Saturday, December 22, 2012

Who We Met in the Parking Lot

Not our parking lot at Trinita. But that's where we started.

It's the Year of Faith! It's also (next month) the one hundredth anniversary of a perpetual novena to the Holy Spirit, prayed by the Missionary Cenacle Family. I'll tell you now: it's the Holy Spirit we met in the parking lot. But wait til you hear what he said!

Last month at our Christ the King celebration, we talked about a plan to have a procession from Trinita to our parish church, which is 3.5 miles downhill in the center of New Hartford. The purpose would be to celebrate the Year of Faith and the centennial of the perpetual novena. Now keep in mind that by the time we brought up this idea, we'd been talking in large and small groups for awhile and folks were probably getting saturated with proposals and projects and the like. Not everyone was very enthusiastic about the procession idea. Someone said, "Why don't we just wait and see what the Holy Spirit wants us to do?"

Well, a few of us have decided to go ahead and plan a procession, without waiting to see what the Holy Spirit wants. I have done a lot of discernment work over the years--both for myself and helping others discern. I have also done my homework on discernment. I know, you just can't always know what the Holy Spirit wants before you start something. You just have to go with your gut sometimes!

So my friend Nancy S and I decided to walk it ourselves this morning just to see what it was like. We set out at 9 AM, and it was sort of snowing and pretty windy. Oh well. We had a good time, talked about all kinds of things, noted danger areas and areas where a group could pull over and say a prayer every so often. It's pretty clear that we're going to go ahead with this procession idea unless we find out it's not allowed. (Even on Saturday mornings, there is traffic on Town Hill Road.)

After an hour and fifteen minutes, we rounded the last bend and arrived in the parking lot of Immaculate Conception. And just at that very moment, Father Iain was climbing out of his car, books in hand, heading toward the church. We stopped him and told him our big idea. The first words out of his mouth were,"Do you plan to carry anything? I think you should carry fire. And then, when you get here, we can light a fire!"

Yes! The Holy Spirit wants us to have this procession! With fire! What are the odds we would stumble into the parking lot just at the very moment Fr. Iain pulled up? He lives in forty minutes away, lest you think he was just stepping out of his own rectory or something. That moment was what I call confirmation. So, we're going for it. How much more clear can the Holy Spirit be?

Friday, November 30, 2012

The Last Day

This is the last day of the month. It's also (almost) the last day of the liturgical year. It also feels like the end of our season for giving program, as December is a pretty light month for us and we don't host groups in January.

What is life at Trinita like this moment? Pitch black outside, though it's only 5 pm. Little flakes of snow have been wisping down all afternoon, so things were getting whiter outside my window, until it became too dark to see. The Christmas decorations are already up, because we had Girls Night Out last night. The MOMs group is eternal, I guess, no matter what it's called or how often they get together.

Dottie led the meeting last night. The theme was Hope. Like with a capital H. Yeah, I needed to here it. I will never adjust to the long dark days of winter in New England. And it's not even winter yet!

What are the signs of Hope in these dark days? We had many trees cut down a few weeks ago. I am sad to see them gone. I've known some of them personally for decades now. But a few days after they were cut down, a friend of Trinita showed up with fifteen blue spruce saplings. He planted a symbolic Christmas Tree farm next to Cabin 3!

The best sign of life and hope here at Trinita is not the trees, however. We had our annual Christ the King celebration this past Saturday. At the end of the day, we had mass in the Lodge as we always do. At the mass, we received four new candidates into the MCA. And even more momentous, five women made their Act of Consecration and became full members of the MCA.

So even though the weather and the dead trees have me down, I must confess that there is plenty of new life here. It's the end of another year. But the Year of Faith is the beginning of a great new year.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

The Fence

Many years ago, the Panagakos family lived here and maintained Trinita. The only program we MSBT did here was the Summer program. We had not yet begun to invest much in keeping the place up, so Bill was always only one step ahead of all kinds of imminent disaster. The volunteers were often drafted into spontaneous work crews.

When my brother Matthew served here in 1987, the imminent disaster was the pool fence. It was sagging and rotten in places and a real safety hazard. Thus the Fencing Team was born. A number of MCVs spent hours digging post holes and replacing the fence. My brother had learned how to put in a fence from my father, a Missouri farm boy. However, the work crew was not well disciplined. In fact, someone on the team with no prior experience began giving conflicting directions to the others. 

The Fencing Team got cool black t-shirts with a special design,and the new fence held up well enough to keep the kids out, but you could tell by looking at it that it had "issues."

When I arrived here, I wondered if the current pool fence was still the one my brother helped erect so long ago, because it sure looked that old. While advocating the need to replace it to a visiting sister, I reached over and snapped the top off one of the planks to show how rotten it was. We finally got a new fence. Men and teens from our two neighboring parishes came to help Vinnie put it in last year, and it looks great. But the bare wood needed to be stained.

Last weekend, Carolyn from Oswego and Benito and his son Nick from Hartford came to help stain the new pool fence. We had a great time Friday night. A night hike! A campfire and s'mores! And some of that firewood was from the old pool fence. Seriously. We've been burning it a little at a time for fire wood since last year. I think about the pool and the kids and the summer sun while I watch those old fence posts burn.

Sr. Susanne and I, Carolyn, Benito, and Nick became the new Fencing Team. We stained the whole thing in four hours. It was funny how we fumbled around and talked a lot at first, but soon, we fell into a rhythm and just knew what to do without much need for talking. We worked together, each in his or her own special style. A fence is something to divide, it is a barrier. But like everything else around here, a Trinita fence doesn't divide, it brings people together.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Three Meals

As I was preparing to go upstairs to begin the day, I had to stop because someone was already coming down the stairs. It was one of our visiting sisters, coming to report that she was having peculiar symptoms and probably needed to go see a doctor. After some calls and some negotiations, we figured the best shot was for Patricia to take her. I went on to Morning Circle and a few other tasks. Around 10 o'clock I noticed I was really hungry. Oh yeah.... I forgot to eat breakfast! I grabbed a bowl of cereal.

Father Charley miscalculated and had not yet returned from his errands to celebrate mass for 11:30. After waiting 10 minutes, we decided to have a communion service, so I got up to explain our change of plans. As I was still speaking, he pulled into the parking lot so we switched back to plan A. As soon as mass was over, I took Eduardo and Ernesto down to the pool for training in how to use the sump pump and a few other chores. I left them to their work and came back up the hill to my office to make phone calls.

Top on the list: what is up with Sister's health? Some cell phone calls to various folks, the upshot being that she's on her way to another doctor so we just don't know. I guess the good news was that the first one had not sent her to an emergency room. By then it was time for pool duty, so back down the hill I went.

What a great day at the pool! Sadly, it did not last. I had to return to negotiations and phone calls related to Sister's health and a few other things. I started to realize I was hungry. Oh yeah.... I forgot to eat lunch. I found some leftover grits in the fridge and microwaved them. Yum. Then I saw it looked like rain, and Blanket Time was coming soon. I sat on the front porch to work on a rainy day plan. Before I finished, Natalia came to tell me that three of the families, all related, had just learned their mother/grandmother was dying back home in New York. They naturally wanted to go home.

More negotiations, phone calls, and hugs while people cried. We cut short blanket time, cancelled Supper Circle, and piled the three families into two vans. Including bags of sandwiches and food prepared by Sr. Nancy and Sr. Marion. Cecily and I drove them to the Waterbury Train Station. As I was driving back to New Hartford I noticed I was hungry. Oh yeah.... I totally missed supper. But I had to stop at WalMart, PriceChopper, and Home Depot before getting back to Trinita just in time for 8:00 Family Gathering, presented by Nancy. I actually grabbed a bowl of chicken nuggets and wolfed them down before having to lead the group in "I am a Pizza."

I know this is a long post, but the day was not finished with me yet. I had to go to the Lodge after the meeting to tend to some business, then back up the hill to redo all the Peer Group and Blanket Time assignments. Just as I finished, Nancy called me to say the toilet is plugged up in Cabin 2, and where is Vinnie's cell phone number? Oh wow. I am happy to report that Father Charley has just fixed the toilet. 

I should go to bed now. I am really sleepy. But... I'm hungry.

Saturday, June 30, 2012

The Night Before

It is warm and peaceful now. All the volunteers are back from their big day off, after a week of training for the summer program. Lights are on everywhere, but other than that, there is no sign of life out on the grounds except for the usual mob of moths flocking around the spotlights.

I am pretty sure we're ready for the Summer Program to begin. A friend dropped by to visit tonight as we were doing some finishing touches on props for the family gathering tomorrow night. She has been a part of Trinita's life since she came here as a child with her family. She dropped by to share with us about her recent mission trip to Tanzania. She presented us with a beautiful gift of a wood carving of Jesus as shepherd, reminding us of 2008 when our summer theme was "The Lord is our Shepherd."

This carving is a beautiful sign of how love received wants to be shared. Colleen, and Karen, and the thirteen Missionary Cenacle Volunteers who have come from all corners of America to serve with us, and so many others who serve with us in so many ways, are all moved by this desire to give, to love, to be a part of something meaningful.

Tomorrow, the bus arrives. There are still some messes to clean up, some chores to do, some groceries to buy. But tonight, as I walk around in the peace of the warm night, I feel only gratitude. I think we're ready.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Emerald City

We had five seniors from the parish church down the hill arrive for our "How to Stay Catholic" workshop. The whole thing was an experiment. We usually call something like this a "pilot project" because it sounds more professional, but we've been testing a lot of new ideas in recent years.

We fed them blueberry pancakes which we made right before their very eyes on an electric griddle set up at the table where we ate. Then we herded them into the Meeting Room for the content.

Now I'd like to point out that in the meeting room, directly behind Nancy and me, were two life-size cardboard cutouts: Glinda and the Wicked Witch of the West. They were decorations from our volunteer party and are waiting to go back into the attic. The funny thing about life here is that surreal little moments like that tend to go unquestioned. People who call Trinita home just take stuff like this in stride. In fact, some of our local friends use the expression "Trinita Moment" to describe an experience that would fit in with our general ambiance and style of operating.

So as our teens wrote letters to themselves during the final reflection activity, I and Glinda and the Wicked Witch all gazed fondly at them and wondered what the future holds for them. Trinita right now is in the full flush of an intense spring green. Welcome to the Emerald City! But alas, no one stays here forever. We have known these teens for years, and now they are leaving home and entering adulthood. Wherever the Yellow Brick Road takes them, I pray they always hold onto the Catholic Church as their home.

Monday, April 30, 2012

How to Stay Catholic

We're going to give a workshop for graduating seniors in a few weeks called "How to Stay Catholic." It's kind of bold, I know. Like we've got a recipe, and if you follow it, you'll never let go of your faith. Well, of course, we don't exactly. This is one of those "what the heck, might as well give it a try" kind of projects we dream up when we're sitting around chewing over some problem or issue while peeling apples or something. We've just got to do something, anything. Anything is better than nothing.

No one else is feeding them pancakes and telling them the magic formula. So, let's us do it! How bad can it be? At least it will be fun, that's guaranteed.

Because it's here. We have that room full of beat up old couches. It just is more fun, automatically, in the room with the old couches. In February, we had 20 married couples in there for mass. They renewed their wedding vows. It was really special, seeing their faces, all those couples, our friends, renewing their vows all at the same time. And then we had cake!

And then in March we had thirty 2nd graders and their moms and/or dads crowded in for a First Communion retreat. That was a really fun day! We did our "Two Tables" presentation and did crafts and sang "His Banner Over Me" and watched "Grandma's Bread."

And this past week, we had a pot luck for our Mom friends. Good food, just hanging out together until... well, I am not sure when they left. I went down to the Cenacle to go to bed at around 10 PM.

We still have work to do preparing this workshop for the seniors, finding a fun way to present some parting words of wisdom. But I am thinking that the way to stay Catholic is to participate in stuff with people you love. Fun stuff, especially. It's got to be more than just making it to mass once a week. 

Friday, January 6, 2012


This being January 6, I found myself reading the definition of the word Epiphany. Well, I know it's the day we celebrate the arrival of the magi to see the baby Jesus. But what does the word mean?

It's not a bolt of lightning that strikes from a cloudless sky. It's more like the unexpected breaking through of the sun on a cloudy day. No one has an epiphany who sits passively at home. You have to have been working, searching, wondering. The seeker finds. The explorer discovers. The moment, the form, the face of the discovery is what is unexpected.

Last night, we had adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. Although we've put invitations in local parish bulletins before, almost no one ever comes to this. Usually, it's just the four of us MSBT sitting quietly in the meeting room for an hour. But last night, to our surprise, we had five guests join us.

It struck me that our guests came from three different parishes. I visualized a map, the diverse directions that they had come from, the different roads they had traveled. I wondered what had drawn them each here on this particular night. Why now? Why these particular folks? I can't know the spiritual roads they traveled to arrive at Trinita. But I am sure Father Judge would say it was the Holy Spirit who dragged them here by the hairs of their head!

As I sat there pondering these things, I had an epiphany. Father Judge, when he blessed this mission back in 1923, said he wanted Trinita to become a light shining on the hill. Last night, I realized that our guests were really travelers, and Trinita in this moment was more than a light shining on Town Hill, it was the Star in the East, guiding these pilgrims to their own unique encounter with God-with-us.