by Joe Bollig
KANSAS CITY, Kan. — For 26 years the only way that friends of the Capuchin Franciscan friars could participate in the annual Brown Robe Benefit was to go to Denver.
And the friars no doubt have many friends here in the archdiocese. The Capuchin Franciscan Friars have ministered in Kansas for more than 140 years and still staff St. John the Evangelist Parish in Lawrence and the Haskell Indian Nations University Catholic Campus Center there.
This year, however, anyone with internet connectivity can participate in this event, the biggest and most important fundraiser of the year for the Capuchins. That’s because the COVID-19 pandemic led the Capuchins to convert the local event into a worldwide, live, virtual event.
The 27th Annual Brown Robe Benefit: The Timeless Call, will be held on Oct. 10; it starts at 7 p.m.
“The Brown Robe is an annual fundraising event . . . created in the vein of wanting to increase awareness about the work of the Capuchins, but also to raise funds to sustain their lives and their ministries,” said Gina Francis, director of marketing and special events for the order.
One of the great needs the Capuchins are facing now is a happy one. They need to support 18 men in formation — a healthy number at a time when many religious orders struggle to attract vocations.
“This is a great joy that we have young men coming to us,” said Father Blaine Burkey, OFM Cap., who is assisting Francis.
“God is sending them to us, and that’s the whole story of the Franciscan order. St. Francis in his last years wrote: ‘and the Lord gave me brothers.’ He wasn’t asking for them, but God gave them to him in great numbers.
“It’s a great hope for us, but it’s a long road [of formation] . . . This particular year we’re very happy because we’ve had two men ordained to the priesthood. At the same time, we’ve had one ordained a deacon, two make a solemn profession and we have a large number in the novitiate and postulancy. They’re all very fine men.”
This year’s Brown Robe event offers some perennial favorites with a virtual twist — like the silent and live auction.
The online silent auction will begin at noon on Oct. 5 and will close at 9:30 p.m. CDT on Oct. 10. To participate in both auctions or to learn about the pre-event raffle, go to the event website (see below).
There will also be a pre-event “Road to RoAM Raffle, with tickets going on sale Sept. 25. The winner will be drawn on Oct. 10. For the raffle, go to: RoadtoRoAMRaffle.com
There will be new things this year, too.
The event will include guest appearances by Father Raniero Cantalamessa, OFM Cap, preacher to the papal household; Brother Andrew Corriente, OFM Cap., winner of the 2020 Great American Baking Show; Cardinal Sean O’Malley, OFM, Cap., cardinal archbishop of Boston; and Kim Christiansen, Denver area TV news anchor.
There will be two videos. The first video will show the ways the Capuchins respond to the needs of the poor in Kansas, Colorado and Texas. The second video will show how the Capuchins met the needs of those affected by the COVID-19 virus and the increase in vocations to the order.
After the second video there will be an appeal for donations and a few words from Brother Mark Schenk, the provincial of the Province of St. Conrad.
The evening will conclude with the friars singing “The Ultima” in four languages.
For information on hosting watch parties to win a prize, go to facebook.com/CapuchinFriars or contact them by email at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
The virtual Brown Robe Benefit is free and can be accessed by going to the event website at BrownRobe.com, or to brownrobe2020.hosted.events.
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