Every week as I ponder what to write in the Chronicle, I look back in history to the old House Chronicles. This late February entry in the 1953 Chronicle caught my attention as it seemed to be a foreshadowing of things to come:
Mission Meeting. Father Leopold was the speaker at the February mission meeting held on Sunday, February 22. He spoke on the lay mission movement, a topic repeated from last year because of the interest it had aroused. The discussion this time again stretched beyond its allotted time. Therefore, Fr. Basil cut his remarks to a few minutes. He stressed again the need for priests to delegate their non-priestly work to lay people and to use lay cooperation where-ever and whenever possible.
The Chronicle does not say whether the mission work Father Leopold addressed was in the foreign missions, but Fr. Basil’s comments would indicate the discussion was not limited to foreign missions alone. We do know the Capuchins were very committed to lay involvement here at St. Anthony’s in the years of their retreat ministry.
It is interesting, though, that nearly ten years before Vatican Council II began in the fall of 1962, the Capuchins were already talking about lay involvement in the mission of the Church and cooperation with the laity “where-ever and whenever possible.” One of the major changes to come from that Council was a call to active involvement of the laity in the life of the Catholic Church. Did the friars of 1953 have any idea how the seeds of that discussion might flower in the years to come?
Through their retreat and educational ministry, the Capuchins planted seeds of lay empowerment for many years. They welcomed lay people to join their preaching teams for retreats, to volunteer in service here in many other ways, and to live here with them in community. Just over sixty years after that Chronicle entry, when the Capuchins announced their intentions to end their ministry here, it was the laity that stepped forward to ask what they might be able to do. Now, the cooperation of the Capuchins with the laity, “where-ever and whenever possible”, would birth a future for this holy place.
Now we are in the tenth year of lay leadership here. We recognize that the dozen or so staff and residents cannot do all that guests need here. We rely on the generous cooperation of priests to assist with priestly roles “where-ever and whenever possible.” For many of those years, we were blessed to have a priest live here. Now, sometimes a priest will come to us for the day or the weekend. Other times, we need to send guests to the priests. We also rely on the cooperation of droves of volunteers and donors and pray-ers to support us “where-ever and whenever possible” in our mission.
We also recognize that the number of priests is shrinking and the day may come when even that cooperation will not be available to us. Likewise, many of our long-time volunteers are unable to assist us as they have in the past. Like our brothers in 1953, we cannot know what the future will bring. For now, we continue to do what we can to plant seeds of lay empowerment for the next generation of lay leaders, volunteers, donors and pray-ers. At the same time, we remain open to the Spirit and look for ways to cooperate “where-ever and whenever possible” with all our brothers and sisters who seek a deeper relationship with God, self, others and creation.
For continued blessings on the mission of St. Anthony’s as we work to plant and nurture seeds of empowerment, and for the grace for us and those who follow us to cooperate with the Spirit “where-ever and whenever possible”, we say Deo Gratias!