It seemed like spring took unusually long to unfold this year, but we are ready for new life once again. Here at St. Anthony’s, the trees are finally beginning to return to life. Each day, more green buds open and leaves emerge on the once-barren branches. The grass is greening and growing (in fact, I hear JustBob on the mower as I write). Ferns and flowers are rising from the ground and stretching toward the sky.
New life is unfolding in another form this year. For many months now, the Board of Directors has been discussing the future of St. Anthony’s. It began with review and revision of our mission statement, then our vision statement and finally over the past few months, strategic planning meetings. At the top of the list of action items was fully reopening St. Anthony’s as the two-year long COVID winter finally seems to be melting away.
Like the unfolding of spring, re-opening will be a gradual process. While some COVID-related changes may remain, operations will begin to look more normal as we move through summer and into fall. Retreats and hosted groups are scheduled well in advance so it may be awhile before the attendance rebounds to more normal levels, but there is plenty to do in the meantime.
As our business grows, our reliance on volunteers for hosting, kitchen help, office support, housekeeping, grounds and building maintenance will also grow. Just as the perennial flowers return in their own time, we hope most of our regular volunteers who once helped fill these roles will return as well.
The unfolding and growing process may happen organically, but it can also benefit from human assistance. Cultivating the garden supports new growth for flowers and vegetables; similarly, we will need to cultivate other sources for new hosted groups and retreatants to support our unfolding and growing. That cultivating will take the form of website changes, more social media engagement and other forms of outreach.
A sad reality of spring each year is the realization that some trees and plants were casualties of winter and will not return. This is true of St. Anthony’s COVID winter as well. Our dear friend, Fr. Bob died and it may be difficult if not impossible to replace him. We may need to plant something different in his place to help fill the void, but anything we plant will take time to grow. There are other volunteers who will not return either, simply because they are two years older and can no longer do the work they once did. Some volunteers have moved away or died, but we trust they are still with us in spirit, though. Just as nature fills in empty spaces with new growth, we pray their efforts in the past planted seeds that will continue to bless this place and new volunteers will spring up to take the place of those no longer able to be here.
You will see and hear more details on the unfolding process in the coming months. The growth we want to cultivate over the summer we hope will last well beyond nature’s growing season, but as always, that will depend on the generosity of our Ministry Associates who support our staff with their time, talents and treasure – three necessary fertilizers in this garden. It will also depend on our retreatants and hosted groups, many of whom have been anxiously awaiting this unfolding.
For God’s blessing on all of life’s unfoldings, both new growth and rebirths, we say Deo Gratias!