Considering and Contemplating the Conventual Franciscan Charism Through the Witness of Saint Oscar Romero
by: fray Sidifredo de La Cruz, OFM Conv. (Colombia)   & fray Erick Marín, OFM Conv. (Central America)
We, the Franciscan friars of Colombia and Central America welcome our brothers from the United States to Latin America. Our houses of formation in Bogotá, Medellín, and San Salvador are happy to host our combined Franciscan group of friars of the Americas, in our learning and experiencing what it means for us to embrace the lepers of today, the poor crucified Christ, and to be embraced by Him in return.  Our religious structures and striving for personal holiness can too often lead to adopting a comfortable lifestyle that numbs consecrated religious. In this state, we too often fail to hear the cry of the poor who seek justice to find peace, and thereby risk missing the compassion that moved God to incarnate his Word in the reality of an oppressed people.
Pope Francis, who co…

"The Forest is More Than the Trees..."

by: friar Rich Rome, OFM Conv.

It looked like a scene out of Stranger Things.We had come to the top of a mountain, which had been the site of a strip mine in the 1990s and somewhat returned to forest.It had been raining the entire time we had been in Kentucky, and while it still was raining, there was a brief reprieve in the intensity.Stepping off the main trail, we walked through the exceptionally green brush, made so green this year from the copious amounts of rain, until we came to the site: a circle of burnt orange about 50 yards in diameter containing about 40 black-trunked trees within the circle, the tallest of which were over 30 feet high.These were loblolly pines, very familiar to me since they are one of the most common trees we have in coastal Virginia.But here, they seemed out of place.
The circle of orange was the accumulation of all the pine needles they had dropped as they had grown over the last 15 years as part of an experiment by a professor from the University of Ken…

God's Garden

by: friar Jaime Zaragoza, OFM Conv. In Kentucky, I heard a phrase that stuck with me: we are co-gardeners in God’s garden.And the garden is being destroyed.I was realizing while climbing the Appalachian mountains in Kentucky to help plant new trees, that I was being a co-gardener with God.My role was to plant the seed, do the work, and put in the necessary time, to once again be a church for social justice, to not partake in harmony that governs nature itself, but to listen to what is needed from me.

For myself, it was interesting and transforming knowing that there are places still needing a lot of attention in the US.I will strive to become a better co-gardener, a better caretaker of the earth and to cooperate with Mother Nature.I have also learned that once a seed is planted it takes time to develop; as it is true in nature, so is it true in our spiritual lives. At Our Lady of Good Counsel in Hazard, KY, the windows of the church are based on the five themes found in the Appalachian p…

"You Visited Me"

by: friar Angel Garcia, OFM Conv.
In my previous post, I wrote about North Carolina and the vibrancy in a community of recent immigrants. Now I turn my attention to a different group of invisible people, federal prisoners in Kentucky. 
While I did not personally encounter the prisoners themselves, except seeing a few prisoners being put into a van for transportation, we friars did meet with an amazing woman who regularly participates in a program that matches local people with prisoners for visitations (Prisoner Visitation & Support Program). When we asked her why she has been a part of this program for so many years, she responded that it is because of her faith and done through the American Friends Service Committee. She is a Quaker. As a member of the Community of Friends she believes that she has a responsibility for helping to build the “kingdom of God on earth.”
She sees the inmates are part of that "kingdom" even though they have committed crimes. They are children …

Disconnect to Reconnect

by: friar Alejandro Arias, OFM Conv.
I find myself disconnected from beauty and from reality when I am so connected through social media.Being connected is so important in life. As humans we were created to be relational. We are always seeking relationships, created by a relational, triune God. But I find myself unable to connect if my eyes are fixed on my phone all the time. I needed to disconnect to connect with reality, and this is something that I found to be profound in the lives of Russ and Renee. 
Russ and Renee are a lovely couple that live off the grid in Kentucky. NO electricity! Their house is like something you would find in the Shire. Everything is made out of wood and in harmony with nature - it’s amazing. Their hospitality was nothing short of that of a family of Hobbits, with food coming fresh from their garden, including freshly baked pies, and conversation that lingered for hours and included the reciting of poetry! Going to their house, I was able to reconnect with p…

Come Together

by: friar Jaime Zaragoza, OFM Conv.

In North Carolina, I was able to see where people from Mexico migrate to after arriving to the United States.  I was very surprised to hear from the U.S. community how welcoming and accepting they were.  I believe it has a lot to do with Fr. Julio.  Fr. Julio has been the first to say to me that he loves to be a parish priest, he gets to reopen the bridges and fixes them to help the people come together.
What I will take with me is one thing Fr. Julio said, "One must get to know themselves and be comfortable with themselves, and then they can be a good pastor."  I believe this to be true because I was able to spend time with Fr. Julio's parish and experience the joy and vibrancy of two cultures coming together.

"The Pineapple Water"

by: friar Rich Rome, OFM Conv.
“I can’t believe that you all are here.”While our tour of the town was scheduled, it was not intricately planned.We were just stopping casually at places of interest that our local guides thought we would be of benefit.As we were walking along a street in the old part of Siler City, where many immigrant families first settle, we stopped by some of the houses.We were eight: five friars plus our three locals.Our third stop began by encountering the lady of the house in the driveway, who was shocked that we had come by.“My father is inside and he is dying.”
We offered to pray with her, and she was happy to have us do so.She ushered us into the house and started introducing us to her husband, her daughter and two sons.We prayed with the whole family, all of us still in shock at this turn of providence.After the prayers, we remained with the family and spoke with them.As the family were introducing us all to the family dog, the blender suddenly fired up in the …