Jubilarian Frank Geers worships with friars at a gathering in 2015

Each year we gather to celebrate their faithfulness, generosity and perseverance. For now, we’re doing it at a distance.

Memorial Day came and went without the traditional Mass and dinner for province Jubilarians. It may yet happen; there are no predictions in this unpredictable time of COVID-19. But we can still reach out and thank them for the promises they made and the promises they’ve kept – some for as long as 70 years.

What they have in common is an attitude of gratitude, rooted in the knowledge that serving God’s people is a privilege. So we asked our Jubilarians, “After all these years as a friar, what are you most grateful for?” Here’s what they had
to say.

3 friars L-R: Fr. John Joseph Gonchar, Fr. Frank Geers, and Fr. Tom Speier. All celebrating 70 years profession.

Fr. John Joseph Gonchar, OFM
70 Years Profession
What I am grateful for: Among many other things, the many good friends with whom God has blessed me wherever I ministered. Such friends are a real gift which I will treasure for the rest of my life.
Thank you!.

Fr. Frank Geers, OFM
70 Years Profession
I love variety. This is true regardless of whether it is the variety of ministry or friars or the people of the community. I served first of all at St. Anthony in Streator, Ill., then at Peoria. Both were traditional. Then after two years I was asked to help with fund-raising. This was far from any other activity I undertook as a friar. The money from those collections went to additions for
our seminary.

Then variety came! I went to the Navajo people at Chinle, Ariz., where I worked with Fr. Blane Grein for six years, especially with the people of Navajo background in Many Farms [Ariz.]. After the wonderful experience with the Navajos I went to Cajun territory in Louisiana. Then I was pastor for six years at St. Mary of the Angels, an integrated parish in New Orleans. I learned that the PTA was much more important than the Parish Council. But they were patient with me, a great example for me to accept variety!

Then for 20-some years I was Formation Director of postulants. Don’t tell me they are not unique! Now I am living with a group of friars at St. John the Baptist Friary who are retired. They provide variety enough for me at this time. And I try to make my community a unique one.

Fr. Tom Speier, OFM
70 Years Profession
I’m very grateful for all the opportunities I’ve had in different areas. I very much enjoyed teaching at Duns Scotus College. Then I dreamed up this program for Franciscan Spiritual Direction that took me around the world; it was probably the highlight of my life. I was gifted with working with so many great women like Sr. Marilyn Joyce, OSF; a lot of them had an impact on my life. When I was helping out at the Sarah Fisher Home for Children [in Farmington Hills, Mich.], they let me design a chapel for children. Most guys get to build churches; I got to build a chapel.

3 friars L-R: Fr. Jack Wintz, Fr. Neri Greskoviak, and Fr. Dennet Jung all celebrate 65 years profession.

Fr. Jack Wintz, OFM
65 Years Profession
My years with St. Anthony Messenger were the best times of my life. I enjoyed the stories I did and the travel involved. Some of the people I interviewed were Gene Kelly, Martin Sheen, Brooke Shields and Bob Newhart. And yes, Bob Newhart is as funny as he seems.

Fr. Neri Greskoviak, OFM
65 Years Profession
What I’m most grateful for: Breathing. Life breath. Spirit breath.

Fr. Dennet Jung, OFM
65 Years Profession
Gratitude has become my awakening prayer each morning and my “good night” prayer at bedtime. “Thank you, God, for waking me to a new day,” and “Thank you, Lord, for another day of life to help me find my way home!” As I reflect on my 82 years of life, 65 of them as a friar, I see more clearly that God has always been walking with me on my journey.
Read Fr. Dennet’s entire message.

3 friars L-R: Fr. Harold Geers and Fr. Maynard Tetreault celebrate 60 years priesthood and Br. Philip Wilhelm celebrates 60 years profession.

Fr. Harold Geers, OFM
60 Years Priesthood
I’m full of gratitude for my calling to the Franciscan way of life. It’s such a beautiful, simple lifestyle and I feel I can live it a little better here [in Palo Leyte, the Philippines]. I am semi-retired, but I still have Mass every morning and recollection days for a community of 32 Sisters, some of whom come every two months for recollections. People come here and I give directed retreats. We don’t have hot water and food is sometimes in short supply, but I am grateful to the Lord for all his goodness.

Fr. Maynard Tetreault, OFM
60 Years Priesthood
Every morning when I get up I thank God for my Franciscan vocation and for my top-flight and holy colleagues. And for what my first Provincial Minister said of St. John the Baptist Province, that it was the best province in the whole Order.

Br. Philip Wilhelm, OFM
60 Years Profession
With 60 years behind me I am most thankful to God for calling me to serve Him as a Franciscan Brother. I appreciate that my parents gave us 11 children, examples of prayer and devotion to the Mass and adoration before the Blessed Sacrament as well as attending the novena to the Blessed Mother in our parish. I truly have been blessed in giving service to my Order and society through working with my hands.

I feel it most special that God gave me the health and the opportunity to give of myself to our seminarians, the members of the SFO and Hansenite patients in the Philippines. As I think of the years gone by, I thank God for his mercy and patience, and especially His love.

3 friars L-R: Fr. Fred Link celebrates 50 years priesthood, Br. Mark Ligett celebrates 50 years profession, and Fr. Saleem Amir Maseh celebrates 25 years priesthood.

Fr. Fred Link, OFM
50 Years Priesthood
I am most grateful for God’s faithfulness through everything – I can’t say it enough! – in good times and in bad. I am grateful for the trust the brothers placed in me in choosing me as Minister and the support and understanding I felt from the friars, especially members of the Council, through those turbulent times. And, finally, for the people I’ve been so blessed to serve, from the students at Bishop Luers High School 50 years ago through the amazing folks at St. Clement who have blessed me for the past 12 years.

Br. Mark Ligett, OFM
50 Years Profession
When I was asked what I am most grateful for after living 50 years as a Friar Minor, I immediately thought of the words of Francis, “And the Lord gave me brothers.” I have found our brotherhood to be the place where I have learned to love others and God and, perhaps even more importantly, to love my very self! Our brotherhood has always been a “safe place” for me to be in my search for God, a place of understanding, comfort, forgiveness, and great love. I am so very grateful that our Good God has gifted me with brothers.

Fr. Saleem Amir Maseh, OFM
25 Years Priesthood
My jubilee as a Franciscan ordained minister was another great opportunity to be most grateful to God for having called me to serve His people, in particular, the suffering, the dying, the abandoned, unloved and unwanted. I celebrated my jubilee with a small group of children who come for the catechesis classes every Tuesday [in Savanna-la-mar, Jamaica]. It was an occasion of thanksgiving and at the same time great fun.

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