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."