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I am glad you enjoyed your retreat.
Monday, October 23, about 35 friars gathered at Bergamo Center in Dayton, OH for what would prove to be a wonderful experience. About 15 members of the group stayed at Bergamo for the week and experienced the "Virtual Pilgrimage" via video tape of the presentations. The rest of us boarded a bus Tuesday morning for a four day, four city pilgrimage under the able leadership of Fr. Tom Speier, O.F.M. and our bus driver, Major Charles Thomas (Retired USAF). (Fr. Tom is seen waving in the picture on the left and with Mr. Thomas on the right).
Our first stop on Tuesday was at St. John Cemetery in Cincinnati, OH where 25 of the founding members of our Province are buried. This was a powerful experience as we processed (part of the procession pictured on the left) to the grave site in very chilly weather to pray and reflect on what these men did. Some of them died at the early ages of 17 and 20 and 21. Here were men who left their homeland and their culture to spread the Gospel to German immigrants in the Cincinnati area. It is on their shoulders that we stand today as members of the same province. We also visited the grave site in Pittsburgh where the founding members from Slovakia are buried.
On Wednesday, on our way to Pittsburgh, we stopped to eat our box lunches along the road. As you can see in the picture, the weather continued to be chilly. Our reason to visit Pittsburgh was to reflect on the origins of the Slovakian friars who, in 2000, joined the Province of Saint John the Baptist. While spending some quiet time prior to celebrating the Eucharist in Pittsburgh I snapped the picture of Fr. Cyprian (on the right). Cyprian was an inspiration to all of us on the bus trip. From Pittsburgh we moved on to Detroit to visit what was Duns Scotus College, the place where most of us studied philosophy and earned our undergraduate degrees.
The Pilgrimage ended at St. Leonard Senior Living Community in Centerville, OH which was, again for most of us, St. Leonard College where we studied theology and where many friars were ordained to the Priesthood. Here the "virtual pilgrims" joined the bus group for a closing meal, tour of the facility, and Eucharist. At right you can see Fr. Fred Link, O.F.M., our Minister Provincial leading us at Mass. At the closing we each renewed our vows as Friars Minor.
I, of course, cannot speak for every friar on the pilgrimage, but I certainly found it inspiring and uplifting. I am thankful to those who worked so hard to make it possible. It was a great experience in fraternity.
I got back from my trip through Georgia and Florida yesterday afternoon, and I leave tomorrow for our "Pilgrimage Retreat." I will take my camera along to secure some photos for the Blog, but I do not intend to take my computer. So the next entry will be after I get back next Friday evening.
I ask for your prayers as the group of us friars spend a week of travel to and prayer at some significant places in our community's history.
My trek through Georgia and Florida is coming to an end. I have visited seven prospectives and, as I mentioned in the last posting, I am encouraged. The Lord is inspiring good men to look into the possibilities of living our Gospel life in fraternity. I pray for all of the men thinking about joining us and ask the Lord to lead and guide them.
For those keeping track of my modes of transportation, I returned the Lincoln Town Car Wednesday morning and picked up a Dodge Magnum in Jacksonville, FL. A much more "modest" car for a Franciscan vocation director, don't you think?
Next week is the third and final Provincial Pilgrimage Retreat. Since the Order is on pilgrimage toward the 800th anniversary of the Papal Approval of our way of life, we are going on pilgrimage this year in our provincial retreat visiting the significant places in the history of our community. One of those places is St. Anthony Friary in Cincinnati, where I presently live. The picture above is of the altar and crucifix in our chapel. I hope to have more on the retreat when I return to Cincinnati.
While I'm still running around in the Lincoln Town Car (I have to return it tomorrow morning when I leave for Jacksonville, FL), my luck ran out today. First, I woke up to a rainy, cloudy, damp, chilly day in Atlanta. Then, when I went down for breakfast, the power in the whole area went off leaving the motel lighted only by emergency lighting. That lasted part of the morning. Then, when I left for Kennesaw University I ran into a huge traffic jam and heavy, heavy rain. The trip that should have taken 30 mins ended up taking over an hour. Poor me!
Seriously, this trip has been a real blessing for me. So far I have met four prospectives who, if the Lord is calling them to us, could be potentially good friars. That is encouraging to say the least. The Lord is indeed blessing our province with good men. I find these trips tiring, but enlivening as I listen to the prospectives' stories and hear how God has worked--and is still working--in their lives. I can never know for certain whether God is calling them to be friars, but I often think of St. Francis' comment: "The Lord gave me brothers." He continues to give me(us) brothers today as many good men seek to discern a possible vocation with us.
Let us never cease praying for each of them that the Lord may guide and strengthen them to do "his holy and true command."
I left Cincinnati yesterday for a week-long trip to Georgia and Florida to visit with men interested in looking into the possibility of joining our Franciscan province. The flight was on-time, comfortable, and we arrived early. It took almost an hour to get my luggage, but overall the trip was fine. I admit there was a "secret" factor that helped make the trip more enjoyable--I was upgraded to Business Class. But, of course, that happens occasionally and I have to admit I kind of enjoy it.
BUT, the kicker happened when I got to the rental car lot. I had been told at the office in the airport what slot my car was parked in. I told the shuttle driver my number and we proceeded to the car lot. When we arrived she announced loudly: "Miller, you've got the Lincoln Town Car." (They only had luxury cars left, so it was a Lincoln or no car at all.) I have never driven a car like this in my entire life! There are more buttons and gadgets than I know what to do with. I'm afraid if I hit the wrong one my seat might eject. :-)
Well, I adapted to driving a larger and fancier car than I am accustomed to drive and arrived at the motel and settled in for the night. Then it hit me! I've got to drive to four appointments to meet prospectives and the Franciscan Vocation Director will arrive in a Lincoln Town Car. What next?!?
Well, so far I have had some fun. Driving to Mass this morning, I needed to stop and ask directions because I couldn't find a specific street. Of course, I was in a very poor neighborhood. So here I am, a lost dummy in a Lincoln Town Car driving up to a bunch of very poor individuals at a bus stop asking for directions. I have to admit my feelings switched back-and-forth from embarrassment to humor.
Well, the week-long trip is ONE DAY old. What's in store for me the next six?
Wednesday evening through Thursday afternoon of this week I participated in a meeting of the Initial Formation Council of our province. The meeting was held at San Damiano Friary in Cedar Lake, IN which is our interprovincial novitiate. Pictured at the left are our novices, Michael Newsome, O.F.M. (far left) and Thomas Olsen, O.F.M. (near left). This was the first chance I had to visit with them in person since they entered the novitiate last June. Both are doing well and progressing in their formation as Franciscans. (You can read more and view pictures of the novitiate on their web site which is located at: www.ofmnovitiate.org). I forgot to take my camera for the event, but Michael took quite a few pictures and, if he remembers to email them to me, I will post them in the future.
The Initial Formation Council is made up of all of our friars involved with the formation of new men, plus three at large members. So I am there as vocation director, Frs. Carl Langenderfer and Frank Geers as the two postulant directors, Fr. Dennet Jung as the novitiate team member from our Saint John the Baptist Province, and Fr. John Stein as the SJB member of the post-novitiate team (which is located in Chicago). Fr. Jeff Scheeler chairs the meeting since he oversees all of initial formation in the province (and is also our vicar-provincial minister). The three at large members are Frs. Mark Soehner, Luis Aponte-Merced, and David Kobak. Fr. Mark is a pastor in Detroit, and Frs. Luis and David are associate pastors in Peoria, IL and Southfield, MI respectively. The purpose of the council is to oversee policy for all stages of formation and to make sure that all of the pieces are fitting together for the good of the men being formed as new friars. It also gives us a chance to be with and support one another as co-workers in our provincial task as formators.
I leave tomorrow for a week-long visit with prospectives in Georgia and Florida.
Saturday morning I was busy doing laundry and preparing for a quick flight to Boston to visit a prospective. I decided not to take my laptop with me for this short absence, but I did try to check my email Saturday evening at the motel office. I was a little surprised that there was no new email--something that seldom happens on either my personal or my office account.
Sunday evening, after my return, I turned on my computer to discover that I still had no email. Then I ran a quick check to see what was up and discovered that THE EMAIL SYSTEM WAS DOWN. There was no email to be had. I quickly called the friar who oversees our system and he said that there had been a problem reported as early as Friday, but it would be addressed Monday.
Monday morning I returned to my office with the usual expectation that I would spend the first two to three hours working with email messages, but there were none. Being Columbus Day, I couldn't look forward to snail mail either. Wow, what a feeling of being disconnected from the world. What to do? Well, my budget for 2007 is due on the 15th, so I calculated that and printed it for the provincial office. I am traveling next week to Georgia and Florida, so I printed maps and double checked my itinerary. By now it was noon and there was still no word on the email situation.
Monday afternoon I went to St. Clement Friary here in town to make a presentation at the friary monthly Day of Recollection. I was also scheduled to make a presentation to some young adults Monday evening, so I reviewed my ideas for that. Still no email and the word came that we couldn't expect any until at least Tuesday morning.
While talking with a friend via telephone I joked about my "primitive" existence of living incommunicado with the world. The two of us laughed about just how dependent we have become on technology. I found it rather embarrassing and yet a good time to rethink some priorities. Looking back on the weekend and the day, I realized that the Lord had been very good to me. My frustration stemmed from the fact that I couldn't do what I wanted to do. I wasn't in control of my day. And I said a prayer of thanksgiving for the insight into my silliness and into God's patience with us humans who think we run our own lives.
By the way, the email came back up on Tuesday afternoon. I got swamped with all of the missed emails--and it felt good to be back into my usual routine of communicating via the net.
Peter writes--with a comment re the Friars in Assisi:
Loved visiting Assisi. Lifelong dream but someone needs to tell the Franciscans there to lighten up. did not see one of them smile or laugh in public. not the way I read of St. Francis. they do a beautiful job of caring for his memory but he seemed like a pretty funny guy who would have laughed at men yelling "Silencio" all the time. Giving a blessing to a tour group passing by might be a nice habit to get into. Otherwise terrific place.
Stan adds his best wishes and prayers:
Pax et Bonum! Every good wish for blessings on the feast of our Seraphic Father to you Fr. Don and to your confreres! You have been held in prayer today and during the Office last night as well.