The Necessity of Change

It is a quiet week at the Center. There are no groups or private retreatants in the house, so some of the team members are taking advantage of the opportunity […]

It is a quiet week at the Center. There are no groups or private retreatants in the house, so some of the team members are taking advantage of the opportunity for some time away. Jackie K. and Adele are using the time to brainstorm with staffs from other Midwest retreat centers on ways to keep St. Anthony’s moving forward. Those still here have an incredibly quiet workplace in which to get their work done.

Since it is so quiet this week in 2023, I thought it would be a good time to journey back in time and see what was going on in the past. In 1953, it was time to transition from the relaxation and recreation of the summer months to the regimen of classes and studies:

School Year Begins Again: To fulfill the condition that ordinations be held “incepto quarto anno” (at the beginning of the fourth year), the school year opened on Monday, August 17. Fr. Mark had the customary solemn high Mass, assisted by Fraters Rene and Roy as deacon and sub-deacon respectively. Actually, it was no mere token beginning because the lectors wasted no time in punching out four solid days of classes. However, Father Isidore invited Fr. Ermin in as guest lecturer on Monday afternoon. The bambini were more fortunate than the others because Fr. Omer did not return until Wednesday, August 19, to take up his classes in Fundamentals and Liturgy.

Although the 1953 Chronicle is about an annual transition, the 1973 House Chronicle documents a different kind of transition. In addition to listing the retreats groups and friars who had visited during August, the 1973 Chronicle included this entry, also dated August 17th, about another change happening at St. Anthony’s:

Re-Modeled Chapel: Mr. Stefan Estkowski from Moroder in Milwaukee gave our chapel on the first floor of the old building a face lift. Walls, ceiling paneling, new confessionals, altar platform, new stations of the cross, etc. Originally, he was supposed to finish by the end of May. More work was added and the whole thing took longer than was anticipated. This morning (August 17) he told me he was about finished; ready to clean up and leave soon. “How long, O Lord?”

It is interesting to consider that things we take for granted as “always have been that way” are a mere fifty years old in a building more than twice that old. But many changes were made over several years in the early seventies as St. Anthony’s transitioned from a house of studies to a full-time retreat center. Suites were created; bathrooms and shower rooms were added; carpeting was added in hallways, meeting rooms and bedrooms; furniture was replaced; and the Pillow Room was created and decorated to appeal to young people. All these changes were made to make the Center more inviting and more welcoming for retreatants. Some of the changes have served us well for fifty years, while others have seen their better days and needed updating or replacement in recent years.

St. Anthony’s has undergone many transitions in its 104 years. Changes in purpose, changes in ownership, changes in leadership and changes in staff are the biggest transitions. And it seems we are once again and still in a time of transition as we adjust to life after Covid and continue to adjust to the reality of a lay-run center without a resident priest. Each of us, in our own way and within our own roles, are a part of this ongoing transition. It is the impetus behind Jackie K. and Adele taking the majority of their work-week to travel to Indiana to seek new ideas and gain new insights. Surely, they each had an abundance of work to do here at the Center, but they and the Board accepted and embraced the necessity of change as the only way to continue moving forward.

For all of life’s transitions – the routine and the unique, the repetitive and the once-in-a-lifetime – and for the grace and wisdom to accept and embrace their necessity, we say Deo Gratias!

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