by Gordon Nary
Gordon: You provided some exceptional insights into Pope Francis' encyclical LAUDATO SI’ at your review of the encyclical at the meeting at Assumption Church on September 30, You opened the discussion with some comments on Papal Infallibility and an explanation of what an encyclical is. You pointed out that "encyclicals are an important teaching instrument that contains the thoughts of the current Pope on serious issues of a given age or time in history, and no Pope has used an infallible encyclical since Infallibility was defined at Vatican I ".
You also provided the attendees with a great summary of LAUDATO SI’. One of the many encyclical topics that the group discussed was was the Pope's call for "a dialogue on environmental policy by international, national, and local communities." Could you comment on why such a dialogue is essential?
Father Michael: This seems to be a disputed question about climate and global warming, but the strongest evidence supports the reality of the concepts. I am not a scientist. The Pope has a degree in chemistry, which makes him more of a scientist than most commentators, but he also has access to the best science of the day through the Pontifical Academy of Sciences. He is asking for dialogue on all levels because all of us can contribute something to the betterment of our environment.
Gordon: Could you provide our readers with your observations on why some media commentators may not have read the encyclical before they were commenting on the Pope's visit to the US?
Father Michael: Commentators are under deadlines and when the Pope speaks, especially through an instrument as significant as an encyclical. mostly staffers review the document, and often only part of the document with other parts divided between other readers. These readers usually are not theologians or even sociologists but are looking for excerpts that meet the philosophy or politics of their commentator. So one could hear that the Pope condemns capitalism, even though the word doesn’t appear in the encyclical.
Gordon: You also provided an important perspective on the way in which Pope Francis addressed Congress and other organizations. Could you comment on this?
Father Michael: This is my personal observation. I watched the Pope's visit to various locations. When he addressed Congress, he spoke in English. He has a limited knowledge of English which put him under considerable pressure. An added pressure was an audience divided on what he had to say, evidenced by the various groups standing and clapping. His tone was neither corrective nor directive. He simply shared what he had to say in a non-threatening manner, so when he talked about the dignity of all life, he used the issue of capital punishment. He praised American values of liberty and justice for all. His message was basically pastoral, not judgmental. He was concerned about how best to meet the real needs of hurting and marginalized people, like at Saint Patrick’s.
Gordon: When we were discussing Pope Francis' Mass at St. Patrick's, you mentioned that you also celebrated Mass there.
Father Michael: The Mass I mentioned as having celebrated at Saint Patrick’s was a family affair, my nephew’s wedding Tim is still a parishioner there even though he lives in Alexandria Virginia. It is the social consciousness of the parish that drew him there. It is also this social consciousness of the parish that drew the Pope, where he wanted to recognize the good work of Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Washington. Again the commentators were sort of inane—passing up a power lunch on Capital Hill for time with the homeless and the humble fare of a charity meal.
Gordon: Fr. Gottfried M. Wolf, OSM. visited the Servite Secular Order in Chicago in August 2015 Could you tell our readers about the visit?
Father Michael: The OSM Prior General, Father Wolf, is the superior of all Servite Friars (O.S.M. stands for Ordinis Servorum Mariae or Order of the Servants of Mary.) The Prior General is expected to visit all the communities of Friars throughout the Order at least once during his term of office, six years. Father Wolf was conducting the canonical visitation to the United States of America Province. Adjunct to the Friars are several Sisters Communities that are affiliated to the Order and then a number of lay groups that follow a Servite Spirituality, one of which is the Servite Secular Order.
Gordon: You previously served as Captain in the United States Air Force Reserve. Could you share some of your memories of your service?
Father Michael: I was commissioned a Chaplain, Captain in 1974, and served at the 928 Airlift Group billeted at O’Hare International Airport on the North East Corner of the airport. The airport, originally called Orchard Field (ORD), was a federal reservation where Douglas Aircraft built planes during WW II. When that function was no longer needed, the airport was sold to the City of Chicago. Rumor has it that Richard J. Daley negotiated the sale for $1.00—a pretty good deal.
I served there for 12 years and then was voluntarily called to Active Duty in 1986 because of the growing shortage of Catholic Chaplains. I retired fro the Air Force as a Chaplain, Colonel in 1998. I then became pastor of Seven Holy Founders Parish in Affton (Saint Louis) Missouri and in 2006, Pastor of Assumption Church. I retired to being a Senior Priest in Residence at Assumption in 2009.
Gordon: Could you comment on your studies for the Priesthood?
Father Michael: I joined the Servites, after four years at Quigley Preparatory Seminary here in Chicago, in September 1956. I pronounced my first vows in 1958 at the novitiate in suburban Milwaukee. I was then sent to Benburb Priory in County Tyrone, Ireland to begin the study of philosophy. I returned to the United States in 1960 and was assigned to Stonebridge Priory in Lake Bluff IL and commuted every day to Loyola University to complete my BA degree in Philosophy and Sociology. In 1961 I was selected to study theology at the Servite International College and Pontificsl Faculty Marianum in Rome. I earned my STB, a diploma in Re Mariologica, and my STL there and was ordained a priest on April 19, 1965, in the Servite Church of San Marcello al Corso. It has been a very quick 50 years of teaching, administration, and mostly pastoral parochial ministry. I have been the pastor of six parishes, three in the military, and three in civilian ministry.
Gordon: What do you like most and miss most in your retirement?
Father Michael: I find myself in a good situation. I have time to travel when I want and I am close enough to visit family and be with them for special moments of celebration, like Christmas Eve and Easter. I am still engaged in pastoral ministry. I usually do a couple of weddings a month. As much I enjoyed my time in the military, I really have it missed it. I have been retired from the military for 17 years now. I’m engaged in other activities in the Order. I like living downtown and I really like being at Assumption. I am a native Chicagoan and maybe it shows,