Executive Director's Corner - October 2016

Mike Fenn shares a recap of  Fr. Dan's 50th jubilee celebration Sept. 17 at the Mountain.
By now you are likely aware that Fr. Dan is celebrating his 50th year as a friar. We had a wonderful celebration of this milestone a few weeks ago. The theme of the weekend was "All our Relations," noting that building relationships and community, in the way St. Francis has inspired Fr. Dan, is what he really wanted to celebrate. I'd like to share some of the highlights of the weekend that strike me as I look back.
  • Much of Fr. Dan's family was able to join us for the weekend. Siblings, nieces, nephews, even a grand-niece made the trip. Getting to know Fr. Dan's family better, and seeing them interact with one another, was a great joy and a privilege to experience.
  • We had the gift of Dr. Pauline Albert with us to share her work on Franciscan leadership. She shared with our greater community as well as our Board of Trustees. The Mountain has a model that already develops leadership among our students, and it was very helpful to learn about how the founders provided leadership 800 years ago.
  • Our musical talent was truly a highlight of the weekend, as Kim and Reggie Harris joined the celebration for both Friday night and our Saturday liturgy, where Glenn McClure joined as well. It was also wonderful to have Barry Gan reassemble the Allegheny River Band for entertainment into the evening. All of them have a history at the Mountain, enriching our celebrations and bringing our community together in unique ways.
  • The many volunteers who helped make this event successful are truly remarkable. On paper I took the "lead" of the event but I never felt on my own. I am so grateful for all who came forward to help.

  • I also give thanks to our brothers - the core community who live on the Mountain - and their hospitality as 300 of us came on the land and took it over for a day. I am very grateful for their openness and their hospitality to be willing to invite us in the way they do.
Finally, a weekend like this inspires me. The good work that has come from Fr. Dan's founding vision needs to continue, as we have so much to offer to this world, and on this day it's clear that there are hundreds of people who believe in what we are doing, willing to help ensure it remains for years to come.

Mt. Irenaeus Hosts Holy Name Province Leaders

On May 23, the Provincial Council of Holy Name Province and Fr. Kevin Mullen, OFM, provincial minister, visited Mt. Irenaeus. For some of these friars, it was their first experience at the Mountain. 

Br. Kevin Kriso described their visit and said it gave them "a chance to experience the “eremitical” form of Franciscan life that is the Gospel Manner of Life and Ministry of Mt. Irenaeus."

This form of life combines moments of action and then contemplative retreating to a wooded place to pray and ponder before heading back out to active ministry again. Far from being a new style of Franciscan life, the eremitical form of life was practiced by St. Francis of Assisi and the early brothers, but is much less common today.

"Our brothers on our Provincial Council had the chance to experience a small taste of our life before going back into the active world of meetings and planning," said Br. Kevin.

Fr. Mullen also shared his impression of Mt. Irenaeus and its important ministry.

"The Provincial Council of Holy Name Province joined the friar community and some lay volunteers at Mt. Irenaeus for a most enjoyable evening that included prayer, conversation, and a great meal. Over the years, the community of Mt. Irenaeus has been known for the warm welcome that is extended to all visitors. We received such a welcome and as a result gained a better appreciation for why so many people love the setting and value the ministry of the community."


Jason Damon Accepted into Holy Name Province’s Postulancy Program

I think it’s fair to say — and those who know me would probably concur — that sitting still, being quiet and listening with patience are certainly not strong suits for me. I was able to get a lot out of my college experience in part because jumping in, staying active, meeting new people and giving time and effort to clubs and causes was so easy and encouraged. There were rarely times when I didn’t have a lot on my plate.

Yet those aforementioned suits — patience, stillness and silence — are so very critical in discerning one’s path in life. They’re also things that are incredibly difficult to practice in a college setting if you don’t make time for them. I’m grateful to Mt. Irenaeus for a lot of things, and near the top of that list is providing a space where I can simply listen to the stillness. Listen to the silence. Listen to my own heart, so often drowned out by the noisy, if well-intentioned, activities of campus life. Listen and contemplate God’s will for me in a world that seems so often to be wracked with brokenness and violence.

It’s perhaps appropriate, then, that I received word I would be accepted into the formation program in Holy Name Province while I was staying here at the Mountain this past February. I’ve always been able to take a breath here, to meditate on my place within the Body of Christ. And not only here: I was able to take a piece of that silence, that stillness, back to campus with me as I gradually came to realize my vocational call to not only break bread, pray and joke with the friars but to join them. 

The brotherhood exemplified by the community here as well as at St. Bonaventure was something that drew me in more and more. Surprised and overwhelmed at first by my attraction to the Franciscan life, I’m at a point now where I can’t wait to get started in late August. And while two of my favorite sayings of St. Francis — “Who are You, O God, and who am I?” and “I have done what is mine to do. May Christ teach you what is yours to do.”— haven't and probably will never be fully answered in a way I can understand, I’m grateful for all of the support from you, the Mt. Irenaeus family. God bless all of you, and please continue to keep me in prayer!    


Mt. Irenaus: A Gateway to Service

SBU grad Hannah McGrath reflects on how the Mountain influenced her decision to serve for a year with the Franciscan Volunteer Ministry.

I often say that my time involved with the Mountain was the best thing about my four years at St. Bonaventure. The Mountain was where I first heard about Franciscan Volunteer Ministry (FVM).

I remember being at a women's overnight during my junior year, sitting by the fire eating Mountain dip, when I heard Sr. Suzanne Kush, O.S.F., (who at the time was in charge of some of the service trips at Bonaventure) talking about a Franciscan volunteer program that emphasized community, simple living and spiritual growth. Although I knew virtually nothing about the program, I felt called to it in a way that I've almost never felt.
I quickly found out as much as I could about the FVM program and its different sites, and I started the application process as soon as I could. I'm currently two-and-a-half months into the program and I could not be more sure of my decision to follow that calling.

I probably would never have heard about FVM if it weren’t for my time spent with the Mountain, or even if I had heard of it, I might not have felt called to it in that way if I hadn’t been at the Mountain. So it seems only fitting that the FVM program provides two retreats at the Mountain. We just returned from our fall retreat at the Mountain, the main theme of which was our Myers-Briggs results.

One of the incredible things that I associate with both the Mountain and FVM is the importance of recognizing God’s presence in yourself and sharing that presence with others. The Myers-Briggs test is based around eight different “gifts,” and over the retreat we discussed which gifts we had, how we could share those gifts, how we could appreciate the gifts of others, and how we could grow in some of the areas that we might not have developed quite yet.

The Mountain taught me the phrase, “The glory of God is a human being fully alive,” and I think that is what FVM tries to provide for its volunteers—the opportunity to use our gifts to fully live out God’s call to us. We are each gifted in different ways, and can use all of those gifts for our ministry. In a similar way, we are called to recognize the gifts of those we serve and to bring them fully to life.

I will always be so grateful for my experience with the Mountain—both during my time at Bonaventure and the retreats provided through FVM. The Mountain is where the Franciscan message of the school felt most real, and it will always be a home to me.


Looking Back

Charlie Specht, '10, shares what Mt. Irenaeus means to him. 

If I close my eyes, I can still see it.

You know, the path leading up to the chapel, the last leg of the journey to the summit of Mt.Irenaeus.

It is beautiful, still, quiet.

What defines it is not so much the chirping of birds or the feel of soft wind on your face as you climb, step by step, toward that wooden chamber of refuge.

No, what marks this particular journey is a sudden absence.
An absence of hurry.

Of speech.

Of haste.

Of doubt.

Of the cell phone's ding, ding, ding, listen-to-me pull that makes us wonder what we're missing someplace else.

The path, like the Friars who built it, who keep
Participants gather for a photo with Fr. Dan at a 2007 men's overnight event.
 it, whose sandals gently trod it each time the sun comes up, calls you to contemplation. To reflection. To a simpler place.

It's a place to take stock. To reflect on what we've gained, what we've lost, what we've felt as we've stumbled through this blur of hours we call life.

For me, it's place to remember.

I still see Chris Novak leading the way up the path on a dark September night.

Brother Joe stayed behind with the rest of us, still teenage in our years but with longing in our hearts: for something more, for something different, for something fun.

We got it that night at the Mountain, all twenty-something of us. We felt the peace of Christ in the chapel.

We felt the comfort and love as Father Dan shared the feelings of his heart with us and, in doing so, taught us how to share our own.

We felt the warmth of the bonfire as our ragtag group of Bona guys, "Wildmen, Warriors and Kings," puffed stogies and told jokes into the night.

We felt the guilt of a late-night pantry raid, and the joy of a bright morning.

We felt the warm embrace of God and each other ... by walking up the path ... at the Mountain.