Category Archives: Franciscan Missions

Why was a Pakistani Franciscan Moved from Pakistan to Troy, New York?


We’ve already written an exposé report about the St Anthony of Padua parish in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany, New York, under the pastoral authority of bishop Edward Scharfenberger, but the questions keep coming; no answers, just questions.

Why did Franciscan brother Phillip Hira desert his Pakistani brothers and sisters?

Why did Franciscan brother Phillip Hira desert his Pakistani brothers and sisters?

Our first reportage on that parish was to report the scandal of its pastor, Mario Julian, who in lieu of a homily played a popular Christmas song, “So this is Christmas.” That was a gross violation of Roman Catholic doctrine and teaching with regard the homily. Yes, it was a scandal but we’ve already reported on that scandal so we won’t waste anymore time beating a dead hippo.

Mario Julian allegedly recently had bariatric surgery, stomach reduction surgery, and we hope he has had a good recovery; his parish is likely to have a much slower, less favorable recovery from Julian’s incompetence.

We did read with some interest the biography of Julian’s parish assistant, Franciscan lay brother Philip Hira. Hira was born in Lahore, Pakistan, in 1952. Hira received all of his education and religious formation in Pakistan, and spent most of his entire adult life in Pakistan.

Hira came to the United States in 2006.

Julian & Hira

Julian & Hira

According to his biography on the St Anthony of Padua parish website, Hira has completed 4 units (years) of clinical pastoral education (internship of 1 day a week for a year  =  1 CPE unit). This means that Hira has spent at least 4 years at Albany Medical Center as a chaplaincy intern. Clinical pastoral education interns pay about $700 a year to work at the hospital as pastoral care providers to patients while learning the ropes of pastoral care (Yes! The patients are exposed to amateurs). That means that someone is paying $700 a year for Hira’s education at Albany Medical Center, and AMC is receiving those services for nothing!

Reading a bit further, we learn that Hira is serving as a “volunteer”, that is, unpaid, chaplain at Albany Medical Center Hospital and at St Mary’s Hospital in Troy. We find that this unpaid activity at local hospitals is a bit suspicious, considering the fact that Hira is supposed to be serving the St Anthony of Padua parish in Troy, under the questionable supervision of Mario Julian.

Hira expects to be “certified”as a Catholic chaplain, but we don’t see how that’s going to happen in the near future, since that will require continuing education and certification procedures, which, for a chaplain, are totally unnecessary. That sort of activity takes Hira away from his parish duties, if in fact he actually has any.

In a previous article we mentioned that American religious orders have prostituted themselves. This is most clear in the Franciscan order, where Franciscan lay brothers and priests have been farmed out to ailing and understaffed diocesan parishes for years. This has had a very harmful effect on the Franciscan religious communities because when a Franciscan leaves the religious community life, he generally experiences injury to his spirituality. Furthermore, the Franciscans are a religious community with the communal life is an essential part of being Franciscan. Ask yourself what happens to a Franciscan when he lives outside of the community of his Franciscan brothers? Do I have to answer that for you?

 

franciscan missionary union logoFranciscans have traditionally been great missionaries. From the start of the Franciscan order, Franciscans have evangelized the world from Italy to the American West, and from Assisi to, yes, Pakistan.

Pakistan is 96.28 % Muslim, with Christians accounting for 1.59 % of the population, and Hindus 1.60 %. According to the Pew Forum, in the USA Christians represent some 70 % with Catholics representing some 20.8 %. Non-Christian traditions represent a total of a mere 5.9  %, which includes Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, and Jews! It would appear that Hira’s best work would be done in Pakistan, not in Troy, New York! So, with such a considerable non-Christian population in Pakistan and giving the evangelization and catechization ministry of the Franciscans, we would have to ask both brother Hira and his superiors Why? on earth was he taken from Pakistan and relocated to the United States?

There’s a lot going on in Pakistan involving Christians if we can believe much of the press coming out of the country like “How Christians Survive in Pakistan’s ‘Land of the Pure‘”, where we read:

“The Catholic minority currently lives in fear because of the recent attacks on churches. Sister Pilar admits, “Our apostolate is that of example … We cannot try to convert people directly.”

“Catholics in Pakistan run schools open to everyone, not just Catholics. There, “they receive a good education.” For Christians, having these schools in Pakistan is “a stimulus for us to know our religion better.”

“In fact, years ago there were many illiterate young people; thanks to these schools, the majority of them now receive an education, so Sister Pilar is hopeful.”

If that article is anything to judge by, Hira’s call would be in Pakistan, not Troy, New York! Wouldn’t you agree? Unless Troy’s Pakistani population has skyrocketed in the last 10 years! We’d  have to check the census data…

Moreover, as a parish assistant and chaplain, Hira is by nature Pakistani! He lived his entire life, or at least 54 years of it in Pakistan (born in 1952 and coming to the USA in 2006  =  54 years). So our question is this: How on Earth can you expect someone so steeped in a culture so alien to that of the United States to minister effectively to such a mixed population. Revisiting the statistics for Pakistan we see that Muslims make up 96.28 % of the population versus 0.9 % in the United States; in Pakistan Christians are 1.59 % versus 70 % in the United States. Now where do you think Christian, Catholic missionary, evangelization, catechization work would be needed more? In Pakistan or India, Pakistan’s nextdoor neighbor, or in the United States? Again, we have to ask Hira’s superiors what they had in mind when removing Hira from Pakistan to the United States. Or is there something more sinister in this history other than just plain bad judgment?

Seems that St Anthony of Padua parish is home to a considerable number of nagging questions that beg for answers. It also seems that St Anthony of Padua parish is just one of a considerable number of parishes with some really weird goings on.

Maybe that’s why we think Pope Francis should pay less attention to American politics and more attention to his ailing church, his maverick American bishops, and the organizational and administrative disorder in the church at large.

Perhaps bishop Scharfenberger can answer these questions, since he would be responsible for what is going on at St Anthony of Padua on his (Scharfenberger’s) watch. What do you think?

Abba Silas, Heresiarch

Abba Silas, Heresiarch, Editor

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New Organ Campaign: Please Make a Donation


church organ

For the past couple of years the organ in the chapel at the Franciscan friary of St Anthony of Padua in Catskill, New York, has been whistling along with the hymns. No one seemed to be able to get it to go away, and was a symptom of a sick organ. After several visits from technicians, who had to finally  admit defeat and the inability to resolve the “whistling,” the guardian of the friary has finally had to give permission to ask for donations to support the purchase of a new organ.

praise-God-w-musicThe new organ will run at least $15,000 but it is money well spent, since the friary and the Franciscan friars provide a much needed venue of spiritual enrichment with their beautiful Frnaciscan traditions and the celebration of the Divine Liturgy for a full house every Sunday and standing room only on feast and holy days.

Unlike diocesan parishes the friars do not take up collections during Mass but rely solely on the generosity of the faithful to support the friary and their work in the community, supporting even diocesan parishes when needed.

Poverty, Simplicity, Joy

Poverty, Simplicity, Joy

The Franciscan order in it’s more 800 years since its founding by St Francis of Assisi, one of the patron saints of Italy and the patron saint of the Environment, has served the world well in its ministries to the poor, to youth, teaching and preaching, and missions in the third world. Committed to holy vows of chastity, obedience and poverty, the friars own nothing of their own and live in community, a life of prayer and service.

Please aknowledge the wonderful and holy work of the Franciscan friars at St Anthony of Padua Franciscan Friary by making a tax-deductible donation to the organ fund. Your donation can also be made in the memory of someone dear to you or even in your own name, and you will have the joy of knowing that each time the organ in the chapel of the Franciscan Friary of St Anthony of Padua is pouring forth its accompaniment to the voices of the faithful in praise Almighty God, you had a part in making that possible through your generosity!

Please send your donation to:

Fr John Bavaro
Guardian of the Franciscan Community
St Anthony of Padua Friary
P.O. Box 487
24 Harrison Street
Catskill, New York 12414-0487

When sending your donation, please do not forget to mention that your donation is for the organ fund, giving your name and, if applicable, the “In Memory Of” name, or prayer request. We would very much appreciate it if you were to mention this blog or Compassionate Care Associates. Or you could even enclose a print-out of this page with your donation.

Thank you so very much in advance for your generosity. May you be blessed with peace and good health in mind, body and spirit.

Peace and Blessings

Peace and Blessings

The Editor
Pastoral Care and Spirituality


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