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SCHOLARLY SLOAN NATIVE ELEVATED TO HEAD INTERNATIONAL ORDER OF FRANCISCANS

The Rev. Joachim A. Giermek, a Sloan native, has been elected to the top leadership post of the international Order of Conventual Franciscan Friars.

During a general chapter of the order last Saturday in Italy, Giermek, 58, was elected minister general. The Conventual Franciscan Friars, who follow the rule of St. Francis of Assisi, have 5,400 members worldwide.

A member of the order's St. Anthony of Padua Province in the United States, Giermek had served as assistant minister general and vicar of the order, the No. 2 position, since 1995. He is the first member of the St. Anthony of Padua Province, one of five Conventual Franciscan provinces in the United States, to head the order and only the third American to be elected minister general.

"He is very scholarly with a deep faith," said the Rev. Marion Tolczyk, who has known Giermek since he entered the religious order in 1960. "He was willing to study the life of St. Francis and live out his life the way St. Francis would live it."

A former provincial of the St. Anthony of Padua Province, Tolczyk currently serves as director of "The Father Justin Rosary Hour," a religious program that originates from Athol Springs.

Tolczyk recalled that, as provincial, he sent Giermek to the Franciscan Institute at St. Bonaventure University, where he earned a master of arts degree and the title "Master of Franciscan Spirituality" in 1977.

Afterward, Giermek conducted retreats for Friars throughout the province and then was invited to conduct retreats for Franciscans in other provinces.

The Conventual Franciscans are based in Assisi, Italy, where the friars are responsible for the Basilica of St. Francis, which contains the tomb of the saint.

Tolczyk views Giermek's selection as head of the order as "a source of pride for the Buffalo area."

"He is a son of Polonia. He is putting Buffalo on the map in Rome," he said.

Tolczyk noted that Giermek is the second Buffalo-area religious figure to be elected to head a religious order.

Sister Mary Raymond Kasprzak, former provincial minister of the Felician Sisters, recently was elected minister general, the top job in that international order.

Giermek, who became the 118th successor to Francis of Assisi, is a graduate of St. Andrew's School, Sloan, and Bishop Ryan High School, Buffalo.

After his graduation from Bishop Ryan, he entered the Conventual Franciscans' Novitiate, Ellicott City, Md. He took his perpetual vows in 1964.

Giermek received a bachelor of arts degree from St. Hyacinth Seminary, Granby, Mass. After studying at the Pontifical Theological Seminary, Rome, he was ordained to the priesthood in 1969 in the Basilica of Holy Apostles, Rome.

Returning to the United States, Giermek was assigned to teaching novices and guiding their spiritual development at the Ellicott City Novitiate.

He also worked on a doctoral degree at Georgetown University, Washington, D.C.

Giermek collaborated as a translator and editor of the works of William of Ockham, a Franciscan philosopher in the Middle Ages.

In 1982, he was elected secretary and regent of studies for the St. Anthony of Padua Province. The following year, he was elected assistant general for North America and England. He was re-elected to a second term in that position in 1989.

Giermek's sister, Anne Holmes, lives in the family home in Sloan. A brother, Stanley, lives in Abingdon, Md.

The Conventual Franciscans staffed Bishop Ryan, the former Baker-Victory High School in Lackawanna and Cardinal O'Hara High School, Town of Tonawanda, which remains open.

The order continues to staff St. Francis High School and St. Francis Parish, Athol Springs, and Corpus Christi Parish and the Franciscan Center, both in Buffalo. It also produces "The Father Justin Rosary Hour" and provides chaplains to the Franciscan Sisters of St. Joseph, Hamburg, and St. Joseph Hospital, Cheektowaga.

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