They paved the way
In four weeks over a hundred friars of our province will come together for our triennial provincial assembly. It will be an occasion to renew our fraternity, and I look forward to being with brothers from Pennsylvania to Louisiana to New Mexico. As part of the planning committee, I have been working on a way of remembering our deceased brothers.
In 1850 Accurs Gaertner, a German-speaking missionary from Austria, became the first friar to die in what eventually became the Province of St. John the Baptist. His name is followed by close to a thousand others. As you might expect in an entity of German origin, with a dozen Meyers, Schmidts, and Webers, names such as Gottebehoede, Hafertepe, and Schwetschenau fit right in. As we expanded into New Mexico, Chavez and Baca came on the scene. When we moved into Pennsylvania, Dobrovodosky and Brozovic appeared. Among them all can be found McAvoy and O'Connell, Ruffino and Datillo, and a hundred others of multiple different backgrounds. Someday my name will take its place on the list.
I have been blessed to work on the memorial. Nearly half of the deceased died since I came to the province, and most of those I knew to one extent or another. Whoever they were, wherever they lived, whatever they did, they were saints and sinners just like me. They once had dreams. They had expectations of themselves and of others and in turn were disappointed in themselves and in their brothers. They experienced success and failure. They let people down, and they gave people hope. They tried to live their vows, and God was faithful to them all. How blessed I am to be a part of a brotherhood much, much bigger than myself!
Peace and every blessing,
Fr. Loren Connell, OFM