LETTER FROM RUDY, Poland, July 2017

Poland, from 12 to 19 July 2017.

“Czes’c” (pronounced “Chech’tch”): by this Polish greeting we come to meet with you, fraternities of Europe, and send you this message, fruit of our work but also of our prayer. Thanks to our caring hosts and to the meetings they organized for us in various parishes, we have come closer to the realities of their country and of their Church and have let the theme of our assembly echo around: “Diocesan priests and missionaries, inspired by the testimony of Charles de Foucauld.


The gospel of the second day of the assembly, offered by the liturgy, sets the tone of our message: “Behold, I send you as sheep among wolves … be cunning as serpents and innocent as doves … (Mt 10,16)

Each of our countries, at various speeds, observes the phenomenon of secularization: a reduction in church attendance, evolutions of mentioned values, civil laws distancing themselves from the Christian tradition … In a nutshell religion is not popular. Communities and priests are engaged in this movement and must make a decision: accept or refuse it? Compromise or compromise themselves? The status of the priest suffers from this: a modified identity, a diminished social standing, a lesser authority … One can understand why young people are hesitant to embark on such an insecure path and to commit for the long term.

As members of the Jesus Caritas Fraternity we are not spared by this secularization, which taints our way of life and our mission; the question is: how to transmit a tradition, a Word in this secularized day? Charles de Foucauld went far away; but today the mission begins at the front door of our neighbour.

The cunning of the serpent and the Innocence of the dove are necessary to carry out the mission and to make one’s way through listening, study and work: “to make a dictionary”. To take into account the actual culture demands time and we do not have not much time.


Our exchanges have shown that in most of our countries the development of secularization, consumerism and individualism made evangelisation both difficult and necessary and that many initiatives were appearing to give back its rightful place to the Word of God, to a more fraternal parish life and to the care of the “peripheries”. Recognizing and promoting the role of the laity in evangelization is a necessity.

In some dioceses, the bishops have encouraged the formation of groups whose first task is to promote the training of the baptized by deepening their understanding of the faith and their spiritual life. In the long run, these evangelisation groups will be able to focus on the aim of reaching a larger community, especially those of other faiths, not primarily to convert them but to promote mutual understanding and acceptance, as well as to communicate the joy of the Gospel.

As a result of the lack of priests, priests from Africa and India come to many of our dioceses to work for evangelization. With good support to help them understand the culture that welcomes them, their presence can be a great blessing for the Church, in places where the congregations are already multicultural.

This lack of priests also leads to the regrouping of parishes, which offers the laity the opportunity to take greater responsibilities in the field of evangelization as well as in the various services. But an effort has to be made to better identify the talents of one and all and to know how best to value them.

Many successful paths have been taken with young people in the dioceses, such as the World Youth Day or other initiatives. It is undoubtedly worthwhile to devote energy and time to the formation of young people, helping them to find ways to resist the pressure of consumerism. But this must not make us forget the need to train adults and give them more autonomy.

We are always aware that evangelization does not occur first in our churches but in public places. Examples have been shared of initiatives in shopping malls or other public places, seeking to reach a wider audience. The various interventions of our assembly have developed the conviction that priests need to give a sense of responsibility to the lay faithful in the work of evangelization, to accompany them and to collaborate with them. In the same way, priests and lay people evangelize more effectively when the joy of the Gospel shows through in their own lives.


The evangelical radicalism of Charles de Foucauld, drawn from contemplative prayer and adoration, his choice of poverty and his desire to be like Jesus in Nazareth, put us in front of the “weakness of God ” and lead us to the cast off all pastoral pretensions.

The testimony of Fr. Charles helps us to be priests

– who learn to go back to the Gospel to fill themselves with the spirit of Jesus

– who choose the simple life going as far as poverty to first show the “work” of the grain of wheat fallen to the ground (cf Jn 12:24): the true success of God is revealed in His utter poverty. Hence the invitation to go to “existential peripheries”, to show solidarity with the poor, to get closer to the humble and the crucified in History. Universal brotherhood has its root in obedience to God the Father and to the poor brethren who reveal Jesus to us; the poor is a true “theological place” of the closeness of God and leads to adoration.

– who learn to listen: first to Jesus who speaks to us in the Gospel, in the Eucharist and in the silence of the desert, but also to every man, in order to be evangelized by the encounter of a humanity already marked by the presence of the Spirit. We can be converted in this sense by the icon of the Visitation. Listening to others and their lives requires patience in the reciprocal gift of a human and friendly presence. The time given to listening and to the friendly meeting is an important and precious time to clear the ground before sowing the seed of the Gospel. With such an attitude we can play, now and in the future, a significant role in meeting and having a dialogue with our Muslim brothers, who are present in most of our countries.

– who undertake to live a priestly fraternity as a providential place to discover the will of God (revision of life) and to help them live a discreet apostolate, stripped of all external means, trusting entirely in Jesus; and to welcome the last place, the one Jesus would have chosen.


In the majority of our European countries, the decline in the number of candidates to the priesthood is very important. The general context of secularization explains it, as well as a culture of immediacy: freedom without commitment, autonomy without responsibility, lack of silence. We notice, however, that many young people show great acts of generosity.

Our response to encouraging the welcomed acceptance of the call of God is through the testimony of our own life as a priest: what place does it give to silence, to the desert? Does it know how to keep in touch with the young to listen and accompany them?

Communities that truly live from the presence of the Risen Lord are the best ground for vocations and the example of the Blessed Charles de Foucauld, whose life was fruitful in the long term, is an encouragement.


The encyclical of Pope Francis Laudato si needs to be implemented. Faced with the temptation to consume and accumulate, an education to learn to share remains to be done. To show solidarity, you must be sober! For us priests, it is a question of leading a life not poor, but simple, which will make us accessible to all. Laudato si invites us to a “happy sobriety” and encourages the good actions: recycling; sorting; saving water, energy and raw materials; favouring public transport; investing in fair trade … But the encyclical seeks most of all to promote “integral ecology”, which gives priority to the interests of the “common house”. In this sense, the current crisis of caring for refugees challenges us and cannot leave us inactive.

Our European Assembly also had the responsibility to elect a new Responsible for 6 years: Kuno KOHN, from Hamburg, Germany, was elected and accepted the assignment. We want to thank him, as well as John McEVOY (of Ireland) who held this responsibility for the past 6 years. Our next Assembly, in 2020, will be held in England.

PDF: LETTER FROM RUDY, Poland, July 2017, eng

Letter from Camarillo, Come and See


Above all, always see Jesus in every person, and consequently treat each one not only as an equal and as a brother or sister, but also with great humility, respect and selfless generosity.

— Blessed Charles de Foucauld

Dear Brothers,

We are 18 priests and a Bishop who gathered at St. John Seminary in Camarillo, CA from July 17th to the 21ST for the triannual Assembly of the Jesus Caritas Fraternity of Priests USA. We came from all areas of our country and were delighted to welcome Fr. Fernando Tapia, from Santiago, Chile, who servers as our Pan American Responsible.* We were also blessed to have the wisdom of six former National Responsibles at this assembly including Bishop Don Hanchon who now serves as our liaison to the U.S. Catholic Conference of Bishops.

This Assembly marked our fiftieth anniversary as an independent Region of the Jesus Caritas International Fraternity of Priests. Fr. Dan Danielson was elected the first National Responsible of Jesus Caritas USA in 1967. It was his efforts that lead to the creation of hundreds of fraternities throughout the United States. He has dedicated his life to the service of his brother priests.

Dan was a member of the U.S. Bishops’ Committee on Priestly Life and Ministry and helped write the Bishops’ document, “The Spiritual Renewal of the American Priesthood.” He also co-founded the National Organization for Continuing Education of Roman Catholic Clergy. His own local fraternity has been meeting for over 50 years. Dan’s passion for encouraging fraternity among priests also inspired him to lead 100 priests’ retreats over his lifetime.

For all these reasons it was a joy for us at the Assembly to celebrate Fr. Dan Danielson as the inaugural recipient of the Universal Brother Award. This Award is presented by the Jesus Caritas Fraternity USA at its annual gathering to a Diocesan priest who exemplifies the spirituality of Blessed Charles de Foucauld and has discovered through his message a way of living the Gospel more fully to the ends of the earth, in fraternal sharing with his brother priests, in caring for the least among us, and in silent adoration of our Eucharistic Lord.

We came to the Assembly still feeling the void left by the recent deaths of two of our former National Responsibles, Fr. Mike Smith and Msgr. Howie Calkins. Both men were humble and holy priests who through their gentle humor taught us all to live with joy. So, we prayed in thanksgiving for all our brothers in fraternity who have gone on to Glory. How good it was to be in fraternity with them!

And praying for an ever increasing number of deceased brothers underscored for us that by far, the most striking trend facing our fraternities is that we are aging and dying off. This of course is reflective of a general trend in the American priesthood. In 1990, there were a little over 34,000 diocesan priests in the U.S.; in 2014 the number had dwindled down to 16,462 active diocesan priests. In 2014, 3,448 out of our 17,337 parishes were without a resident priest. This can all be somewhat discouraging. It is a trend that is bringing ever increasing stress and isolation to the Diocesan priesthood.

In preparing our answers to the Questionnaire for the International Assembly in Bangalore,

India, we also reflected upon the challenges that we face with the complex political and economic realities of our day. Both in our civil and faith communities we are a divided people. The Church remains the largest provider of services and outreach to the poor and yet we talk less and less prophetically about social justice issues. We experience great polarity not only in our politics but also in our faith communities. There is growing economic disparity. The poor fear they will be left without health care and the “stranger” in our midst fears at any moment he will be deported. There is an ever increasing secularization of our culture that affects our ministry every day. And yet, as priests, we seldom talk about these challenges; much less bring them to our prayer.

How do we respond to all of this? Do we “circle the wagons” and simply concern ourselves with “walking each other home” until the last priest in our dwindling fraternities “turns out the lights.” Our do we realize that we still have “a little blood left in our veins” and continue to reach out to our brother priests, especially our younger brothers who face such tremendous challenges, to share with them the fraternal spirituality that has enriched our lives and ministry? We have a gift to share and moving forward from this assembly we realize that we need to tell our story and invite our brother priests to come and see.

Our spirituality finds its roots in the life of Blessed Charles de Foucauld who many judge to have lived a very odd life as a missionary diocesan priest in the Sahara Desert where he was eventually shot to death on December 1, 1916. While his life may seem “distant” to the experience of most Diocesan priests today, the priests of the fraternities have found that the elements of his spiritual life (a life rooted in the gospel, Eucharistic adoration and contemplative prayer, simplicity of life and love for the poor, an openness to all and fraternity with our brother priests) offer a wonderful foundation for our priesthood. We commit ourselves to a life rich in prayer as we search for the face of God in life and the people we meet every day.

As Fernando Tapia reminded us in his meditations during the Assembly ours is an Incarnation Spirituality. “God did not simply wave his magic wand over our humanity and retreat to heaven.” ** Jesus immersed himself in our humanity. In the spirit of Blessed Charles our Fraternity tries to follow Jesus, the Nazorean. It was in his daily life at Nazareth that Jesus was schooled in the ways of the Kingdom. Thus in the Joy of the Gospel, Pope Francis reminds us that “an evangelizing community gets involved by word and deed in people’s daily lives; it bridges distances, it is willing to abase itself if necessary, and it embraces human life, touching the suffering flesh of Christ in the people. Evangelizers thus take on the “smell of the sheep” and the sheep are willing to hear their voice.” (EG 24).

We in the Jesus Caritas Fraternity USA are not ready to “turn out the lights”. As with most movements in the Church, there may come the day when our time as past. But we still have a gift to share. By acclamation we reconfirmed Fr. Jerry “Hap” Ragan as our National Responsible. We recommit ourselves to sharing the gift of Fraternity with our Bishops and with our seminarians. We recommit ourselves to helping our brothers who are already in Fraternity to come to a deeper understanding of our spirituality and we invite our brother priests and bishops who are searching for a great spiritual support system to “Come and See” the priestly fraternity that has so enriched our lives.

Fraternally in Christ,


+ Don Hanchon Fernando Tapia Mark Mertes
Jerry “Hap” Ragan Dan Danielson Tom McCormick
Don Dunn Greg Pawloski Bob Amundsen
Ron Belisle Joe Greeley John Jacquel
Dick Rossman Chuck Roland Sammy Taylor
Will Connor Alejandro Trejo Estrada John Murray
Norman Supancheck

*The first three Jesus Caritas Fraternities were organized in France in 1952. They adopted the French concept of leadership and so used the term Responsible to designate the leader.

** J. Metz in Poverty of Spirit

PDF: Letter from Camarillo, Come and See, USA Fraternity JC Assembly 2017