Gaining and Losing Friends
by Fred Schaeffer, OFS
On January 18th, the parishioners of our Church, and I, lost a dear friend. She was Susan Kolesnik, our keyboardist and overall assistant in Choir productions of any kind. It is still incomprehensible to me as her death was so sudden. On Wednesday evening (Jan. 17th) she assisted us in Choir practice, and of course no one could know when we wished her “See you Sunday,” that we would not see her again.
Susan was a quiet understated person who had great musical talent. Choir practice usually began at 6:30 pm, and I would generally get there around 6 pm, early so that we could chat a little. Been doing that for years and years. I miss our little chats already. Over time, we will miss her more.
People we meet frequently, weekly or more often, are part of our mosaic of life. God is good, for when one person leaves, another is somehow provided. That person is a home-health aide, a very practical person who helps me keep my house and myself in some sort of order. I’m in my late seventies and I’m not too good in doing these things. I’m also a tad lazy and I feel I am entitled. Of course, being too lazy is no good, then you turn into a potted plant. I am not ready for the nursing home yet, nor have any desire for that sort of retirement.
This year there isn’t a lot of time between the end of Christmas season and the beginning of Lent. Ash Wednesday is early, not the earliest but pretty early. As Lent begins, we might deepen “our spiritual life through the means of sanctification offered us by the Church: fasting, prayer and almsgiving. At the basis of everything is the word of God, which during this season we are invited to hear and ponder more deeply.” (2016, Pope Francis)
Losing Brothers and Sisters in the local Fraternity is always a sad experience. I'm not sure people, especially those who are not Secular Franciscans, understand how much of a close-knit family the local Fraternity becomes, but have come close to one another. Divine Mercy Fraternity (in Vero Beach, FL) is a fraternity very close to my heart since I had a hand in founding it in 1992.
Jean Kurtz, OFS (d. 11-29-2000), was one of the founding members of the fraternity. She led a very holy life. This is how she came to know us. One day, in late 1992, Jean walked into St. Helen's Charismatic Prayer Group Meeting on a Thursday evening. At the appropriate time, she went to the microphone, and introduced herself and she asked: "Are there any Franciscans here?" Fred Schaeffer raised his hand, and Jean told him that she wanted to join the Secular Franciscan Order, and if he (Fred) would please help her begin a Fraternity in Vero Beach. Fred had some Capuchin experiences when he was around 20-22, so he answered he would try. It took many phone calls and much letter-writing to come to a determination just what the procedure was to create a new Fraternity. The reason it was so extraordinarily difficult was because the SFO, formerly Third Order of St. Francis, had just begun the "regionalization" process in the USA and no one was particularly sure what to do with an emergent fraternity. But begin we did, and thanks to Jean, Fred, and also Corrine McCarthy, the Fraternity was begun and in 1996 we received full Canonical Approval and became a member fraternity of Five Franciscan Martyrs Region (Florida and part of Southern Georgia).
In the 22 years that our Fraternity has existed, we have lost many brothers and sisters. (10) With new transfers to/from other fraternities, we still have 15 members (13 active). Then there are two new people who are in discernment.
The ten who are with the Lord are helping our fraternity grow. They are our intercessors just as any deceased family member can help us who are left in this way. Catholics pray for intercession to those souls declared "Blessed" or "Saint" (this is not worship; worship is reserved only for Our Lord) but there are millions who are not formally recognized who are in Heaven and we, especially family members, pray for their intercession. I believe that is a tradition, if nothing else.
Lent is an appropriate time to think about those who have gone before us. To thank Our Lord for their friendship and love. It is also a time to thank Him for new people who have joined our extended family and to ask His blessing over all whom we make contact with.
Secular Franciscan Order
Ordo Franciscanus Sæcularis
Divine Mercy Fraternity
Vero Beach, FL
Officers as of 1/10/2016
Fred Schaeffer, OFS
Helen Caldarone, OFS
Mary "Jean" McGovern, OFS
Jack Reddy, OFS
Donna Haro, OFS
Joanne Giordano, OFS
Fred Schaeffer, OFS