Happy Father’s Day, Fr. Joe!

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Joe Folzenlogen, S.J. serves as Spiritual Animator for the Ignatian Volunteer Corps in Cincinnati.  Here that means he is a founding father of IVC, celebrates liturgy with us and leads our book discussions at monthly gatherings and retreats. This is one of his many hats.  He is Vice-Superior of the Jesuit residence, Faber Community, in Cincinnati, and he serves as director at the Claver Jesuit Ministry Center to provide a presence in the South Cumminsville Community.

How seriously does he take his call to stand with the people he serves?  In the year and a half I’ve worked with him he’s been robbed at least three times.  Yesterday, minutes after the most recent robbery, those of us who gather with him weekly to celebrate liturgy at the Ministry Center questioned him about why he keeps risking his own safety to be there.  “I’m thinking of Greg Boyle, S.J., in that chapter on Success in Tattoos on the Heart, how he says sometimes all we can do is stand with the poor.”  I watch as he prays for those who robbed him and the circumstances which may have led them to steal.  I’m not sure I could be so compassionate in my response, kind of a “Father forgive them.”

When asked if he prefers to be called Joe or Father, Fr. Joe replies Joe.  In my heart I hear an echo of “call no one on earth your father.”  Yet though the “Abba” that in Aramaic means “from whom the breath of life comes” be reserved for God, I see fatherly love in Fr. Joe.

“Does God smile at you as he looks on you with love?”  That’s how Fr. Joe started his sermon the Sunday after the fourth of July last year.  Yes, IVC was on summer break, but we had been invited to Tim Boyle’s 3rd of July celebration across the river from Coney Island (Cincinnati’s) and its firework display.  Fr. Joe, in his usual style, brought his camera and, according to his sermon, spent much of the night shadowing a father with his infant son. The father raced after his son as he sped across the hillside on all fours toward the huge bouncing toy.  He shared his child’s wonder as he discovered a surface that responded to his touch.  And later Fr. Joe caught a glimpse of the father as he lay in the grass lifting his son above his head and delighting in his son’s presence.  “That’s how God sees you!  The answer to the question is unequivocally, ‘Yes,’” declared Fr. Joe!

As Joe looks on those who robbed him with love, as he makes the trek to Colombiere in Clarkston, Michigan to visit his convalescing brothers, as he inspires us to not just read the books we study but imitate the heroes, how can we not call him Father!  Happy Father’s Day, Fr. Joe!

Linda Wihl is the Greater Cincinnati IVC  Regional Director (or as some of the volunteers call her, “the matchmaker”).  As the Executive Director of Making Sense of Language Arts, she is also a service site partner and sponsor.  Her favorite title is “grandma!”

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