An Interview with Father Bob Johnnene OFM

by Gordon Nary


Gordon: When you received your vocation, why did you choose to be a Franciscan?


Father Bob: I felt I was to be a priest from about the age of 5, being as I was surrounded by priests, nuns and even a Bishop in my family. In the answer to your question 2 it describes my journey to be a Franciscan priest. The Franciscan community found me, possibly through the Holy Spirit/


Gordon: When did you attend seminary?


Father Bob: I attended seminary in 1953 – 1957 but was released of my vows as a transitional deacon, I got married had 3 children but All the while continued to take courses especially after Vatican 2, served as a DRE, on parish councils and taught in Catholic Schools all the way through 1980 when I was ordained a deacon again, after my wife and mother died in 1987 I began submitting to religious order but usually got refused because I was too old until an offer came to me from a Franciscan Community which I accepted and on August 15, 2003 I was ordained a priest, I was elected Servant General of the order in 2013 and remain so as of this day.


Gordon: Please with our readers some background on your work as an actor.


Father Bob: When the Josephites suggested I think about my vocation in 1957, I followed my second love, theater and though I never became famous, I had an opportunity to be in a couple of Broadway show, TV shows and 2 movies. I also got to meet and socialize with many famous people including Elizabeth Taylor, Shirley McClain, Carol Burnett, Shelly Winters, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Richard Burton, and many others.


Gordon: You are a public relations specialist. In your opinion, should parishes consider having a PR representative?


Father Bob: Considering all that the church is facing today it might be considered, but at a parish level it would be a waste of money that could be used to better purposes. They might though have an accounting each week of the parish income and expenses so there was a more transparent view of what the parish was doing with the money it received, they might also be more active and visible among the faith community by being out there rather than in the rectory or golf course.


Gordon: Please share with our readers some background on Reflections


Father Bob: REFLECTIONS TV show came about when I was President of the Interfaith Council in Franklin MA, and a person who had an interview show was interviewing me, the manager of the station came to me and asked, “Don’t I know you, didn’t you work and do a show at WNAC TV” I said yes and told him the shows, he suggested I do a show for their TV station, I did and it grew from there so that I just began the 7th year of the show.


Gordon: You minister to people in nursing homes and hospices. Please comment on your ministry.


Father Bob: My ministering to people in nursing home began in 1980 when I became a Deacon and brought Eucharist to and celebrated Deacons Mass in nursing homes in Downey and surrounding towns in CA, it intensified when my mother had to be in a nursing home for a while and I realized how many people were put in them and sort of forgotten, and the people who did not have visitors usually did not receive the same quality treatment as those who had visitors.


Gordon: You minister to divorced Catholics. What are some of the principal challenges that affect divorced Catholics?


Father Bob: This ministry participation began when Cardinal Mahoney established a ministry to Divorced Catholics in the LA diocese. The biggest issue is their wanting to be a part of the church but many pastors refuse them full participation, especially receiving the Eucharist. Another issue which makes me very upset is when a pastor refuses to baptize a baby of a single person, if the individual had enough faith to want the child Baptized, it should be.


Gordon: You also minister to the GLBT community. What impact has the sexual abuse crisis had on the GLBT Catholics?


Father Bob: My involvement with this ministry began in Los Angeles when Cardinal Mahoney established a ministry to GLBT Catholics. The problem is that the church seems to be trying to pin the abuse on persons who are GLBT, but in reality, 99% of gay individuals would not be molesters of children, The issue is the suppressed sexuality of priests, bishops and, lest we forget nuns, as there is also some issue in the area. The better answer would be for priest to be allowed to marry, in fact, if the church welcomed back those priests who left to be married, it would go a long way to answering the shortage of priests. The church is accepting Anglican priests who are married, but refusing and rejecting their own, many of them fully active in Faith communities.


Gordon: In your opinion, what should parishes do to address the sexual abuse crisis?


Father Bob: Be open and truthful, stop trying too hide it or diminish it, or avoid it all together. The issue is not with parishes, but with Rome and the Hierarchy. All the Apostles except St. John were married and had families, there were married popes, and married priest into the late 1700/early 1800’s.


Gordon: What social media resources do your use and why?


Father Bob: I use those our ministry can afford, usually free, I rely on word of mouth, my TV show, and postings on blog pages, I have left Facebook because I got tired of being called a heretic and worse because of my stand on issues, in spite of the fact that much of what I say is consistent with what, Pope Francis God bless him, is attempting to do, and I pray he lives long enough to achieve. Especially the reunification of the One Holy Catholic Apostolic Church, including all the Eastern churches, the Lutheran, Anglican, Episcopal, Polish Catholic, Old Catholic.


Gordon: For our readers who may be interested in work, here is a link to your website www.missionstsergius.org

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