Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington
Official News Magazine of the Diocese of Spokane
P.O. Box 48, Spokane WA 99210
(509) 358-7340; FAX: (509) 358-7302
Two Spokane Franciscan Friars Celebrate Jubilees
by Mitch Finley, Inland Register staff
(From the Dec. 18, 2008 edition of the Inland Register)
Franciscan Brother Anthony Lavorin (right) was a World War II U.S. Marine Corps veteran when he decided to enter the Order of Friars Minor in 1948.
After growing up in the Los Angeles area and entering the Franciscans in 1951, in 1958 Franciscan Father Alberic Smith was ordained a priest.
On Saturday, Dec. 13, Brother Anthony celebrated 60 years as a Franciscan, and Father Alberic celebrated the 50th anniversary of his ordination. Following the Jubilee Mass at 5 p.m., the community joined the two friars for a dinner in the parish hall.
The future Brother Anthony was born Fred Lavorin in San Francisco – “the city of St. Francis,” he declares – on Feb. 28, 1920. Growing up during the Great Depression, with his family he moved frequently, but all the moves were in California. “I attended about a dozen different schools,” Brother Anthony says.
Following his junior year at St. Augustine High School in San Diego, he joined the Civilian Conservation Corps, one of President Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal programs that put unemployed people to work. “I fought forest fires back of San Diego, in the mountains there,” Brother Anthony recalls. In 1939, the future Franciscan friar enlisted in the Marine Corps.
Assigned to an aircraft carrier, the U.S.S. Lexington, he and some 90 of his fellow Marines manned the ship’s cannons. Two days before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Dec. 7, 1941, the Lexington left Pearl Harbor for the open sea. “We were out there when it happened,” Brother Anthony said. “Then we carried out counterattacks against the Japanese. After that, I was transferred back to the land forces and went to Guadalcanal.
“Then there was a few years occupying various islands until we were on Guam,” he said. “I was shot on Guam, and I was sent back to have the bullet removed, and then I was stationed in north Idaho at Farragut Naval Training Station,” which during the war temporarily became the largest city in Idaho. “There was a group of us Marines who manned the Naval prison there. When the war was over, I was one of the first to get out because I had been in so long.”
Brother Anthony said that he started thinking about a Religious vocation because of “different sobering experiences during the war.” Released from the Marine Corps in 1945, in San Diego, he met a young woman and became engaged to be married – but he had second thoughts and became un-engaged. “It was a hard decision,” he said, “very difficult.” He inquired about entering the Franciscans and was accepted. In 1948 he entered the Franciscan novitiate and took Anthony as his religious name. He took his final vows in 1951.
It’s now been 60 full years as a Franciscan, but he identifies what for him are some of the high points, including his years of ministry among “the Apache people in New Mexico and Arizona, and then seven years in Peru in the high country.” He also worked for 20 years in a Franciscan parish in Utah, south of Salt Lake City. “It was a parish 150 miles long,” he said with a smile. “We built the parish school and I did general maintenance of the parish and school.” The Franciscans later turned the parish over to the diocese.
In 2005, Brother Anthony was sent to St. Francis of Assisi Parish in Spokane, which is staffed by Franciscan Friars. Soon to observe his 89th birthday, of his 60 years as a Franciscan, Brother Anthony declares that he is “still trying to learn.” One insight he has gained is the importance, for everyone, of “living your life to the fullest wherever you’re at and wherever you’re called, with the faith that we’ve been gifted with.”
Father Alberic (left) was born Albert Smith in Los Angeles on Nov. 1, 1931. He completed his elementary education at St. Elizabeth School, “right on the edge of Pasadena/Altadena,” he said. “Then I went to St. Francis High School in La Cañada Flintridge. After the third year of high school, I went to St. Anthony Seminary in Santa Barbara, where I finished my fourth year of high school and first year of college.”
By then it was 1951 and time for the future priest to enter the one-year Franciscan novitiate in San Miguel. “Then I went to San Luis Rey in Oceanside,” he recalls, “a seminary and college, for the rest of college. It’s closed now. In 1955, I went to Santa Barbara for four years of theology, but I was ordained in December of ’58. The five in my class were allowed to be ordained six months ahead of time, and then once we were ordained we were what was called ‘simplex priests,’ so we couldn’t hear confessions or preach, but we could finish our studies, and in June we took a big exam, and then we could hear confessions and preach and do everything a priest does.”
Father Alberic and his classmates were then sent to St. Mary Parish in Stockton, Calif. for a year of pastoral ministry. “It was just a great experience,” he said.
For many years, Father Alberic taught mainly science courses in various Franciscan schools, including St. Anthony, the high school seminary he himself had attended, and another Franciscan high school seminary in Troutdale, Ore. Taking a break from teaching, along the way he earned a master’s degree in Science from Notre Dame University in South Bend, Ind. He also taught at his order’s college seminary, San Luis Rey, and at St. Elizabeth High School in Oakland, during which time he also took on some pastoral duties in a rural mission parish.
For four years, in Los Angeles, Father Alberic ran an English as a Second Language (ESL) program. Young men coming to the Franciscan community from Latin America, or who had been in the United States for a time, often “didn’t have a good grasp of English. We felt that unless they knew English well they would feel like second-class citizens. It was really very good. They would learn English thoroughly, and then they would go on to postulancy and novitiate.” A similar Francis-can program now exists in Portland, Ore.
In the late ’90s, Father Alberic was pastor of a Franciscan parish on a Reservation near Tucson, Ariz. “They have one of the oldest church buildings in the country – 200 years old,” he said. “The people took care of it during the years when there were no priests there. Then the Franciscans took it over again in the early 1900s. Being there was a real highlight for me.”
Father Alberic also served as guardian of Mission Santa Barbara, in southern California. For six years, “I was in charge of the entire mission,” he said. The parish there is “a separate entity, but they do use the mission church. There’s a retreat center, an archive library which is a center for research, a gift shop, a museum, and hundreds of thousands of people go through the mission every year.”
He was assigned to St. Francis of Assisi, Spokane, in 2006. “I really like it very much. I’m also chaplain for the Poor Clares Sisters, and I do some prison ministry.”
Fifty years on, “You wonder where the years went, they went so fast,” he said. “It was really great. My Franciscan life is primary, and it’s from my Franciscan life that my priestly ministry flows. I’ve enjoyed being a priest, and in all of that God is very good. For young people, and for anyone, really, when the Lord indicates to you that he wants you to do something, go for it. That’s what I’ve found. And it works.”