Tuesday, Aug. 8, the feast of St. Dominic, was a sad day at St. Francis Friary and Retreat House, Easton, Pennsylvania. Friday, Aug. 11, the feast of Saint Clare, was a momentous day at Saint Anthony Friary, Butler, New Jersey. After 52 years, our brother, Ed Skutka, has moved! Ed left Easton on that Tuesday to spend a few days with his family in Hibernia. On Friday, I met him at his sister’s house, and together we went on to Butler, a little over 12 miles away.
After graduating from high school, Ed went to live with the Trappists in Genessee, New York. Three months later, he was back home in Hibernia “because the monks didn’t talk.” He was drafted into the U.S. Army and served in the medical corps in Vietnam. Much like St. Francis upon returning to Assisi after a year as a prisoner of war, Ed returned from Vietnam (not as a POW) looking for something deeper in his life. He was attracted to the friars in the Vice Province of the Holy Savior, and in 1969, he joined them in Easton for a year of pre-novitiate formation. In 1970, he entered the novitiate with the friars of Immaculate Conception Province in Catskill, New York. After professing first vows in 1971, Ed returned to St. Francis, where he faithfully washed dishes for our guests and inflicted corny jokes on the friars for 52 more years.
St. Anthony Friary reminds me of St. Clement Friary in Cincinnati, or the former St. Boniface Friary in Louisville. It was built 100 years or so ago as a house of formation for the friars of Holy Name Province. Like St. Clement and St. Boniface, a parish is attached. Over the years, the building has been adapted for one purpose or another. About two dozen friars currently live there: some in retirement, some in active ministry, some in both. Ed and I visited St. Anthony four or five times earlier this year, staying overnight and joining the friars for prayer, meals and recreation. I have enjoyed getting to know the brothers there, and Ed has enjoyed watching Jeopardy with them weekday nights at 7.
This move is a major adjustment in Ed’s life. His 52 consecutive years at St. Francis Friary tie Stan Bir’s 52 at St. Clement. Add in Ed’s year of pre-novitiate formation, and his 53-year total will stand as a provincial record. I think that our brother will do well in his new home. His family is less than half an hour away, and the friary provides him with the stability of routine and the freshness of variety.
As of Aug. 11, Ed’s address is:
Br. Edward Skutka, OFM
St. Anthony Friary
65 Bartholdi Avenue
Butler, New Jersey 07405