His upbringing — he was the son of a saloon- keeper — kept Hyacinth Blocker firmly grounded throughout his life as a respected and prolific poet, author and editor. He never lectured; even his sermons and his writings for other religious (Good Morning, Good People and Don’t Fall Out the Window) reflect his down-to-earth humor and his profound understanding of people and their problems. A 10-page list of Hy’s published works includes books, poems, magazine articles, pamphlets and numerous hymns for which he wrote or translated lyrics. Many were produced outside “official” assignments as a teacher, preacher, rector, chaplain and retreat house director. Hy is credited with modernizing St. Anthony Messenger magazine as editor, 1937-1946.
He wrote more than 100 books, was poet laureate of his homeland and blazed a trail
for generations of writers. Born and raised
in Trstena, Slovakia, Rudolf DiLong took up writing as a creative outlet for grief after
the deaths of his mother and his beloved elder
sister. He entered the Franciscan novitiate
at 15, explaining that “I was inspired to be creative, to write, in this Franciscan atmosphere.” Religious in nature, his work was bold and inventive, the cutting edge of
Catholic Modernism. After World War II his patriotism put him at odds with the Communist regime, and he was forced to flee Slovakia. He settled in Pittsburgh with the friars of the Vice
For Murray Bodo, writing is never about the destination. It is about the journey,
the creative process that leads to the completion of a
book, a poem, an article. With sometimes startling clarity he draws readers into
that experience and is able to evoke not
only his own emotions, but those of the
people about whom he writes, whether it
is Trappist monk Thomas Merton, poet
Denise Levertov, or St. Francis, the
founder of the Franciscan Order. Murray
Province of the Holy Savior and continued to stoke the fires of Slovak nationalism through his writing.
In 150 years, the Province of St. John the Baptist has been blessed with seekers, artists whose search for self has led them to produce works of haunting beauty and enduring depth. Their talent was a gift from God, a spark of the divine. And their legacy is the expression of that talent, a sharing of mind, heart and spirit that is uniquely Franciscan through their music, poetry, painting, prose and photography. Here are eight friars whose works will stand the test of time.
infuses his work with poetic sensibil-ity, never more evident than in his best-selling Francis, the Journey and the Dream, written 35 years ago and since translated into French, Spanish, Danish, Japanese, Chinese, Italian and Maltese. In journeying with Francis, we are lyrically encouraged to follow our own dreams.
Even today, his beautifully composed photographs from the South and Southwest draw gasps of appreciation. For Simeon Fiedler, it was all about capturing the essence of people and places through his trusty Rolleiflex lens. “While Men are Fighting” is a wartime portrait of a woman kneeling in prayer, eyes toward heaven. “Chiquita Mia,” the face of a little girl dwarfed by a huge sombrero, was widely exhibited in New York City. “Deep South,” a study of two black children seemingly oblivious to their impoverished surroundings, was part of the Kodak display at the New York World’s Fair in 1939. Simeon’s award-winning photography was a sideline cultivated while he served in parochial ministry, chaplaincy, and as director of the Friars Club in Cincinnati.
For millions, writer Leonard Foley was a friend, teacher, and
spiritual guide, leading his readers through challenging,
changing times following the Second Vatican Council. As
Editor of St. Anthony Messenger magazine in the turbulent
1960s, “He knew the needs and concerns of people,” Friar
Jeremy Harrington said in eulogizing Leonard. Through weekly
Homily Helps, he emphasized the importance of preaching.
National audiences for his practical and insightful Catholic
Update articles were enormous. Books such as Believing in
Jesus
, a simple catechism, and Saint of the Day, short essays
that brought real-life heroes into focus, have inspired and
informed generations. His life’s work was to share “the
goodness and wonder of our God,” according to Jeremy.
As a child, Ignatius Wilkens was too poor to buy a song book — so he learned the words of the hymns by heart. His talent for music was fostered by friar-teachers at St. Francis Parochial School in Cincinnati. Ignatius credited God and those teachers for his abilities as an organist and composer, nurtured as a young friar during assignments as an editor, teacher and assistant pastor in Louisville, Detroit and Cincinnati. Among his more than 100 compositions were four complete Masses, 12 Ave Marias and a number of Eucharistic hymns. His festive Jubilate Deo was performed by choirs throughout the country. Wilkens’ work was described by a reviewer as among “the most effective Catholic hymns of praise ever written by an American composer.”
When John de Deo and classmates at the Pontifical Institute of Sacred Music in Rome studied an instrument, “We didn’t just play it we learned to take one
apart and put it together again,” he said. Part of that school’s inaugural class, he was one of only three of 31 students to complete the prestigious program. It led to his work as a celebrated teacher, performer and composer credited with enhancing the quality of church music throughout the Archdiocese of Cincinnati. John de Deo’s fascination with the anatomy of music made him a nationally recognized expert on Gregorian Chant. He lived and breathed his subject, sharing that enthusiasm with thousands: clerics-in-training, university music students and the everyday people who sang in his choirs.
“If a calling is strong enough, one is compelled to follow it,” Martin Humphreys says of his attraction to abstract painting. While his work in cooking, religious education and poverty programs took him to Michigan, Louisiana and Ohio, he was creating bold
In 1209, Pope Innocent III
approved a plan by Francis of
Assisi for a new way of religious
life. This year, Franciscans around
the world are marking the Eighth
Centenary of the founding of their
Order. In 1859, the entity that became
St. John the Baptist Province in Cincinnati
was formally erected as a “custody.” This
12-part series, commemorating the 150th anniversary of the province, celebrates the lives and contributions of the friars.

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acrylic works — sometimes cosmic, often intensely personal — displayed in galleries such as New Orleans’ Hall-Barnett. A series of paintings following Hurricane Katrina, for example, convey visceral despair at the vagaries of nature. Echoing
Leonardo da Vinci, Martin believes “all good art is spiritual” and cites French expressionist Georges Rouault as a major influence. “Every artist is striving for something. I want to express the feeling of mystery in my paintings, touching upon the great mystery, God himself.”