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
Wednesday, December 16, 2009
Surprised by Joy: a Tribute to Our Sri Lankan Brothers (Gregory Vajira Silva and Jude Asantha Barrera)
Thursday, November 19, 2009
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
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!
Friday, October 9, 2009
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.
Tuesday, September 22, 2009
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
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
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!
Thursday, July 23, 2009
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!)
Saturday, July 4, 2009
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."
Sunday, June 28, 2009
Friday, June 26, 2009
Thursday, June 25, 2009
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