Monday, June 21, 2010

Fr. Adrian's 50th Anniversary Celebration

On June 6th, 2010, Fr. Adrian Tirpak celebrated his 50th anniversary of ordination to the priesthood at St. Anthony's in Windber. Fr. Adrian is well-known throughout the community of Windber, PA, and has ministered in the area for over 25 years. Last year Fr. Adrian was actually inducted into the Windber Hall of Fame! He is renowned for his pastoral skills and for his love of singing. On countless occasions he has used this gift to comfort and encourage hospice patients and the parishioners of the Church of St. Anthony. On the occasion of his 50th anniversary, the Church was packed with parishioners, friends, friars, and relatives. Fr. Adrian's life and dedication bears powerful testimony to the fruit that religious life and priesthood offers the Church. The Franciscan joy that he embodies also bears witness to the fact that religious life and priesthood is a joy-filled and fulfilling option for young people to explore. May the Lord continue to bless Fr. Adrian's life and ministry! Pat, TOR

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Up Close and Personal with the Gulf Oil Spill Crisis

Pensacola, FL (June 9, 2010 - Day 51 of the Gulf Oil Spill)

Beautiful white sand beach in Pensacola, FL.

Beach shore with lines of pebble-sized tar balls.

A little crab outside its hole/home surrounded by tar balls.

An oil covered bottle that washed ashore.

An oil covered bird feather.

Birds walking around tar balls on the beach.

While on vacation in my hometown of Pensacola, FL; I was able to see first hand the effects of the Gulf Oil Spill. The shoreline is littered with pebble-sized tar balls. Unfortunately, this is only the prelude. I saw several plastic bottles that had washed up on shore and were coated in thick oil which is an indication of what is to come. During my walk along the beach, I was very moved by a little crab. Its hole/home was surrounded by tar balls close to its own size. Even the smallest of creatures are being affected and there is no telling the long term impact on the food chain. The Gulf Coast is a nursery for many species of fish and birds and the impact on even the smallest of creatures, in turn, affect many different species of creatures throughout the whole Gulf of Mexico.

I lived in Pensacola the first eighteen years of my life. I camped, fished, and played on that particular beach throughout my childhood. It is very sad to see it being destroyed especially after the destruction from Hurricane Ivan in 2004. Ivan leveled sand dunes and eroded large portions of the beach. After six years, the sand dunes are starting to build up again. However, Ivan was a natural disaster. What the Gulf Coast is experiencing now is a human-made disaster.

Natural disasters occur from natural processes. The earth is dynamic and ever changing. Some of these changes take thousands of years to develop. However, there is a process, a cycle. There is a passing away of one thing and a coming to be of something new. Take, for instance, a forest fire caused by a lightning strike. The resulting fire may destroy hundreds of acres of forest including trees, plants, birds, insects, mammals, etc. However, new life comes from the passing away of these creatures. It is a natural cycle of life. “For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die” (Ecc 3:1-2).

In contrast, human-made disasters occur from our negligence, ignorance, apathy, and even malice (take Hiroshima and Nagasaki, for instance). In human-made disasters there is a passing away of something but there is not necessarily a coming to be of new life. There is no natural cycle. The toxic aftermath of most human-made disasters actually prevent new life. So it may also be with the current Gulf Oil Spill. Only time will tell what impact there will be on the long term health of the Gulf of Mexico and Gulf Coast. But there is hope. There is hope that something good can come from this human-made disaster. Not necessarily the good of new life, but the good of life-giving change. We can learn from this experience and work to prevent future disasters. We can treat this as an opportunity for conversion, a change of heart and mind set. The worst mistake one can make is a mistake that one never learns from and does not avoid to repeat.

This experience reminds me of the lyrics from a song called Burning Too by one of my favorite bands, Fuzagi. The song was released in 1989, but I think the lyrics are still very relevant today. - Bro. Jeffrey, T.O.R.

Burning Too (by Fugazi)
Anytime but now
Anywhere but here
Anyone but me
I've got to think about my own life

We are consumed by society
We are obsessed with variety
We are all filled with anxiety
That this world would not survive

We gotta put it out… the sky is burning
We gotta put it out… the water's burning
We gotta put it out… the earth is burning

Outrage but then they say...
Anytime but now
Anywhere but here
Anyone but me
I've got to think about my own life

The world is not our facility
We have a responsibility
To use our abilities
To keep this place alive

Right here
Right now
Do it
Do it

A New "Cadence": Reflection on First Year in Community as a Friar

May 30th marked, for me, one year in Religious vows. As I reflect on my first year in vows, I compared my experience with that of my Postulancy and Novitiate year and found many common themes. Below is a short reflection that I wrote for our Province newsletter in the fall of 2007 at the beginning of my Postulancy. I want to share it on the blog because I think it is still relevant to my ongoing formation as a Franciscan Friar. Enjoy! Br. Jeffrey Wilson, T.O.R.

The transition to community life has not been as difficult as I first thought it would be. Prior to my candidacy with the Franciscan Friars Third Order Regular, I lived by myself for several years and I was use to doing what I wanted, when I wanted. I did not have to answer to anybody but myself. At first, I was worried that adapting to living with others would take a long time. But I have found that living in community with the friars is not much different than my prior life. The main difference is the "cadence" of my life.

Before moving in with the friars, the cadence of my life was very self centered. The majority of my day was spent at work so that I could house, feed, and clothe myself. The time outside of work was dedicated to my entertainment. My daily and weekly chores were performed for my benefited. Most of my decisions in life had been based on what would be best for me or what would make me happy.

After moving in with the friars, I find that I am doing many of the same activities that I did before. The main difference is that the cadence of my life is now God and community centered. Currently, my day is planned around our communal prayer life with the majority of the day dedicated to classes and study. My studies are not just for my personal betterment alone. They also prepare me to serve others better. Time is also set aside for ministry work around our local neighborhood. I perform many of the same chores as I did in my old apartment. However, now they benefit the other friars as well as myself.

Jesus' instruction to "love your neighbor as you love yourself" has also become, for me, "do for your brother friars and you do for yourself." Likewise, the friars do for me as they do for themselves. It is clear to me that the friars have taken great care to welcome me into their home. And this is exactly what the friary is, a home for the friar brothers to live and pray together in. It is this loving and caring family of brotherhood in Christ that has transformed the cadence of my life.