By Barb Arland-Fye
Three months ago, Father Joe DeFrancisco offered a column proposal for The Catholic Messenger that I accepted with enthusiasm. In the wake of his unexpected death on July 20, I can’t help but reflect on our recent correspondence and conversations. Fr. Joe had a sense of humor I couldn’t resist, but he seemed to use it whenever he missed a deadline or exceeded his column length limit by a million words!
Out of the blue on April 18, the day before the announcement that our diocese had a new bishop, Fr. Joe sent the following email to me:
“Barb, if you think it would be a meaningful contribution, I would like to do an article for the Feast of Pentecost June 4 (article due May 29th)???? Also, what do you think of an ongoing series for ‘ordinary-time.’ We have focused on key liturgical seasons which led to Christmas and Easter but the heart and hard work of growing spiritually is the simple challenges of ‘ordinary time’ for ordinary people. I believe the impetus for this comes from St. Therese Liseaux’s ‘Little Way.’ Please share your thoughts. Fr. Joe OR!!!! Will it be Bishop Joseph??????????? (you will know if you see dark clouds and fearful omens in the sky).”
“I like the idea!” I responded in my reply. “Yes, let’s plan for an article for the Feast of Pentecost with a due date of May 29. A series for ordinary time would be wonderful. I can relate to the simple challenges of ordinary time. Would you propose one column a month? How about an 800-word limit? Meanwhile, I’m looking for those heavens to part as you are announced bishop!” (I added a smiley face.)
Fr. Joe, who has written many columns for The Catholic Messenger, made light of his penchant for lengthy columns in a follow-up email on April 18.
“Barb, I will send on to you the article for Pentecost. Of course, I knew the AXE would fall eventually. I promise to reduce my articles from 5,000 words to less than 800. When finals are over I would like to come in and talk about the nature and scope of doing an ongoing series on spirituality.” He spoke of Pope Francis’ “breathing a greater sense of urgency in continuing the spiritual renewal of the Church. There are many serious decisions that will be made and our spiritual life must give us a stronger grounding in faith. We must feel assured that the Holy Spirit is truly and actually leading us to our completion and holiness. Thank you for considering this.”
The following day, we set a time to meet to discuss column details. By that time, people around the world knew that Msgr. Thomas Zinkula would become the Ninth Bishop of the Diocese of Davenport. “I guess I won’t get to call you bishop!” I joked in my email to Fr. Joe. He responded: “Actually Barb I rejoice with Davenport because I have always felt that a local appointment works best. The Bishop elect will have a first-hand experience of life in the mid-west and Iowa and I think that is a plus. See you next Tuesday when I walk the ‘red-carpet’ to your office.”
Fr. Joe wrote that piece on Pentecost for the June 2 edition and his first column on spirituality in ordinary times was published July 6. His column for the first Sunday of August was due this week. My hope is that Fr. Joe’s inspiration for a column on spirituality in ordinary times will continue. I pray every day, “Dear Holy Spirit, Let everything begin with your inspiration, continue with your help, and reach perfection under your guidance.” I know that the Holy Spirit inspired Fr. Joe.
(Editor Barb Arland-Fye can be reached at email@example.com.)