Saturday, April 5, 2014

A Lenten Retreat

     One week ago this afternoon I welcomed into my home three friends that I have known for over twenty years, the team of the Thomas More Center for Preaching and Spiritual Renewal.  They had driven in from the Center in Wisconsin to lead our parish in a Lenten Retreat.  The team is comprised of Father Michael Champlin, Sister Joan Bukrey and Father Nick Punch.  Joan is a Franciscan Sister and Mike and Nick are Dominican priests.  Their ministry is giving parish renewals, missions and retreats in the United Stated and in Australia.  A number of our men have had them to their parishes over the years, as have I - they were at the Church of Saint Paul in Greensburg and twice at Saint John the Baptist in Scottdale.  This was their first visit to North Huntingdon.

     They preached and spoke at all three Masses over the weekend, and then began their series of talks over the next few days.  Beginning Sunday evening at 7, they gave seven distinct presentations - Sunday through Wednesday evenings and Monday through Wednesday mornings - consisting of a presentation, a refreshment break time, and then a time of discussion with a question/answer format.  They also preached each weekday morning Mass.  The topics were well thought out and presented, rooted in the Scriptures and in the teachings of the Second Vatican Council, now in its fiftieth year.  They were informative and challenging, and made you think.  The Q & A time was stirring (sometimes literally) as the team challenged some of our common understandings and misconceptions in regard to the what and why of that which we believe.  Heaven and hell and especially purgatory got a few people going, with one person bringing in a refutation of what was said by quoting a Jesuit theologian in a book dated 1893.  A great deal of critical theological development has happened since that time.


     Many, many of the people in attendance have spoken of the blessings received in these few days of grace for our parish.  Even the few who did not agree with some of the answers given acknowledged that it got them thinking as they were challenged to look into their beliefs and understanding.  I, too, was blessed.

     I also enjoyed visiting with Joan, Mike & Nick, remembering old times, renewing friendships, and sharing with them the work of God in the Church today.  They left me on Thursday morning with many things to remember and to celebrate ... as well as the head cold that Nick brought last Saturday and shared with Mike & Joan before passing it on to me.  Anyway, with the retreat in process and the cold settling in, I have not posted this past week, but I have been busy receiving the blessings of God.  To the team, to those who took part, and to those who helped with the endeavor - a great big THANK YOU.

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