Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Surprised by Joy: a Tribute to Our Sri Lankan Brothers (Gregory Vajira Silva and Jude Asantha Barrera)

On December 13th the friars of St. Bridget friary in Minneapolis, Minnesota, said farewell to our Sri Lankan brothers Gregory Vajira Silva and Jude Asantha Barrera. For the past several months I had been teasing Gregory and Jude about how much I was looking forward to them finally leaving. From time to time I would sing the Christian Hymn "The Strife is Over the Battle Done" adapting the words of the opening line to the following: "The Strife is Over the Battle Done, now that the Sri Lankans are gone!!!" This good natured ribbing has gone on between Jude, Gregory, and myself for about a year and a half and represents the kind of joviality and frivolity that they brought to our friary (I may have helped instigate it a bit too :) What Jude and Gregory also brought was so much more than this, however. They brought gentle demeanors, serious dedication to their studies, and a devotion to our way of life that inspired the friars and many a visitor to St. Bridget's friary. On the occasion of their graduation celebration and dinner held on December 11th, they gave wonderful, heartfelt, and graceful testimonials about how much the opportunity to study at the University of St. John's in Collegeville, MN, has meant to them. I must say that after each of their speeches I was quite proud to call myself their brother. This past Sunday, December 13th, the day of Gregory and Jude's departure, I made reference to the both of them at a Mass that I celebrated for a group of young people preparing for confirmation. This Sunday, as you may know, was the third Sunday in the four week Advent Season and is referred to as "Gaudate Sunday" (which means "rejoice"). To practically illustrate what rejoicing and joy have been like in my life recently, I mentioned some of the ways that Gregory and Jude had brought joy to our friary over the last two years. Though they will be dearly missed by the friars of St. Bridget's, we "rejoice" at their return home and all the good they will no doubt do back in Sri Lanka. Pat, TOR

Thursday, November 19, 2009

A Great Poem for Those in Discernment

Recently I happened across some birch trees in a Minneapolis nature preserve and the yellow leaves brought to mind the below poem by Robert Frost entitled, "The Road Not Taken." I think it is a great poem that is especially applicable to persons who are discerning a vocation to religious life. It speaks to the tension of having multiple options in life and making the choice between one or the other. The temptation, as evidenced in the opening lines of the poem, is to remain at "the crossroad of possibility" and to simply contemplate the pros and cons of taking each path. As a vocation director, I find it amazing the number of inquirers who report that they have felt called for 10 or more years and have never followed through. On more than one occasion I've found myself wondering if these persons are "stuck" at "the crossroad of possibility." Our culture certainly encourages this. Sayings such as "keep all your options open" and "don't put all your eggs in one basket" speak to the pseudo-virtue of being non-commital and "waiting for a better deal" to come along. The fact of the matter is that a meaningful, rich, and purposive life isn't about "deal-making" so much as "decision-making". It seems to me that the Living God is not one who brokers deals with us but extends an irrevocable, non-negotiable opportunity, call, and challenge to accept his nearness and the values of the Kingdom. Some paths lead us down this "road" and others either skirt around it or move in the opposite direction. Like the road that Frost opts for, the road to deeper life with God and a deeper commitment and decision for God's Reign is certainly the one less traveled. However, deciding for it makes all the difference. Pat, TOR

The Road Not Taken
TWO roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth; 5
Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that, the passing there
Had worn them really about the same, 10
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I marked the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way
I doubted if I should ever come back. 15
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Care for Creation (C4C) Fall Harvest Festival!

On October 24th the Care for Creation "Pilot Project" wrapped up a successful 1st season with a Fall Harvest Festival at St. Bernardine's Monastery in Hollidaysburg, PA. Despite inclement weather in the morning, the festival was attended by approximately 80 persons. The evening began with a prayer of thanksgiving followed by fellowship in the C4C Center. From there we gathered at a bonfire to listen to some excellent folk music provided by Justin Cain, one of our C4C members. A little later on I told a couple of stories to prepare everyone for a "haunted hayride" experience. Since we are closing in on the Catholic Feast of All Saints and All Souls, the first story focused on St. Francis and the wolf of Gubbio and the second on a fictional (or was he?) friar named "Larry" who mysteriously died in the 1930's and who's spirit still haunts the Monastery grounds (especially during the end of October, ironically enough ;) After the "tales at the bonfire" we had a hayride which went around the property. And, wouldn't you know it, "Scary" Larry made an appearance! All in all it was a wonderful evening of getting to know one another and sharing in food, laughter, and even some screams!

For those unfamiliar with C4C, it very basically refers to the contemporary movement within Franciscan circles to explore and make application of the Franciscan heritage of concern and care for all of God's creatures. Over the past 8 months or so, our community has launched an effort to see if there is interest in the area regarding care for creation style programming (presentations on organic gardening and forming a spirituality that is more environmentally concerned and focused), building community, and doing organic gardening. As of now we have more than 100 names on our general email/contact list. Not a bad job for one season! Hopefully we will continue to move forward with this project as a community and experience even more success in the future! Peace, Pat, TOR

Friday, October 9, 2009

"Inspiring" Aspirant Weekend

Happy Feastday of St. Francis! This past weekend (October 2nd-4th) the formation house in Minneapolis, MN, hosted three inquirers for the first of four "Aspirant" weekends. The Aspirant program was designed by Br. David Liedl, our former vocation director, to accommodate the discernment of men who have an interest in our community and who are also likely to be accepted should they decide to make application. The structure and purpose of the weekends is to expose vocation prospects to our way of life, spirituality, friars, and ministries. Given that this weekend coincided with the feast of St. Francis, there were some events hosted by the Secular Franciscans and Franciscans in the Minneapolis/St. Paul Archdiocese. The inquirers attending the weekend were Stephen M., from St. Louis, Octavio W., from Atlanta, and David B., from LA. On Thursday, October 1st, David B. arrived and we took him to a presentation on poverty and prayer by the former Hollywood producer Gerry Straub. Gerry left a posh Hollywood lifestyle as a Executive Producer of daytime serials in order to film the poorest of the poor in some of the harshest slums in the world. Gerry is a Secular Franciscan who attributes his conversion to time spent in Assisi doing research on St. Francis. Currently, Gerry has produced a number of DVD's which powerfully depict the day-to-day drama of the world's poorest.

On Saturday, Br. John Kerr and I took the Aspirants and our postulant Corey to a retreat day at St. Olaf's in downtown Minneapolis. The retreat focused on Franciscan prayer, contemplation, and imitation of Christ and on Social Justice as a concrete way to imitate Christ. Both events gave the Aspirants a great deal of food for thought regarding the prophetic dimension of our Franciscan vocation which urges us on to being transformative leaven in both the Church and the World. The next Aspirant weekend will be during the weekend of December 4th-7th. We hope to host at least four men at this retreat (all of them but one different persons than those who attended the above weekend). Thing are looking up regarding vocations! It's my hope that during our provincial elections and chapter process taking place from October-January we will lay a bold foundation which will draw men who wish to continue carrying the "evangelical torch" of St. Francis, proclaiming the Good News of God's salvific will for all, especially the neediest of our world and the world itself! Peace, Pat, TOR

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Vocation Office Update

Several weeks ago I travelled to Texas to meet with two vocation prospects (Jerry R. and Daniel A.) in Ft. Worth and to visit the parish where I spent five years studying theology on the occasion of their 50th anniversary (St. Leonard's in San Antonio, Texas). The visit with Jerry and Daniel went well. Jerry and I were fortunate enough to be able to join some other TOR friars who are assigned to the Ft. Worth Diocese for dinner on September 8th. There are presently five TOR provinces ministering in the Ft. Worth Diocese and they have a great reputation for getting together on a monthly basis. My visit to San Antonio was also very nice. I was able to catch up with parishioners and friends during the annual parish festival and the Jubilee Mass and celebration on September 13th. After spending a week back in Minnesota I travelled to Pennsylvania (where I am presently). During my stay at the Monastery I will be meeting with members of the Care for Creation (C4C) initiative that began this past summer. We are beginning to "wind things down" and are also planning for a Fall Harvest Festival on October 24th. This will be the last "formal" opportunity for the year to do a "PR" push and educate persons in the surrounding area about C4C. Please keep Daniel, Jerry, and the C4C project in your prayers! Peace, Pat, TOR

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

O' Happy Day! Corey Smoot Received Into the Postulancy

On August 25th, 2009, Corey Smoot was received into the Postulant Program of the Franciscans, TOR, Province of the Immaculate Conception. Corey has been with our community for the past eight months as an Aspirant and brings a gracious, deliberate, self-motivated, and community oriented spirit. All of us living at the formation house have marveled at how smoothly Corey has adjusted to life at St. Bridget's Friary and have no reason to doubt that he will adjust as well to life as a Postulant. During the coming year Corey will continue learning about Franciscan spirituality and religious life as he prepares for the next stage of his journey with us. Please keep Corey in your prayers as he continues his discernment! Pat, TOR

Monday, August 3, 2009

C4C Summer Bounty Festival!

On August 1st, 2009, at St. Bernardine's Monastery in Hollidaysburg, PA, the Care for Creation (C4C) project had its first Summer Bounty Festival. Around 100 or so people attended the event and seemed to enjoy it a great deal. We had plenty of food, sunshine, laughter, and the C4C music group (named "The C4C Archestra") did a wonderful job playing their repertoire of folk, Christian, and spiritual music. Fr. Christopher Panagoplos got the festival off to a great start by leading us in a prayer of thanksgiving for the gift of God's presence in the beauty of the earth and the many gifts of those who volunteered their time and energy to make the festival such a success. Shortly after the prayer, Fr. Christopher and Br. David tasted the dishes that were entered into the "best dish contest." Liz Campion took home the gold spatula for her zucchini casserole. Congratulations Liz! One of the highlights of the festival was the fire-roasted sweet corn that we served up. Several weeks ago Br. Steve and our maintenance personnel (Al and Chris) dug a pit and surrounded it with stones. They also fashioned a large "grate" out of fence material which was used to put the corn on top of in order to roast it. The corn was so delightful that it really needed no salt nor butter! Thanks for all the hard work making the pit Steve, Al, and Chris, it was WELL worth it!

The purpose of the festival was two fold. First we wanted to bring our volunteers together to celebrate a successful season of gardening and to show them our appreciation for their involvement in this project. Second, we wanted to gather people from the larger community to show them a little bit of Franciscan hospitality and to educate them on C4C and what we've been up to this summer. Overall I think we achieved both objectives quite well! It's my hope that this festival will be one of many to come. Pat, TOR

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Summer Camp and Care for Creation News!

It's been a little while since the last post and this is largely due to my having been in "travel mode" as of two weeks ago. For the last two weeks I've been visiting our retreat center in Orlando (San Pedro Center) helping out with Scripture Camp. This camp was established in 1980 and has been going strong for the last 29 years! (with the exception of a brief, two year lay off a couple years ago due to damage from a hurricane). The camp is basically an opportunity for young people to explore their faith at a deeper level with peers in a fun, relaxing, and casual environment. The staff this year has done a marvelous job creating a theme (Jesus, Our Hero) based on the recent plethora of movies focusing on famous super heros (Superman, Batman, X-Men, etc....). The daily teachings examine the correlation between the underlying values espoused by these movies (faith, respect, forgiveness, service, and love) and how we understand these values as expressed through the ultimate "hero" Jesus Christ. It was quite a clever and relevant theme and one that the staff and campers have had a lot of fun with (and also learned a lot from!)

Though I've been here in Florida, I've also been quite active in communications regarding the goings on with our Care for Creation (C4C) initiative at our Monastery in Hollidaysburg, PA. I'm happy to report that we have had two very successful events and are preparing for a third. This past Monday, Fr. Bernie Tickerhoof, T.O.R., presented on his passion of birding. The talk was entitled, "A Spiritual Approach to Birding, On a Wing and a Prayer." 29 people attended this talk at the Care for Creation Center next to the community gardens. This talk was the fifth installment of a series of eight presentations on a spiritual and practical approach to caring for creation that we have had at the Monastery this summer. Yesterday we had our first major "harvest" and nearly all of the produce and flowers that we have grown were given to volunteers, a local food kitchen serving the poor, and a local nursing home. I'm also happy to report that we will be replanting the area where our tomatoes were growing with a cole crop (we lost them due to a late season blight). Finally, preparations have been ongoing and are being "ramped up" for the first festival of the season. Our Summer Bounty Festival will be on Saturday, August 1st from 12-4 pm and will include live music, food, activities for adults and kids, and a tour of the garden to promote what we are doing and what we hope to do in the future concerning community gardening and caring for creation. One thing I'm looking forward to is the "fire pit" roasted corn that we will be having....yum!!! (thanks for the great suggestion, Fr. Christopher!!) We hope that you'll be able to join us, but, if not, please pray for good weather! Peace, Fr. Pat, TOR

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Mass on the Day of Independence: To Be Blessed and to Bless!

On this day in which we celebrate our nation's independence and all that we've been blessed with, the readings for Mass (Saturday of the 13th week in Ordinary Time, Genesis, 27:1-5, 15-29 and Matthew 9:14-17) invite a reflection on the theology of blessing. Several days ago I met the mother of a vocation prospect who shared with me her conviction that we live in a country that has been greatly blessed. What makes this insight so valuable is that she has lived in a number of countries throughout her life (Great Britain, Germany, Sweden, Israel, Italy and S. Africa). This insight gave me pause to think about what constitutes a scripturally solid theology of blessing and more precisely in what way America can truly be "blessed."

One example of blessing can be seen in today's first reading. When Isaac blesses Jacob with his final act of blessing, he passed on his patriarchy to him: inheritance rights, "favored son" status, etc... This act of blessing, unlike a blessing before meals, was no simple, pious gesture but one laden with tremendous implications regarding Jacob's future. Furthermore, given the wholly or mostly undeveloped appreciation for eternal life at the time of this event, the act of blessing perhaps also constituted the final gesture of love and outpouring of one's self on the part of Isaac. His "life" and patriarchy would now continue on in Jacob. The important point here with regard to a sound theology of blessing is that Isaac, no doubt richly blessed by God throughout his life, passes this blessing on to his son. In other words, in order for a blessing to remain a blessing, it must be shared with another.

The Hebrew Scriptures reinforce this point through the prophets who castigated the materially wealthy and "blessed" persons of their day. On more than one occasion, God through the prophets referred to the wealth of the well-to-do as a curse or as tarnished by their misdeeds, injustice, and selfishness. What this clearly indicates is that a blessing can become a curse if it is not used to bless others.
In this morning's homily I remarked that a theology of blessing that doesn't include a dynamic awareness of the moral and ethical implications of being blessed cannot help but arrive at the "Gospel of Prosperity." Basically, this age-old "heresy" holds that if one "checks the blocks" in one's relationship with God, one will receive material blessing and even wealth. This also implies that the "terminal point" in our relationship with God is to receive blessing. As a country that has been so abundantly blessed with resources and opportunity, we would do well to recall the example of St. Francis who never ceased throughout his life to be not only an instrument of peace, but one of blessing - perhaps knowing that the terminal point in the life of faith isn't to merely be blessed, but to bless. Pat, TOR

Sunday, June 28, 2009

"Home Grown" Vocation Prospect Visits PA Region

This weekend we had the pleasure of hosting Eric Folio, a vocation prospect who contacted me two weeks ago seeking to possibly discern with our community. Eric was a parishioner at Our Mother of Perpetual Help in Stonewood, WV, and remembers with great fondness several of our community members who were assigned there. Eric's visit went very well and we are planning on arranging several more over the course of the next year. Please keep Eric and our other vocation prospects (we have eight at the moment) in prayer as they continue their discernment with us. Peace and good! Pat, TOR

Friday, June 26, 2009

Pictures of C4C Garden and C4C Center

In addition to the organization that has recently taken place regarding the C4C project, the garden itself is growing beautifully! We have had a nice mix of rain, sun, and warmth in recent days; hopefully this will be what is needed for the tomato and pepper fruit to begin to show! Finally, thanks to our maintenance personnel, Al and Chris, the old Print Shop has been partially renovated to accommodate the C4C presentations that we have had this summer (we still have five presentations left). We are now referring to this area of the Print Shop as the "C4C Center." You might notice that at present it is quite barren. The plan is to solicit ideas, resources (books, DVD's, etc....), and artwork from the C4C volunteers to begin giving it more character and color. Enjoy the pictures! Pat, TOR

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Care for Creation "Pilot Project" Initiative Getting Organized!

This past week the Care for Creation project (C4C) being held at St. Bernardine's in Hollidaysburg (see recent blog entries) entered a new phase of organization and development. We held the "first round" of four committee meetings covering various areas of responsibility related to this initiative. The committees are the following: Communications Committee (mainly responsible for promoting the initiative to the larger community), Festival Committee (responsible for planning and holding two festivals related to the rhythms of the growing season; on August 1st we will have a "Summer Bounty Festival" and on October 24th we will host a "Fall Harvest Festival." These festivals will be the primary way of promoting the C4C project to the larger community), C4C Committee (responsible for laying the spiritual foundation of the C4C project, drawing mainly from scripture, Christian social teaching regarding stewardship of the earth, and the Franciscan heritage of Care for Creation), and the Budget Committee (responsible for making sure we don't spend too much ;)

Beyond the need for organization, the rationale for forming committees (besides the fun of having meetings....I'm sure our Br. John Kerr, a "meeting-aholic", is green with envy ;) is to build collaborative relationships that will empower leadership and build community. Additionally, if (and hopefully when) the C4C "Pilot Project" transitions to a Community Supported Agriculture garden (cared for full-time by a farmer and not volunteers), these committees will be instrumental in animating the project with relational, communal, and spiritual values. Another important aspect of a successful CSA is to have an advisory board comprised of volunteers with the requisite skills needed to oversee a CSA. In anticipation of forming such a leadership board to run a future CSA, we have formed a C4C Advisory Board consisting of 5 directors (a team of friars and a local Master Gardener who is also a Secular Franciscan), one Garden Team Captain (who oversees four gardening teams), and a chair from each committee. At each of these committee meetings I shared with those in attendance my conviction that this project has exceeded my expectations and we have an "embarrassment of riches" to be thankful for. We are anticipating a wonderful harvest of both produce and relational, communal, and spiritual fruits! Pat, TOR

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Care for Creation Presentation

On Monday evening, June 15th, twenty persons gathered at the Care for Creation Center next to the community gardens located on the property of St. Bernardine's Monastery. The presentation was the second in a summer series of talks dedicated to exploring the theme of caring for creation in practical and spiritual terms. This talk was more practical in nature and dealt with learning the basics of how to can, freeze, and dehydrate food. The presentation was given by Sharon MacDonald, a nutrition and food expert who works out of the Blair County Farm Extension office that is a part of the Penn State University Altoona campus. All present learned a great deal about food preservation and took away a number of helpful resources to aid them in their future efforts to preserve the harvest.
As a side note, an interesting question was posed by one one of the attendees. She asked me what the word "creation" meant. Basically, creation is a scriptural term that conveys the Judeo-Christian belief that God is the ultimate source of all that exists. However, this belief goes much further. The term creation also connotes a special mode of relationship between God and all creatures. It implies that as Creator, God maintains at all times a special interest and intimacy toward creation and every creature. God's concern is conveyed throughout the Hebrew and Christian Scriptures and is embodied especially in the covenants that God made with Noah, Abraham, Moses and Jesus. One concrete example of God's concern for creation is God's prescriptions regarding the Sabbath and Jubilee years (c.f., Leviticus 25:1-55). The Sabbath Year was to be observed by the ancient Israelites every 7th year and the Jubilee every 50th year. During these years, the land was to lie fallow, slaves were to be set free, and the debts of the indebted were to be canceled. So powerful and compelling was the vision of universal justice and God's righteousness embodied in the Jubilee year that Jesus himself identified his own ministry as a type of Jubilee event (Lk. 4:18-19). As Christians, we are invited and called to continue announcing and enacting "the year of the Lord's favor" for all creation, especially those creatures, both human and non-human, who are trodden underfoot, marginalized, dispossessed of their daily bread or dignity, or otherwise oppressed. Peace and good! Pat, TOR

Monday, June 15, 2009

St. Anthony's in Windber, PA, Turns 100!

Yesterday, on the Feast of Corpus Christi, St. Anthony's Parish in Windber, PA, celebrated it's 100th anniversary with a Jubilee Mass in honor of the occasion and a dinner afterwards. Bishop Joseph Ademac congratulated the parish for reaching this milestone and exhorted the community to continue becoming more and more a "Eucharistic people." The parish of St. Anthony's has been staffed by members of the Franciscans, Third Order Regular (T.O.R.), Immaculate Conception Province since 1925. A number of friars who served at the parish were gathered for this occasion and many remarked at how grateful they are for the graciousness, hospitality, and support they received from the people of St. Anthony's. May God continue to bless St. Anthony's as richly as they have blessed our community, Windber, and the Altoona-Johnstown Diocese.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Care for Creation (C4C) Garden Flourishing!

On a humid, Central Pennsylvania afternoon in June, myself, two recently professed novices from the community (Matthew and Christopher), and four other gardeners spent time weeding the newly launched community vegetable and flower garden. The gardens are growing beautifully! Thanks to an "embarrassment of riches" with regard to enthusiasm, energy, and expertise (we have four or five master gardeners helping us!) the Care for Creation Initiative is flourishing! You may ask yourself what the term care for creation refers to. The way that I would begin defining the phrase is to compare it with another concept that has emerged in the Catholic Social teaching tradition of the last twenty years or so concerning the environment (mainly promulgated by Pope John Paul II) entitled, "preserving the integrity of creation." The latter phrase connotes perhaps the most popular Christian and Catholic approach to how we are called to relate to creation, namely as "stewards." The concept implies that we are to live on the earth in such a manner that the "strands" (i.e., species, "bioregions", and "ecosystems") which make up the "web of life" (i.e., all the systems of life considered in relationship to one another) are strengthened. Care for Creation also implies preserving the integrity of creation but goes further. It implies a disposition and orientation of care, compassion, and concern for all of earth's creatures, great and small. The notion is a very Franciscan one in that it has it's roots in the regard that Francis showed to all creatures, referring to them as "sister" and "brother." In other words, in addition to being stewards who are called to strengthen the strands of the web of life, we are also called to value each creature for its own sake and for the manner that it reveals God's abiding love, beauty, and truth. You might say that while "preserving the integrity of creation" focuses on the "forest", the concept of "care for creation" urges us to not lose sight of the trees! Two great Franciscans of the 13th and 14th century, St. Bonaventure and Blessed John Duns Scotus carried this tradition of caring for creation on through their theology of creation. St. Bonaventure referred to creation as a "book" and "mirror" which reflects God's Triune presence in our midst. Bl. John Duns Scotus wrote of the need to consider a creature's intrinsic worth as an important step in reverencing the creation entrusted to us by God. As a Franciscan community we hope to carry on this legacy of caring for creation by responding to the signs of the times concerning climate change. Our Care for Creation initiative is one concrete way in which we are doing so. We welcome your thoughts on this ministry and your suggestions on how we can better "care for creation."

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Profession of First Vows

Br. Jeffrey Wilson, T.O.R., took his first vows for our community on Saturday, May 30th. He was accompanied byBr. David Sheehan, T.O.R., who took vows from the Sacred Heart Province. In attendance were Br. Jeffrey's Father, Ken, and many friars and friends from around the area. The celebration was very well done and both Jeff and David are wonderful additions to both communities. May God bring to completion the great work he has begun in them!

Investiture Ceremony

On Friday, May 30th, 2009, Christopher Szarke and Matthew Hillman from our community were joyously received into the Novitiate. For those not familiar with this year, it is the first "official" year of membership in the community. It is a fairly intense period of prayer, discernment, spiritual direction and learning about the Franciscan heritage as well as the vowed life. Both of them bring many life experiences to the community and lively personalities which will no doubt make for a wonderful novitiate year. The friars of St. Bridget's in Minneapolis enjoyed spending the previous year with Christopher and Matthew and will miss the both of them. May God shower down upon them many blessings! Pat, TOR

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Blessing of Community Garden

On Thursday, 5/28, Fr. Christopher Panagoplos, TOR, led a blessing service for the community garden and community supported garden at St. Bernardine's Monastery. Our Provincial, Fr. Anthony, Fr. Eugene, and our Development Director, Tim Beresnyak were also on hand to represent the community. The service and blessing was well-received and the persons in attendance kept going on and on about the blessing that our property has been for so many in the area. It is quite apparent that our community is making quite a positive impact on the local community through these gardens. Attached to this update are some pictures of the volunteers working the community supported garden. The volunteers pictured and a number of others have done a tremendous job of planning the garden and planting it. We have a couple more plantings to do and than comes the fun part: watering and weeding! However, with so many volunteers and so much enthusiasm, the work promises to be made easier and even delightful. If you have a chance, come out and visit us this summer! Peace and good! Pat, TOR

Thursday, May 21, 2009

A Walk in the Park

Peace and good! We've had some really beautiful days here in Minnesota as of late. Part of what is so great about living in Minnesota are the many parks, trails, and nature preserves. The city of Minneapolis is truly a green city with a great deal of natural habitat set aside for outdoor recreation. I've posted some photos of a nearby nature preserve - it's one of my favorite places to escape for a bit of R&R and to contemplate God's beauty as revealed in and through the natural world. Enjoy! Fr. Pat, TOR

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Community Supported Garden Springing Forward!!

Peace and good!

Sorry it's been a little while since the last entry....I've been playing "catch up" here in the office and resonding to a number of NEW vocation inquiries! There are two in particular that seem rather promising so please say a prayer of thanksgiving for those young men who are responding to the stirrings of the Spirit in their life. You may be interested to know that our Care for Creation initiative (which has been labeled "C4C") is off and running! We currently have a roster of 75 persons who attended the March 31st and May 2nd meetings or who have come on board by contacting us directly. Out of this 75, we have around 38 gardeners! This is a good deal more than what we originally hoped for (24). There has certainly been a tremendous response to our initial foray into the organic gardening and care for creation field. I say "initial foray" very deliberately because we are still in the "pilot project" phase of this proposal. Basically, we are beginning to develop community, leadership, and programming around the model of a community supported garden. For the next two summers, we will work with volunteers from the local community to raise organic produce, to build community, and, above all, to communicate practical and spiritual values concerning the need to care for creation in an age of ecological crises. Only after we have developed the support within our community and in the larger community, we have a team of friar(s) and others (likely Secular Franciscans) who will shepherd the project according to Franciscan values, we have an advisory board well established with the "know how" to manage the garden, will we take the next step of looking for a farmer and moving from Community Supported Gardening to a Community Supported Agriculture model. It's important to know that it will take a little time to work all of this out but the initial response on the part of the larger community has surpassed our expectations! Please keep this initiative in prayer. Attached to this email are some pics of some of the volunteers with more to come this summer! If you get a chance to see what we are up to this summer and live close by, please come on out! Blessings, Fr. Pat, TOR

Friday, May 8, 2009

Hope Springs Eternal (Vocation Office Update)

Recently a vocation prospect named David Brickman (pictured) visited our friars in PA and WV. David had an excellent visit and wanted me to relay his thanks to all the friars who received him with such graciousness and hospitality. Please keep David in your prayers. Regarding the "goings on" in the vocation office, I am currently processing the applications of Corey Smoot and Bob Haw. They are making application for postulancy in the fall. Additionally, we have invited three persons to join our aspirancy program (two others are interested and may be invited depending on how their initial visits go in May and September). The names of those who are interested are Gerry, Daniel, Pierre, Octavio, and Jason. Please keep them in prayer as well. Hope "springs" eternal! (pun intended). Thanks to all the friars once again in PA and WV for making such a good impression on David! Blessings, Fr. Pat

April Showers....

Hi Everyone!

It's been a little while since the last blog entry.....sorry 'bout that! I just got into town about four days ago after over a month of being gone and am playing a bit of catch up! Here are some flowers that recently sprung alongside our parish in Altoona, PA (Our Lady of Mt. Carmel). It's really quite beautiful in central PA right now! (though I hear they haven't been getting much sun). Pat, TOR