A Special Day To Remember

On September 23, 1981, the St. Joseph of Cupertino Province was established. The Province was established at our then Provinicialate and Novitiate at Arroyo Grande. The Provincialate was moved to Castro Valley in 2016.

The Story of the Foundation of the Province of St. Joseph of Cupertino at the General Chapter, Assisi, Italy, 1981

In 2006, in honor of the 25th Anniversary of the establishment of a Province, Fr. Peter F. Mallin wrote the book The History of the Province of St. Joseph of Cupertino. Here is an excerpt from Fr. Peter’s book.

In the days that followed the Second Ordinary Custodial Chapter, August, 1981, preparations began for an Extraordinary General Chapter to be convened at the Sacro Convento in Assisi, the following September where proposals would be made to raise the Custody of St. Joseph of Cupertino to that of a Province. Since Fr. Ronald Olson would be attending alone, he looked to the other American Provincials for help and support. The Minister Provincial of St. Anthony Province, Fr. Marion Tolczyk, provided translations of the proposal and documents in Italian, Polish and some Spanish and German. Thus, when Fr. Ronald made his presentation before the 92 General Capitulars, most would have a translation of the proposals and documents before them.

Gathering for a General Chapter at the Sacro Convento in Assisi, which is adjacent to the Basilica of St. Francis, is always a special event. The friars gather in the large Aula Magna, on one of the top floors. Headphones are provided for all the delegates. Several friars are stationed in various booths to provide instant translations in the major languages. A large screen-type apparatus is set up in front of the hall to record and show the voting on the various proposals. Each delegate has a remote control to record his vote: “placet” (yes), “non placet” (no), or a “placet juxta modum” (placet with some reservation).

Fr. Vitale Bommarco, the Order’s Minister General at the time, presided over the General Chapter. Fr. LanFranco Serrini, who would succeed Bommarco as Minister General in 1983, was General Secretary of the Order. Much of the business of the Chapter concerned some changes in the Constitutions as well as the General Statues. The latter became quite tedious after a while. Also, part of the agenda for the Chapter included proposals from two Custodies seeking Province status: St. Francis Custody in Brazil, and St. Joseph of Cupertino in California, USA

By the end of the second week of Chapter, as the delegates were approaching the feast of St. Joseph of Cupertino, September 18, 1981, the Minister General asked that we hear the proposal from California on that day. Fr. Ronald Olson, the California Custos, then addressed the Chapter with the proposal for about 30 minutes. As he neared the end, it was approximately 6:00 PM, and the bells of Assisi began to ring for the Angelus. Many saw this as an auspicious sign. Since it was Friday when Fr. Ronald made his presentation, the delegates would now have a chance to discuss it over the weekend, especially since they would all be going by bus up to Padua for the 750th anniversary of St. Anthony’s death. In the following week, as the Chapter continued, the proposal was discussed again and finally voted upon on Wednesday, September 23, 1981. The final tally was: 87 in favor, 4 oppose, and 1 absent from the hall. It was quite an ecstatic moment when all of the delegates broke out in a round of applause.

Then began the interventions as Provincial after Provincial stood to affirm, support and congratulate the birth of St. Joseph of Cupertino Province, often citing a personal experience or some connection to the new Province. Fr. Marion Tolczyk, the Minister Provincial of St. Anthony Province (USA) spoke as the “grandparent” Province, commenting on the enthusiasm in our Custody that he experienced among the friars during his California visit. Fr. Briant Cullinane, the Minister Provincial of Immaculate Conception Province (USA), speaking for the mother Province of all in the United States, recalled his own visit to California. Fr. Bonaventure Henrich, the Minister Provincial of Germany, and Fr. Stanley Frejlich, the Minister Provincial of Immaculate Conception Province in Warsaw, Poland, spoke of their own joy and enthusiasm over this new growth in the United States of America, recalling the pioneer work of their friars who first came to this country and settled in Texas over a century before. Fr. Richard McKivergan, the Minister Provincial of Blessed Angellus of Pisa Province (England), likened the American friars to “cousins” and enthusiastically gave his support by exclaiming, “aspice, respice, prospice!” And the litany continued with special greeting for the Provincials of Genoa (home of Christopher Columbus); the Marches (wherein lies the town of Osimo and the tomb of our Province patron, St. Joseph of Cupertino); Apulia (near the town of Cupertino); Austria, Holland, Rome, Padua, Umbria, Sicily, Slovenia, Japan (who boasted to being the California’s neighbor to the West and the last jurisdiction to be formed as a Province up to that point); Spain (the land of the Conquistadores); as well as the Custodes or General Delegates from Australia, Malta, Czechoslovakia and several of the Latin American countries. Father Bommarco, the Minister General, gave permission at that time for Friar Anthony Howard, a student at the Seraphicum from St. Joseph Cupertino Custody, to be present in the Chapter Hall for the voting on this great occasion. So there Friar Anthony and Fr. Ronald Olsen stood together with great joy and anticipation as a new Chapter of Conventual Franciscan History unfolded. And so it was that with the support of so many of our confreres around the world and at home, and the encouraging words of so many on the General Curia, the Province of St. Joseph of Cupertino was born in the 800th Anniversary Year of the birth of Our Holy Father Saint Francis of Assisi.

In the days that followed there were many celebrations, liturgical and otherwise. Greetings came from so many to all the friars in California: “Auguri, Saluti, Pace et Bene!” Especially moving was the chanting of a High Mass toward the end of the Chapter in the Lower Basilica of St. Francis. Fr. Ronald Olson dressed as a prelate in red alb (as is the custom in Italy) presided with 100 friar concelebrants. This was followed by a pilgrimage to Osimo in the Province of the Marches. There, Fr. Giulio Berrettoni, Minister Provincial of the Marches, and all the local friars and novices, celebrated with song, gifts and prayers and adopted the new California Province as their “twin.” This was followed by a visit and twinning with the Poor Clares at their Monastery in Osimo. 

As in all General Chapters, the Friar Capitulars traveled to Rome at the end for an audience with His Holiness, Pope John Paul II. Upon hearing of the new Province through the Minister General, he offered his personal Blessing and Congratulations, and a gift of a rosary to Fr. Ronald Olson.   

Founding Members of St. Joseph of Cupertino Province (September 23, 1981)

+ Fr. Maurice Bora, +Fr. Roch Bartman, +Fr. Antonine Bochenski, +Fr. Frederick Gorka, +Fr. Justinian Pawelek, +Fr. Samuel Bonikowski, +Fr. Edwin Banach, +Fr. Caeser Inserra, +Fr. Bernard Michalik, +Fr. Thomas Zagorski, +Fr. Peter Parchem, +Fr. Charles Kozanecki, +Fr. Sylvester Radloff*, +Fr. Gregory Kareta, +Fr. Norbert Rackensperger, +Fr. Theodore Feely, Fr. Ronald Olson, +Fr. Ignatius Hinkle, +Fr. Ralph Vala, +Br. Francis Anthony Boerner, +Br. Louis Balint, Fr. Alphonse Van Guilder, Fr. Joseph Angelini, Fr. Richard Otto, Fr. Stephen Gross, Fr. Victor Abegg, +Br. Dario Garcia, +Fr. Michael Woznick, Fr. Allen Ramirez, Fr. Juniper Schneider, +Fr. Bernard Waltos, +Fr. Gary Klauer, +Fr. Vance Sullivan, Fr. Paul Fazio, +Br. Robert Oullette, Br. James Reiter, Fr. Thomas Hamilton, and Fr. Charles Shelton.
*Fr. Sylvester Radloff died September 9, 1981, just 13 days before SJC Custody was formally established as a Province.

A Prayer of Blessing for the Friars
of St. Joseph of Cupertino Province

Thank you, Lord, for the selfless service of our Franciscan friars, as they minister to us in our parishes, hospitals, missions, and schools.

We pray that you will continue to bless them with humble hearts, full of compassion for all, and boundless energy as they seek to follow your will.

Help us, too, to follow their warm and welcoming dedication to God in prayer, scripture study, sacrifice, and service.

Grateful for the friars’ devotion, we pray that you will continue to lovingly guide them and refresh them as they minister to others. We pray that more young men will hear the call of a Franciscan vocation.

And we joyfully give you thanks and praise always in all things.

St. Francis pray for us.
St. Joseph of Cupertino pray for us.

Written by Lynn Papia,
Our Lady of Guadalupe Parishioner