The past few weeks have been taken up by preparations for our Provincial Chapter which will take place May 19-23 at St. Meinrad Archabbey in southern Indiana. We hold a Chapter--a province-wide meeting in which we elect administration personnel and make decisions concerning our Franciscan life together--every three years. This year we are meeting at a Benedictine Archabbey and will be electing an entire slate of persons to the administrative offices of our community.
The new adventure is that I am teaching a course for the Franciscan International Study Centre in Canterbury, England via the internet this spring. I had traveled to Canterbury the past two years but am unable to do so this year due to my responsibilities with our Chapter. I had mentioned last year while at the Centre that I would be willing to teach via Skype if they so desired. So, a month or so ago I received an invitation to set up the technology and teach one course. I began this past Wednesday and with only a couple of minor glitches the first session went well.
It kind of boggles the mind to think that I can sit in my office in Cincinnati, Ohio and see and talk with a student in England in real time.
How fascinating that all three men have experience in the armed forces. Food for thought...
After traveling to Chicago on Wednesday to visit with a prospective on Thursday morning, I drove to Cedar Lake, IN to participate in a Provincial Initial Formation Council meeting. There, besides meeting, we had a chance to meet with the Novices and their directors. Richard Goodin, O.F.M. a novice for our province, is webmaster for the community's website which can be viewed at ofmnovitiate.org.
Richard and his classmates, Jesus Ramirez Tapia, O.F.M. of Sacred Heart Province and Chris Robert Leigh, O.F.M. of Immaculate Conception Province in England, are in their final months of preparation before making their First Vows in June. At the same time, our five Postulants here in Cincinnati and their future classmates from Sacred Heart Province in Joliet, IL and Assumption Province in Milwaukee, WI are getting ready to move on to the Novitiate in June.
Thanks be to God, the cycle continues with some good men preparing to be Franciscan Friars.
As one enters the Abbey and Retreat Center an imposing statue of Saint Benedict is there to greet you. He is pictured sitting with the Rule of his community, hand raised in blessing, and wearing a miter as a sign of his authority in the community. Hospitality is one of the traits he asked his followers to exercise and the minks at St. Benedict in Benet Lake certainly extended warm hospitality to us Franciscans gathered in their home.
Fifteen friars gathered for this particular workshop. We began each morning with Morning Prayer in the Retreat Chapel (we did not use the monks' chapel). Meetings, Eucharist and recreation filled the rest of the day. On the left, Fr. Dennet Jung, O.F.M. from Saint John the Baptist Province leads us in the Eucharist. On the right, we gathered for Morning Prayer.
Thursday afternoon and evening the Friars of the Assumption Province hosted a tour of the Franciscan Mission Secretariat, St. Josephat Basilica and their own St. Anthony Parish in Milwaukee where we were treated to a wonderful Vietnamese/Mexican meal. It was good to view the work being done for the missions and a couple of places of faith. Each of the churches stands as a tribute to the personal sacrifices of the people in the are who see to it that their religious home is preserved n spite of drastic changes in their neighborhoods.
The building at the left is St. Benedict Abbey and Retreat Center in Benet Lake, WI. About twenty Franciscans are meeting here for an Interprovincial Initial Formation Meeting. Translated into "English," that means that the Directors of Vocations, Postulants, Novices, and Temporary Professed along with the Secretaries of Formation for four Franciscan Provinces are meeting this week to discuss our collaborative efforts in mentoring and training our young men.
The Chapel was added onto the monastery in the early 1970s and was recently rearranged as the new retreat center entrance was completed. The Blessed Sacraments Altar (on the right) features twelve receptacles around the tabernacle containing the relics of the saints remembered in the Liturgical Calendar each month. The main altar and choir are rather barren and all services are open to the public.
Even though this is the first week in April, the lake is frozen solid and there are still piles of snow around the parking lots, etc. We are just over the Wisconsin/Illinois border. Actually the cemetery, across the parking lot from the main entrance, is in Illinois while the monastery is in Wisconsin.
We will finish up our meeting on Friday. Tomorrow afternoon we will take a tour of some of the Franciscan ministries in the area--in towards Milwaukee, I think. I'll post that information after it happens.