On June 8th and 9th of this year, Fr. Peter Damian Fehlner, FI, will have his lifetime of theological work honored by a large number of scholars in a symposium, entitled: Sursum Actio: Symposium in Honor of Peter Damian Mary Fehlner, FI. The event will be conducted at Notre Dame University. Please click here for more information about the speakers and venue.
Father Peter is a native of Dolgeville, New York. He was ordained in Rome in 1957, and received his Doctorate in Sacred Theology from the Seraphicum in Rome in 1959. For over 40 years he has taught dogmatic theology in various seminaries and university faculties. He has written and lectured extensively, especially on things Marian and Franciscan, in North America and Europe; for five years, he was editor of the magazine Miles Immaculatae founded by Saint Maximilian Kolbe and has been featured on EWTN. He was a past member of the general council of the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate and was the first rector of the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in LaCrosse, Wisconsin where he continues to reside and work.
Most recently Fr. Peter has been accorded the prestigious Cardinal John J. Wright Award of the Mariological Society of America for his outstanding contributions to Mariology. Past honorees include, Juniper B. Carol, O.F.M., William G. Most, Edward D. O’Connor, C.S.C., and Luigi Gambero.
At the symposium, I will be reading a minor paper entitled: “‘In the Counsels of the Immaculate’: Fr. Peter Damian Fehlner’s Contribution to the Renewal of Franciscan Immaculatism.”
In 1985, when I was investigating the possibility of joining our observance of the Franciscan Conventual tradition (in the light of St. Maximilian Kolbe’s Marian consecration), I was given a copy of one of his essays on the contribution of St. Maximilian to the Franciscan tradition and its relation to St. Francis: “Mary in the Franciscan Tradition: ‘The Virgin Made Church.'” That essay and a meeting with him in Rome right before I visited our mother house were determinative for me. I have always remembered this satement of his:
It is not so much a question of what place Mary has in our lives, as what place we occupy in hers that is the starting point of any discussion. Only when the correct starting point from which to begin any study of the distinctive relations between Mary and our Order has clearly been identified, do we find ourselves in a position to assess the claims and implications of the Militia Movement within the Order.
At the time when our particular observance was in question, Fr. Peter provided the intellectual defense and the Franciscan-Marian metaphysics for St. Maximilian’s establishment of the City of the Immaculate, and the reason why this contribution to the Order was a true and permanently valid gift from the Immaculate. Fr. Peter’s own personal commitment to this ideal has been an inspiration for many of us.
I can never be grateful enough to Fr. Peter, who through the years has been a source of inspiration, strength and enlightenment to me to persevere in this Franciscan vocation. I know he has influenced and inspired many other friars, priests, religious and laypeople. I am very thankful that the importance of his work is being acknowledged in this way. Hopefully, it will inspire others to learn from this great Marian scholar.