Friends Near and Far

Many people seem to believe that St. Anthony’s draws retreatants only from the central Wisconsin area. Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, Wednesday, a group of more […]

Many people seem to believe that St. Anthony’s draws retreatants only from the central Wisconsin area. Nothing could be further from the truth.

In fact, Wednesday, a group of more than 40 arrived from St. Paul for a four-day retreat. This is one of several of our regular hosted groups who venture across the border from Minnesota to retreat at St. Anthony’s.

Last fall over the course of a busy six-week span, we welcomed hosted groups from the Green Bay Diocese, Madison, the Superior Diocese, the Twin Cities area, a Fox Valley school group that included a fair percentage of international students, and a Midwestern clergy group that spans Illinois, Iowa, Wisconsin and the UP.

Retreatants that participate in our sponsored retreats are just as diverse, certainly coming from all across Wisconsin, and occasionally some will travel from Michigan, Illinois, Iowa and Minnesota as well. And while some of our volunteers are local (the Lord’s Ladies on Mondays and Kim’s Kitchen Krewe on Thursdays, just to name a few), many are also retreatants who travel some distance just to help us host or tend flower gardens or join us for Volunteer Week in the summer.

So when Matt Weaver, a reporter from WJFW Channel 12 in Rhinelander, called asking to do a story about St. Anthony’s, we were pleased but not all that surprised. We have many friends – volunteers and guests – who come from the Northwoods. What did surprise us was how the story idea came about. Matt has a co-worker who grew up in the Marathon area and suggested the idea to him. Since Matt hadn’t heard of us before, he thought there were probably many more who had never heard of St. Anthony’s.

Matt was intrigued by the “old monastery” aspect of St. Anthony’s, but once here, he realized there was so much more to see and learn, starting with the distinction between a monastery and a friary. He initially planned to spend about 45 minutes interviewing us and touring the building. His goal was to distill that information into a two and a half minute spot on the newscast. His visit was twice as long as he planned, and it was only the looming deadline that pulled him away. He kept saying he needed to go and at the same time kept asking what else there was to see. With each room, there was another story to share. At one point, he said he thought we would be a good subject for a longer documentary-type story. He had already realized there was more story to tell than he could squeeze into two and a half minutes.

Matt’s fascination with St. Anthony’s was not surprising, in fact in was quite heart-warming. We knew we were not alone in our fascination with this holy place and all that has transpired here over our 103+ year history. We were pleased to have him share even a small piece of our story with WJFW’s viewers that live in North Central Wisconsin and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.

If, as some believe, we only drew from the nearby area, it is unlikely we would have lasted for more than 103 years. Like Matt’s co-worker, many of our nearest neighbors have never been inside these halls; some have never even been on the grounds. Perhaps that is partly because they still know us as the “old monastery”, a mysterious place that was once closed to outsiders. Still, we are blessed to have so many friends from so many places both near and far who do come to visit regularly. When those friends share what they have found here at St. Anthony’s with their friends and family, we are grateful to them for helping us spread the word.

For all our friends near and far, and for all their help spreading the word about this holy place, we say Deo Gratias!

P.S. If you want to watch Matt’s story, it is available on YouTube.

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