Tuesday, March 24, 2009


This weekend we had 23 teens from St. Francis of Assisi for a confirmation retreat. We have given a few confirmation retreats since I've been here, but never an overnight. I spent most of the week inventing a retreat. I did some cut-and-paste from other retreats we've done here, but large sections of it were new. I based it on the RCIA process.

Wow, I learned a lot from the experience. Some parts of the program went well, and some just seemed to fall flat. My number one problem is that I failed to include much time for them to process the experience with each other. They won't talk much when we're all together, but they will talk to each other quite a bit otherwise, and I should have capitalized on that by giving them small group activities. Oh well.

But one experience I hope stays with them is one I had many years ago, when I was still a recent convert to Catholicism. I was on a young adult retreat with the same concept: recreate RCIA. The first night, with very little preparation, they took half of us out into a pasture and left us there, alone in the dark. We were supposed to just wait, not talk or do anything. Time passed. We looked at the stars, we enjoyed the night breezes, we waited.

Then, we started to hear singing in the distance. It grew louder, and we saw a procession of candles approaching. Soon, we could make out our friends coming to get us. Each of them took one of us and guided us back to the church. But before we could enter, the priest stood at the door. Before we could come in, each of us had to come up with some reason why we wanted to join the church.

So, this Friday, I stood among this group of teens outside our Lodge door. Sr. Siena stood at the door, looking quite impressive in her white alb. We clutched our candles and shivered in the frigid breeze while she asked, "What do you seek?"

"Faith!" We had coached them in the proper response as we walked to the Lodge. Faith! We seek faith! That's all. That's what all this is about. Not even understanding or wisdom or strength---just faith. If we get nothing else, faith will still get us through.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

What lies beneath?

Bear with me on this one, I'll get there.

At Christmastime, I dropped off a gift basket of baked goodies at the LeDuc residence in Canton. Terri was home and I visited a few minutes. She was preparing supper, and was searing meatballs in a cast iron skillet. The smell was heavenly and she offered me one. As I munched on a meatball stuck on a fork like a popsicle, she asked me, "Are you sisters sure you just want donations toward new carpeting for Christmas this year? I understand it's a need, but I want to do something more than that for you." I wanted to reply, "oh, don't worry, Terri, you will!" but instead I said, "Dang, this is great, why don't you just invite us over for meatballs one day!"

Yesterday and today, we had new carpeting installed, both in the meeting room and in the larger upstairs office. This morning I was in the empty office, old rug gone but the old padding had not yet been ripped out. I pulled up a corner to look at the floor. Linoleum!

But not just any linoleum. It was THE linoleum, forgotten until now, buried in my memory but now flooding back. I was 25 years younger. In 1984, this was how the floor looked in this very room. My bedroom for seven weeks. There were three sets of narrow metal bunkbeds and two dressers in here, barely room to move, and I shared the space with four other volunteers. I stood on this floor. I could see the marks from the bunkbed I slept in gouged into the linoleum.

Back then, we had not been discovered by the Fire Marshall or the Health Department. We crammed as many folks into these buildings as we could, and there was no such thing as nice new carpeting. Not even normal sized beds. It was all army bunks. I remember the carpeting in the meeting room back in 1984. It was wretched.

How can this place have changed so much, and still be the same? And yet, it is. Tonight, we had our first ever Mission Council Meeting. We've been working toward this for well over a year. This was a big event. Terri LeDuc was one of our five recruits. (She had no idea we were planning this the day she gave me a hot meatball.) One of our other recruits, Jim shared his impressions of Trinita and why he wants to be a part of our planning. "There is something about this place. I don't know what it is. It's like, you step onto the ground, and there is something underneath that reaches up into you..."

Yes, yes. Holy ground. I wanted to laugh. Everyone says that! So it must be true. But I think it is also holy linoleum. What lies beneath. I told you I'd get there.

Monday, March 9, 2009


When I was a kid, I was dimly aware that we were pretty close to the edge financially. We always had enough of the basics, but looking back I can realize how very tightly my folks had to control things to make sure we had enough to eat, and clothes and shoes. Gardening, canning, sewing were not hobbies, they were how my parents kept the budget.

As a member of an apostolic religious community, I will always have plenty to eat, a place to live, and good health care. I even have a good education. I have the essential supplies I need to do my work. I get to make a week retreat every year. That makes me rich, not poor. So what does religious poverty mean?

There are reasons to reflect on poverty at this time. It's Lent, for one thing. The nation's economy is trashed. Also, tonight we're having a meeting to discuss possible improvements to the grounds and structures here at Trinita-our annual planning meeting to prepare the budget.

Now that gets me thinking. When I post here, since it's a public forum, I tend to emphasize the positive. and make the negatives sound like a grand adventure. This is totally sincere, lest I am accused of duplicity. It is a great adventure to live here, and this is a great mission. But to be honest, I do not feel that way like every minute of every day. In fact, there are some things I really whine about.

Claustrophobia probably heads the list. I have to duck to go up and down the stairs and to go in our front door--which was originally a window from what I can tell looking at old photos. (See "Early Trinita" to get a clue.) When I get out of bed every morning and stretch, my hands press against the ceiling.

Then there is mud, dirt, sand, salt, and snow. Inside the house, I mean. Our front parking lot isn't paved, it's dirt. You can never really clean it after a snow fall, so we have to keep it sanded and salted when ice is a danger. If you've been reading my posts you must know how much I love the snow, since I remark on it so frequently. But when the snow melts, as it is doing right now on this dreary rainy afternoon, you step out of our little front door into a mud pit. You step out of the car into it, as well. Then, you track it into the house. There is really no good solution to this problem.

I would like to have decent computer speakers so I could listen to good music while I work. I would like to have a digital projector so we could do powerpoints, slideshows, even movies in our meeting room or in the lodge. I would like to have a digital video camera to take mpeg4 movies of our work here to upload onto YouTube. I would like to have a good networkable color laser printer to replace the not very good one we have now. I would like to have one of them gadgets you can use to make your own spiral bound booklets with. Yeah. I'm on a roll now!

But whether I can have any or all of these things or not can't be what keeps me awake at night. Last week I gave a tour of the place to a youth minister planning to bring a new group here. We slogged through the mud to look at one of our quaint cabins (twelve beds, one toilet and shower!) and the lodge (no running water!) and our meeting room (broken-down mis-matched donated sofas) and he kept repeating over and over, "This is perfect!"

Yes, I can't always get what I want. But despite the poverty, we are wealthy. I was interupted in writing this by a phone call from an MCA member who was asking for prayer as she attempts to teach her youth ministry team the basics of taking counsel. And as I looked out the window and listened to her story, I saw a dozen turkeys milling around by Cabin Two. And the rain turned into snow. Yup. It is coming down really nice now. It's beautiful out there. This is perfect.