Lawrence Damien Isabell, ofm

Lawrence Damien Isabell, ofm

Le frère Lawrence Damien Isabell ofm est américain mais aussi pleinement francophone. Son cours "Histoire de l'Ordre des frères mineurs" est écrit en français et il corrige les devoirs en français.

Lawrence Damien Isabell was born in 1938 in Cleveland, Ohio; His father Joseph was from an Irish Catholic family and his mother Lois from a Protestant family. He finished his primary school and one year of secondary school in his home town before going to Westmont (Chicago) Illinois where he finished 6 years of college preparation. Before entering the novitiate of the Franciscans he and two friends visited Europe in 1958.

In 1959 Damien (his Franciscan name) entred the Franciscan Novitiate in Teutopolis, Illinois and after his frirst profession he followed the noram course of philosophical and psychological studies in the Franciscan scolasticat in Cleveland, Ohio. Between the years 1962 and 1966 he studied theology for an S.T.B. degree in Teutopolis, Illinois (a German colony) and in 1965 was sent to study Frenc in Quebec for one month. Immediately after his ordination to the priesthood in 1966, Damien went to Italy to study Italian, theology (S.T.L.) and spirituality (S.T.D.) at the Gregorian University. During his five years in Italy, he was able to study Spanish in Spain and be at the service of the handicapped in Rome.

In Rome he wrote his first article for an Italian magazine on "Lay Confession". He returned to his province in the United states in 1971 where he was employed at Catholic Theological union as assistant professor of spirituality. During this time he wrote an article on Spirituality in the American Jesuit review Review for Religious: "Where Should a Theology of the Spiritual Life Begin?" 1973.. At the same time he became Academic Diretor of the Ecumenical Instite of Spirituality (EISA) and lectured braodly in the USA on franciscan subjects. During these same years he was also very active in the Midwest Union of Spiritual Directors with whom he wrote his first small book The Spiritual Director. From 1972 until 1981, Damien taught in the Franciscan novitiate and began a program of "Study Pilgrimage of Franciscan Sources" in Italy where Franciscans could continue their formation "on the spot" in Assisi and other places consecrated by the presence of St Francis. For this program he wrote a Workbook for Franciscan Studies that was used throughout the Englis! h speaking world. At the same time, he was initiated to life and work in the deprived areas of Chicago where the black community lived.

In 1980 he was chosen by the English speaking provincial as director of the Plan for Franciscan Living. In 1981 he resigned from the Franciscan Study Pilgrimages and went to Guatamala to preach a retreat, then to Zaire with his provincial as interpreter. For one month in 1981 he travaeld in war-torn Uganda for the permanent formation of the Little Sisters of St Francis. In January 1982 he studied for one month a coruse in creative writing at Goddard College (Vermont) after which he was sent to work in Zaire. Before leaving he studed French for one month in Angers, France ten went to Nairobi to study Swahile for seven weeks during which time he and a confrere worked with the street children in the project UNDUGU. He then taught introduction to Scripture to the Little Sisters of St Francis before leaving for the Congo.

From 1982 to 2006, Damien lived and worked in Zaire (Democratic Republic of Congo) first of all in a village for 15 months and then in Kolwezi where the Scolasticat for Franciscan study of philosophy and theology is located. Besides teaching his specialities of Franciscan studies and spirituality, he was given many others courses to teach because of the lack of professors.

From the start of his work in Zaire he worked first of all with the handicapped and then with the street children who were taken in by host families. This work evolved into the foundation of Maison Wengi, a home for 80 street children. Because of his book Workbook for Franciscan Studies, he was invited to the Philippines for six weeks for the ongoing formation of the Philippine brothes and sisters. His superiors in Rome then asked him to direct three Franciscan Study Pilgrimages for the French and Englsih speaking Africans. During this time, Damien found time to write two articls for The Cord on St Francis and Virtues and on Franciscan Spiritual Direction (1988)..

In the year 2000 the Congolese Franciscan province of which he is a member chose him to direct a program called "The Franciscan Year" which was a program of insertion among the poor in Lubumbashi, the capitl of the province of Katanga. He and his brothers continued their studies of franciscanism and psychology while working for and with the handicaped, the war refugees, the street childre, child prostitutes and poor parishes.

At the end of his 5 year service in Lubumbashi, he received the gift of a sabbatical year in Assisi that was interrupted after two months by the Minister General who asked him to be director the the program of Franciscan Missionary Formation in Bruxelles. There he had the privilege to work with Conventuals Cand Capuchins and to study with Michel Van Aerde at DOMUNI.

After four years in Bruxelles, he welcomed the chance to return to Congo where he continues to teach Franciscan studies, homiletics and Missiology. Because of his work in Bruxelles, he was invited to parish to give a conference on "Un regard sur l'évolution de la mission durant les 50 dernières années" in 2011 and in the same year a conference on "L'Evangélisation en profondeur selon Placide Tempels" in Friburg, Suisse. Together with his friends, Damien continues to work with street children and mentally impaired people in MAISON KWETU, "Home".

In 2007 he wrote an article "The Strength to Go On: St Francis! and the V irtues" for Special Cahier de Philosophy et de Theology, Editions Franciscaines de Kolwezi.

At present he is working privately on "A cultural reading of the Franciscan Rule", "A Rereading of the Franciscan Rule", "The Virtues in Franciscan Teaching", "Franciscan Evangelisation" and on a series of formation manuels for the Franciscan novices, on Franciscan spirituality, history and spiritual tradition.