Brother Charles Madden, OFM Conv. is a Conventual Franciscan Friar who has served with Marytown since 1968. Located in Libertyville, IL, the National Shrine of St. Maximilian Kolbe at Marytown is home to the Conventual Franciscan Friars of Marytown Friary. One of the friary’s long-time residents, Br. Charles (80) has served as a historian to the Shrine, Friary, and St. Bonaventure Province for over 50 years.
Marytown is known as the “Third City of the Immaculate” (after Niepokalanow, Poland, and Nagasaki, Japan) and is a ministry of the Conventual Franciscans Friars of Marytown. In 2000, Marytown was named the National Shrine of St. Maximilian Kolbe as decreed by the U.S. Catholic Bishops. The National Shrine has become a place of pilgrimage for the faithful. It is dedicated to promoting the witness and life of St. Maximilian, a Conventual Franciscan friar, and priest martyred at Auschwitz. Saint John Paul II referred to Maximilian Kolbe as “the patron Saint of our difficult century.” The current location was previously a convent and chapel run by the Benedictine Sisters of Perpetual Adoration until the Conventual Franciscan Friars came in 1978.
Brother Charles was born in Baltimore, Maryland, in 1940. He was the youngest of eleven children and graduated from Mt. St. Joseph High School in 1957. His faith life was shaped by his parents and attending regular Mass and Confession as a youth. Br. Charles worked for many years at the Social Security Headquarters in Baltimore, but he felt called to the religious life. In 1959, his older brother joined the brown Franciscans. The following year, the priest at his parish encouraged everyone to pray the Immaculate Conception Novena. Charles was dedicated to go to daily Mass and do the Novena in the evenings. He felt Grace when he attended Mass, which enriched his faith life over the next seven years. In the Fall of 1967, he read about the 50th Anniversary of Fatima in the Immaculata Magazine, a publication of the Friars. He was so moved he wrote a letter to the Conventual Franciscan Friars, and by January of 1968, he joined the order.
Brother Charles has been the historian of Marytown and is the author of several articles books including, Giving Up Stealing… for Lent!; Freemasonry: Mankind’s Hidden Enemy; Know, Love & Serve Catechism Series; and, three mini Militia Immaculata booklets. He contributed to the Immaculata Magazine for many decades, and focused on writing, editing, teaching Church history, and facilitating the Family Holy Hour at Marytown. He is currently completing his latest book on the History of Marytown and writes several mailings for Novenas each year.
One of his most enduring memories is daily adoration. Marytown has offered perpetual Eucharistic Adoration since 1928, one of the longest-running adoration ministries in the region. Since August 14, 1975, Br., Charles has prayed a Holy Hour every night at 11:00 pm. He shared that “the faithful find Marytown a sacred place where our Most Blessed Lady is present. Marytown is our home. And, Marytown is also a beautiful place where the faithful find Mary’s presence through the daily works of the Conventual Franciscan Friars.”
Through the assistance of a SOAR! grant, Br. Charles and the other thirteen friars who live and serve at Marytown will benefit from a new Air Handler System in their kitchen and dining room. Replacement of the system was a priority as it is responsible for clean air where their food is prepared and served. “In this difficult time during the COVID pandemic, the safety of our friars is of the utmost importance. They are the life force of our congregation,” said Rector and Guardian Fr. Benedict La Volpe, OFM, Conv. “We are so blessed to the benefactors of SOAR! who made this grant available to congregations such as ours.”
The worldwide Franciscan Order was founded by St. Francis of Assisi in 1209. One of four North American Conventual Franciscans jurisdictions, our Chicago-based Province, was established in 1939. St. Francis’ simplicity, love for the Eucharist, and devotion to the Virgin Mary remains at the heart of our Province. This solid Catholic foundation unifies the friars as they live their 800-year tradition of Gospel fraternity and deep love for the Church.
The Conventual Franciscan Friars of Marytown is a past recipient of SOAR! grants. The most recent grant in 2020 provided assistance in replacing the Air Handler System in the Friar Kitchen and Dining Room. A previous grant assisted in replacing the roof over the friary. The Marytown Friars and SOAR! are grateful to its generous donors who help make these very needed grants possible for the well-being of our aging religious.