Sacred Heart Friary Is Franciscan House of Prayer

On a First Friday afternoon at Sacred Heart Friary near White Post, some of the Franciscan priests and brothers are in the chapel praying before the Blessed Sacrament, some are in the library stocked with spiritual books, some are down the hall visiting and watching television together and some are enjoying the rural scenery which surrounds the building. Built in 1960, the structure was originally a novitiate for the Sacred Heart of Jesus Province based in Loretto, Pa. Around 1972, a part-time retreat center, The Franciscan Center for Spiritual Renewal, began operating. In 1981, it became a fulltime retreat center, and then in the early 1990s was converted to a home for older Friars who needed some assistance in daily living. It is called a "House of Prayer" rather than termed a retirement home, said Father Aidan Mullaney, local minister at the Friary for over two years. "Father Edmund (Carroll), our provincal, believes our apostolate isn't really finished when we reach senior status, so to speak." Father Mullaney, who was formerly the retreat center director from 1973-78, said the Franciscans have no actual retirement age. The home in Frederick County is a residence to 17 Friars of the Third Order Regular (TOR) Francis of Penance, who range in age from about 60 through their 90s. Some were previously teachers and pastors. A number were missionaries in India and Brazil. Two were also avid recreational tennis players, one of whom did so up until a few years ago when he reached 90. Each has an individual room, and gathers with fellow Friars several times a day for prayer, meals and certain other activities. They join for Mass before breakfast. Benediction is held on certain days and many make an after-supper visit to the chapel before bed. Their prayers include the Liturgy of the Hours' in the morning and evening, Litanies of the Sacred Heart to Jesus and to Mary, private prayers and those for the diocese, the rosary, the First Friday day of recollection with exposition of the Blessed Sacrament and an annual on-site retreat held after St. Francis Day in early October. The Friars occasionally have visitors, family and friends who come to the house, though it is not open to the public. Last autumn, Father James Cleary celebrated his 60th anniversary with the order. Mass with the provincial and a reception were held at the Friary, and relatives came from Ireland, England and New Jersey. Father Cleary was the first novice master at the house and many novices also came back to commemorate the occasion with him. A Bible study group from Sacred Heart of Jesus Parish in Winchester attends First Saturday Mass at the Friary as part of their apostolic outreach, and the Secular Franciscan Order (SFO) Portiuncula Fraternity meets there one Sunday of the month. Susan Burke is a member of St. Francis de Sales Parish in Purcellville and one of the SFO members. "I found Sacred Heart Monastery, as it was called in 1983, at a critical time in my life, when I needed both God and Church and hadn't had much of either for about 15 years," she said. "One Sunday, I took courage and went to a Mass there, and immediately I knew my life had changed forever. The Friars' spirit of invitation, of joy, captured me completely, and this became my faith community, as well as a source of retreats and spiritual direction that were fundamental in my ongoing transformation." The TOR Franciscans have a wonderful sense of hospitality, Burke said and in 1988, she was professed in the Secular Franciscan Order through the fraternity sponsored and hosted by the Friars. "Although I'm now happily settled in St. Francis de Sales Parish, Sacred Heart Friary and the TORs are still a major part of my spiritual life," she said. "A lot of good people do many nice little things for us," said Father Mullaney. An SFO member gives them money for flowers on feast days, neighbors occasionally drop by with a freshly baked cake or other goodies, and the residents receive greeting cards for Easter, Christmas, St. Patrick's Day and different holidays. Although they all are involved in the internal apostolate and other duties at the house, two of the Friars have an external apostolate as well. Father Jude Ventiquattro is a registered nurse at the nearby Winchester Medical Center and in charge of the medical aspects of the Friary, and Father Mullaney occasionally helps out at area parishes. The hired staff includes cooks and nurses, one of whom works each of three shifts for round-the-clock coverage. "My job is anything at all here," said Father Mullaney. He even makes sure there is a meal if the cook is sick. The staff/residents include Brother Bernard Nicolosi, financial expert and SFO spiritual assistant; Brother Stephen Liebal, physical plant overseer and province tailor; Brother Norman McNelis, sacristan and "everywhere" helper; Father Marianus Lieb, library helper and collector of donated books for shipment to missionaries in Bangladesh. Additional longterm resident Friars are Father Peter Busch; Brother John Carosella, Father Marion Deck; Father John Grinnen, Father J. Francis McKinney, Father Fabian McNichol, Father Theodore Midile and Father Christopher Petrosky. Two Friars, Father Valentine Pavlik and Brother Stan Prenet, from Brazil and West Virginia respectively, are short-term residents, who stay there for access to the medical center. "There is a real spirit of fraternal charity in the various ways the Friars help one another throughout the day," Father Mullaney said.

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© Arlington Catholic Herald 2002