Friday, March 27, 2009

Meeting with Representative Jerry Stern regarding CSA and Care for Creation Initiative

This morning Fr. Christopher Panagoplos, Br. John Kerr, Master Gardener Pat Trimble, and myself met with State Representative Jerry Stern and his legislative aid, Julie Nelson, regarding our community's proposal to launch a community garden and care for creation "pilot project" this summer. The meeting was arranged by Tim Beresnyak, our new Development Director. Representative Stern is the State Representative for the 80th district of Blair County and expressed interest in finding out more information about our proposal. The meeting began by discussing our respective concerns regarding the environment. Rep. Stern talked about the steps he has taken to care for the natural heritage of Blair County. The environmental areas that he has focused on in particular are conservation, watershed issues, and environmental management. His legislative aid, Julie, has a degree in Environmental Science and shares his concerns for the environment, especially in the area of watershed issues. After hearing about the short term goals of our community's proposal (to move forward with a community supported garden and care for creation program) and the long term goals (to develop up to a 4 acre CSA and Care for Creation Center) he pledged whatever support he could give us. We told him that right now we simply need to "get the word out" about our proposal and any help he could assist us with would be greatly appreciated. Julie said that she would contact some key persons in the area and ask if they would attend our informational session on March 31st @ 7 pm at Our Lady of Mt. Carmel in Altoona. Julie also said she would attend and remarked that the proposal is a wonderful idea. Depending on how well attended that meeting is, we may look to Rep. Stern and Julie to help us promote another informational session at the end of April or the beginning of May. Rep. Stern mentioned the possibility of having a press conference about the initiative at St. Bernardine's (next to the Blair County Extension Community Garden plot). It appears that there is growing support for our proposal both at the "grass-roots" level and levels higher up! Thanks to Tim for arranging this meeting, to Christopher for hosting and providing hospitality, to Rep. Stern and Julie for taking time out of their busy schedules, to Pat Trimble for her expertise and support, and to our membership for being open to the possibilities that this project holds for our community. Peace! Pat, TOR

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Vocation Visit

This past weekend (March 20th-22nd) we welcomed a vocation visitor named Daniel to our formation house in Minneapolis. Daniel, who is from Carrollton, TX, has been in touch with us since July, 2008. He has met Fr. Raphael Eagle who is a hop-skip-and-a-jump away from Daniel in Ft. Worth. Fr. Raphael was gracious enough to set aside some time to meet and get to know Daniel and recommended that we bring him to Minnesota for a visit. The weekend went well. Daniel enjoyed the experience and we were very happy to have him. Hopefully this was one of many visits to follow! Please keep Daniel in your prayers as he discerns his calling.

On another note, I arrived in Pennsylvania this afternoon and am looking forward to spending time with our friars here. Over the next several weeks I will be doing some preaching on vocations at one of our parishes and passing out new vocation promotion literature. Thanks to the exceptional work of New Group Media, Sr. Judy Zielinski, OSF, and Connie Tooley, a graphic designer employed by New Group Media, we have some wonderful brochures, posters, and a DVD which hopefully will serve to drum up interest in our community on the part of those discerning a religious calling. Speaking of "drumming up interest" via our new marketing approach, this morning I received a call from a young man who saw our ad in the NCR and would like to visit. I am finding there is indeed interest in our way of all we need to do is let our light shine! Peace and good, Pat, TOR

Friday, March 13, 2009

It Is Written: On Slumdog Millionaire and Easter Hope

The beginning of the surprising smash-hit movie Slumdog Millionaire opens with the main character Jamal being beaten and tortured under the suspicion of having cheated on India’s most popular game show, Who Wants to Be a Millionaire. Jamal is on the cusp of winning 20,000,000 rupees and no one can fathom how a lowly, sharp-tongued “slumdog” could answer questions that not even doctors and lawyers could answer. The movie poses this question at the beginning of the film as if it were a question on the game show itself and suggests four possibilities: a) he is cheating b) he is brilliant c) he is lucky or d) it is written. When I first saw the movie I can remember thinking it was cleverly done and quite straightforward with regard to depicting the hardships endured by those living in the slums of Mumbai. I think there was a part of me, however, that kept the movie at arm’s length. Maybe I did it because of the crushing and abject poverty displayed in the movie which at times was hard to stomach. Perhaps it was due to having lost my mother at a tender young age like Jamal and Salim and not wanting to have that cord reached. Whatever the case, it never occurred to me that there just might be a substantial theological point that could be mined beneath the clever plot and relatively predictable ending. After “taking in” the movie for a second time, I walked away with a great deal more. I use the words, “taking in” because, for some reason, I was more open to where and how the spirit of the movie wanted to reach me. I enclose the words taking in with quotes because I feel like I drank in the movie whereas the first time it more or less washed over me, like water off a duck. In taking in the movie, this is what I took away from the movie. What I believe Slumdog Millionaire proclaims in terms of theology is nothing short of the redemption and redeeming love that we are preparing to celebrate this coming Easter. With each question posed to Jamal by the game show, what is lifted up from the depths of his memory are the phantoms of horrific events that played out in the game of his life: memories of a mother murdered before his eyes, the abuse of his childhood friends, encountering one of the abuse victims on the streets of Mumbai several years later, staring down the barrel of a gun totted by his brother who, while gaining an ever tighter grip on the revolvers handle, was losing his grip on the beauty and innocence of his life. What was really being raised by Jamal’s memory with the posing of each question wasn’t so much an answer to a piece of trivia as an answer to his life and to life itself. What the movie Slumdog Millionaire raises as a theological question with the disturbing slums of Mumbai as the backdrop is, “What is the value of a (slumdogs) life?” So many of Mumbai’s citizens cheered with abandon for Jamal throughout the movie and no doubt for the movie itself when it brought home the Academy’s prestigious hardware for Best Picture. Perhaps they were cheering the undaunted hope and steely integrity reflected in Jamal’s eyes throughout the movie and his ability to live with an unshakeable resolve to love - despite having so many reasons to hate. Maybe they were simply cheering because it was one of their own. Whatever the reason for cheering for the movie and whether you are from Mumbai or not, you can add this to the list of reasons for admiring Slumdog Millionaire: it hints at the promise and nature of God’s redeeming love. Just as Jamal’s painful memories were raised and exorcised of the threat they once posed to his integrity and human dignity, so God in Christ and Holy Spirit will raise up and redeem our memories of love and loss, thereby fully healing our integrity and dignity. The simple reason why we can believe and hope in this is the same one that the movie gives for how Jamal knew the answers posed to him: d) It is written. Fr. Pat, TOR

Trip to Wild and Wonderful West Virginia

I recently spent a week at our retreat center (Priest Field) in wild and wonderful West Virginia for the purposes of giving a talk on care for creation to students from the Shepherd University Campus Ministry, hosting a meeting on our proposal to develop a CCC (Care for Creation Center) and CSA (Community Supported Agriculture), and co-hosting a discernment day of reflection with the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston and the Benedictines of St. Vincent in Latrobe. The talk with the Shepherd University students seems to have gone well and I hope to spend time with them in the future. The meeting on the CCC/CSA proposal also went well and we were able to develop a contact list of persons in the area around our St. Bernardine's Monastery in Newry, PA, who might be interested in participating in a community garden this summer. Finally, the discernment day of reflection, though only attended by three persons, was time well spent and will hopefully lay the groundwork for future discernment days of reflection and retreats at Priest Field. Many thanks to the gracious staff of Priest Field and Fr. Bill for the great hospitality. Pat, TOR

Monday, March 9, 2009

Our Ministries

One of our ministries is Retreat Work, I work for the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston here at Priestfield Pastoral Center in Kearneysville, WV. Our website is:
Fr. Bill, TOR

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

They came....and they saw

This weekend (Feb. 27th-Mar. 1st) we had the opportunity of hosting two gentlemen (Gerry and David) for a "Come and See" style discernment weekend. Gerry was coming from Dallas, TX, and David from LA, CA. Both of them came with a great deal of interest in getting to know us better and also come with many gifts and an intense desire to know and follow God's will. The weekend was spent acclimating them to their new and snowy surroundings and introducing them to the friars and rhythm of life at St. Bridget's. At the end of the weekend, which was capped off by some excellent cooking by Br. David, both reported that they would like to continue journeying with our community. Please keep both Gerry and David in prayer! Please keep in prayer as well this upcoming weekend (Mar. 6th-8th) as I hope to co-sponsor with the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston and the Benedictine's of St. Vincent's another discernment weekend at our retreat center in West Virginia (Priest Field Pastoral Center). This weekend has been planned for about the last six months or so and all we need is at least 8 men to commit to attending! Finally, there is another discernment retreat weekend planned for March 20th-22nd. At present two men are planning on attending...but there is always room at our table for more! Take good care and may the Lord bless you with a deep awareness of the possibilities for transformation that this Lenten season holds out to us both personally and communally! Pat, TOR