10 Aug

Pilgrimage in the footsteps of Saint Maximilian Kolbe with the Friars of the Provincial Custody of the Orient and the Holy Land

From May 21 to 30, OFM Conv. Friars from the Middle East took a spiritual journey to Poland in the footsteps of the Polish Saint on the 100th anniversary of his founding the Militia of the Immaculate.

This year the Friars of Custody of the Orient and the Holy Land held their annual spiritual exercises in Poland. The retreat had a Marian focus as part of the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Militia of the Immaculate by Saint Maximilian Kolbe and six other Friars Minor Conventuals in Rome.


The retreat was organized by the Custodial Vicar, Father Martin Kmetec, in collaboration with Friar Diarusz Wiśniewski. Each participant was asked to contribute to the pilgrimage by providing one or more of the spiritual meditations and homilies.


The pilgrimage began on the evening of May 21 with our arrival at our friary in Warsaw and the joyous welcome of our Polish Friars. After visiting the historical center of the city, Father Dariusz shared a meditation on the theme of Judaism, the relationship with the Church, and Antisemitism in order to prepare the group for a visit to the museum of Polish Jews. During the visit we had the opportunity to better understand the history of Polish Jews, beginning with their arrival in the country up until Auschwitz, and everything that it signified for their religious, political, economic and family existence. In the afternoon we went to visit and pray at the Church of Divine Providence.


Our presence in Warsaw concluded with mass celebrated at the altar dedicated to the memory of the blessed martyrs Michał Tomaszek and Zbigniew Strzalkowski, two Friars Minor Conventual who were killed in Peru in 1991.


In a reflection titled, Popular Marian Devotion, Father Martin explained to us how from the beginning of the church until today, Mary has had a very important role among the people of God. Whether through prayer, or in songs or structures dedicated to her, the figure of the Mother of God, our mother, has always been present in our lives. With this reflection Father Martin helped us to enter into the atmosphere of the Sanctuary of our Lady of Licheń.


In the evening, we arrived at the seminary of Łódź. There student friars from two provinces, Warsaw and Danzig, live and study together. They welcomed us with great joy and much fraternal affection. Friars from the nearby friary explained the church building’s history and then we passed a pleasant evening of fraternity together.


The next day we departed for the Sanctuary of the Black Madonna of Częstochowa. We arrived in the midst of a rainstorm. Upon entering the sanctuary we had the opportunity to concelebrate the solemn first communion mass, surrounded by numerous pilgrims and many children who were receiving the body of Jesus for the first time. After the mass each of us stopped to pray before the miraculous image of our Lady, to offer her our supplications.


Afterwards, at the convent of the Little Sisters of Jesus, Friar Iosif Robu offered a meditation about Maximilian Kolbe and Missions. For Saint Maximilian, love must stand as life-giving spring at the root of every mission. For the Saint, every mission has its starting point in the hearts of each of us.


Filled with hope from the awareness that the Mother of God is always near to us, in our joys and our difficulties, we left this holy place and set out for Krakow. Here we soon discovered the city’s beautiful churches, including the Arch-cathedral of Saint Stanislaw and Saint Wenceslaus where John Paul II celebrated his first mass, on Wawel Hill next to the royal castle. Near to Krakow we also visited the Sanctuary of Divine Mercy and with it the tomb of Saint Faustina Kowalska.


Friar Anton Bulai also shared a reflection on Divine Mercy, highlighting Jesus’ desire, shared with Saint Faustina in a vision: “the first Sunday after Easter is the Feast of Mercy, but there must also be acts of mercy, and I demand the worship of My mercy through the solemn celebration of the Feast and through the veneration of the image which is painted.”


Upon leaving this sanctuary we headed towards the salt mine of Wieliczka. Here we took a guided tour of this, one of the oldest salt mines in the world. In the afternoon we arrived in Wadowice, birthplace of Pope John Paul II (Wojtyła), and visited the new museum in the former Pope’s family home. In the evening we arrived at our order’s Friary in Harmeze. Here, after praying vespers, Father Iosif Petrila shared a meditation on the life and teaching of Saint John Paul II.


The morning of May 27 we arrived at the Auschwitz-Birkenau extermination camp, a Nazi concentration camp that had produced horror and death. Here, an Italian-speaking guide awaited us. Seeing the traces of this horror and hearing the explanation of the guide, we were left speechless. We also visited the place where Saint Maximilian offered his life in exchange for the life of another man, the father of a family, and ended up dying a horrible death, starved by the SS. In the cell where he died as well as outside the cell we spent several moments in prayer. This part of our spiritual pilgrimage took us to the way of the cross of Jesus, taking into our hearts the suffering of the world.


Returning to Harmeze, in the morning we celebrated the mass of the Solemnity of the Ascension and then departed for Niepokalanów. During a stop at Częstochowa, Friar Mihăiță Herciu shared a meditation on the Immaculate Conception of Mary, explaining how Saint Maximilian offers Mary as an example for all Christians. The Immaculate shows us that we are full of the gift of the grace of God and it prepares us to be saints. We are called to a great responsibility, following her example, in order to fulfill our journey of sanctification.


In the evening we arrived at the Niepokalanów friary, founded by Saint Maximilian Kolbe. Here we visited the city of the Immaculate, seeing the great works that the saint accomplished.


On the final day Friar Piotr Szczepanski, Provincial Vicar of the Friars Minor Conventual in Warsaw, talked to us about the life of Saint Maximilian, highlighting the different aspects of the saint’s life, from his mission in Japan until his death in Auschwitz.

fr. Mihăiță Herciu

Pellegrinaggio In Polonia

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07 Jul

Beirut: Priestly Ordination

Coming from an Armenian-Catholic family, Friar Elias Paolo had the joy of being ordained by the imposition of the hands of His Beatitude Gregory Petros XX GABROYAN, Armenian Catholic Patriarch of Cilicia.
Those concelebrating included the Most Reverend Cesar ESSAYAN, OFM Conv., Latin Bishop of Beirut, who gave the homily; the Most Reverend Georges ASSADURIAN, Auxiliary Bishop of the Patriarchal Eparchy of Beirut of the Armenians; and Conventual Franciscan friars from the Provincial Custody of the Orient and the Holy Land. Also present were members of the Secular Franciscans in Zahle, (Lebanon) and many friends and family who fervently participated in the Armenian Rite of the Eucharist and the priestly ordination.
On Sunday, July 2, Friar Elias Paolo celebrated his first Mass at the friary of St. Anthony in Sin-el-Fil (Beirut).
Friar Elias Paul was born in Beirut and began his vocational journey at the Armenian Seminary in Bzommar (Lebanon). After discovering the figure of St. Francis of Assisi, he entered the Provincial Custody of the Orient and the Holy Land of the Minor Friars Conventual. He studied theology at the Seraphicum International College in Rome and made his solemn profession on September 18, 2016, in Beirut.

Friar Lucian ABALINTOAIEI, OFM Conv.


Ordinazione Sacerdotale A Beirut

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27 Jun

Romania: New Priests

On Friday, June 23, 2017, thirteen young men were ordained to the priesthood by the Most Reverend Petru GHERGHEL, Bishop of Iasi. The ceremony took place in the Roman Catholic Church of Iasi. Five of the newly ordained priests were friars from the Romanian Province of St. Joseph of the Order of the Friars Minor Conventual. The remaining eight were from the Diocese of Iasi.

Others attending the celebration included: the Most Reverend Aurel PERCA, Auxiliary Bishop of Iasi, Friar Teofil PETRISOR, Minister Provincial, along with rectors, professors and formators of the institutes where the candidates studied, priests from Romania and abroad, parents and family members of the candidates and a large number of the faithful.
Next Sunday, the new priests will celebrate their first masses in their places of origin.

Friar Virgil BLAJ, Provincial Secretary

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22 Jun

Istanbul: Franciscan Priestly Ordination

On Saturday, June 17, 2017, Friar Andrew HOCHSTEDLER, OFM Conv., was ordained a priest at the Basilica of St. Anthony in Istanbul, Turkey.


This significant occasion was attended by friars from the Provincial Custody of the Orient and the Holy Land, a Custody of the Order of Friars Minor Conventual. The Custody belongs to the Province of St. Joseph Spouse of the B.V.M. in Romania. Other participants included friars from Italy, Croatia, France and the United States; priests of the Apostolic Vicariate of Istanbul together with the Most Reverend Rubén Tierrablanca Gonzalez, OFM, Vicar Apostolic of Istanbul; plus family and friends of Friar Andrew.


The Mass was presided over by the Most Reverend Cesar ESSAYAN, OFM Conv., Bishop of Beirut and former Custos of the Custody of the Orient and the Holy Land. It was during his time as Custos that Friar Cesar first guided the newly ordained on his vocational journey. Now as a Bishop, he imposed his hands on Friar Andrew and conferred Sacred Orders upon him.
Before the Mass, there was a moment of interior preparation. Guests, tourists and music lovers were treated to a concert by Romanian organist Eduard ANTAL. His playing created a joyful atmosphere which was conducive to the celebration.


At the beginning of the Mass, Friar Martin KMETEC, the Vicar Custos, welcomed everyone and gave thanks to the Lord for the gift that Friar Andrew has been to the Custody. At the same time he stressed that there had never been a priestly ordination in this basilica before. In his homily, Bishop ESSAYAN mentioned Pope Francis’ message of June 10, 2017: “Life can survive only because of the generosity of other lives.” In fact, recalling St. Maximilian Maria KOLBE, who gave his life to save another life in 1941, in Auschwitz, the Bishop of Beirut invited Friar Andrew to consider this example: being a priest is a grace from the Lord but at the same time this grace, this gift, becomes a gift to others.


Friar Andrew HOCHSTEDLER was born on July 20, 1983, in Istanbul, to a Protestant family. In 2008, after having worked for three years as a journalist, he started his vocational journey at the St. Anthony friary in Istanbul. From there, he entered the postulancy program in Brescia, Italy. He studied philosophy at the Theological Institute of Assisi and studied theology at the Pontifical Theological Faculty of St. Bonaventure (Seraphicum) in Rome. Friar Andrew professed his solemn vows in the Order of Friars Minor Conventual at the Basilica of St. Anthony, in Istanbul, on September 13, 2014. He was ordained a deacon in the parish of Saint Antoine in Beirut, on December 4, 2016.


friar Lucian ABALINTOAIEI, OFM Conv.



Ordinazione Sacerdotale A Istanbul

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26 May

Romania: Formation Course for the guardians

On May 17-19, 2017, a formation course for the guardians of the Province of St. Joseph in Romania took place at the Provincial Curia in Bacău, Romania. The course was conducted by the Secretary General for Formation (SGF), Friar Louis PANTHIRUVELIL, with collaboration from the Procurator of the Order, Friar Maurizio DI PAOLO, who presented a conference on the legal aspects of the role of the guardian and his authority. 


Twenty-four guardians participated, coming from friaries in Germany, Italy, the Provincial Custody of the Orient and the Holy Land and the Province of Romania. The course took place in an atmosphere of true fraternity and mutually attentive listening. The Minister Provincial of the Province of Romania, Friar Teofil PETRIŞOR, also attended.

At the end of the course, Friar Louis and Friar Giulio CESAREO were able to visit some of the Conventual presences in the Province: Luizi Călugăra, Nisiporeşti, Hălăuceşti, the social center of the friary of St. Anthony of Padua in Roman, and the convent of the Poor Clares in Roman. They also met with members of two formation communities: the novitiate in Prăjeşti, directed by the Novice Master, Friar Augustin PATRASCU, and the post-novitiate house in Roman, under the guidance of the Rector, Friar Marius BILHA.

The visit was very pleasant. There were numerous personal encounters with the friars. Many of them are quite young. They are engaged in various activities, living out the Franciscan charism of fraternity in the ecclesial and social context of the Moldavian region. This was a very positive experience, which provided a direct, but brief period to learn about this particularly lively and significant reality in the Order; a portent of hope which certainly transcends the boundaries of the Church in Romania and the Franciscan fraternity itself.


Friar Giulio CESAREO, SGF Vice-Secretary

Corso Formativo Per I Guardiani In Romania

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