Sunday, June 19, 2016

Summer retreats begin

The first of the province’s annual summer retreats took place at the Don Bosco Retreat Center in Haverstraw, N.Y., from June 5 to 11 with some 45 confreres taking part, a healthy mix of brothers and priests. They came from almost the full length and breadth of the province, from Surrey to Belle Glade, from Boston to Marrero (“almost” because we didn’t stretch as far northeast as we might have—Sherbrooke wasn’t represented).

Bro. Tom Dion, the province’s delegate for formation, coordinated the week; it was the first time he’d done so, and he admitted to finding the task much more challenging than he’d anticipated. But the retreatants found that he did his task well.

Bro. Tom Dion, Sr. Lory Mazzei, and Sr. Clara Remartini. 
This retreat was unusual (not unique, if my memory’s correct) as SDB retreats go in that it was preached by two religious sisters, in this case members of the Apostles of the Interior Life. This is a small (16 members), new congregation founded in 1990 to promote the spiritual life, especially through mentoring (direction). They do so in the U.S. and Italy principally on college campuses (Kansas University and Texas A&M, and at one time the University of Illinois in Champaign) and in a multi-week program in spiritual mentoring in the Kansas City, Kan., Archdiocese that Bro. Tom is taking—which is how the Apostles came to be invited to preach our retreat.

Preaching a week-long retreat to priests and religious was a first-time experience for the apostles. But our two preachers, Sister Loredana and Sister Clara—who were asked by their superior about their availability—eagerly accepted, not only because they know Bro. Tom but also because both of them have Salesian connections in their native Italy.

Fr. Dennis Hartigan presiding at one of the Eucharistic celebrations.
The two sisters tag-teamed the daily conferences, using their written texts, music, video, and of course their own experience and wisdom. They spoke of what Pope Francis has called the four pillars of the spiritual life for priests and seminarians: prayer, community, intellectual study, and the apostolate. They illustrated these pillars in the life of a 20th-century priest, Blessed Carlo Gnocchi, and they pointed to the Virgin Mary as a model for us in her faith, her joy, her obedience, etc. In their last two conferences, they presented an “instrument” to help the confreres apply what we’d heard to our own lives and invited us to “share” in small groups what we’d found valuable in our week’s experience. Sisters Lory and Clara deeply impressed the retreatants with their presentations, friendliness, and joy.

In addition to the sister’s fine conferences, the retreat featured the usual SDB camaraderie, the customary pilgrimage to the province cemetery at Goshen (the only day it rained, of course), Good Nights that updated the confreres on the local reshaping taking place in Ramsey, Port Chester, and Orange, and some in-depth commentary about province matters from Fr. Tim Zak.

Praying for our deceased confreres in the cemetery at Goshen.
 
Bro. Henry Van der Velden enjoying an ice cream cone after the cemetery visit.

Conviviality and fellowship at the dinner table.

 

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