2 friars shake hands

At the 2019 Jubilee celebration, Fr. Mark Soehner congratulates Fr. Jeremy Harrington for his 60 years as a Franciscan priest.

Whenever we celebrate an anniversary as a friar, it is an opportunity. Married folks on their anniversaries remember weathering many storms, personally, together and with each other, as well as other bucolic times of being a team. Friars too, reflect on the stormy and sunny weather. It is an opportunity to give thanks to God, whose Spirit drew us, shakes our foundations and gives us a newness, a freshness. It is an opportunity to make new goals based on the Spirit, always prompting us to grow, to become new for the current moment.

We read in this News Notes some things we may not have known about some of those friars celebrating their 25th or 50th anniversary. Some are funny, others interesting, but Jubilee Time unearths many different memories. The Spirit, it seems, can use this moment to reclaim lost, even painful experiences, and recreate them. Some will teach us humility, or a sense of compunction and determination to change. Others will reinvigorate our sense of being chosen by God, and a subsequent deepening of our commitment to God.

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2021 Jubilarians Fr. Al Hirt and Fr. Jim Van Vurst at the 2018 Jubilee

I hope that each friar reading these interesting stories will be led to thank God for that brother. Our brotherhood is the “privileged place of meeting with God,” according to our Constitutions, which also remind us that “every friar is a gift of God to the fraternity” (GC, 40). That is not always easy to see each day. Some days one or the other of us can be experienced as a pain, rather than an opportunity.

Jubilee celebrations help us to affirm that importance of our brotherhood. Each brother can see the face of the others and recommit to this joyful brotherhood. It makes it particularly painful that we are not meeting this year to jointly celebrate these important milestones. While recent advancements have been made through vaccinations, not all are vaccinated. It was the discernment among the Provincials that large gatherings will not be permitted among us until 2022, for the safety of all the brothers. It is our hope to celebrate the jubilees that we have missed these past years, along with those in 2022 at our Provincial Chapter and APA next May.

This year, as we honor those brothers who are celebrating these Jubilee milestones, we thank them for their years of service, for their life as brothers, and for allowing God’s Spirit to hollow them out, making them pliable instruments of peace and actual joy. Thank you, brothers, for your commitment to this journey together!

(Fr. Mark Soehner is the Provincial Minister of the Province of St. John the Baptist.)

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Br. Mike Dubec, Br. Ed Gura, Fr. Mike Chowning, and Br. Mark Gehret at the 2018 Jubilee