DIVINE MERCY SECULAR FRANCISCAN FRATERNITY
Our Fraternity: from 1992 to 1995
In late 1991, Fred Schaeffer attended a St. Helen Charismatic Prayer Group meeting on a Thursday evening. Jean Kurtz came in and asked to speak. She asked if there were any Franciscans present. Fred raised his hand. After the meeting finished, Jean asked Fred if he could help her start a Franciscan fraternity in Vero Beach. Jean wanted to become a Franciscan. The nearest fraternity, at the time, was in Melbourne, but Jean didn't want to travel that far because of health problems. Jean's friend, Corrine McCarthy, SFO, then joined us and the three of us agreed to carry this forward in the Name of Jesus. The first "exploratory" meeting was held in April 1992. As Fred recalls that early meeting between Jean and himself, he is sure that our fraternity was started by and through the grace of the Holy Spirit. Thanks you, Lord!
In April of 1992, a group of people, headed by Corrine McCarthy, SFO, Jean Kurtz (deceased), and, Fred Schaeffer met at the residence of Jean Kurtz, as ‘Friends of St. Francis’, with the intention of finding a way to begin the formation of a group which would eventually become a fraternity of the Secular Franciscan Order. We had invited Fr. Mike Heine, OFM Conv. (then of John Carroll High School, in Fort Pierce) to come, and we enjoyed his company. We had asked him how to proceed but he was not sure. Corrine McCarthy talked to people at San Pedro (Orlando area), and, visited Our Lady of Lourdes Fraternity, in Melbourne, Florida. Fred Schaeffer offered to contact the Capuchin Spiritual Assistant of St. Mary Province in New England, and other friars he knew from his Capuchin experience.
Fr. Mike Heine invited us to a Day of Recollection at John Carroll High School, in Ft. Pierce. There were about eight of us.
Fred requested and we received permission, from Msgr. Irvine Nugent, Pastor, to meet at St. Helen Parish, in Vero Beach, and met there in November, December of 1992.
We met on January 10th, at St. Helen’s Parish, and on January 13th, Fred Schaeffer mailed a letter to Mr. Ben O’Neal, SFO, then Minister of Our Lady of Lourdes Fraternity. In this letter, Fred explained how he had gotten into contact with Fr. Zachary Grant, OFM Cap., and subsequently had been referred to the late Elizabeth Ryder, SFO (then Secretary to NAFRA), who had explained the Regionalization process and she spoke of an emergent Region in Florida. She advised us to contact Larry Herbert. Larry explained various things about Five Franciscan Martyrs Region, what we should do, and to contact Ben O’Neal.
On January 16th, Fred mailed requests to the following churches, asking for the insertion of a parish bulletin notice, suggesting that our February meeting be an organizational meeting of professed Secular Franciscans and others interested in starting a fraternity. The churches where this bulletin notice was requested were: Holy Cross (Vero Beach), St. Sebastian (Sebastian), St. John of the Cross (Vero Beach), St. Helen (Vero Beach), St. Anastasia (Ft. Pierce), and, Our Lady of Guadalupe mission at Fellsmere, Florida.
We met on February 14, 1993 and we discussed the proposed election (as suggested by Ben O’Neal, SFO) slated for April of 1993. More than a dozen people were present.
We met on March 14, 1993, to further prepare for the April meeting. A newsletter was started by Fred Schaeffer. In months previous to March 1993, he had been using postcards as meeting notices and a personal letter-format where applicable. The newsletter was just called "Newsletter."
Ben O’Neal, SFO, representing Our Lady of Lourdes Fraternity, as sponsor, supervised the election of the following officers: Fred Schaeffer, Minister; Helen Caldarone, Vice-Minister; Jean Kurtz, Secretary; and, Cecile Morelli, Treasurer. The meeting was held on April 18, 1993, the day of beatification of Sr. Faustina. Although the name of the fraternity was drawn by lots (secret ballot), it surely is more than coincidence that this fratemity’s name is Divine Mercy A good number of people were present (Secretary has attendance records).
We registered this group with Pam Nagle, SFO, Regional Treasure, opening a checking account at Great Western Bank. We met on the 3rd Sunday of the month by exception, having arranged to meet always on the 2nd Sunday of the month. Formation of inquirers has begun. Fred is taking formation with Our Lady of Lourdes Fraternity, in Melbourne (since February 1993).
We had a terrific meeting on June 13, 1993. Many are on vacation but there were still nine (9) present. The group has all the characteristics of a happy family.
In August, seven people asked to become candidates. These people have completed the study of chapters 1-6 in "Catch me a Rainbow". The "Rite of Admission" is being planned for the November 1993 meeting.
The November meeting, on the 14th, in the Upper Room took place (due to the amount of visitors) at St. Helen’s Christian Living Center, where the Rite of Admission was celebrated. Ben O’Neal, SFO, Minister of Our Lady of Lourdes Fraternity, provided the participants with a booklet outlining the Rite and the parts for the candidates and other participants. Besides Ben, Isabel Harvey, SFO, Kathleen Kibbe, SFO, Fr. Mike Heine, OFM Conv., and Fred Schaeffer participated. The candidates were: Eugene and Helen Caldarone, Joe John, Jean Kurtz, Marge and Steve Litcher, Elaine and John Matthews, and Frances ‘Pat’ Riordan. We welcomed Fr. Richard LaCorte, SFO, who joined us. He has been installed as Parochial Vicar at St. John of the Cross Parish. There were 20 people attending the meeting and seven couldn’t make it.
Fred was in bed with the flu in January. Helen Caldarone opened the meeting, which began at St. Helen’s, and was continued in Helen and Gene’s dining room at their Pelican Lane house, over dinner.
On February 13th, we met at St. John of the Cross Church, on 82nd Avenue, where we met Fr. Tom Murphy, OFM, Spiritual Assistant of Five Franciscan Martyrs Region. He and Fr. Richard concelebrated H. Mass for the group, consisting of 29 people. It was a very wonderful day, where Fr. Tom spoke at length about Christopher Columbus, and about the Psalms.
Our March meeting took place on the 13th, at St. Helen’s Christian Living Center, at 2 p.m. Fred made a special effort to get participants to send in articles and notes for the "Newsletter." We met in April but nothing significant occurred.
Since our meeting (2nd Sunday of the month, as usual) fell on Mothers’ Day, attendance was sparser, however, most of us felt it was appropriate to hold a SFO meeting on Mothers’ Day because Mary is our mother as well as the Mother of God.
June. Nothing stands out from this June meeting, except a renewed effort by Fred to teach the participants the finer points of the Liturgy of the Hours and how to pray this wonderful Liturgical prayer. We put a questionnaire in the "Newsletter as Ben O’Neal’s suggestion, asking for guidance regarding scheduling of the proposed professions on October 4, 1994. We had given the candidates a choice of October 4th or October 9th (normal meeting date). The majority chose October 4th, the feast of our Seraphic Father Francis. On June 25th, Larry Herbert, SFO, Regional Minister, was ordained a Permanent Deacon in the Diocese of Orlando.
July. Fred, in the July 1994 issue of the "Newsletter," copied those portions of the Constitutions of the Secular Franciscan Order (NAFRA edition), pertinent to Profession or Promise of Evangelical Life.
In August, Fred sent a letter to all Candidates for Profession, dated August 29, 1994. It was a letter "from the heart’ written with lots of guidance by the Holy Spirit.
In the September/October 1994 issue of our "Newsletter," Fred thanked some of the early promoters of the fraternity, and this short note should be made part of this record too:
As we prepare for professions, let us pray most especially for the Franciscans and other friends who had a hand in the formation of this Fraternity, Corrine McCarthy, SFO and her husband Bill, Jean Kurtz, Rose and Bob O’Brien, SFO, Trudy and George Thomas, all were instrumental in getting this fraternity started. Let us pray for Ben O’Neal, SFO, and for Franciscans of Our Lady of Lourdes Secular Franciscan Fraternity, who graciously offered to sponsor us. Ben, Millie Kaminowsky, SFO, Kay Libby, SFO, Isabel Harvey, SFO, and others, participated in our first initiation ceremony and other meetings. Let us say a special ‘Thank You’ to Jesus for the generosity of Msgr. Irvine Nugent, Pastor of St. Helen, Fr. Sean Flynn, Fr. Alfredo Hernandez, and Paul Zedek (DRE) who permitted us to use the CLC for our meetings. We’re blessed to have this wonderful place to meet. Finally, let’s thank Fr. Tom Murphy, OFM, Spiritual Assistant to SFO for Five Franciscan Martyrs’ Region, Fr. Mike Heine, OFM Conv., and Fr. Richard LaCorte, SFO, who continue to be our friends. May the Lord enrich their ministry and give them peace and all that is good.
On October 4, 1994, seven souls were professed: Helen Caldarone, SFO; Eugene Caldarone, SFO; Jean Kurtz, SFO; Elaine Matthews, SFO; John Matthews, SFO; Frances ‘Pat’ Riordan, SFO; and, Fred Schaeffer, SFO. Praise God! Fr. Richard LaCorte, SFO, celebrated Holy Mass in St. Helen’s Chapel, and the professions were made after the Gospel, and received by Fr. Richard who had been delegated by Fr. Tom Murphy, OFM to receive these Evangelic promises on behalf of Five Franciscan Martyrs’ Province, and the Church. Fr. Richard signed the "Certificate" card. Anticipating the need for a new Chapter, members were asked to let the Council know where they would like to serve. Until this point in time there had been a few hasty Council Meetings, most things having been hashed out in open meeting; Fred urged the members to meet once a month, separate from the monthly meeting, and this will be done at Helen’s house in the last, or next to last week of each month. Shortly after the professions took place.
Except that our meeting in November 1994 was the first meeting at which there was no formation (except for one inquirer), and where all of us, now professed, were together, there is nothing special to report.
December. We held a Council Meeting before the Regular Meeting on December 11th, and had a small social with Christmas in mind. Fred hopes once again "to take the mystery out" of the Liturgy of the Hours. The only way to learn your way around these prayers is to pray them twice a day, morning and evening. The issue of the "Newsletter" was largely devoted to this effort.
We met on January 8th at the customary place at St. Helen’s Christian Living Center, Dining Room. Fred urged the group to do something about the office of Treasurer, which should have been filled and had been vacant for some time.
February. A slate of nominations came together, and Fred contacted Ben O’Neal, SFO, who promised to contact Carlos Calderon, SFO, Regional Coordinator, to schedule a Chapter. Shortly afterwards, we heard from Ben that the Chapter had been indefinitely postponed, at least until after Canonical Establishment. Fr. Rock Travnikar, OFM, of the Midwest Franciscan, visiting Fred in Vero Beach, concelebrated Holy Mass for us, with Fr. Richard. It was a wonderful meeting, and an unforgettable day for Fred. Fr. Rock gave Fred an earthenware cup, used as the Communion Cup at this Mass, made by Dave Kobek, then Candidate to OFMs; this cup, used many times since at OFM Vocation functions as the Chalice, was a wonderful symbol of friendship and partnership between the OFM and SFO’s., in general, and Fr. Rock, Fr. Richard, Br. Dave, Fred, and the members of Divine Mercy Fratemity, in particular.
March 12th was the meeting Sunday. Nothing stands out about this meeting except that we met as a happy and close-knit spiritual family.
April’s meeting fell on Palm Sunday, a good way to contemplate the significance in our lives of the events that took place so many years ago, when our brother, and Lord, Jesus, and his Mother Mary, and the Apostles, were on earth and their story unfolded and ended with the Crucifixion and subsequent Resurrection. John and Elaine Matthews, SFO attended a retreat at Our Lady of Florida Monastery in North Palm Beach, given by Secular Franciscans from fraternities in the southem area. We discussed what type of activity or program we might use at future meetings, and urged all to begin an apostolate. The Council is meeting once a month now rather than sporadically.
At our May 14th meeting, Fred appointed, at the request of Council, our new Treasurer: Elaine Matthews, SFO. From this meeting forward, we agreed to begin each meeting at 1:30 p.m., with a 20-30 minute social where coffee, soda, and some other goodies would be made available. We also agreed to try to place an agenda for each meeting, as decided at the monthly Council Meeting, in the "Newsletter." Most of us attended a wonderful event at St Helen’s, the first Mass of Fr. Glen Pothier, who had been ordained just two days before. Fr. Glen has been appointed Parochial Vicar at St. Helen. He also did his intership here and was ordained a Transitional Deacon in 1993, at St. Helen. At the May meeting we showed a video on Mother Teresa.
As a nice change of pace, the June meeting was held at the home of John and Elaine Matthews, followed by a pot-luck dinner. The second half of the Mother Teresa video was shown. The "Newsletter", largely a collection of sharings, teachings, etc., by Fred, as well as little quotations from various books and pamphlets, is steadily growing from two to four sides (pages), but another request was made for stuff authored by the rest of us. Rita Hutchinson, SFO, Minister of Our Lady of Lourdes Fraternity, phoned Fred that on June 11th, we had been voted in at the Five Franciscan Martyrs’ Regional Fraternity and accordingly, we’re now "Emergent." (a step on the way to Canonical Approbation)
July. Marguerite and Tony Bonner, SFO, friends and winter visitors, write that they had gotten back home safely. Back home is in Barnegat, New Jersey. Fred mailed a letter to Fr. Mark Sangy, OFM Conv., who teaches at John Carroll High School in Ft. Pierce and is Guardian of the group of Conventual friars there, living at St. Clare of Assisi Friary, inviting him or one of his fellow friars to our meetings. We viewed a video on St. Clare during this meeting.
We met on August 13th. Helen and Eugene Caldarone were on vacation; in fact, Fred was ‘house-sitting’ their abode on Pelican Lane. Fred tried to show a video on St. Maximillian Kolbe, however, the video equipment available didn’t do too well. We heard we had been invited to a Day of Recollection sponsored by Our Lady of Lourdes Fraternity in Melbourne, on September 16th.
The Day of Recollection, on the September 16th, held at the Campus Ministry All Faiths Center at Florida Tech, was a wonderful experience. We all met Pam Nagle, SFO, Regional Treasurer, of Tampa, who helped us by suggesting a text for proposed bulletin notices. Corrine McCarthy, SFO, helped a lot with this too, mostly in goading Fred on, to ‘do something about’ the ‘no-publish’ situation. Fred later discussed this with Larry Herbert, SFO, Regional Minister, since this topic had been under discussion for some time. Larry advised Fred that there were problems in finding a friar province sponsor to provide Altius Moderamen as set forth in Canon Law, and elsewhere. We met, also, on September 10th for our regular meeting, where Gene Caldarone, SFO, presented the beginning of his discussion on Pope John Paul II’s encyclical "The Gospel of Life" (Evangelium Vitae). We’re all praying for Jean Kurtz, SFO, who is convalescing from surgery. We added the Rosary, to our meeting prayers, or at least where possible, the Liturgy of the Hours having preference when pressed for time.
October. The "Newsletter" now has a subheading, part of the wording suggested by Pam in September, which says: "A group of professed Secular Franciscans, seeking to experience the life of the Gospel in fraternity, who are taking their final steps on the journey toward Canonical Establishment." Fred called Larry Herbert a number of times to sort out the stumbling block concerning Canonical Establishment, and learned that National Fraternity put a new procedure into place and that Holy Name Province’s reluctance to admit any new fraternities in Florida, due to lack of ‘friar presence’ may have been influenced by the new procedures. Corrine appropriately termed this "Franciscan Dis-Order." We keep plugging away at it. A number of appointments were made by Fred on behalf of the Council, eyeing growth in the near future: To "Co-Directors of Formation": Eugene Caldarone, SFO, and Pat Riordan, SFO; to "Assisting Formation Team": John Matthews, SFO, and to "Recruitment Director," Corrine McCarthy, SFO. Essentially, now all members at present are welcome to attend Council meetings, if they desire.
Our November 12th meeting featured the continuation of Gene Caldarone’s talk on "The Gospel of Life". We showed the video "Miracles of the Eucharist" and, most importantly, we had a friar visitor Fr. Anthony Francis Spilka, OFM Conv., from St. Clare of Assisi Friary, Fort Pierce. It was a blessing to listen to Fr. Anthony Francis's story. The "Newsletter" has been renamed. We now know it as "The Canticle."
December. "The Canticle" has been completed, in which we announced that the next meeting will be on December 10th. Jean Kurtz, SFO, wrote a nice article on meditation. Council decided on a mixed meeting program with lots of different things, ending with Christmas carols. Fred talked with Larry Herbert, SFO, once more, since there is a glimmer of hope that the Conventuals will pick us up if we complete certain steps. The most necessary step is a Regional Fraternal and Pastoral Visitation which will be on January 14, 1996. Larry Herbert, SFO, Regional Minister, and Fr. Tom Murphy, OFM, Regional Spiritual Assistant will be visiting us. We made arrangement for Fr. Tom to overnight with Helen and Gene because of space limitations at St Helen’s Christian Living Center. It appears that there is a retreat going on. Fred discussed this with Paul Zedek, DRE at St. Helen, who is in charge of "room useage", along with Sandy Miller. He feels that we should probably use the Chapel for that meeting, but it is best to see what is available at the time.
Fred began writing this Chronology, which will be continued. This material will be turned over to the Vice-Minister, when Fred leaves in July for Cincinnati. A copy of this Chronology, to date, has been made available to Larry Herbert, Regional Minister, Five Franciscan Martyrs Region, and to the Fraternity’s Council.
Secular Franciscan Order
Ordo Franciscanus Sæcularis
Divine Mercy Fraternity
Vero Beach, FL
Term expires: 2/10/2022
Fred Schaeffer, OFS
Helen Caldarone, OFS
Mary "Jean" McGovern, OFS
Jack Reddy, OFS
Donna Haro, OFS
Joanne Giordano, OFS
Fred Schaeffer, OFS
Five Franciscan Martyrs