August 8 – August 13 (Sun to Fri) – Annual Retreat

a group of happy friars
This year I really wanted to make a retreat centered on the teachings of St. Augustine and the traditions of the Augustinian Order.  I was not able to find any in the usual venues, but I found out about one being offered at Tagaste Monastery in Suffern, NY during the second week in August.  Father John Melnick, of the Society of St. Augustine in Kansas City, mentioned it to me.  John is someone I got to know through some Augustinian friends on Facebook.  So here I am.  I’m writing this on Wednesday of the retreat and I am very glad that I have had this opportunity.  Father John Oldfield has given some wonderful talks, as has Father John Gruben.  Father Ramón Gaitán, prior of the monastery, has been our coordinator for this retreat and every evening he leads us in shared reflection on the two talks of each day.  Tagaste is a monastery of the Order of Augustinian Recollects.  The Recollects started as a reform movement within the Order of St. Augustine (my order) in 1588 and became an independent canonical entity in 1912.  The Society of St. Augustine is a younger congregation that has roots in both orders.  This has been a wonderful opportunity to pray with the friars in this community (the first time I have prayed the complete Liturgy of the Hours in choir since my novitiate), learn more about Augustine’s teachings, and to be exposed to Augustinian monastic tradition from a slightly different point of view.  It has been very enriching. 

The retreat has involved some tremendous moments of grace and healing.  It is wonderful to see God at work in the people around you. 

This time of prayer and reflection is a wonderful immediate spiritual preparation for my new job, which I’m sure will become very hectic on Monday the 16th, my first day. 

August 4 – 8  Transition begins. 

August 4 (Wednesday) – Leo Falardeau’s moving crew came over from Lowell to load my stuff onto their truck.  This is the 3rd time in as many summers that Falardeau and Sons have moved me to a new address.  They drove my stuff down to Our Lady of Good Council Friary on Staten Island and then loaded Father John DelloRusso’s stuff on the truck and drove it back up to Lawrence. 

August 5 (Thursday) – With Jeoffry aboard I drove down to Our Lady of Good Council Friary.  As after the last two moves, she will probably spend the first month or so under the bed.  In the evening she comes out and sniffs around my two rooms.  The first night she even put her head out into the corridor and the second night went over the landing in the stairwell and looked down the steps before skittering back under the bed.  I spent Friday and most of Saturday unpacking.

August 7 (Saturday) – Today at the 5:00 PM Mass Joe Murray professed his first vows in the Order of Saint Augustine.  This was the first time I had been to a First Profession ceremony in a very long time.  It did me a lot of good to see Joe do this in front of all of us, Augustinians and other members of the gathered congregation.  It brought back memories of my own first vows ceremony in September of 1968, over 40 years ago, and helped me to frame more precisely what that means in my own life. 

July 11 – 15  Pastors for a New Millennium: A Toolbox for Parochial Management

This workshop was held at the Redemptorist Retreat House in Long Branch, NJ., right on the beach.  I am so glad that I went!  The workshop is held in collaboration with Seton Hall University and the National Leadership Roundtable for Church Management.  The latter group trains pastors and church leaders in parish management and leadership “best practice” skills adapted from non-profits and other businesses.  Each speaker spoke on such topics as administration, finances, personnel management, relationship with the diocese, spirituality, personal well-being, etc.  Speakers were both lay and clergy.  Each one presented useful information and also provided resources that I am sure I will need to access in the future.  Father Paul Holmes of SHU did a wonderful job hosting the program.  An extremely kind man.  I somehow managed to catch a cold during the week and he went out of his way to make sure I was taken care of.  

July 6 – 11  Visit to Our Lady of Good Council Parish

Sanctuary of OLGC Church, SI, NY
Father John DelloRusso set aside most of Wednesday and Thursday (July 7 & 8) from his busy schedule to show me around the parish and introduce me to people.  John is extremely well organized.  He has all the information I need about the parish, school, parish council, archdiocese, facilities, pastoral matters and so many other topics organized into drawers and binders.  He introduced me to all the staff who were available and drove me around the parish, showing me the hospital, nursing homes and other major educational institutions within the parish.  He introduced me to the two priests in charge of the local vicariate, the sister in charge of the local convent school, and of course to many of the parishioners.  Importantly, he arranged a chance for me to meet with a few of the leaders of the parish council.  We had a very worthwhile conversation.  I am looking forward to working with them and with the other members of the council. 

Although it was not part of the original plan, I stayed until the following Sunday (July 11) and celebrated a few of the Masses on Sunday morning.  The people received me very warmly after Mass.  So many people; so many names!

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