New Community at the Castle

Mount Saint Alphonsus was built in 1907 as a seminary

Given the history and nature of religious orders in the United States, the majority of the communities spread across the country are either headquartered or have distinct roots in the northeast. Thus, one of the advantages of having our formation process in this area is that there are numerous groups of men and women at the same stage of formation as we are here in Wilmington, allowing for us to form a larger network of support and overall growth.

For example, this weekend we attended a workshop organized by the Religious Formation Conference (RFC) in Esophus, NY. About 20-30 men and women (ranging in experience from 2 days to 3 years in formation) spent the weekend learning about different prayers, discussing our experiences in small groups, practicing each prayer in private, and getting to know the groups and individuals represented on a personal level.

The workshop portion of the weekend, and by that I mean the organized activities, was a bit broad and lacked the depth that I was expecting (if I can be completely honest). The speaker was obviously experienced in each of these prayers, and had a lot to offer. The problem was that she tried to fit a lot of different types of prayers into a day and a half rather than focusing on just one prayer and giving it a lot of attention. Part of it is certainly the limitation of the group: because it is made up of a wide range of experience levels, and because each religious order has different expectations for their formation students, there needs to be a broader, one-size-fits-all atmosphere in order to include everyone.

This is not to say that I was disappointed in the experience; far from it! What was missing in the organized activities was more than made up in private conversations, fellowship at meals, new relationships, and my own personal broadening of “vocation.” In talking about our religious calls, our vocation processes, the struggles we were facing, and our visions for the future, I found myself taking part in the “catholic” aspect of our church: though unified in our call from God and mission to uphold the life of the Church, we went about expressing each of these in entirely different ways. I was fascinated beyond imagination to hear about the different spiritualities, how each group was coping with a changing world, the vision of the founder, and their day-to-day lives.

In hearing each of them speak, I was also more than reaffirmed of my own Franciscan spirituality, the order I am joining, the way we do things and the way we don’t do other things. There is certainly a reason why people join one group over another! As we go to these workshops throughout the year, I have no intention of switching groups or changing spiritualities; but I do hope that in building these relationships I may be able to enrich my faith with new ideas, as well as to enrich others’ with a Franciscan way of looking at something.

Given the title I chose for this post, I couldn’t close without saying a world about the retreat house. WOW! Just look at it. It’s enormous! It was built in 1907 by Redemptorist Congregation as a seminary for its aspiring priests. I’ve added my own pictures to the shutterfly page, and you can learn more about it’s history here. We’re going back in November, so look forward to pictures of the place surrounded by fall leaves!

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4 Comments on “New Community at the Castle

  1. Hi Casey, This sounds like it was a great learning experience for you. I went to your photos and was viewing past pictures you posted. My all time favorite, as you had told me about this statue, is the one of the Virgin Mary with the children in her mantle. Wow! How perfectly beautiful! The mother of us all 🙂 But the other pictures are incredible too! Thanks for taking the time to share them.
    Keeping you in prayer,
    Aunt Mary

  2. Casey, the friars are providing you a wealth of experience. You’re getting your money’s worth and then some. Have faith in the process. The deficiencies will be corrected over the course of the next two years. Keep the faith, baby.

    • BTW. November will probably be too late for Autumn color photos. In my experience, October is Fall color month.

      • Yes, it is huge in all respects. And that was just for training Redemptorists. Most other orders and congregations had their own seminaries with large classes. At least some orders (including the Franciscans) had separate seminaries for each province. Some orders even built new seminaries as late as the 1950’s only to close them startiing in the late 1960’s. Now. the entering classes are very small as is yours with only five postulants, and we now have seminaries such as the Washington Theological Union which will close in 2013. These unified seminaries educate students from 25 or more dioceses and religious orders and communities. Who would have thought in the 1950’s that we would have had such a precipitous fall off in vocations?

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