How Friar Jack
Got His Name
few weeks ago I received an e-mail from a Catholic subscriber
in India who was upset withor at least questionedthe fact
that my name "Friar Jack" did not seem religious enough. He argued
that I should have a more obvious Christian name and patron saint.
He thought "Friar Jack" was too secular-sounding and gave my "E-spirations"
a worldly feel. Well, that is certainly not the intention of this
Let me give you the story of my name. It's a story with strange
twists and turns, but in the end I hope readers can decide for
themselves whether my name is religious enough. I was given the
name Ronald George Wintz when I was born in 1936 and was baptized
in a Franciscan parish under that same name. When I entered the
Franciscan novitiate in 1954, I took the name Alton from an obscure
Irish monk, Saint Alto, who made his way to Germany in 743. So
I began my Franciscan life as Friar Alton.
In 1959, during the presidential campaign of Jack Kennedy, while
I was a student in our Franciscan theology school near Dayton,
Ohio, my confreres began calling me Jack. They said that my hair
length at the time was like Senator Kennedy's. Well, the nickname
stuck and most of my friends called me Jack. My official name,
however, was still Friar Alton, and also Father Alton after I
was ordained a priest in June of 1963 (the same year President
Jack Kennedy was assassinated. I taught English literature in
Franciscan high schools in the Midwest for five years as Father
Alton. Then I spent three years in the Philippine Islands, teaching
literature to Franciscan seminarians, still as Father Alton. More
and more people, however, seemed to feel more comfortable with
the familiar name Jack than with Alton. Sorry about that, St.
When I returned to the states in 1972 to begin working at St.
Anthony Messenger, I got my provincial's permission to officially
change my name to Friar or Father Jack since most people were
calling me that anyway. Since Jack is derived from the name John,
I have adopted John the Evangelist as my primary patron saint,
not a bad patron for a writer, but I also claim John the Baptist
as an honorary patron, too. I'm happy to let you decide whether
my nameand indeed its storyis too worldly or not.
I'm content with my two chosen patron saintsand my link, as
a Franciscan friar, to St. Francis and St. Clare. I am also content
to be working in the midst of this world and in the midst of the
human family, as an "ordinary Jack." Christians are not called
to "flee the world," or condemn it, but to live in its midst and
seek to transform it from within. Jesus and St. Francis have been
good models in this regard. Jesus was not sent to condemn the
world but to transform and save it. The Incarnation does not represent
a "flight from the world" on God's part but, on the contrary,
an entering into it for the good. St. Francis took Jesus' message
into the city square for the same reason. We at St. Anthony Messenger
Press are bringing our presence into cyber spaceinto the world
of the Internetto try our best to be a transforming presence.
Friar Jack Wintz, O.F.M.