The CAPUCHINS come to town

Photos and story by Mary Seamans

Multimedia Coordinator

A Capuchin Franciscan friary has been established in Indiana at the invitation of Bishop Edward C. Malesic and the acceptance by the Capuchin friars of the Province of St. Augustine in Pittsburgh.

Father Thomas Betz, OFM Cap., provincial minister, wanted the order to get more involved in campus ministry. The friary has been established at St. Bernard of Clairvaux Parish to provide pastoral ministry and leadership throughout much of Indiana County as well as campus ministry services at Indiana University of Pennsylvania.

Father Richard Owens, OFM Cap., pastor of St. Bernard and St. Thomas More University parishes, will serve as guardian. The guardian makes sure the men are being taken care of and ensures that they are living out, to the best of their abilities, the charisms of the Capuchins.

Born and raised in Philadelphia, Father Richard said, “I love the big city, so it is a little adjustment coming from the big city of Philadelphia to Indiana. There is no street noise at night, there are no sirens and radios blasting, so in that sense it is a blessing that I am getting more sleep here in the beautiful city of Indiana.”

Ordained six years ago, his first assignment as a priest was as parochial vicar of St. Joseph Parish in York. Bishop Malesic was pastor of the parish in the adjoining town, York Haven.

“I was always very nervous dealing with him,” Father Richard said about Bishop Malesic, “because whenever we did our marriage preparation, he was the guy that checked to make sure everything was done proficiently and correctly!”

After three years at the parish, Father Richard was invited by Archbishop Charles J. Chaput, who is also a Capuchin Franciscan, to work in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia as director of the Office for Black Catholics, which he did for three years, before the provincial asked him to serve in Indiana.

Father Richard is the first African American to serve as a pastor in the Diocese of Greensburg.

“While it may be groundbreaking, I think it is only skin deep,” he said. “The fact is I’m a priest, I love and serve the people regardless of their ethnicity or skin color, and hopefully, they can return that same kind of love to me.”

Many people in the diocese are familiar with the Benedictines but maybe not the Capuchin Franciscans.

The easiest way to understand the difference between a Benedictine and a Capuchin is, Father Richard said, “Benedictines follow the charism of
St. Benedict and Franciscans follow the charism of St. Francis of Assisi. For both orders, our life is rooted in fraternity and community. Here at St. Bernard’s, we pray together in the morning, then we go off to our various ministries. Then we come back for evening prayer together as a community, we have dinner together, and we conclude our day with night prayer.”

In addition to Father Richard, four other Capuchin Franciscans are living at the friary. Capuchin Father Tage Danielson is the parochial vicar of
St. Bernard and St. Thomas More parishes, and he will have a particular focus on campus ministry at IUP. Capuchin Father John Pavlik will serve as pastor of Our Lady of the Assumption Parish just south of Indiana. Capuchin Father Matthew Palkowski will serve as chaplain of Indiana Regional Medical Center and State Correctional Institution — Pine Grove and provide sacramental ministry at Church of the Resurrection Parish, northern Indiana County.  Capuchin Brother Thomas Choi will serve as a nurse in Indiana.

Father Richard had a message of hope during this time of pandemic and racial tensions.

“Before I left Philadelphia to come here, Archbishop Nelson Pérez had a great line. He said, ‘I place my faith and hope in a man who rose from the dead. 

If that can happen, anything can happen.’ I think that is important — that as Christians, our hope is always in Jesus Christ. In the midst of darkness and division, everything that is happening in our world, Christ can always bring about a new beginning and hope in the midst of this pandemic and our racial discord. Have faith and hope in Jesus Christ, and know that through him, all things are definitely possible.”


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