The San Damiano Mission

Breaking Bread and Barriers

The Friars

The Mission is staffed by the Franciscan Friars Conventual (OFM Conv.) Learn more about the history of our Order here.

Serving the Mission are:

Fr. Nicholas Spano, OFM Conv.

Friar Nicholas was born in 1981 in Albany, NY. He grew up in the Capital District of New York State.  Fr. Nick attended LaSalle Institute in Troy, NY, which at that time was staffed by the De La Salle Christian Brothers.  It was the example of the brothers that inspired Fr. Nick to explore religious life and service to the people of God. After one year at Siena College, he entered the Franciscan Friars Conventual in August of 2000. He completed his novitiate in Mishawaka, IN, and took his simple vows on Aug. 2, 2003. Following his novitiate year he graduated with a Bachelors Degree in Philosophy and Religious Studies from La Salle University, Philadelphia, PA. He completed his Pastoral year at St. Elizabeths Psychiatric Hospital in Washington, DC, and took Solemn vows on August 15th, 2008. In 2009 Fr. Nick graduated from The Washington Theological Union, with a Masters of Divinity. From 2009 to 2010 Friar Nick was assigned at Immaculate Conception Friary, Rensselaer, NY to help care for the senior friars and serve as a teacher at his alma mater, La Salle Institute.  In 2010 he was named the Executive Director of the Assumption Food Pantry in Syracuse, NY.  While in Syracuse, he founded “Fat Friar” a non-for-profit bakery that specialized in gourmet butter shortbread.  All the proceeds from this endeavor was used to purchase food for the Soup Kitchen.  Also, while in Syracuse he was founder and moderator of “The Salt City Harvest Farm”, a collaborative initiative that utilized 200 acres of farm land for the growing/harvesting of fruits and vegetables for the poor.

Hearing the call of Christ “to go and rebuild the” Fr. Nick accepted the invitation to come and minister at the San Damiano Mission. He was ordained to the Order of Deacon by the laying on of hands of Bishop Nicholas Di Marzio on August 6, 2016.  We will function as a deacon in the community of San Damiano for between 10-12 months before being ordained to the priesthood. He looks forward to an opportunity to welcome each of our readers to the mission and journey with them.

Fr. Raphael Zwolenkiewicz

Friar Raphael Zwolenkiewicz was born in Buffalo, New York on September 24, 1951. Friar Raphael is the son of Stanley and Florence (Serowski) Zwolenkiewicz and the brother of Thomas. Friar Raphael received the sacraments of Baptism, Eucharist, and Confirmation at Corpus Christi Church, Buffalo, New York. With the parish having been administered by the Franciscan Friars Conventual, Friar Raphael became very familiar with the friars. Entering high school in 1965, Friar Raphael attended Bishop Ryan High School, also administered by the Conventual Franciscans. During his high school years, Friar Raphael was a member of the Secular Franciscan Fraternity. As a Secular Franciscan, Friar Raphael had the opportunity to visit the St. Hyacinth College and Seminary in Granby, Massachusetts. These visits gave Friar Raphael the opportunity to meet the friars in formation and experience the prayer life of the friars and their day to day activities. Friar Raphael entered the Order of Friars Minor Conventual in August 1969 and professed Simple Vows on August 15, 1970. Completing the Novitiate Year, Friar Raphael then attended College at St. Hyacinth College and Seminary in Granby, Massachusetts. After his third year at St. Hyacinth College and Seminary, Friar Raphael professed Solemn Vows of Poverty, Chastity and Obedience at St. Anthony of Padua Church in Willimansett, Massachusetts, on August 15, 1973. Completing his college education, Friar Raphael received a Bachelor of Arts Degree, with a major in Philosophy, in June 1974. Friar Raphael, during the 1974 – 1975 academic school year, taught freshman and sophomore Religion and Algebra at Kolbe High School in Bridgeport, Connecticut. The following year, Friar Raphael began his 4 year post-college education and in 1979 received a Masters of Divinity from St. Anthony-on-Hudson, in Rensselaer, New York. On April 1, 1978, Friar Raphael was ordained a deacon at St. Anthony-on-Hudson in Rensselaer, New York, by Bishop Howard Hubbard, Bishop of Albany New York. From April 1, 1978 through May 5, 1979, Friar Raphael served as Deacon at St. Adalbert Church, Elmhurst, New York. Friar Raphael was ordained to the priesthood on May 5, 1979, at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, Albany, New York, by Bishop Howard Hubbard, the Bishop of Albany. The following have been/are Father Raphael’s ministerial assignments as a Conventual Franciscan Friar and Priest: St. Adalbert Church, Elmhurst, Queens, New York, St. Stanislaus Church, Chelsea Massachusetts, Mater Dolorosa Church, Holyoke, Massachusetts, St. John Kanty Church, Clifton, New Jersey, and presently, San Damiano Mission serving the people of the Greenpoint/Williamsburg Area of Brooklyn, New York.