STEUBENVILLE, OH—Franciscan University of Steubenville awarded its 2011 Poverello Medal to Father Benedict Groeschel, CFR, for his lifetime of service to the materially and spiritually poor.
The medal, which is the highest, non-academic honor the University can bestow, was presented to Father Groeschel on Thursday, November 17, 2011, in New York City.
The awards ceremony began with Mass, attended by Franciscan University friends and alumni, as well as members of the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal, the order that Father Groeschel helped found in 1987. The Mass was held at the Church of the Guardian Angel in Chelsea. Father Terence Henry, TOR, president of Franciscan University was the main celebrant, and Father Jonathan Morris, past Franciscan student and Fox News analyst, delivered the homily.
Father Morris commended Father Groeschel for being both “fearless of men” and “God-fearing.” He also thanked Father Groeschel, whom he had only met once before, explaining that the elder friar’s evangelical witness had “profoundly impacted” his own life and priestly ministry.
Later, at a cocktail reception held at Chelsea Piers, Father Henry addressed the 125 friends and alumni gathered, before presenting the medal to Father Groeschel.
“Poverty is one of the defining realities of our age,” Father Henry began, adding that poverty comes in both material and spiritual forms. “Were he among us still, St. Francis, the little poor man of Assisi…would have given himself, body and soul, to the work of caring for the poor, ministering to us in all our many and varied needs. Francis, however, is not here. So, one of his spiritual sons, Father Benedict Groeschel, CFR, has done that for him.”
“Father Benedict has been a tireless and bold witness to Christ in a culture afflicted by spiritual poverty,” Father Henry concluded. “He has also been a brother and friend to those living in material poverty. He has walked in the footsteps of St. Francis, and in doing so, has led countless souls to Christ.”
In his speech accepting the medal, Father Groeschel expressed how grateful he was for the work of Franciscan University’s staff and faculty, saying it “has been a beloved place since I heard first heard about it. It is a wonderful work of divine providence.”
He also urged those present “to look for providence in all things” reminding them, “We must work hard and do our best, but that best is always God working though people.”
Father Groeschel finished his remarks by noting how many other religious orders in recent years had followed in the CFR’s footsteps, becoming more faithful to the Church and their founding charisms.
“This is a great time of blessing for the Church in America,” he said. “And I’m so grateful to be a witness to this Second Springtime.”
The evening concluded with brief remarks and a final blessing from Archbishop Francis Assisi Chullikatt, papal nuncio to the United Nations.
“In the eyes of the world, you, Father Groeschel, are a poverello, a little poor man,” the archbishop said. “But in our eyes you possess a treasure so precious that you are honoring us tonight, not we you.”
Father Groeschel is the director of the Office for Spiritual Development of the Archdiocese of New York. He founded and is on the staff of Trinity Retreat, a center for prayer and study for the clergy. He obtained his doctorate in psychology from Columbia University in 1971 and is a professor of pastoral psychology at St. Joseph’s Seminary of the Archdiocese of New York and a visiting professor at the Institute for Psychological Sciences.
In May 1987, along with eight other friars, Father Groeschel formed the community of Franciscan Friars of the Renewal under the patronage of John Cardinal O’Connor. This community, which now has over 170 friars and sisters, follows the Capuchin tradition and is dedicated to preaching reform and providing care for the homeless in the South Bronx, Harlem, Yonkers, Newark, Patterson, Fort Worth, Albuquerque, London, Ireland, Honduras and Nicaragua.
Familiar to television audiences through the EWTN Sunday Night Prime Program, Father Groeschel has published and produced more than 30 books and 100 CDs and DVDs on spirituality and pastoral counseling. His most recent books are: Travelers Along The Way (Servant Books 2010), Praying Constantly (Our Sunday Visitor, 2010), I Am With You Always (Ignatius Press 2010), and After This Life (Our Sunday Visitor, 2009).
[A full listing of Fr. Groeschel's books published by Ignatius Press can be viewed on his Ignatius Insight Author Page.]
The Poverello Medal is the highest non-academic honor awarded by Franciscan University of Steubenville. Named after St. Francis of Assisi, who was called Il Poverello ("the little poor man"), the award commemorates organizations and individuals who, through great strength of character and the practice of Christian charity, have imitated St. Francis in their love for and service to the poor. Past recipients include Blessed Teresa of Calcutta, Dorothy Day, Charles W. and Patricia Colson, and Rick and Karen Santorum.
Here is video of comments made by Father Terence Henry, Archbishop Francis Assisi Chullikatt, and Father Benedict Groeschel at the event: