February 22, 2015
An address from the franciscan Brothers of peace
Dear Friends of the Franciscan Brothers of Peace,
Our beloved and longtime Superior, Br. Paul J. O’Donnell died peacefully in his sleep and entered into eternal life on Friday, February 20th, 2015. Our dear friend, Fr. James Wolnik, from Holy Childhood Church, administered an anointing and in the following days, many more friends have lovingly supported our community with their prayers, words of comfort, meals, and more for which we are truly thankful.
It is very difficult to come up with the words to properly memorialize a dear friend who had dedicated his life to protecting and nurturing life, but also enjoyed living it to the fullest. Where does one begin?
Some of our best times with Br. Paul were spent at our place of retreat up North. The brothers will always remember his enthusiasm for the outdoors, the fact that he enjoyed any chance to recreate on the water in the land of 10,000 lakes, and like a true Franciscan was an admirer of God's creation and a friend of the animals; his two favorites being his Labrador Retrievers Ruby and Rocky. He loved nothing more than playing fetch with the dogs at the lake's edge and exercising a bit of daring when it came to water tubing behind a boat. He was an expert fire builder which we all looked forward to enjoying at the end of the day, when it was time for fellowship and prayer.
Here at home, Br. Paul relished preparing holiday meals and planning community gatherings. Cooking was one of his favorite past times. Those in the local neighborhood are familiar with his smiling face and warm welcome whether it was the annual summer barbeque or the holiday food program. He had a way to make everyone in the neighborhood feel welcome and like they are part of our community.
Br. Paul was a people person and befriended many from all walks of life. One of his many fruitful ministries includes his work with providing shelter and board to international survivors of torture. Many of these victims were displaced from their homeland for many reasons, and regardless of their religious and cultural background, Paul felt it important to make them feel welcomed into our family.
One of his (Paul’s) lessons about evangelizing that was impressed upon me was the necessity of being comfortable with anyone in a prayerful way…to be able to pray with anyone, even those of different faiths, different political views, and different cultures. Br. Paul said it was important to find commonality.
Br. Paul was very pastoral and supportive of each of us in the community as well. He put each of us brothers before himself and was always concerned about our spiritual welfare and our personal needs… probably to a fault.
Br. Paul was also great at planning and delegating. Like a military general skilled in tactical maneuvers, he knew how to organize things in such a way they would smoothly come together with great results. Yet, he had a gentle command and was very much a visionary. He was resourceful in not only finding support for the friary but also all of the organizations he was involved with. We here at the community are all too keenly aware, those will be hard shoes to fill.
He was a very good steward of funds. However, Br. John Mary expressed concern when he first took on the role as Administrator for the Friary. He was particularly concerned with taking on the daunting task of bookkeeping as finances are periodically tight. John Mary says he would go to Br. Paul with these concerns. However, Br. Paul never seemed to worry.
"He would press me on having reliance on the Lord. He was a believer in Divine Providence and where that could go. He always said that God would provide for all of our needs. And sure enough Paul was always right,” said Br. John Mary.
What the brothers would all witness was that things always did resolve themselves, and miraculously resources would always show up at the right time and when they needed the most. Through Br. Paul, we learned a lot about faith and trustfully abandoning ourselves and our will to the Lord.
Br. Paul was humble and we have always respected and loved Br. Paul’s sense of true charity and selflessness in all he did. When he felt strongly about a cause he put his whole heart into it.
Besides being the longtime superior of the Franciscan Brothers of Peace, Br. Paul put his heart into the development of many prolife causes that have helped save the lives of many and bring about much needed support and awareness of the value of all human life throughout the world.
When our founder and Br. Paul’s best friend, Br. Michael Gaworski, suffered a severe brain injury many years ago and required specialized care, it was then that Br. Paul dedicated his life toward championing the care of Br. Michael and all of the medically vulnerable, handicapped, and disabled.
He was particularly passionate about advocating for the rights of the brain injured and babies and their parents unable to legally vouch for their own rights, care, and treatment while hospitalized. Most notable was his support and work with Teri Shiavo and the Teri Shiavo Life and Hope Network, and his advocacy and work in Canada with the family of Baby Joseph Maraachli.
Br. Paul touched many lives through his work as the founder of both the Human Life Alliance and Prolife Action Ministries (formerly Peace of Minnesota), and most recently as chairman of the Teri Shiavo Life & Hope Network.
In 2009, Br. Paul was awarded the Human Life Alliance “The Champion of Life” Award and in 2012 awarded the “Evangelium Vitae Award” by the Catholic Medical Association.
We will truly miss Br. Paul and we are forever grateful to the Lord for the beautiful life of our dear brother, and we commit ourselves to carry on his great example of loving and defending the most vulnerable among us.
With sincerity and on behalf of the Franciscan Brothers of Peace,
Brother Conrad Richardson
For our Emergency Food Shelf: