franciscan novitiate at 15,
explaining that I found a certain atmosphere of peace and prayer. I was
inspired to be creative, to write, in this Franciscan atmosphere. Friar Paul
Wild was a teen-ager in Slovakia when he first heard of Dilong. I got only
rumors about his activities as a weird young Franciscan, one who rode a
motorcycle to poetry readings he did for students.
Rudys post-ordination assignment was as a teacher of
religion; he was drafted as a military chaplain in World War II and sent to the
Russian front. All the while, he did what he loved best: He wrote
poetryvolumes of itas well as plays and prose. Poetry writing was his baby
and addiction, not only a hobby, Paul says. Religious in nature, the work was
bold and inventive, the cutting edge of Catholic Modernism in Slovakia.
In the 1930s and 40s his poems were studied, quoted and
frequently reprinted, according to friar Bill Reisteter. He was a very
strongly patriotic Slovak, says John Joseph, and therefore at odds with an
oppressive Communist regime. When the government removed his books from library
shelves, He was a marked man, says friar Damian Cesanek.
In 1945, Rudy fled Slovakia, never to return. I chose
freedom, he later said, because in Communist countries a writer is not
free: He is limited only to themes
proposed by the government, and he can write only with the governments
permission. After two years as a refugee in Rome, he made his way to Buenos
Aires. In 18 years of service as a missionary to immigrants in Argentina, Rudy
published more than 20 books of poetry, stoking the fires of Slovak
nationalism. During the Cold War, says Paul, university students in
Czechoslovakia allegedly loved to quote Dilongs lines in their meetings. In
1965 the Most Holy Savior Custody in Pittsburgh (later the Vice Province), founded
by friars from Slovakia, welcomed him warmly.
He brought with him rough country manners and a brashness
that could be off-putting. He didnt speak too much English, but he seemed to
know what you were saying, says Damian. He was an interesting character to
live with. Rudys English never
improvedat some point he gave up on itand his room at the friary in
Pittsburgh could hardly be called tidy. Nevertheless, He was a great poet,
says friar Jerome Pavlik. Rudy loved writing, and he loved the attention it
brought him. He was a very well known person who took pride in his work, says
Much of his poetry survives, housed at the Sr. M. Martina
Tybor Jankola Library in Danville, Pa., a repository of Slovak literature
maintained by the Sisters of Sts. Cyril & Methodius. (One volume, With
Christ in His Passion, was translated into English by Sr. Martina.) After
decades of repression, Slovaks are again free to read and study his poetry,
once considered too incendiary for public consumption. The friary in Trstena
proudly bears a plaque honoring Rudy as one of the citys outstanding citizens,
a friar who paved the way for many modern writers.
As Bill Reisteter said at Rudys funeral in 1986, We are
much better off because he lived among us.
Eighteen cultural institutions and organizations in
Slovakia, Italy, Switzerland and Argentina have declared 2005 as The Year of
Rudolf Dilong to recognize the centennial of the poets birth. In announcing
the honor, the Slovak American Cultural Center in New York cited his prodigious
output109 books of poetryand his role as co-founder of the literary movement
of Catholic Modernism. Regretfully,
the center said in a story on its website, there is no participation of any Slovak
organization from the United States, in spite of the fact that Rudolf Dilong
lived and wrote here since 1965 until his death on April 7th, 1986, in
Pittsburgh, where he is buried.
Rudolf Dilongs contributions to Slovak literature are
celebrated each July in his hometown of Trstena, Slovakia, during a poetry and
prose reading competition called Dilongs Trstena. In 1992 the Episcopal See
in Spisska, Kapitula, dedicated Rudolf Dilong Primary School in Trstena.
Jim Van Vurst and Martin Humphreys were two of
a dozen artists whose works were chosen for display at the May Tea Event
sponsored by the Sharonville Fine Arts Council on May 15 at the
Sharonville Convention Center. Guests got an up-close look at Jims
abstract watercolors and Martys abstract acrylics and chatted with the
artists before they sat down to a high tea of tables tiered with finger
sandwiches and sweets of every description. The council, whose mission is
to support and promote the visual and performing fine arts, is hoping to
establish a Regional Creative and Performing Arts Center in Sharonville.
In April, Jamaicans in the Diocese of Montego
Bay were introduced to Robert Seays healing ministry during a
five-stop crusade. Robert says the crusade drew a lot of young people
to some of the islands smaller parishes. It was impressive to see the
effort people made to get there for two to three hours of preaching and
the laying on of hands. Bishop Charles Dufour was part of the congregation
during the last stop in Revival. There was actually some healing that
went on, says Robert, who is repeatedly asked how it works. Theres a certain
energy that comes over me, he says, and leaves it at that.
As I look at my journey, God has always
been calling and moving me beyond where I felt comfortable, Henry Beck
told the congregation crowded into Our Lady of the Rosary Church in Dayton
on May 22 to celebrate the 25th anniversary of his ordination.
The opening song, All Are Welcome, reflected the readings and the
spirit of Henrys message, which focused on inclusiveness. That message
was reinforced by the singing, in Spanish, of Psalm 23, The Lord is My
Shepherd (Tu Vas Conmigo). At the heart of God, there is
community, there is family, as revealed by the Trinity. We are made for
relationships, to be bonded to one another. Our God is always creating
family, and, wherever we are, we can create family, Henry said,
recalling the joy, welcome and reception extended to him by the people
of Jamaica during his ministry there. Through the Eucharist, God is
telling us, Theres always room at this table.
St. Anthony Messenger Press and Servant
Publications were well-represented in the list of winners announced May 27
by the Catholic Press Association in its annual awards competition. An
editorial by Pat McCloskey won first-place honors in the magazine
category. The editorial, Accepting Mary Magdalenes Challenge, appeared
last July in St. Anthony Messenger magazine. Jack Wintz was
recognized with a second-place award for Individual Excellence for his
magazine work. An essay by Tom Richstatter (The Mass: Our Greatest and Best Prayer, from Vatican
2 Today) placed second in the Essay category for general-interest
newsletters. A list of SAMPs other honorees (there are a bunch of them)
will appear in the August issue of the Messenger. Congratulations to all!
Radio Maria continues to grow and reach out to new places,
writes Duane Stenzel. On May 13, all the programs from here came
into Canada via satellite. The first call on a call-in program from Canada
was during the hour program entitled Brokenhearted. It is conducted
by a Secular Franciscan and licensed marriage counselor, Dave Jurek. Live
programs come from Detroit, New York, Louisville and Atlanta through our
studios here in Alexandria, La.
What goes around, comes around. John
Turnbull celebrated his 50th jubilee June 9 in Oldenburg at
the very church where we were ordained, he said. That weekday, the
actual anniversary of Johns ordination, We had a nice turnout at 8 a.m.
Mass, but the congregation officially celebrated on Sunday the 12th
with a party/reception. The surprise visitor was a former refugee from the
Sudan whose family spent their first few months in America with John at
St. Francis of Assisi Friary in Centerville. The gift from the parish was
a handmade stole with hand-embroidered squares representing each of Johns
assignments. John says he may also be getting a new set of wheels for his
anniversary. Theres some talk about replacing our tractor.
Rock Travnikar is very grateful for all the support
of the brothers and Clares, the messages and extraordinary care extended
to him following the death of his brother, Joe. A special thank-you to Mike
Chowning, who drove overnight from Kentucky to Michigan (and slept in
the car when he got there) to attend the funeral before he headed to the
Chapter in Dayton. The family was really moved by that, says Rock. God
An accordion-style photo display at the rear of St. Aloysius
Church shows friar Mel Brady in a variety of unposed pictures. Theres Mel,
mouth full of food, mugging for the camera. One shot shows him hugging a tiny,
dark-haired niece. Another catches him in mid-laugh alongside older brother
Ignatius. As the display was intended to convey, here was a guy who loved life and who lived life as a great
adventure, an adventure he thoroughly enjoyed until infirmity got in the way of
his enormous spirit.
At Mels funeral, April 19 in Detroit, Pastor Mark Soehner
is smiling as he points from one picture to the next. Thats Mels Mom. Mels first day in the Order. Mel in his tonsured
days. This is the board of Oasis Detroit, a product of Mels persistence in
finding ways to house the homeless. This one is the block party. Mel wanted to
have a Ferris wheel that would go as high as the Cardinals office. He told
people, The pastor wouldnt let me do it.
Those gathered at St. Als, well aware of Mels
accomplishments in the Order of Friars Minor, are remembering the affection he
inspired. Endowed with Irish charm (and a bit of blarney), Mel had the uncanny
ability of making everyone he met feel comfortable and significant, a member of
the family. He was like a dad to me, says Dan Nolan. According to Jeff Scheeler, You couldnt help but love Mel
Brady. The day before, during visitation, Mark had described Mel as a homemaker,
and he wasnt referring to his trademark pot roast or tuna casserole, but to
how God made a home for Mel and Mel made a home for God.
Evelyn Dilger, sitting in the pews with a well-soaked
Kleenex, is both laughing and crying as she remembers working with Mel in
formation at Mt. Airy. The two remained close after he moved to Detroit, with
Mel occasionally calling to ask, how much water to put in the Crock Pot as he
was fixing dinner. When he left for Detroit, Evelyn says, I felt so abandoned,
a sentiment that many are sharing today. As the choir performs Go, Silent
Friend, sung to the tune of Danny Boy, there isnt a dry eye in the
Jeff Scheeler has the privilege and daunting task of
delivering the homily. I first met Mel Brady in 1984 in Rome, when he was
General Secretary of Missions for the Order, Jeff says. When Jeff was
introduced to Mel as part of the formation team, I could tell he was aghast
at the thought of this whippersnapper in that important position. Mel could not
hide his emotions. They were written all over his face. Ironically, the two
became great friends, working together on the formation team in later years.
Mel was a man of many roles, with many relationships: Franciscan friar, parish priest, seminary director,
canon lawyer, recovering alcoholic, uncle, cousin, friend, wisdom figure,
father figure, Franciscan brother to us all. Someone said, He was a titan in
our midst, and that was true. Nevertheless, There was something truly humble
about Mel Brady. One of the other friars described him as lovable. He
endeared himself to others, partly because of a youthful spirit he never lost. I think one of the gifts Mel had in
our Franciscan fraternity was he had a way of connecting with some of the
younger friars. I think he had a way of making us feel as if we mattered. He
believed in us. He kind of mentored us into manhood. This older, gifted, highly
traveled man was our brother and he loved us and lived with us and was our
The readings from Ezekiel, Peter and Matthew seemed
tailor-made for Mel, with his penchant for travel, his love of missionary work,
the great faith that led to the creation of the correspondence course, Build
with Living Stones. Having spent major portions of his life in the Philippines
and Rome, Mel was indeed a gift to the nations, truly an instrument of Gods
holiness, Jeff says. Check his personal file and youll see that half of it
is permissions to travel.
Despite his success at every level of the Order, Mel had his
demons. He wrote candidly about his struggles with sobriety in a 1995
newsletter from Guest House, a facility dedicated to the care of priests and
religious suffering from alcoholism and chemical dependency. It was 10 years
ago this year that I left Guest House, Lake Orion, the recipient of a new gift
of life, he wrote. Thanks be to God!
At the age of 74, inspired by the writings of Joan
Chittister, He decided to come here (to Detroit) and put that vast experience
and that great heart to the service of Gods people, Jeff says. In the end,
when he knew that death was approaching, he said, I want to come home. He
told Mark that his fate would be whatever God wants.
He was a tremendous example for us of how to live and in
the end, how to die, Jeff says. Mel, we love you. We miss you. We are very
grateful for your life among us.