Biography of Our Minister General: Fr. David Mary Engo

( Biography of Franciscan Friars Minor founder Father David Mary Engo. Original link: http://www.franciscanfriarsminor.com/minister-general )

Fr. David Mary of Our Lady of Sorrows, F.F.M. was born to Henry and Anne Engo on February 7th, 1967. He was baptized at Saint Benedict Joseph Parish in Richmond Hill N.Y. and was given the name Michael Anthony Engo. He is the middle of five children. His eldest brother Henry is married with six children, one of whom is Br. Lawrence Mary of Our Lady of Guadalupe, F.F.M. (Anthony Michael Engo). His elder sister Lydia is also married with five children, one of whom is a seminarian for the Diocese of Knoxville, Tennessee. Three years younger than Fr. David Mary is his brother Brian who had been one of the first postulants with the Franciscan Friars Minor but due to physical disabilities he was not able to persevere. The youngest, Dennis is married with two children. 

The Engo children grew up in the faith and Fr. David Mary developed a deep devotion and love for Our Lord. Attending public school up until seventh grade, Fr. David then switched to Catholic School from seventh grade until middle of ninth grade. While Father grew up wanting to be a priest, love of the world drew him into a life estranged from the full practice of his faith. 

On October 4th, 1985 the Feast of Saint Francis of Assisi, at the age of 17 Fr. David Mary attended Mass at St. Joseph the Worker Parish in Patchogue, N.Y., a Capuchin Franciscan Parish. Throughout the Mass Fr. David Mary experienced a radical conversion to the full practice of his faith and a call to be a Franciscan and a priest. (Little did he know it was the feast of Saint Francis!) From this point on, Fr. David Mary not only changed his life-style but also began to pursue his vocation to a Capuchin Franciscan life. 

The next two years were a time of re-ordering his life and preparing to enter the Order of Friars Minor Capuchin, the Province of Saint Mary that covers the territory of New York and New England. Besides attending one year of college at Hudson Community College, Fr. David Mary spent much time making vocation visits and keeping constant contact with the Vocation Director and the Postulant Director. 

In August of 1986, at the age of 19, Fr. David Mary entered the Capuchin Franciscan Province of Saint Mary’s as a postulant. He resided at Saint John the Baptist Friary in New York City and ministered to both the disabled and to homeless families. Notably, during this year Fr. David Mary was informally instructed by an old time Capuchin by the name of Fr. Thaddeus McVicar, O.F.M. Cap. Fr. Thaddeus, a Capuchin historian would spend time setting Fr. David Mary’s heart afire for the Capuchin charism by sharing the “glory days” of the beginnings of the Capuchin reform.  

In August of 1987 Fr. David Mary began his canonical Novitiate in Garrison New York at Saint Francis Friary. During this year of Novitiate Fr. David Mary was instructed on the Franciscan Charism by some of the most outstanding Franciscan Professors in their field. Many of whom have not only authored various works but have also been intimately involved in the newest translations of the early texts of the lives of Saint Francis and Saint Clare. Such authors as: Fr. Regis Armstrong, O.F.M. Cap., Fr. William Hugo, O.F.M. Cap., Fr. Lawrence Landini, O.F.M., and Fr. Wayne Hellman, O.F.M. Conv. Fr. David Mary’s Novitiate was certainly the most formative in regards to his love and desire for Capuchin Franciscan life. For the next 27 years he will continue to peruse not only the study of Capuchin Franciscan life, but the answering of the call of the Second Vatican Council to live out the charism authentically in our contemporary society. 

On August 6th, 1988 Fr. David Mary, having completed his canonical Novitiate, professed his temporary vows into the hands of the Provincial, Fr. Jack Ratschmidt, O.F.M. Cap. During the period of temporary profession Fr. David Mary attended Iona College and receieved an Associate’s Degree in Liberal Arts. He then transferred to Seton Hall University and received a Bachelor’s Degree in Theology with a minor in Philosophy. 

From 1988 until January of 1992 Fr. David Mary participated in many apostolic works including two and a half years at Capuchin Youth and Family Retreat Center, Operation Rescue, and ministering to homeless families and inner city parish ministry. Fr. David Mary also spent a little time in the Capuchin Missions in Honduras. 

In 1991 Fr. David Mary was eligible for Perpetual Vows. Uncomfortable with the direction of the Province and desiring a deeper expression of Capuchin life he declined and renewed for another year. At the end of 1991 Fr. David Mary discerned that it was time for him to seek out a deeper living of his Capuchin Charism which had only grown stronger since Novitiate. Over the years he persisted in his study of the charism.  

In January of 1992 Fr. David Mary received dispensation from his temporary vows with the Capuchin Order. He then took temporary vows immediately with the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal (C.F.R.) headquartered in Bronx, New York. The community expressed the Capuchin life in a bit more radical way and at the time it seemed to be the radical expression that Fr. David Mary was seeking. 

During the period of 1992 until January of 1995 Fr. David Mary completed his undergraduate degree and pre-theology at Saint John Neumann Seminary run by the Archdiocese of New York. Later he would spend a year and a half studying for the priesthood at Saint Joseph Seminary in Dunwoody (Yonkers) New York. It was during this time that Fr. David Mary became involved in preaching parish missions, street ministry with gangs as well as traveling the country preaching at youth events called YOUTH 2000. He was a co-founder of New York Youth 2000 and helped develop the national program of YOUTH 2000. 

Continuing his study of the Capuchin charism Fr. David Mary continued his personal goal of renewing the authenticity of the early Friars. In January of 1995 he and five other C.F.R. Friars, two of whom were founding members of the C.F.R. community, departed the community in New York in order to found a new institute in the Diocese of Fall River Massachusetts first called “Capuchin Recollects”, later they would change their name to “Franciscan of Primitive Observance” (F.P.O.). His Eminence Sean Cardinal O’Malley, O.F.M. Cap., then bishop of Fall River Massachusetts, was instrumental in establishing the community. The six Friars officially transferred their vows to Sean Cardinal O’Malley on January 26th, 1995. 

On April 21st, 1995, the Feast of Saint Conrad of Parzham, at Saint Anthony of Padua Parish Church in New Bedford, Massachusetts, Fr. David Mary and the five other founding Friars professed their perpetual vows into the hands of Sean Cardinal O’Malley.  

From 1995 till 1997 Fr. David Mary continued his priestly studies at Our Lady’s Chapel in New Bedford, Massachusetts where the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate had established their United States Seminary. The primary instructor was Fr. Peter Damien Fehlner, F.I. While attending studies Fr. David Mary continued his ministry with YOUTH 2000 by helping to found and coordinate the New England Office.  

Fr. David Mary was ordained a Deacon in January of 1997 and a Priest on July 19th, 1997 at Saint John the Baptist Church in New Bedford, Massachusetts by His Eminence Sean Cardinal O’Malley. At that time the community was a Private Association of the Faithful and so Fr. David Mary was incardinated into the Diocese of Fall River, Massachusetts. 

During the years of 1995 until 2001 Fr. David Mary was occupied in various ministries, preaching youth retreats and parish missions, coordinating a youth group for five inner city parishes, chaplain to a married couples group called “Teams of Our Lady”, as well as founding and running the YOUTH 2000 N.E. Leadership Team of youth, young adults and adult leaders. It was during this time that Fr. David Mary made the acquaintance of His Excellency Bishop Kevin Carl Rhoades, then rector of Mount Saint Mary’s Seminary in Maryland. 

By August of 2001 two of the original F.P.O. Friars had left the community. The community was not growing. There were serious problems with two of the remaining four founders that would later prove damaging to many young souls. With the departure of the two most mature religious of the group the community took on a very unhealthy spirituality. At that time, sensing that something was incredibly wrong and unable to vocalize or fully grasp the depth of the group’s unhealthiness, Fr. David Mary with both advice and counsel from Sean Cardinal O’Malley took a leave of absence from the community. Sean Cardinal O’Malley would, for the next five years, give counsel and direction to Fr. David Mary. 

During the next five years Fr. David Mary served a semester as Assistant Director of Pre-Theology at the Franciscan University of Steubenville, a Catholic High School chaplain, a pastoral assistant and a hospital chaplain. Fr. David Mary continued his ministry of preaching youth retreats, parish missions and at this time became a popular preacher of men’s conferences. While discerning his greater Capuchin Franciscan call he visited many Franciscan reform movements including the Franciscan of the Immaculate and the Frati Minori Rinnovati. Nothing seemed to fit the ideal that God had placed upon his heart. 

In 2006, exhausted by the years of discernment, Fr. David Mary was advised by Sean Cardinal O’Malley, who at that time had been made the Archbishop of Boston, to return to the Pittsburgh Province of the Order of Friars Minor Capuchin. Strongly recommended by His Eminence, Fr. David Mary was received back into the Capuchins. His perpetual vows to the Franciscan of Primitive Observance were dispensed and he re-professed temporary vows into the hands of Fr. John Pavlik, O.F.M. Cap., then provincial of the Pittsburgh Province and presently the president of the Conference of Major Superiors of Men. The profession took place on November 19th, 2006 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. 

Fr. John Pavlik assigned Fr. David Mary as high school chaplain at West Philadelphia Catholic High School while residing at Padre Pio Friary with the postulants. The provincial also asked Fr. David Mary to teach Franciscan Capuchin History to the Postulants. He did so for the next three years. After a successful year at the high school, the provincial, in 2007, reassigned Fr. David Mary as parochial vicar and director of young adult ministry at St. John the Evangelist Parish in center city Philadelphia. As director of young adult ministry Fr. David Mary also assisted in many Archdiocesan young adult events including Catholic Underground and Theology on Tap. He also served a chaplain to the Archdiocese of Philadelphia’s group attending World Youth Day in Sydney, Australia.   

Fr. David Mary’s young adult ministry in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia was extensive. He started a homeless outreach, a street evangelization team and a pro-life ministry. First Friday and First Saturday devotions were begun for the increase of the devotional life of the young adults. It was during this time that with the cooperation of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia he founded four houses of prayer and discernment for young adults, two for men and two for women. These houses would prove to be the seed bed for many vocations including the first seven Franciscan Brothers Minor. 

Fr. David Mary was scheduled to profess perpetual vows as a Capuchin Franciscan of the Pittsburgh Province on November 19th 2009. The Provincial had agreed that after profession, Fr. David Mary would be sent to Rome to the Antonianum to get a master’s degree in Franciscan Studies. Although Fr. David Mary was approved for perpetual vows, the longing for traditional Capuchin life according to the Rule of Saint Francis and the early Capuchin legislation still burned within his heart. Unable to reconcile his knowledge of Saint Francis, the Capuchin ideals and the call of the Second Vatican Council Fr. David Mary sought out the discernment of Bishop Kevin Carl Rhoades, then bishop of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania and presently bishop of Fort Wayne-South Bend. 

With the approval and oversight of Bishop Kevin Carl Rhoades, Fr. David Mary founded the Franciscan Brothers Minor on November 19th, 2009. On this day, he professed his solemn perpetual vows into the hands of Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades and took the name Fr. David Mary of Our Lady of Sorrows. 

On March 21st, 2010, Fr. David Mary moved the community of eight to Fort Wayne Indiana in order to remain under the leadership of Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades. 

On December 8th, 2010 Fr. David Mary was incardinated into the Diocese of Fort Wayne South Bend and excardinated from the Diocese of Fall River, Massachusetts. 

Since November 19th, 2009 until the present Fr. David Mary has been the Minister General (Supreme Moderator) of the Franciscan Brothers Minor. On February 11th, 2011 The Franciscan Brothers Minor were erected as a Public Association of the Faithful.

( In your kindness, please consider helping these Brothers through donations, as they survive on solely gifts of food and money. Donation link: http://www.franciscanfriarsminor.com/donate )

God’s band of Brothers

(This is an article that appeared in my local newspaper after the Franciscan Brothers Minor performed at benefit concert at a university in town. To learn more about these servants of God check out their website: http://www.franciscanfriarsminor.com/ )

Steve Warden  |  The Journal Gazette

In the introductory moments of a recent benefit concert at the University of Saint Francis’ North Campus auditorium, a bald, bearded, barefoot and brown habit-wearing friar paced the stage with microphone in hand.

“People are like, ‘All right, what are these monks doing?’ began Brother Jeremiah Maria of Columbus, Ohio, who served as the evening’s master of ceremonies. “ ‘What’s with the bare feet? And I don’t know if I want to stay for this.’ ”

But people did stay. Nearly 200 of them. They stayed and they sang and they danced and they swayed to the original Christian music of Brothers, a nine-member group of friars who performed to benefit the Franciscan Brother Minor Seminarian tuition.

For two hours, including a brief intermission, Brothers performed 16 songs of faith, nearly all of which were taken from Scripture.

“We use prayer,” says guitarist and ukulele player Brother Leo Maria of the Saint Lawrence Friary, 1103 S. Calhoun St. “It started with a prayer book. We didn’t want to put our own words in it; we wanted to use God’s words.”

The band began nearly two years ago. As Leo Maria played his guitar, he was joined by Brother Gesinto, whose background was as a professional percussionist.

“So Brother Mariano (Maria) heard us, and he was coming up with some melodies – coming up with some great tunes – and would submit them to us,” says Leo Maria. “It was one song, and then another, then another and another. We kind of took off from there. It was something we did on the side.”

The friars live the original Rule of St. Francis of Assisi and have taken a vow of poverty. They pray seven hours daily with two hours of silence. It was during their rare moments of recreation when others sat in to sing with Leo Maria or play their own instruments.

“It was like, ‘Hey, this guy’s got a good reggae voice. We can do some reggae,’ ” says Leo Maria. “Or, ‘This guy can do really good rock songs. We’ll do rock.’ We just kinda picked guys.”

And from the brothers begat the band Brothers, whose occasional concert appearances are for the sole purpose of a freewill offering to help raise tuition money for Franciscan brothers who hope to become Catholic priests.

“Part of our way of life is we take a vow of poverty, and Saint Francis wanted to avoid all money,” says Mariano Maria, a 2011 graduate of Bishop Dwenger High School. “The only problem is in order to become a priest, it costs a lot of money.”

What money was raised at the concert, and matched up to $750 by the National Catholic Society of Foresters, goes directly to a Fort Wayne-South Bend Diocese fund that provides scholarship money to the friaries where brothers hoping to become priests live. The diocese has five seminaries: two in Fort Wayne, one in Decatur, one in Mishawaka and another in Huntington.

“We’re completely detached from it,” Mariano Maria says of the scholarship fund. “If something happens, and the diocese needed the money, they could take it all.

“But we’re fundraising for our seminarians, trusting that God will provide and we’ll eventually be able to have the diocese wire the money to whatever seminary that the seminarian goes to.”

While certainly its songs and messages were pious in content, Brothers offered several moments of laughter with jokes and stage presence.

“According to the world, we should be miserable, ya know,” Jeremiah Maria said. “Look at us. Look at us! Bald head. No money. No wife. No immediately family. But we’re joyful.”

The joy was evident when four youngsters were brought on stage. “How’d you get past security?” someone from the band yelled.

One of the kids was asked if she could be any animal, what animal would it be? After a long, shy pause, Jeremiah Maria took her off the hook: “A pterodactyl!”

“I didn’t say that!” the tiny girl shouted back. Later, she said she’d like to be a baby penguin.

And if there was a show-stopping number, it was the “King of Kings/It is Good” medley that had several friars linked hand-and-hand as they performed a traditional Jewish dance across the stage.

“The world has taken the word ‘fraternity’ and taken it in a completely wrong direction,” Mariano Maria said offstage. “We live a life of fraternity. Jesus lived in community with the apostles. All good things come from God. And when you have the joy of Christ in your heart, it’s infectious and it spreads.”

( Original link: http://www.journalgazette.net/entertainment/music/God-s-band-of-Brothers-17891237 )

( In your kindness, please consider helping these Brothers through donations, as they survive on solely gifts of food and money. Donation link: http://www.franciscanfriarsminor.com/donate )