Six US Franciscan friars have died recently. Here are their stories. Please remember them in your prayers.
Eric Kyle, OFM
Eric Kyle, OFM, 91, a professed Franciscan friar for 69 years and a priest for 64, died on Dec. 1 at Holy Name Friary, Ringwood, N.J.
Eric was born Edward William in Brooklyn, N.Y., on Feb. 18, 1925 to Charles and Catherine (née Peacock) Kyle. He graduated from Alexander Hamilton High School, Brooklyn, in 1941 and worked for two years for Manufacturers Hanover Trust Co before enrolling at St. Joseph Seraphic Seminary in Callicoon, N.Y
Four years later, he was received into the Order of Friars Minor in 1946 in Paterson, N.J., receiving the name of Eric Francis. He professed his first vows there one year later in 1947. After studying philosophy at St. Stephen Friary in Croghan, N.Y., and St. Anthony Friary in Butler, N.J., he received his bachelor’s in 1949 from St. Bonaventure University, Allegany, N.Y. He studied theology at Holy Name College in Washington, D.C., from 1949 to 1953, making his final profession of vows in 1950. Two years later, he was ordained to the priesthood.
Following ordination, Eric was assigned to St. Francis of Assisi Church in New York City, where he was a member of the pastoral staff from 1953 to 1955. He then served as spiritual director and instructor of English and theology at St. Joseph Seraphic Seminary from 1955 to 1968, earning a master’s degree in English from St. Bonaventure University in 1960. Returning to New York City in 1968, he worked in the Provincial Development Office for three years. He was elected to the Provincial Council in 1969.
In 1971, Fr. Kyle was assigned to Christ House, a retreat center in Lafayette, N.J., where he was director and guardian of the friar community for five years. He returned to parish work as pastor of Sacred Heart Parish in Rochelle Park, N.J., from 1976 to 1982, and then served at St. Catherine of Bologna Church in Ringwood from 1982 to 1988. For the next four years, he ministered at St. Joseph Church in East Rutherford, N.J. He was the resident chaplain at Carmel Richmond Nursing Home on Staten Island, N.Y., from 1993 to 2006.
Retiring from active pastoral ministry in 2006, Eric resided at St. Anthony Friary in Butler, N.J., for a year. In 2007, he transferred to Holy Name Friary, Ringwood, where he was on staff for nine years.
Edward Lammert, OFM
Edward Lammert, OFM, 86, Cincinnati native and beloved pastor in Appalachia for 23 years, died Dec. 17, 2016.
Born in St. Bernard, Ohio, May 11, 1931, Edward was one of six children of Edward and Florence (née Pohlkamp) Lammert. Educated by the Franciscans all his life, he joined the friars in 1949, made his solemn profession in 1954 and was ordained to the priesthood in 1958.
In his 66 years in religious life, Edward (formerly Odo) served variously as a campus minister and formation director at Duns Scotus College in Southfield, Mich., associate pastor at parishes in Michigan and Indiana, before finally settling in the Appalachian Mountains of Eastern Kentucky, in Hazard, Harlan, Lynch and Cumberland.
Known for his warm heart, Ed reached the people not only in the pews but also through his ecumenical radio program. He excelled in many areas: preaching, gardening, sports, woodworking, cooking, and more. “A Man for All Seasons” is how he was described.
He loved manual labor. Ed did everything: painted, landscaped, did carpentry work and grew or caught most of the food for the friary. He was known to trade seeds with people for his legendary garden. Instead of replacing things, he fixed them. Ed’s wardrobe came from the place where clothing was donated and given away.
Joseph Weithman, OFM
Joseph Weithman, OFM, died peacefully, surrounded by his family, on Tuesday, Dec. 20, 2016, at St. Mary’s Home at the Felician Village in Manitowoc, WI, at the age of 83.
Joseph Weithman was born to Leo. J. and Jane C. (née Hawk) Weithman, on April 16, 1933, in Cleveland, Ohio. He was received into the Franciscan community as a novice on July 4, 1952, and was known by the name Friar Marian. He professed solemn vows on July 5, 1956.
Joe’s main ministry to the order and the Church was fraternal service while working in various parishes, at the Franciscan Missionary Union, in hospital ministry and wherever else he was needed.
The Franciscan community would like to express their deep appreciation and assurance of prayers to the staff at St. Mary’s Home at the Felician Village for the care they gave to Br. Joe over the years he resided there.
Benet Fonck, OFM
Benet A. Fonck, OFM, 71, a friar for 47 years and a priest for 44 years, passed away peacefully on Friday, Dec. 23, 2016, at Our Lady of Angels Retirement Home in Joliet, Ill., where he served as chaplain between 2005 and 2012.
He was born June 3, 1945 in Akron, Ohio to the late Anna Rita (née Karabinos) and Arthur Fonck and was raised in Joliet, Ill., and Elmhurst, Ill.
Benet was ordained a priest June 3, 1972, and served parishes in Texas, Illinois and Missouri. He worked with the Secular Franciscans in various places in the US. He then served in Rome between 1980 and1985 at the OFM General Curia as the general spiritual assistant for the Secular Franciscan Order and also did work in writing the new constitutions of the Secular Franciscans. He was the editor of the Ritual of the Secular Franciscan Order.
After his time in Rome, he returned to the United States where he was a liaison to friars in Manitowoc, Wisc., in the early to mid-1990s. He retired to St. Clare’s Village in Alton, Ill., earlier this year.
Rock Travnikar, OFM
Rock Travnikar, OFM, 71, passed in the early hours of Dec. 25, 2016, in his apartment at Rocky Creek Retirement Village, Tampa, Fla.
Rock was ordained on Nov.14, 1976 in Hazel Park, Mich. He served as a college chaplain, teacher, retreat director and missionary and pastor.
In 1979, Father Travnikar released his book, The Blessing Cup: Prayer Rituals for Families and Groups. The book has sold more than 400,000 copies through four revisions.
In January 2008, he relocated to Tampa, where he worked as the Pastoral Services Coordinator for Rocky Creek Retirement Village. During his nearly nine years in the Diocese of St. Petersburg, he also provided pastoral assistance to St. Lawrence Parish, Tampa.
Evan Greco, OFM
Evan Greco, OFM, 86, a professed Franciscan for 63 years and a priest for 58, died on Dec. 27 at Chilton Hospital in New Jersey.
Evan was born on Jan. 3, 1930, in Bloomfield, N.J., to Salvatore and Genevieve (née Krott) Greco and baptized Russell Anthony at Holy Cross Church in Harrison, N.J. After graduating from Seton Hall Preparatory High School in South Orange, N.J., in 1947, he attended Seton Hall University from 1947 to 1951, while also serving in the National Guard for two years, before joining the friars.
He was received into the Franciscan Order on Aug. 12, 1952, in Paterson, N.J., where he professed first vows the following year. He studied philosophy at St. Francis College in Rye Beach, N.H., and went on to St. Anthony Friary in Butler, and Holy Name College in Washington, D.C., for his theological education. Evan professed solemn vows on Aug. 20, 1957, and was ordained to the priesthood on April 25, 1958, at Mount Saint Sepulchre Franciscan Monastery in Washington, D.C., by Archbishop Egidio Vagnozzi (later Cardinal).
He began his priestly ministry teaching biology and math at Timon High School in Buffalo, N.Y., from 1958 to 1960. He shifted to parish work in 1961, serving at St. Francis Church in Triangle, Va., for a year.
In 1962, Evan joined the US Navy as chaplain and ministered in that capacity for the next 24 years. He served on the USS Coral Sea in Vietnam and also with the marines in Vietnam. He was also stationed in Guam, Italy, and several places in California. He was given the Navy Commendation Medal in 1970.
After retiring from the service in 1986, Evan was assigned to St. Francis Church in Oceanside, Calif., where he spent the next two years. Then, in 1988, he relocated to Thomasville, Ga., where he served as pastor of St. Augustine Church for five years.
Returning to the Northeast in 1993, Evan ministered at several parishes in Sullivan County, N.Y. He was pastor of St. Anthony of Padua Church in Yulan until 2002, and then served as interim pastor of St. Francis Xavier Church in Narrowsburg from 2002 to 2005. During this time, he was also regional associate for five parishes in the county.
Evan served as chaplain at St. Joseph’s Home for the Elderly in Totowa, N.J., from 2005 to 2013. He retired to St. Anthony Friary in Butler in 2013.