"Welcoming, charitable, and empowered
to live the Gospel"

Our Mother of Good Counsel,
located in Bryn Mawr, PA,
just 20 minutes west of Philadelphia,
welcomes all!

What’s the Difference between Priest & Friar?

Dear Friends,

Many people ask me, what is the difference between a friar and a priest?  It’s a little bit complicated because a person can be:

  • a friar but not a priest,
  • a priest but not a friar, or
  • both priest and friar at the same time. 

Let me begin to explain by telling you about religious orders.

You have heard about the Jesuits, the Franciscans, the Benedictines and the Dominicans. These groups, plus the Augustinians, and many other groups are called “religious orders.” Usually, most of the members of men’s religious orders are priests, but many of them are brothers. They may never become priests, but they are full members of the order.  They are teachers, counselors, artists, administrators and many other professions.  All members of orders take religious vows.  Poverty, chastity and obedience are the three vows that most of the orders take.  All of them dedicate their lives to Jesus and to the Church.  Among the mendicant orders (Augustinians, Carmelites, Franciscans and Dominicans) all members are called “friars,” a term that comes from the Latin word “frater,” meaning “brother.”

Members of religious orders usually live in community. They pray together, eat together and very often they work and recreate together too. These religious orders have a special “charisms,” or characteristic. For the Franciscans, it’s poverty; for the Dominicans, it’s preaching. For the Benedictines, it is monastic life. For the Augustinians it’s community life, hospitality and a spirit of searching for God.

Religious orders report directly to the Pope, but they are also very much involved in serving the local church.  They can be sent to work almost anywhere.  For instance, I have worked in Troy, NY, Tokyo, Nagasaki, Boston, North Carolina, recently in Staten Island, NY and now here in Bryn Mawr.

The Catholic Church is divided up into regions.  Each region is called a diocese or an archdiocese.  Each of these regions is placed under the care of a bishop or archbishop.  Priests who belong to these regions aid their bishops in the care of the souls of the people of these regions.  They are called diocesan [or archdiocesan] priests. 

Diocesan priests also dedicate themselves to Jesus Christ and to His Church. Unlike members of religious orders, they do not take the three vows, but on the day of their ordination they promise to obey their bishops and make a promise of celibacy.  Most of them will work in parishes, high schools, or in special ministries in their own diocese for all of their life.  They “belong” to the diocese and they “belong” to the bishop. 

Some of you know Father James Sherlock who is pastor of Saint Colman Church in Ardmore.  Both Father Sherlock and I have the same boss.  Our boss is Archbishop Charles Chaput.  The difference is that besides working for Archbishop Chaput, Father Sherlock also “belongs” to Archbishop Chaput as a priest of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.  I work for Archbishop Chaput, but I “belong” to the Villanova Province of the Order of Saint Augustine. 

Put another way, Father Jim McBurney, Father John Deary, Brother Bill Harkin and I are all friars.  Fathers Jim, John and I are also priests.  Father Jim Sherlock “belongs” to the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, so he is a diocesan priest.  But he is not a friar, since he does not belong to a religious order.   

Whether priest, friar or both, we all try to live lives dedicated to Jesus Christ and to the Church.  Please pray that we all have God’s grace to live out that commitment. 

I hope this letter answers the question in the title.  Please let me know if you have more questions about this topic. 

Fr. Liam


About 200 parishioners had pancakes and sausages for breakfast and took part in Advent and Christmas games and activities.



See a slideshow of photos HERE.

Pope Francis Expands Priests’ Confessional Powers

Dear Friends,

In the past few days you have probably seen headlines like:

“Pope Francis allows all priests to forgive sin of abortion”

Just to put this into context, abortion has always been one of the "reserved sins" – very serious sins that were “reserved” for bishops only to forgive. 

Some of the others are:

  • physically attacking the pope
  • a priest absolving his accomplice in sexual sin
  • a bishop ordaining a bishop without papal approval
  • a priest directly breaking the seal of confession
  • an offense like throwing away or desecrating the Holy Eucharist.

The normal process for sins like these went like this: when they were confessed to a priest, the priest had to tell the penitent to come back to the same priest at a future date. In the meantime, the priest had to obtain from the local bishop the permission to absolve this penitent of this sin.

Personally, this restriction has never directly affected me.  By the ancient tradition and practice of the Church, Mendicant friars (Augustinians, Franciscans, Dominicans, Servites, Carmelites and a few others) have been “exempt” from this procedure and allowed to absolve these reserved sins without visiting the bishop.

When I was in Japan, the bishops there had already allowed ALL priests to absolve the sin of abortion. As long as I have been working here in the US, most if not all of the dioceses in the USA have given this authority to all priests who have permission to minister in their jurisdictions. I know that this was specifically the policy in the Archdiocese of NY when I was there and has been so in Philadelphia for a number of years.

Pope Francis had given that authority to all priests worldwide for the Year of Mercy, which ended last Sunday.  He has now expanded it to all priests even after the Holy Year.

This is a wonderful manifestation of God’s mercy!

Through the years it has been a privilege be part of this sacrament, which brings so much peace, healing, forgiveness, comfort and reconciliation to those who seek these things from our loving God.  Abortion has the potential to cause so much pain on so many levels of a person’s being.  Two (of many) reasons for this are the facts that (1) the act runs so much against the grain of the maternal instincts, and (2) it is within the human body that the act takes place.  Often the Sacrament of Reconciliation is the starting place - a very significant starting place – for healing toward wholeness that might take a long time.  As ministers of God’s forgiveness and healing, we priests need to bring the best of God’s mercy and human kindness and understanding to the penitent. 

One thing that has bothered me through the years is that nearly all the people who have come to me as a priest in Confession to seek God’s mercy and forgiveness have been the women whose child has been aborted.  Usually there is a man involved as well.  Most probably the father of the child, but not necessarily. A man who is part of the decision process.  Who perhaps helps make the arrangements.  Or perhaps it is another woman, a sister, cousin or best friend, or even a mother who helps make the decision and/or the arrangements. 

Yet most of the time it seems that it is the baby’s mother alone who is saddled with the heavy moral burden.  When the mother comes to the Sacrament of Reconciliation to seek healing, peace and forgiveness, I rejoice!  But I also worry about the husband, boyfriend, sister, cousin, best friend who also bear the burden of this sin but who perhaps don’t feel the need for healing and peace.  All of these participants need God’s love and mercy.  I could probably count on one hand the number of people who have confessed, “I helped my wife/girlfriend/sister/cousin obtain an abortion.”  I pray for all those who carry this weight and hope that they too seek God’s mercy in the sacrament. 

To sum up, I am happy that Pope Francis has expanded these permissions and hope that this act of his signals the huge expansiveness of God’s love and mercy to all of us sinners. 

Click here to read a recent article about this topic in CatholicPhilly.com. 

In Him,
Fr. Liam
Parochial Administrator

The Right Place to Start

In this article Archbishop Chaput shares his reflections and valuable guidance with us as Catholic citizens of our beloved United States of America following the recent elections.

Please click here to see the article.

Morning Prayer at OMGC

Here at Our Mother of Good Counsel, each Monday through Saturday morning, we celebrate Morning Prayer in common following the 8:00am Mass. Everyone is invited (around 8:30am) to join us in the daily chapel for this beautiful way to begin the day!

Parish Reminders

Food Allergies

Please do not bring food that contains peanuts, nuts, peanut products or nut products inside the church. Someone sitting near you may have a serious allergy. Thank you for honoring this request.


Is your contact information registered with OMGC?

Do we have your correct email address?. You could be missing out on important parish announcements. You can register or update your family’s email address, cell phone numbers, street address and other contact information by completing this online form.

Vision Survey Results

Read the results of our Vision Survey.