father and sons in garden

Fintan Langenderfer with sons Carl and Frank (Max) in Springdale, Ohio, 1948

(In honor of Earth Day on April 22, we asked friars to name someone who has influenced their view of the impact humans have on the planet. Here’s how they responded.)

st francis fresco

“St. Francis Preaching to the Birds”, from the fresco by Giotto (1297-1299) in the Basilica of St. Francis

Max Langenderfer, OFM
Cincinnati, Ohio
My Dad, Fintan Langenderfer, loved trees, wood, and woodworking. He also loved growing things. While I was growing up we had a big garden full of sweet corn, strawberries, green and lima beans, pumpkins, radishes, rhubarb, cabbage, and other vegetables. He planted an orchard with apple, peach, plum, and cherry trees. In the 7th grade I bought a selection of conifer seedlings and planted a row of pine, blue spruce, and fir along the side of the orchard. The trees were still there 40 years later. For my ordination Dad made a laminated cherry chalice which I still use to this day. Dad was a genuine environmentalist.

Scott Obrecht, OFM
Easton, Pa.
My environmental hero is teenage Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg. I admire her commitment to the Care of Creation. She is not afraid to stand up to and challenge political / government and civil leaders on environmental issues affecting our world.

Tom Speier, OFM
Cincinnati, Ohio
My hero is pretty obvious: St. Francis of Assisi – declared the Patron Saint of Ecology and of those who promote Ecology by St. John Paul II in his Papal Bull “Inter Sanctos” on Nov. 29, 1979. The Pope called attention to Francis’s reverence for nature as a wonderful gift of God to the human race, especially as expressed in Francis’s beautiful poem “The Canticle of the Creatures” (and expressed in my dissertation “On the Mobbing Behavior of Six Species of Swallows During the Nesting Season in the Face of Predators”).


Teacher Conan Taylor, OFM

Carl Langenderfer, OFM
Oldenburg, Ind.
My environmental hero is Fr. Conan Taylor, OFM, who was my Freshman Biology teacher at Roger Bacon High School back in 1958-‘59. He opened to me the world of nature, God’s creation, and helped me to appreciate the beauties of living created things. One example would be my life-long habit of feeding the wild birds, especially in the winter. I have had bird feeders wherever I have lived, ever since it was required during my freshman year of high school. I continue to feed the wild birds every year, and currently have six bird feeders in the tree outside my bedroom window. As a freshman I got to know the various species of wild birds that came to my feeder, and even kept count of them for a while. I have tried to promote nesting places for eastern Blue Birds by building birdhouses for them.

My interest in nature extends to trees and flowers and gardening, both vegetable and flower gardening. I enjoy visiting Krohn Conservatory in Cincinnati for their seasonal flower displays and especially for their butterfly exhibits. Spring is my favorite time of year with all the flowering trees and beautiful shades of green as the trees come into leaf. I love living in Oldenburg where fields and forests are so much in evidence, and the focus is on the bounty of the earth. My favorite form of prayer is walking in nature and reflecting on God’s gift of creation in all its varied forms.

Al Mascia, OFM
Berkley, Mich.
For me, it has to be John Muir! His “nature writings” help me better understand Divine transcendence and subtlety!


Glenmary Fr. John Rausch, staunch advocate for the people and environment of Appalachia

Jerry Beetz, OFM
Cincinnati, Ohio
My environmental hero was the late Glenmary missionary Fr. John Rausch. During all my years in Appalachia, Fr. John was an advocate for the preservation of earth being abused by the practice of mountaintop removal as a means of mining coal. He also advocated for better restoration of these lands and just payment to the families who had lived on these lands for generations.

Loren Connell, OFM
Easton, Pa.
As I have come to learn more about her, I admire Rachel Carson. She took on powerful interests as her own health was declining in order to tell the truth about environmentally damaging pesticides.

Jeremy Harrington, OFM
Southfield, Mich.
I nominate friar Ed Gura. I think we all try to recycle in the friary and in the parish “Outreach.” Ed is the one who faithfully takes everything collected to the recycling center.

Al Hirt, OFM
Cincinnati, Ohio
Steve and Nell Wulff, former parishioners at St. Monica-St. George, were leaders in efforts to encourage all kinds of environmental improvements – efforts that culminated (after they had moved to St. Louis) in our solar panel project at the church. From LED to more insulation to native plants in the gardens, anything to reduce that carbon footprint!

friar on roof

Fr. Al Hirt, OFM, shows off the solar energy panels on the roof of St. Monica St. George Church.

Earth Day Hero

man sitting by cliff

Sen. Gaylord Nelson, a visionary environmentalist.

Sen. Gaylord Nelson of Wisconsin was determined to convince the federal government to take action to protect the planet. A staunch environmentalist, he was inspired by anti-Vietnam “teach-ins” at college campuses to develop the idea for the first Earth Day, April 22, 1970. “The objective was to get a nationwide demonstration of concern for the environment so large that it would shake the political establishment out of its lethargy,” he said. The senator’s goal of unifying the grassroots movement and increasing ecological awareness brought public pressure on Washington, D.C., to create a national environmental agenda.