Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Meet St. Paul’s Family

Drapes…check.
Folders…check.
Movie…check.
People…check!

Sunday, March 11, twenty Paulines from five institutes and from the association of Pauline Cooperators met together with 57 friends and acquaintances for a day of recollection at the Society of St. Paul’s new conference hall on Staten Island. Lent and prayer are a natural fit, but this was no ordinary retreat. It marked the first time in New York that six of the eight branches of the Pauline Family in North America gathered to introduce themselves to the world as a family in St. Paul the Apostle. So it also marked the first time that most of those attending had ever conceived of us in that way. They kept saying how amazed they were at the size and complexity of the ten organizations in the Pauline network; with 11,468 members worldwide, you’re bound to have a few dimensions to the project.

Days before, Brother Peter Lyne, SSP, and his crew transformed part of the former press room of St. Paul’s/Alba House publishing into a cheerful, respectable meeting area that accommodated everyone comfortably. They cleaned and painted, then bought beautiful drapes for the two sides of the room furnished with windows and sliding glass doors. The difference was astounding! Participants did give us some feedback regarding seats for future events. Chairs that are serviceable enough for short gatherings become downright torture when you perch on them all day. Some day when those drapes are paid for….
Priscilla Palad, IOLA, listens to a
fellow retreatant.

The idea for a retreat had been in gestation for the past two years. One day in early 2010, Br. Peter and I talked over pizza about sharing more with people about what makes us tick: our history, our charism (the grace that the Holy Spirit gives us to build up the Church), and our varied mission in a multi-faceted family. What came of it was the first annual St. Paul Friends & Family Fest (See “Partying With St. Paul,” August 10, 2011), which doubled as a modest fundraiser for the documentary about our founder. We still kept in mind, though, Br. Peter’s long cherished hope of leading people to a fuller understanding of that charism lived today, especially for those who had worked on the Fest and their organizations. He had in mind those who frequent the Alba House store without knowing what’s behind it, or who vaguely know “the sisters on the hill” (us FSPs) or the sisters who make vestments (the Sister Disciples of  the Divine Master).

Fr. Matthew Roehrig, SSP
Finally this past Sunday a “Lenten retreat with the family of St. Paul” joined them with our three communities, plus members of the Holy Family Institute for married couples, Our Lady of the Annunciation for single women, and the Cooperators, men and women who live the charism within their own situations. Only the Institute of Jesus the Priest for diocesan clergy and the Institute of St. Gabriel the Archangel for single men were missing from the American roster, though Fr. Matthew Roehrig, the new provincial superior of the Society of St. Paul, did a great job explaining something of how they fit in. Two feminine congregations, the Sisters of Jesus the Good Shepherd, and the Sisters of Mary Queen of Apostles, are the only branches not yet living and serving in North America.
Sr. Margaret Tapang, PDDM

People were visibly touched when they heard that many religious and lay Paulines all over the continent had prayed a novena just for them and they agreed to return the favor that day.

Sr. Margaret Tapang, PDDM, and Br. Aloysius Milella, SSP, gave presentations on “Alberione and the Liturgy” and on “The Media Redeemed.” Sr. Margaret pointed out that Blessed James Alberione’s life, which integrated his experience of liturgy with his daily life, made him “an apostle of the liturgy.” Br. Al reminded us that “Father Alberione’s commitment and passion for transmitting the Gospel throughout our contemporary world in a linguistic variety of cultures, stands out in faithful imitation of the great Apostle, and as one of the admirable achievements of his religious family.” Br. Al’s talk will constitute the Pauline Faithways post of March 28, just before we enter into Holy Week. Don’t miss it!

Br. Peter Lyne, SSP, introduces the day, as Greg and
Kim Burke, HFI, and Sr. Margaret listen.
Br. Peter, Mr. Congeniality, led the welcome and orientation, and I introduced the day’s theme: “God First,” based on the readings from the day’s liturgy. Later on in the afternoon, we would revisit the reading from Paul’s letter to the Corinthians and tie it in with an abridged viewing of Man for All Seasons followed by shared prayer in small groups—what we Daughters call “Cinema divina.” I was holding my breath over the sharing part. Many of the retreatants were of the generation that just doesn’t pray like that. But typically versatile, they jumped right in; many commented on their evaluation sheets that they wanted even more opportunities like it.

Each of the institutes had its day in the sun, with a presentation by one of its members. That’s where the day’s momentum stalled somewhat: it took longer than we had planned, so that we had no time for the intended Q and A session. Retreatants weren’t shy about expressing their disappointment. So we’ll have to work that a little differently next time, in addition to giving people more time to pray. After all, it was a day of recollection!

Sr. Nieves Salinas, PDDM
A display table was heaped high with vocation literature on all the institutes. Plus, a book and media display by St. Paul’s/Alba House and Pauline Books & Media, as well as a sacred art and religious article display by the Sister Disciples’ Liturgical Apostolate Center provided everyone with a chance to shop, too.

It wouldn’t have come together without the planning and dedication of Sr. Nieves Salinas, the PDDM regional superior in the U.S., Sr. Raphael Mirabelli, PDDM, Br. Gus Condon, SSP, and all those who worked with Br. Peter or me.

And the food! Nick Avicolli from Mangia Buono in Bridgewater, NJ, generously donated meatballs, pasta salad, and heroes for us all and for anyone else who just might have shown up that day. Our own cook in Boston, D Ross, sent down some great snacks, including sugar chocolate chip cookies to pop in the oven. Priscilla Palad, who’s an Annunciationist and the SSP accountant, worked with me for the better part of two hours Saturday night baking…and good naturedly fending off self-appointed taste testers! We ended up stashing the cookies in her accounting office overnight under lock and key.

It’s safe to say we were all fed that day, especially in our spirits. There’s a tremendous longing among God’s People for union with him and for a living, meaningful faith in this world of ours. That longing is ours, too, and we were both humbled and nourished by the faith and love we witnessed. Many people, at great cost, put God first in their daily lives, and so testify to God’s faithful love for them, since he’s the one who graces them with that sense of commitment. Our Pauline prayer is that whatever we do may confirm them in their love and their life in the body of Christ.
“It was a blessed day. I experienced a renewed sense of hope through the Pauline presence in the world, and their endeavor to communicate the love of Christ in our world” (A.C., Brooklyn, NY).
Photo credit: Brother Xavier Lee, SSP

2 comments:

  1. Mary Jane MadelineMarch 15, 2012 at 2:13 PM

    Sr. Margaret, Thank you for sharing the highlights of this Lenten retreat with 6 branches in attendance! Wow! I love the idea of having "Family reunions"!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Good for you! Glad it was a great turnout! I see lots of my friends there....

    ReplyDelete

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