Spirit of Bona’s Weekend - Sharing our stories, shaping our future

Mike Fenn, executive director of Mt. Irenaeus, recaps a fruitful and enriching weekend at the Mountain spent with St. Bonaventure leadership and alumni.

In the height of a Western New York winter, we were blessed with a weekend of warmth in the middle of February, as we hosted an unprecedented retreat with leadership of St. Bonaventure. The weekend’s title was, “Listening and Lifting Up the Spirit of Bona's,” and the Spirit burst forth through the entire weekend.

What started as a hallway conversation between Fr. Dan and interim president Dr. Andrew Roth evolved into a weekend of 50 friends up on the Mountain the weekend of February 17. More than 20 alumni from along the East Coast, out to the Midwest made the trek, along with a dozen in the school’s faculty and administrative leadership, including the university’s future president, Dr. Dennis DePerro.

These alumni made the effort to join us this weekend for one primary purpose – to tell their stories. Stories about how they decided as 17-year-olds to go to Bona's, about who their most important teachers were during their four years there (hint – they weren’t always in a classroom) and how they impacted the world because they spent these formative years at SBU. This led us to a more traditional brainstorming session where we thought of words and phrases that set the Bonaventure experience apart from other universities.

Finally, we spent Sunday morning dreaming….what would we want people to say about St. Bonaventure 15 to 20 years from now? This aspirational exercise was a wonderful way to wrap up a very full and fun weekend before we all scattered down the hill.

The work continues, as we now bring what was spoken on the Mountain back down to campus. The words that were shared will hopefully be beneficial to those setting the course of the school’s future, identifying what makes Bona’s distinct and relevant to a prospective student and their parents.

Personally, the weekend was a highlight of my first year in this role for the Mountain. We hope to continue to work closely with university leadership to help present the strengths that we offer to the world, and help our university bring forth the gifts that each student has within them. Perhaps a phrase Fr. Dan had spoken well before this weekend took place might be the best way to amplify our message to students considering St. Bonaventure: “We want you, because the world needs you.” 



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.