by Pat Findley, Mike Niklas, Ron Fein, 
Steve Findley, Phil Zepeda, and David Crank

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Friday, June 22 was the kick-off celebration for this year's reunion chapter of the Franciscan Alumni Association. Most activities of the 2001 Chapter took place on the grounds of the former St. Francis Seminary at 10290 Mill Road in Cincinnati. The old sem is now Mercy Franciscan at Winton Woods, a retirement community. The owners graciously allowed us to use all facilities and grounds--they also gave us tables and chairs to use during the dinners and arranged to have the chapel piano tuned for us.  (Big thanks to Kelly Clark of Mercy Franciscan!)

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Donn Wiley '76, Pat Findley '74 and Mike Niklas '75 organized the events for the opening night and provided the delicious food and drinks. Charlie Bullington '67 handled the logistics and arrangements with the current management of the former seminary grounds. Months of planning came together with a fantastic evening of games, fellowship, and nostalgia.

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Approximately 100 alumni and guests attended. The class of '76 was celebrating its 25th anniversary. They had a good turnout with 8 classmates present: Pat Daly, Paul Landers, Jerry Kennedy, Donn Wiley, Steve Degnan-Schmidt, Steve Simon, Mike Lippman, and Tom Riddle.

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regis.jpg (65718 bytes) The celebration started in the late afternoon with Dave Imhoff '71 and family handling registrations. We gathered in the field between the old tennis courts and Mill Rd. By then, volunteers who had arrived early had set up tables, a baseball field and a volleyball court. Hamburgers, hot dogs, and bratwurst were grilled to perfection by Donn Wiley and Pat Daly '76. Pat insisted it was Picnic Day tradition to season the hamburgers with beer while they were on the grill. Donn objected when Pat wanted to use Budweiser, his favorite brand, but relented when a compromise was reached and they decided to use Bud Light, since neither of them was drinking it!
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The traditional softball game was a hard fought battle between Fr. Berard Doerger's '52 team and Steve Schmidt's '76 team. Schmidty's team prevailed by a score of 7-5 in spite of the gallant effort put forth by Fr. Berard. It was an awesome sight to see Fr. Berard dive to the ground to field a grounder and from his knees throw out a base runner by half a step. He has an ability to blend very competitive play with good sportsmanship. It has been a few decades since most of us have seen him play. He is still a remarkable athlete. We were reminded of his coaching skills when a young girl on his team swung at a ball and missed. He quickly said "Hey, that was a good swing," loud enough for her and anyone around to hear.

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The volleyball game was not as evenly matched. The teams were led by Mark Clark '72 and Bill Pellman '52. Bill's team controlled the scoring and won by a score of 15-3. The team captain served the last 5 points. After his game-winning serve he had that familiar wide grin and a gleam in his eyes as he said, "That's just the way I remember it back then."

No picnic is complete without a water balloon toss. This contest was won by the Ketterer brothers, Tony '69 and David 71'. Afterward Tony was quick to point out that it was his throwing, and not David's catching that won the tournament. Sounds like that sibling rivalry is still going strong! Tony and David were awarded official FAA t-shirts in recognition of their superior skills.

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sunset.jpg (40804 bytes) As the sun went down the fellowship continued into the night. Old friendships were renewed and new friendships were initiated. A bonfire was lit in one of the portable fire pits that had been used for the barbecue. A dozen blazing logs soon illuminated the area as the well fed crowd gathered around in chairs. With plenty of cool drinks and a cozy fire, all that was missing was-guitars! Instinctively, several alums disappeared into the darkness and returned from their vehicles with instruments. Mike Fritsch '75, Tom Shumate '77, Ted Gomez '72, Donn Wiley '76, and Mike Niklas '75 picked and grinned through several "oldies" from the 60's and 70's. Don Thalheimer, a talented percussionist, assembled a makeshift bongo drum from a cardboard box. Songs they played included La Bamba, Twist and Shout, My Best Friend's Girl, Bungle in the Jungle, Horse With No Name, and Sandman. The musicians were quite pleased with themselves until someone's daughter exclaimed, "Do you guys know anything modern?" In response they played the 1999 hit Time of Your Life plus a few remakes. Perhaps it's time to update the repertoire? The evening entertainment ended around midnight as the temperature dropped into the low 60's and dew began to settle on the guitars.

Saturday, June 23rd

About 15 alumni elected to spend their Saturday morning at the Province Archives. Father Dan Anderson, the Province Archivist, led the tour in the lower level of the old St. Anthony Shrine Hall. Those of us who remember this as a kitchen and dining room were amazed at the transformation into a climate controlled museum of interest to all who spent time in the formation houses. The collection of old Brown and Whites was a big hit.  The Archives houses a large collection of books by Province authors. Also of great interest was a cutout display of Province history from the first dispatch of Friars from Tyrol to Cincinnati, to the present. The show stopper, however, was the room containing Province artifacts in glass display cases. Steve Findley's personal favorite was the Picnic Day trophy, which confirmed that his senior year ('67) seminarian team waxed the clerics team. The losing pitcher that day was one of our founding fathers, Dennis Kirby.

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Fr. Pat McCloskey led a like number of alumni through the St. Anthony Messenger complex early Saturday afternoon. We were amazed that the Messenger has continued seamlessly through the past year as almost all of its operations and personnel have relocated into a beautiful new three story complex west of the old building. Presently, the old building is being refurbished. On top of the physical relocations, the staff is in the midst of a major computer system upgrade. Perhaps the most educational aspect of the tour was a demonstration of the Messenger web site. It provides a wealth of information, only a mouse click away! 

steve_simon.jpg (5862 bytes)For lunch on Saturday, a group seized the opportunity to sample some authentic Cincinnati cuisine at a Skyline Chili restaurant that's owned and operated by Steve Simon '76.  The food was delicious, we were way too loud with our laughing and carrying on, we stayed way too long and kept other customers from using our table--but Steve surprised us by saying "Thanks for stopping by" and then he picked up our tab.  There's nothing like a free lunch to make you feel like a real follower of Francis.  The restaurant is on Colerain Avenue about a block from the intersection with the new cross-county Reagan Highway.  Drop in sometime and say "Hi" to Steve.

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mass at 4:30 PM on Saturday in the old seminary chapel was most intriguing. Fr. Fred Link, Provincial Minister of St. John the Baptist Province, had graciously accepted our invitation to preside at the mass. Then, we were overwhelmed by a surprise visit from Fr. Larry Dunham, Provincial Minister of Our Lady of Guadalupe Province. This was probably the first time that the two provincials were together for a reunion mass of the Association. Also concelebrating were Fr. Berard Doerger and Fr. Jack Wintz. All four priests who were concelebrating had graduated from St. Francis High School Seminary. Both provincials, Fr. Fred and Fr. Larry, spoke kindly about the Association. Fr. Fred's homily was inspiring and enthusiastic. It was the feast of St. John the Baptist. Fr. Fred talked about St. John's influence on the Franciscans and interwove stories of his seminary days. Fred told us that he was the organist during his senior year. One day he was told that the new music teacher who had just arrived, Fr. Aubert Grieser, wanted to talk to him. He thought, "No priest ever wanted to see me personally." He was honored, especially when Aubert said, "You play the organ well." Only a few days later, during Glee Club practice, Aubert told him, "You sing like a horse." Fred's ego was crushed, but as he said, only Aubert could tell you something like that and still let you know that he liked you and truly cared about you.

For those of us who attended the high school sem in the early mid-60's or later, it's hard to describe the humorous or fun side of seminary life without mentioning Fr. Aubert. His much younger sister, Pat Otto, was there for the mass and dinner with her husband Bob. She especially enjoyed hearing the stories about her brother, who is very much alive in the memories of former students and faculty of St. Francis Seminary. Pat said several people told her "P. Aubs" anecdotes during her tour of the gardens and buildings. "You can feel his presence here," she said. "He'll always be a part of this place."

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Dave Imhoff and Lester Morris served as lectors at mass.  The liturgical music was both in English and Spanish. The Spanish songs were Alabare, Somos el Cuerpo de Cristo, Cordero de Dios (Lamb of God), and Pan de Vida. The musicians represented both provinces that make up the alumni association: Our Lady of Guadalupe Province and St. John the Baptist Province. This posed a bit of a problem since most of them wanted to practice ahead of time, yet they were in different states (New Mexico, Indiana, Tennessee, and Michigan). Mike Niklas, who planned the liturgy along with Bro. David Crank, scanned all of the music into an electronic document and emailed it to them. We were fortunate to have a large number of talented musicians and singers who performed as if they had been playing together for years. The "band" included: vocalists Mary Wiley, Pat Valdez, and Liz Valdez; Paul Landers on bass; Mike Niklas at the piano; and guitarists Joe Sears, Donn Wiley, Ron Enneking, Ted Gomez, Phil Zepeda, Tom Shumate, Mike Lippman, and Butch Feldhaus. At the conclusion of mass, the Ultima was sung in three-part harmony. Many members get choked up when we begin, as the song brings back so many fond memories of days with the Franciscans.

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After mass, the group pictures were taken on the front steps (just like the class photos of old), followed by dinner in the wooded area next to the gym. Fortunately, the thunderstorms that were all over Cincinnati that afternoon missed us, and we had beautiful, mild weather. Charlie Bullington arranged a chicken dinner that included salads, cookies and cheesecake. 

P6230543.JPG (59927 bytes) After everyone had made at least one trip through the dinner line, Fr. Pat McCloskey provided some entertainment and a short history lesson on St. Francis Seminary. The entertainment was the complete musical recording of a poem that Fr. Aubert had taught to all of his speech students: The Modern Major General. As Fr. Pat said, "Be thankful he didn't ask us to learn the whole thing!" Do you remember the verse that Aubie used to test our diction and lung capacity--say it all in one breath, from memory!

I am the very model of a modern major general
I've information vegetable, animal and mineral
I know the kings of England and I quote the fights historical
From Marathon to Waterloo, in order categorical
I'm very well acquainted, too, with matters mathematical
I understand equations, both the simple and quadratical
About the binomial theorem I'm teeming with a lot o' news
With many cheerful facts about the square of the hypotenuse
I'm very good at integral and differential calculus
I know the scientific names of beings animalculous
In short, in matters vegetable, animal and mineral 
I am the very model of a modern major general

Then, Fr. Jack Wintz, editor of the St. Anthony Messenger, told us about his latest composition, an illustrated children's book entitled, "St. Francis in San Francisco." Many people purchased copies of the book and asked Fr. Jack to sign them. What if everyone's favorite saint were to step out of the world of history and legend, break free from his statue-like pose at the edge of the birdbath, and visit modern-day San Francisco? Why, he'd have an adventure! A little boy (Johnny) and his dog (Sunpatch) become the saint's personal tour guides through the city named after him. St. Francis blesses animals, visits landmarks, and even rides the famous cable cars. This is a gentle introduction to the Franciscan love of all creatures as reflections of the goodness of God.
"St. Francis in San Francisco" is published by Paulist Press (www.paulistpress.com).
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Next, several people were recognized for their contributions to making this reunion weekend a success. Official FAA shirts were presented to Fr. Berard, Fr. Larry, Fr. Fred, and Fr. Jack for concelebrating mass like they used to at the seminary. The logo on the shirts was developed by Lisa Niklas (Mike's daughter, an art student in Colorado). Fr. Pat received an official Franciscan Alumni shirt to say thanks for the dinner entertainment. Shirts were also given to Donn Wiley and Charlie Bullington in appreciation for setting up and tearing down tables, chairs, games, etc. Click here to find out how to get a shirt for yourself.

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larry_dunham.jpg (59021 bytes)After dinner, president Steve Findley asked each FAA member to stand and say a little something about life as a Franciscan. It was enlightening as we had members from California, Virginia, Louisiana, New Mexico, Washington, Michigan, Illinois and other states. There were several funny comments at this time. Fr. Larry Dunham had the misfortune to follow Roy Brannan '75, who recounted the time when a small group of seminarians went to a movie cinema complex with Bro. Larry and convinced him, "It's okay to pay for one movie and attend two or three. You go out to the restroom, then walk into a different movie room." All Larry could say in his defense was, "I was young and naïve back then… I thought all seminarians were pure as the driven snow--but Brannan and Kling were not!" The experience helped prepare him for his late-70s job as Dean of the Seminary. 

Next, there was a brief business meeting that included election of trustees for the upcoming year. The following volunteers were unanimously elected: Mario Wagner, Pat Findley, Bill Pellman, Dave Imhoff, Ron Fein, Mike Niklas, Phil Zepeda, and Rick Gardner. Within a week, two others signed up: Pat Daly and Donn Wiley.

steve_findley.jpg (71198 bytes) At the conclusion of the meeting it was announced that the chapter reunion for 2002 would be a return visit to New Mexico and Arizona! Fr. Larry and Fr. Berard were happy to hear this and willing to assist. Then our incoming President, Dave Imhoff, asked for a show of hands as to how many would be interested in the ultimate chapter reunion for 2003 to Italy, including Assisi and possibly a neighboring country. A large number in attendance raised their hands to indicate interest in a 2003 trip to Europe. Cost for airfare, tour bus/guide and hotels should be in the $2,500 range for approximately a ten-day tour. It was suggested that we request Fr. Murray Bodo to be our tour host. Pace e Bene.

Following a short break, there was an award ceremony and remembrance service in the chapel.

dale_dave_award.jpg (22910 bytes) Dale Recinella, Recipient of Humanitarian Award (left, standing with Dave Imhoff)

The FAA had no trouble in reaching a unanimous decision for any of the awardees this year. The honoree of the Christian Life Award has followed very closely in the steps of Father Francis in that Dale has eschewed his successful private law practice to work among one of our society's leper colonies, the inmates of death row in Florida. 

dale_recinella_6.jpg (29487 bytes) Dave Imhoff '70 illuminated the Chapter attendees with reasons he has admired Dale since prep days at St. Francis Seminary when two youth from different regions of the U.S. glommed onto one another as friends and parried to discover common grounds of communication. In one instance, Dale, ever instructive, tutored Dave on the fine points of Italian pointing out that his very name, "Dale" was Italian for "small valley." It could be said that Dale now represents a real force in his work in the Florida Penal Corrections system, a valley of life between immovable forces of death in the struggle of crime and punishment. 
dale_recinella_4.jpg (20308 bytes) In his acceptance remarks, Dale described how his clients, his fioretti, live and die like mushrooms in the darkest corners of Florida's maximum security and solitary confinement recesses. In embracing his charges, sometimes Dale only sees eyes or lips… never the whole person, as he serves their spiritual needs by administering the Eucharist and shares their pain and suffering.

His thrown-away souls number over 2000 with 900 more waiting in the wings to take their place walking the green mile in the inexorable dirge of their ill-begotten destinies. Dale's quest for humanity involves meeting with Florida's Catholic bishops as well as Gov. Jeb Bush, himself a Catholic, to try to effect a change in the state's treatment of convicted miscreants. Dale believes that many of the condemned lost in the Florida system are, in fact, not debauched evildoers but misplaced mental patients, flotsam and jetsam of Bush budget cuts, or victims of a corrupt system and insidious Klan influence. Dale calls for an out-pouring of prayers and support for the incarcerated on death row, lost forever but for the grace of God and the dedication of Franciscan-inspired men such as Dale Recinella.

Reunion_16.jpg (40834 bytes) Brother Francis Williams, Recipient of Christian Life Award (received on Francis' behalf by Fr. Pat McCloskey)

Brother Francis Williams is almost a reincarnation of founder and namesake, Francis of Assisi, in his diligent pursuit of the Gospel life as exemplified by his "teddy-bearish" lovingness, his size-defying demeanor of humility, his beaming ebullience, his inspirational reverence, and his heart-sourced piety. 

In an acceptance speech for the Christian Life Award on Brother Francis' behalf, Fr. Pat McCloskey noted that Brother Francis is truly beloved by the brethren, the Friars, whom he has served during his life as a professed Franciscan lay brother. 

Brother Francis and his apostolate of feeding the Friars, not only for their physical nourishment, but also for their emotional and spiritual sustenance harkens of the children's' story of "Frederick" the mouse, who painted pastel colors and who stored up positive, sun-shiny memories for his mouse friends to sustain them during the dark, cold winter months when the mice family scarcely survived in the barrenness of their burrows. Brother Francis operationalized in grand style a comment made by Fr. Ulmer Kuhn, erstwhile Master of Brothers, who said, "If the Friars cannot have their women.... let 'em have their eats and their drinks!" Brother Francis did the job so well; he even made it look easy. Most importantly, Brother Francis did his magic so quietly that it often went unheralded (although never unnoticed nor unappreciated). He is one of those geniuses who does ordinary things extraordinarily well. 

Brother Francis went to great lengths, like the famous Brother Leo, to serve Sister Poverty by ministering to the poor. He helped to maintain the Poor Fund at Duns Scotus' St. Anthony Shrine, serving as its administrator for many years. He made many friends in the Southfield and greater Detroit area. To this day, the denizens of Detroit are heard to query, "Where is Brother Francis these days?" 

The FAA takes great pride in singing it's own Canticle of the Sun and asking the Great King to "bless our own Sunny Brother Francis" who warms us with his love, who tickles us with his humor and who teaches us with his piety. We all love you, Brother Francis! 

Francis Williams was unable to attend the award ceremony. David Crank added the following in an email message following the reunion:

Brothers, congratulations on a wonderful chapter. I really enjoyed myself and was rather moved by the many stories I heard.
I presented the award to Brother Francis this evening at the monthly feast day meal at St. Clement Friary. After I described what we looked for in a recipient and announced Bro. Francis, he began to cry and the friars gave a resounding round of applause. To say the least he was shocked and was honored.
This award couldn't have come at a better time in Brother Francis's life. He needed this recognition for just today he had yet another toe amputated, leaving only 2. His doctors told him today he is not out of danger of losing his leg. Please, please, pray for him.
Brother Francis is truly a holy man, never complains, always has something
nice to say and is a witness of Jesus and Francis to all he meets.
Will you pray with me for our Brother Francis?
Peace and All Good! Brother David

A few days later we were told that Brother Francis' leg had to be amputated above the knee.  
If you would like to send Brother Francis a card or note of congratulations or get well, his address is: St. Clement Friary, 4536 Vine Street Cincinnati, OH 45217-1695

"Founding Fathers" Award for Dennis Kirby and George Ski.

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Dennis (left) and George were recognized for formally starting this association of men who were involved in Franciscan formation programs. It all began over 10 years ago. Dennis' history articles in recent newsletters describe how it came to be. We owe many thanks to these gents for helping us reunite and share fond memories. reunion_george_ski.jpg (18797 bytes)


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Lastly, Dennis Kirby led us in a remembrance service for members who died during the past year. Ted Gomez, Butch Feldhaus, Pat and Liz Valdez, and Mike Niklas began the ceremony with a song (Isaiah 49) in English and Spanish. Ted, Butch and Mike played an instrumental version of the song "Of My Hands" while names were read and Ralph Hatke lit candles in remembrance.

Of my life I give to you, O Lord
Of my life I give to you
I give to you as you gave to me
Of my life I give to you

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Like so many seminary days, the evening prayers ended with a final singing of the Ultima.

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