This is Labor Day weekend. The calendar says this is our last free weekend until Thanksgiving, so the staff is taking one last break before the busy fall retreat season begins next week.
Even though Labor Day was established to recognize the American labor movement and the works and contributions of laborers to the development and achievements of the United States, we will take this time to celebrate the contributions of all whose labor of love made the existence of St. Anthony’s possible, and all those who contributed, and continue to contribute, to its ongoing ministry.
The contributions begin in the beginning, with the relationship between Capuchin leadership and Fr. Winand Daniels to select the building site. In turn, Fr. Daniels “encouraged” the parishioners of St. Mary’s Parish in Marathon to offer their labor of love to clear the land of trees, excavate the foundation, haul stones and sand to the property and work on construction.
Although St. Anthony’s was built to be a House of Studies, the students also added their labor of love over the years. Over the course of five decades, the clerics planted trees, built the dam that created the pond, constructed the stairs and bridge to the grotto, and built then later repaired the grotto and stations, all in addition to their studies and other chores to meet the needs of the community.
When the seminary closed in 1970, the Capuchins and a few lay staff added their labor of love to make the transition from seminary to retreat center. In addition to renovating and redecorating rooms, they labored together to plan retreats, prepare meals, clean rooms and wash linens in order to welcome dozens of retreatants each week. It was at this time that the local townspeople also resumed offering their labor of love, with the Lord’s Ladies helping the friars with housekeeping after retreat weekends. As the Capuchin staff dwindled, the lay staff grew to continue meeting the needs of guests, joined by volunteers in the flower gardens, vegetable garden, front office and even retreat presenters all adding their labor of love.
Although the names and faces have changed over the years, the collaboration between paid staff and volunteers continues to this day. Staff members working with volunteers cook, clean, plan and present retreats, maintain the building and grounds, host guests, communicate with retreatants and Ministry Associates, and do a thousand other tasks throughout the year for St. Anthony’s and its ministry. Whether the volunteers help out weekly, a couple of times a month, or sporadically throughout the year, St. Anthony’s could not continue to function without them. Theirs is truly a labor of love.
For the labor of love offered to St. Anthony’s by thousands of people over the years, we say Deo Gratias!