Fr. Greg Friedman, OFM, gave the homily for his fellow Jubilarians.

Decades ago, they took the road less traveled.

On this appropriate occasion, Memorial Day, the paths of 17 Jubilarians have converged in this celebration at majestic St. Monica-St. George Church in Cincinnati. Today, milestones will be marked. And friars will pause to reflect on the journeys that brought them here.

A trumpet fanfare from Bill Farris accompanies the arrival of the guests of honor, being celebrated for their commitments as recent as 25 years and as long ago as 80. Added together, their years since profession and ordination total 1,015. In the eyes of onlookers, their actual service can never be measured.

Friars in church

Jubilarians Kenan Freson, Humbert Moster, Anthony Walter, and Ric Schneider

In listing the Jubilarians, “We missed Miles [Pfalzer],” the senior of the province, says celebrant Mark Soehner. Miles, who was born in 1920, made first profession in 1939 – 80 years ago. A milestone, indeed.

Homilist Greg Friedman, himself a 50-year Jubilarian, filters the readings from Deuteronomy, Romans and Luke through his own experience as a pilgrim and guide to pilgrims in the Holy Land.

“Where exactly are we?” is a question Greg heard recently from a man visiting the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem.

Friars in church

Jubilarians Brian Maloney, Jeremy Harrington, Bob Bruno, John Bok, and Gene Mayer

He was speaking literally, but Greg believes “the dynamic of pilgrimage is a wonderful model for the spiritual life. Today, as we celebrate ‘the mystery of God’ in the lives of our friar-Jubilarians, we can fittingly ask, ‘Where exactly are we?’”

The experience of any pilgrim is a synthesis of place, events (or stories), and spiritual energy “that can draw us deeper into the mystery of God.”

For Jubilarians, the “places” are many – where they lived in childhood, where they served in all those years on the journey of being a friar. From those places come the stories they tell – the good news they preach by word and by example. Some stories are happy, and others are “stories of struggles, of failure, and also where God was at work.”

Friars Bert Heise and Mark Soehner

Jubilarian Bert Heise is congratulated by Provincial Minister Mark Soehner.

The spiritual energy Greg describes is divinely given. As the late pilgrimage guide and author Roch Niemier once wrote, what we learn on pilgrimage is that we must depend on God alone, when “we can release the spiritual energy that can draw us deeper into the mystery of God.”

When Greg again asks, “Where are we?”, he is looking beyond today’s celebration. He’s looking down the road, to the friars’ future pilgrimage as a U.S. fraternity that “will now be a new Franciscan adventure into places which we cannot yet imagine. I know that some among us are fearful about that journey,” but he also suggests that “our Jubilarians can be not just pilgrims, but guides as well.”

Those years of experience they’ve accumulated will come in handy – wherever the road may lead.

View more photos of the celebration on our Flickr page album, Jubilarians 2019.

Friars Jeremy Harrington and Mark Soehner

Jubilarian Jeremy Harrington is congratulated by Provincial Minister Mark Soehner.