SBU holds annual Francis Week celebration

By Bryce Spadafora @bryce_spadafora

[Photos taken by Bryce Spadafora]


In the Catholic Church, the Feast of St. Francis is held on Oct. 4 each year. At St. Bonaventure University, an entire week is dedicated to the patron saint of animals and the environment.

Francis Week, a St. Bonaventure tradition coordinated by University Ministries, began on Saturday, Sept. 26 with a Family Weekend Mass in the University Chapel.

On Monday, Sept. 28, ministers in residence Kevin Cooley and Erin Dempsey hosted “The Word,” an open performance show in Robinson Hall. According to Dempsey, about 100 students and a dozen performers attended the event.

“[The Word] was meant to capture that point of convergence between the word of God and the words of us,” said Cooley. “The words we use to express our unique sense of self and to assert that our being created in the image of God is not a metaphor.”

“[Francis] performed in front of people many times,” said Dempsey. “The first time he ‘performed,’ his word would have been integrity. He stood up for what he believed in on a busy street in front of people he didn’t know, and his father, and stripped naked to show that he didn’t relate to these people, but that we are all equal and that even the poorest and diseased are people of God.”

Reid Okienewski, senior journalism and mass communication major, performing at Transitus as St. Francis of Assisi in the University Chapel.

Cooley and Dempsey, along with other members of University Ministries, gave almond cookies, fair-trade hot chocolate and coffee to students outside Plassmann Hall on Thursday.

“The almond cookies represented the pastries Lady Jacoba, a follower of St. Francis, gave to Francis in his time of need,” explained Dempsey.

The fair-trade hot chocolate and coffee is something Francis would probably approve of, said Cooley.

Thursday’s events also featured a lecture from alumnus Dr. Matthew Cressler.

Hannah Vail, a senior chemistry major, attended Cressler’s lecture, “A Catholic Case for Reparation”

“He was talking about how a lot of white Catholics separate themselves from the reparations of slavery,” said Vail. “He thinks that Americans in general have a duty to make up for the atrocity of slavery.”

According to Vail, Cressler related the need for reparations to St. Francis’ experience at the San Damiano.

“When Francis was in the San Damiano chapel, God came to him and asked him to repair his house. We see that there is damage done in America and we need to help repair our house,” said Vail.

Francis Week continued with “The Lord Gave Me Brothers,” a men’s overnight stay at Mount Irenaeus on Friday.

“The theme of the trip centered on the vulnerability of brotherhood,” said Denis Riordan, a sophomore history major who went on the overnight.

“We discussed vulnerability as a part of brotherhood because it is very hard to open up to your brothers and tell them your weaknesses and insecurities,” said Riordan. “However, when you share your weaknesses, the bond of brotherhood becomes stronger through trust and loyalty.”

Okienewski performing at Transitus.

According to Riordan, St. Francis also knew the importance of communion with his brothers and sisters.

“Brotherhood is being in communion with one another,” said Riordan. “During the men’s overnight, we were in communion with one another. We prepared and cooked dinner together. We ate together, shared with each other, had conversations and cleaned together. Most importantly we prayed together.”

One of the final Francis Week events, Transitus, took place on Saturday night. Transitus was a dramatic retelling of the death of St. Francis. The performance featured Reid Okoniewski as St. Francis. Chernice Miller, a senior journalism and mass communications and theater major, directed the show.

“Transitus is a liturgy piece about the death of Francis and how, through all his pains, his hemorrhaging and swelling, he just persevered,” said Miller. “He didn’t call his pains ‘his pains;’ he called them his brothers and his sisters.”

Miller had high hopes for students to be immersed in the Transitus and wanted them to “think about how strong Francis was. Think about how connected he was God and how in love he was with Christ.”

On Sunday, members of the Bonaventure community gathered one last time in the University Chapel for the Feast of St. Francis Mass. Fr. Dan Riley, O.F.M., led the mass, incorporating the works of author Thomas Merton in his homily. Riley encouraged those present to fall head over heels in love and to view the world as St. Francis did.

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