Alleluia! He is risen! I hope and pray that everyone had peace-filled Holy Week and Easter celebrations and that we’re all rejoicing in the newness of life given to us by the resurrected Christ. It can be a very crazy time of the year, especially for those in liturgical ministries, and so I hope it was also a time for prayer and reflection (and not just work!)
One of the particular things that the postulants do for Holy Week each year is to go out on a “mini internship” at one of Holy Name Province’s many ministries. Because no one place could hold all five of us at once, we went out two-by-two (-by-one) to three different locations: Sergio and I went up to Mt. Irenaeus in West Clarksville, NY, Ramon and Dennis went to St. Francis of Assisi Church in Manhattan, and Ed aided St. Paul’s Church here in Wilmington, a place with only one priest to handle all of Holy Week.
One of the things we realized almost immediately was that there was almost nothing in common with any of the three locations. Mt. Irenaeus houses six friars living on a mountain top, hosting 25-50 people at the table for intimate liturgies and inclusive meals in their home; St. Francis of Assisi Church consists of more than 25 friars living in the busiest place in the country, serving literally thousands of people per day in a much more extraordinary, yet anonymous liturgy; and St. Paul’s is run by one friar, and is a niche parish for Spanish speakers in a poor neighborhood of a small city. In terms of ministerial experiences, we could not have been farther away from one another.
And yet, when we shared with one another our experiences of the week, we described our time with the friars and their ministry in almost the exact same way. Though we had seen it briefly in our trips throughout the year, such an experience made it so clear that there is a particular charism that we as friars bring to our life and work that is identifiable no matter the ministry or location.
The most obvious of this was that each ministry was first and foremost a community. Even at St. Paul’s where there is only one friar working at the ministry, each location had at least three friars with which to share meals, pray regularly, and recreate. This is absolutely the cornerstone for our Franciscan life and mission. Unlike most other communities, we were instituted to be a brotherhood, out of which flows ministry, not the other way around. It is only after we establish a healthy, prayerful community can we begin to understand the needs of the community and attempt to fulfill them.
Thus, at all three locations we noticed that the friars collaborated constantly with the laity, choosing to lead with rather than speaking in directives, even if that the latter might be much easier. At the root of this, I believe, is a desire of friars to invite others to enter into each others’ lives, so as to not only teach, but to be taught. To do this, each community finds itself eating, praying, and socializing with the laity outside of normal “work” circumstances, treating each other as equals on the pathway to faith.
At each place, this manifests itself in different ways, but the effect is the same. Whether it’s having a planning meeting before the liturgy so that the laity can not only participate, but add their own gifts to the liturgy, as at Mt. Irenaeus, or it’s making the sacraments accessible to the people, even if it means taking three-hour shifts for 12 hours a day for confession, or saying the first reading in seven different languages, as in NYC, there is inclusivity and humility in the way the friars lead. In all of these cases, it’s not about what the friars want, but rather what the community needs. I believe that it’s this attentiveness to listen and provide that makes us successful in our ministries and inspiring in our lay movements.
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Obviously there was more to the experience than I am able to share, but I do have a number of great pictures here of Mt. Irenaeus for those interested. You can also find a better description of the place there, as well as at their website, http://www.mounti.com/.