Sunday, February 22, 2009

Pictures of San Rafael Visit

Sister Parish Relationship Off To a Great Start

Last Thursday I joined three other persons from the TOR parish of St. Gerards (Mike Haasl, Annetta Willars, and Irene Gomez-Bethke) on a trip to San Rafael, Mexico, to begin laying the foundation for a sister parish relationship between the Church of St. Gerard and the Church of San Rafael. The trip was made possible by the generosity of the Knights of Columbus and the Ladies Auxiliary of St. Gerards along with the coordinating efforts of several members of the Franciscan Sisters of Little Falls. Special thanks go out to Sr. Michelle L'Allier and Sr. Pat Forster, who is a pastoral associate at San Rafael. Once on the ground in San Rafael, Sr. Pat and the community there went to great lengths to help us adjust. Sr. Pat also put together an itinerary full of opportunities to meet the community members and to take a great deal of time speaking with the sister parish committee members of San Rafael. To give you an idea of what we experienced on our trip, I will tell you about our first full day at San Rafael. To begin the day we were given a tour of the small puebla (village) of San Rafael by a parishioner of San Rafael named Antonio. The city is along the Pan-American highway and bases some of its business on the traffic that moves through the area. Small "tiendas" (stores) line the highway and sell all kinds of different food. The area along the highway is also dotted with "depositos" (bars) which truckers and those passing through also frequent. Another major part of the economic life of San Rafael is agriculture. Antonio took us to see a very large tomato greenhouse, potato fields, and a place where eggs are cleaned, boxed up, and shipped. Later in the afternoon we met the parents of one of the new postulants of the Franciscan Sisters (Aurora; they have another whom we also met named Isabel) in an even smaller village ("pueblacita") called Mescite. Don Martin Tovar and Dona Maria Roble (Aurora's parents) offered us gracious hospitality and showed us a DVD of a cooperative farm effort that Don Martin leads. Thanks to his efforts and those of local farmers, this cooperative has become large enough to receive support by the government. Don Martin and Dona Maria's house, though humble in size, is filled with a great deal of love and warmth. When Don Martin's grandchildren returned home from school that afternoon, we watched as each of them went up to their grandfather and grandmother and kissed both their hands and cheeks. It was truly a gesture of great reverence, respect, and deep affection. Later in the evening the sisters held a welcoming party for us. Around forty people attended the fiesta. It is evident that the Franciscan Sisters (who are referred to by the people of San Rafael as "Madres" or mothers) are greatly loved by the people and have established a strong and hopefully lasting presence. As a sign of this presence and dedication to the people of San Rafael, they recently erected and blessed a new building. One parishioner of San Rafael told me that this building speaks to him of the hope that San Rafael can develop into a town of greater prosperity. The people of San Rafael face many challanges and we heard about this from the people who attended the party. Some spoke about the prostitution that plagues the town and wanting to see this come to an end. Others spoke about how they would like to see a more stable economy established, one less tied to the growing season. All of those at the fiesta radiated the hope that San Rafael can be transformed into a place that will be more safe, secure, and prosperous for their children and grandchildren. The people of San Rafael know that this will take a great deal of work to establish. I found out that the parish recently conducted a Eucharistic procession which passed by those places reputed to be houses of prostitution. From this example of faith to Don Martin's efforts to the hope strived for and spoken to by all who attended the welcoming fiesta, I was filled with great inspiration at the mettle and the beauty of the people of San Rafael. Unfortunately, my stay was cut short by a medical emergency and I had to return to the US after only one full day at San Rafael - but what a day! To the people of San Rafael I say "Que Dios le bendiga ahora y siempre y espero que vaya a visitarles en el futuro proximo." Pat, TOR

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Two lovely days at the beach

Upon finishing "business time" during my recent trip to Florida at the FOCUS 11 conference, I immediately packed my things and made a mad dash for our condo at New Smyrna beach. The time there was spent dining with the friars on Friday night (Robert, Seraphin, Eugene, Pat Q., and Emile), walking on the beach, and melting into one of the very comfortable lazy boys during two days of R&R. After dinner on Friday night, Robert and I smoked a bit of apple flavored tobacco from his huca turkish water pipe and pondered how good it is to have a place like this to retreat to from time to time - it is good indeed to have brothers...and to spend time with them at the beach ;) Attached to this post is a picture of a turtle that Robert and I ran into during our Friday morning walk. Pat F.

Focus 11 Conference

Last week I had the opportunity to attend the Orlando Diocese's annual FOCUS 11 vocation promotion conference. The conference was held at Holy Family Parish in Orlando. The FOCUS 11 conference was established by the Diocese of Orlando to plant the seeds of vocational awareness in young people who are either 11 years old or in the 11th grade. Apparently, studies show that young persons in these age brackets spend a good deal of time pondering what they want to do with their lives and are open to having seeds of vocational possibility planted in their young imaginations. The three days that I spent at the conference were productive in terms of passing out a good deal of pens, brochures, and Franciscan prayer cards. I was also able to promote the San Pedro Scripture Camp while there. All in all it was time well spent! Let us pray that those who attended will allow the seeds planted to take root and bear fruit! Pat, TOR

Monday, February 9, 2009

Vocation Visits

This past weekend the friars of San Pedro Center welcomed a young man named Lucas Smith who is presently discerning a vocation to religious life and the priesthood (see picture). Lucas is originally from Germany and has lived in the US for the past six years. He is very interested in Franciscan life inparticular and will also be visiting the Capuchins and Conventuals in the coming weeks. The visit overall went well and Lucas seemed to enjoy himself in the process of getting to know the Friars of San Pedro and Mt. Dora. Please keep him in your prayers. At the end of February the friars of Minneapolis will welcome at least one person and perhaps as many as four vocation discerners. Two come from the Dallas, TX, area (Daniel Akins and Gerardo Romo), one from Hollywood, CA, (David Brickman) and another from Miami, FL (Hugo Bastida). Please also keep these persons in prayer. The Spirit seems to be moving a number of people to inquire and investigate our community! May God be with all of these persons and our community as well in this process of mutual inquiry! Pat, TOR

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Photos of San Pedro Center

Dear Friends, Family, and Friars-

Here are some recent photos that I took of San Pedro Center. If you haven't had a chance to visit the retreat center, you should definitely give it some thought! Peace, Pat F., TOR

Successful End to Stretching the Boundaries of Faith Retreat

Paz y bien!

On the final day of the Elderhostel recently held at San Pedro Center entitled "Stretching the Boundaries of Faith," participants spoke about how their broadened appreciation for the evolutionary forces at work in creation and the need to care for creation will motivate them to become more involved in learning about nature and sharing their appreciation for God's creation with their grandchildren. A number of participants remarked how their perspective on God's immanent presence in creation had been significantly enhanced. All in all it seems to have been a success! Hopefully San Pedro Center will be able to offer such retreats in the future which will likewise be as well received. Pat F., TOR

Monday, February 2, 2009

Evolution and Care of Creation at San Pedro

Peace and good!
Today at our retreat center in Winter Park, Florida (San Pedro Center) began a week long Elderhostel experience for 27 retreatants on the themes of Darwin and Evolution, Care of Creation, and the Majesty of the Mind. For those who aren't familiar with Elderhostel, it is a vacation model for adults that focuses on travel, leisure, and learning. During the morning presentation on Darwin and Evolution, Sr. Margaret Galiardi, OP (Dominican) talked a bit about the life of Charles Darwin and the challanges and opportunities that his theory of evolution poses for the Christian faith. The presentation provided a firm foundation to explore later in the week the dialogue that has ensued between science and faith in the last century or so. During the afternoon I presented on care of creation from the perspective of scripture. The aim of the talk was to equip persons of faith alarmed by global climate change and curious to know how our faith can respond to such signs with an awareness of how scripture calls us not only to stewardship with creation but even partnership. The 27 participants in the program come from a diverse background and from all over the country. We even have a couple attending from Newfoundland. The week promises to "evolve" (no pun intended) into a week of sharing our collective wisdom and hope that the Christian faith move forward to continue a fruitful dialogue with the sciences and to become an agent of cultivating the awareness of the urgent need to respond to the "travail of nature" (Rom. 8:22). May the Lord bless you and keep you! Pat, TOR

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Post Homily Reflections: Feb. 1st, 2009, 4th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Hello Friars and Friends!
This morning I attended the "Friends of San Pedro" Mass held monthly at our retreat center in Winter Park, FL. The presider of the Mass was Fr. Patrick Quinn, TOR. From my recollections, the core of Pat's homily was how, in deriving his authority and power from none other than his relationship with God, Jesus was able to go beyond a mere "formal" observance of the law in order to reach out to the other in need (c.f., the Gospel reading, Mark, 1:21-28). In Franciscan language, we might say that Jesus' life and actions opened a new way of living according to the obedience of love (which sometimes "overrules" obedience to the letter of the law). Consequently, when we derive our sense of power and authority from our relationship with God we can likewise live a "liberated life" of responding to the implications of the Gospel for our lives and world. I understand such a "liberated life" to mean freedom from all that inhibits growing in relationship to God, other, and self and freedom for bringing the Good News of God's saving love to those who are most in need of liberation themselves (inclusive of all creation and all creatures). May God bless and keep you! Pat Foley, TOR