Friars Carl Langenderfer, Joe Nelson, Mike Chowning, and Robert Weakley
Smiling face of all ages were present in the pews at Holy Family Church in Oldenburg, Ind., on Aug. 8 to mark 155 years of Franciscan presence in the parish and the jubilees of four friars who currently live or have recently resided at the Holy Family Friary. Carl Langenderfer, pastor, Joe Nelson, Mike Chowning and Bob Weakley are celebrating 235 combined years of Franciscan life and ministry.
“This is special day for the parish,” said Max Langenderfer, celebrant, during his homily. ”Francis tried to teach the brothers that no one can do anything by himself, that instead of relating to one another as superior and inferior, lord and servant, each one has something to offer, and we relate to one another as brother and sister. First of all, we thank God for all of you. The friars have been here for 155 years, but it’s because of you, because of your faith, your willingness, to listen, to grow, to live in the spirit of Jesus that we celebrate this Eucharist today.”
“We all have our story of life, our journey, and today I invite you to think about your own journey,” he continued. “What story characterizes your life? How has Jesus been the bread of life for you?”
Max went on to share briefly about each of the friars’ journeys. In Joe’s case, there was some serious travel involved, detailed in his book, Appalachian Trail, a Franciscan’s Spiritual Journey. His story, noted Carl, provides many moments of reflection and triumph. “We thank God that Fr. Joe has persevered in Franciscan life for 65 years. It’s not something you do by yourself,” he said.
Describing Bob as a “true son of the soil and the F-150 and John Deere of the St. John the Baptist Province,” Max mentioned his varied ministry, ranging from teaching at Roger Bacon High School to serving as chaplain for the Franciscan Sisters. “Bob shows us the example of steadfastness and dedication, being available to meet any need of the order or his ministry.”
Mike is a “model of precision and total attention to detail,” Max said, also emphasizing his total dedication to “the needs of the people. He spent 23 years in the coal mines of Hazard, Kentucky, and often went back to help out even when no longer assigned there.”
Among the graces God gave his older brother, Carl, said Max, were the abilities to teach people, especially young friars, along with building community. Those skills have been put to use through his ministry at Holy Family, “through your help and cooperation,” Max said, citing the successful church remodeling project and how well parishioners work together for the sake of their faith community.
“We thank God for each of these friars and their story, their journey of life, their willingness to stick to the job,” Max said in conclusion. ”We thank God for all of you. We pray that Jesus Christ the bread of life will sustain each of us on the journey.”
A reception followed the Mass, providing the opportunity for fellowship and to give thanks to God for all of His blessings over the years, especially the presence of friars. “They have meant so much to parish,” said longtime parishioner Mary Ann Moeller. “Their faith has really tugged at my heart and kept the spirit of St. Francis alive here.”