By MIKE ZINN     9/14/2023

The history of the First Friday Friars group is long and illustrious. The early history of this group dates back to the mid-1950s. This historical beginning was uncovered by Immediate Past president Gene Hernandez and highlights the recollections of Andy Ersek, son of Dr. Joseph Ersek. Dr. Ersek was part of a group of devoted Orange County Catholic men who would informally meet to discuss their faith, family and business matters. Dr. Ersek was in search of these connections after fleeing from his home country of Hungary due to religious persecution. Settling in Anaheim, he found his niche in real estate, and with his fellow Catholic men spawned what is now known as the First Friday Friars group.

Dr. Ersek received the coveted First Friday Friars Man of the Year award in 1981.

First Friday Friars was formally founded in 1959, with Msgr. John Quatannens serving as the first chaplain. This organization was initially under the Diocese of Los Angeles until 1976, when the Diocese of Orange was founded. First Friday Friars continued under the new Diocese and is still thriving today. Msgr. Quatannens, who served as chaplain from 1959 to 1960 and Msgr. John F. Sammon, who served as chaplain from 1961 to 2006, were the early “driving forces” for today’s First Friday Friars.

The First Friday Friars gather to celebrate the Sacred Heart of Jesus, building friendships and networking to expand contacts in the Catholic community. Following the initial plan of Dr. Ersek and his fellow Catholic men, First Friar Friars hosts nine meetings each year. These events are held at St. John Marron Maronite Catholic Church in Orange. Mass is celebrated, followed by a guest speaker and then lunch. The group has been graced by such speakers as, Bishop Kevin Vann, Bishop Tod D. Brown, Fr. Robert Spitzer, former UCLA football coach Terry Donahue and famed Dodger manager, Tommy Lasorda.

The First Friday Friars host many service days during the course of each year, honoring military, law enforcement and service groups. The Sports Day event is very close to the hearts of the members, as it recognizes one top senior student athlete from Mater Dei, Servite, Santa Margarita and J Serra Catholic high schools. From the four nominees, one senior is chosen to be the recipient of the Zug Cup. The Zug Cup is named after Robert “Zug” Zastrow, past First Friday Friars President in 1978 and Man of the Year in 1982.

The first Zug Cup was awarded in 1991 and honors a scholarly football team member who epitomizes what Zastrow so strongly supported. That is, belief in God, love of family, civic duty and football.

The 2023 recipient was Servite’s Dominic Martinez.

Chaplains have played an integral role in the direction of the First Friday Friars.

Since its official founding, there have been only four chaplains. Fr. Michael Hanifin was the third chaplain; Fr. Glenn Baaten has served in the role since 2018.

Fr. Glenn’s responsibilities include celebrating monthly Mass, attending board meetings and choosing speakers for meetings.

“The group serves as an inter-parish fellowship organization that reaches across all parishes in the Diocese,” said Fr. Glenn, “building relationships as a group of faithful and active men.”

The Diocese of Orange is blessed to have had a consistent, guiding light of strong leadership in the First Friday Friars. Their devotion to faith, fellowship and service has been unparalleled for 64 years and is destined to be a Catholic leadership arm for many years to come.