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Franciscan Friars: Catalysts of Conversion

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September 4, 2013 by eneubauer

I am a happy Catholic convert.  My journey along the pilgrim’s path took me through Protestantism, serving as a protestant lay minister, an ordained pastor and missionary.  After a little more than ten years of service, I felt a distinct call home to the Catholic Church.  As it is with many converts from Protestantism to Catholicism, there were many questions I had to answer along the way.  In addition to the support I found in family and friends there were many other key moments, where Catholics like you, made an important impact.  Let me tell you that story.  Let me tell you how the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal made an impact on my life and in my conversion.

Spending the evening with Br. Paul & the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal in Comayagua, Honduras.

Spending the evening with Br. Paul (Far Left), Fr. John Anthony Boughton (Far Right) & the friars in Comayagua, Honduras.

It was the second week of my trip to Comayagua, Honduras with Wonder Voyage Missions (WVM).  The founder of WVM, Shawn Small, had run into Father John Anthony Boughton, CFR in the streets during our first week of work.  He encouraged me to try and make a connection since our work in Honduras included service projects with the Missionaries of Charity.  I looked everywhere and I could not find these grey robed friars in a city that had become like a second home to me.  On my final day, in the shadow of the Cathedral, a lone, grey robed friar named Brother Paul, CFR walked up to me.  Not only did I ask him questions about their work in Comayagua but, more importantly, I told him about my questions concerning the Catholic Church.  We made an instantaneous connection and I was thrilled to find another Catholic who was passionate, evangelistic and committed to serving the poor.  In addition, I shared my dilemma – I couldn’t find a Catholic priest in Connecticut that I really connected with, that I could enter into dialogue with and that would serve as a friend.  Immediately Brother Paul wrote down three names.

The Most Blessed Sacrament Friary: 

On Brother Paul’s recommendation I called Fr. Glenn Sudano, CFR who was residing at the Most Blessed Sacrament Friary in Newark, NJ.  I was astounded that he actually called me back and invited me for a visit.  Prior to my trip to Honduras I had been watching a show on EWTN featuring the friars that included Fr. Glenn. You can imagine the excitement I felt knowing I would visit the friary that served as the backdrop for the show. Once I was within its walls the friary felt all too familiar – like I was supposed to be there.  Together with Fr. Glenn and the novice’s, I found myself embracing the journey towards Christ and the Catholic Church.

Father Glenn Sudano:

I will never forget my first retreat at the friary.  Toward the end of the weekend I found myself lingering in the courtyard enveloped in the peace of Christ.  I could feel it in the silence of that moment and in the daily rhythm of the friars.  While sitting in the courtyard Fr. Glenn, as only this native New Yorker of Italian descent could do,  ended the retreat with a very blunt question.  “What do you say about the Church?”

I internalized.  Was the Church really more than what I understood it to be – a truly spiritual body.  Could it be that in embracing the Creed there was truth in the idea of one, holy Catholic and Apostolic Church?  Was it possible that there was an authoritative, institutional community Christ left behind at Pentecost that developed into what we now call, the Catholic Church?

In a weird way I knew the truth although I did not say a thing.  I learned on that first weekend that there was real value in contemplation and patience.  Instead of responding I decided I would ask to come back.  I did and it began a journey of weekend retreats under the direction of Fr. Glenn and the friendship of the other friars.

A Small World:

Getting back to Honduras and that encounter with Brother Paul.  After spending about 15 minutes in conversation, I and the team I was leading, were invited back to the friary to spend some time with the friars.  I asked the friars to speak to us about their commitment to a life serving Christ in the poor.  They spoke eloquently and with passion.  That evening made an impression on me and the protestant mission team I was leading.  Not only did I get to reconnect with Brother Paul but was finally introduced to Fr. John Anthony Boughton, the friar Shawn met a week earlier.  A connection that would have lasting effect.

It’s really is a small world.  After my conversion and upon receipt of my M.A. in Theology from Holy Apostles College and Seminary, I took a position with a Catholic parish in Plano, TX.  Little did I know when I sat for the final interview with the priest who would become my pastor, that he personally knew Fr. John Anthony.  In addition to that connection, I was recently informed by my contact at Catholic Charities that Fr. John Anthony would be speaking at our parish to represent the work he is currently doing in Matagalpa, Nicaragua, CA.  Wow, we really do live in a small world.  I love how God continually brings people in and out of my life who have made a significant impact on my spiritual journey.

The New Evangelization:

Let me end with this thought.  During his pontificate, Pope Benedict XVI called us to be prepared to assist those who are looking to walk through the door of faith and into the arms of the Catholic Church.  I am ever thankful that the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal were there for me when I was knocking at the door.  Not only did they take me in but they housed me, fed me and shared a passionate and powerful witness – spending many hours listening and answering my questions.

Thank you to Fr. Glenn, Fr. John Anthony, Brother Paul and the rest of the friars who so warmly welcomed me in.

As we come to the end of this Year of Faith I pray that each of us will warmly welcome those, who like me, are ready to walk through the doors of faith and into the arms of the Catholic Church.

3 thoughts on “Franciscan Friars: Catalysts of Conversion

  1. Thanks, Eric. Certainly the journey into the Catholic Church reveals the heartbeat of mission that pulsates down through history. The Franciscans have consistently found ways of bringing evangelism, service and faithfulness together in inspirational and challenging ways. New into the Catholic Church myself, I am seeking out the appropriate parish to participate in and that shares this passion for mission and service. Take care. Micha

  2. […] Fritz, Catholic Stand Colosseum Celebrates Constantine’s World-Changing Faith – E.Lev, NCR Franciscan Friars: Catalysts of Conversion – 21 Century Pilgrim How Catholics Can Fix Healthcare and Education – B. Millegan, Aleteia […]

  3. David Kemmis says:

    Eric; I too have been helped along my journey by some of these same Franciscans. Though I had already come ‘home’ when I met Fr. John Anthony in Bosnia, (Brother John then), the strong witness he lives was a great strength to me. Later, on another trip to that same country, it was Fr. Sodano who inspired all of us who worked with our little group, to live out our Faith in the world as we find it. I shall never forget the experience of seeing Father John Anthony celebrate his first Holy Mass in Medjugorje. I miss the Greyfriars, but they remain with me all the time. Thanks for your good witness, Eric, and Welcome Home!

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