Administration Meets with Mt. Irenaeus Leaders

Lawrence Hayes, OFM Friar News

Friars and guests gather around the

Friars and guests at Mt. Irenaeus’s labyrinth where a prayer service was held during the Mountain’s 30th anniversary celebrations earlier this fall. (Photo courtesy of Darrell Gronemeier)

Last month, a comprehensive discussion of goals and plans was held to help clarify the structure and mission of Mt. Irenaeus, the 30-year-old Franciscan Mountain Retreat in Western New York. Provincial Vicar Lawrence Hayes, OFM, provided a summary of the discussion.

NEW YORK — On Nov. 23, Provincial Minister Kevin Mullen, OFM, and I met with members of the board of trustees and leadership of Mt. Irenaeus at the Provincial Office. The participants were Kevin Kriso, OFM, guardian of Holy Peace Friary in West Clarksville, N.Y., and Daniel Riley, OFM, president of Mt. Irenaeus, as well as three members of the Mt. Irenaeus Board of Trustees: Michael Fenn, Michael Fossaceca, and Dianne Kuzia Hills, as well as former board member Leslie Quick. The purpose of the meeting was to discuss the Mountain’s origins, history, mission, needs and current strategic planning.

The Mountain leadership opened the meeting with a brief prayer service followed by very personal stories about the profound impact of the Mountain on their lives. This was interspersed with the history and deep Franciscan roots — spiritually and provincially — of Mt. Irenaeus. The Mountain friars stressed how the Western New York retreat is a contemporary expression of early Franciscan life, tracing its lineage to St. Francis himself, who founded many hermitages for deeper contemplation and fraternal life, and the Mountain’s genesis to the Second Vatican Council’s call to religious groups to return to their original charisms. The presentation included a video montage of testimonies by Mountain devotees young and old, and explanations of the mission, vision and responsibilities of the Mountain Community Leaders; the ‘soil’ of the Mountain as relational living rooted in servant leadership; and the relationship of Mt. Irenaeus, Holy Name Province and St. Bonaventure University over the years.

The enthusiasm, personal commitment and active dedication of Mt. Irenaeus’s leadership were, to say the least, moving and impressive. After thanking the guests for their presentation, Kevin and I spoke of the Mountain from the perspective of Holy Name Province.

Kevin began by highlighting the priorities of Chapter 2014, especially the mandates for enhanced fraternal relations and deeper trust among the friars of the Province. This has resulted in the primary focus of the administration on the health of our fraternities (as witnessed in the emphasis currently being given to the development of the Fraternal Life Plan by each fraternity). This will continue to be the lens and the diagnostic tool by which we evaluate our Franciscan-presence-in-mission at Mt. Irenaeus and at all our locations: the health and robustness of the fraternal life of the friars that, inevitably, spills over into and animates their work.

Next, Kevin outlined the ongoing revitalization/reconfiguration process that is engaging all seven U.S. provinces. That endeavor will be the primary center of concern and effort through 2020 for the Franciscan leadership of the United States and will affect all aspects of our future, including our provincial commitments.

Kevin then turned to some strategic questions for the Mountain leadership to consider. First is the significant relationship between Mt. Irenaeus and St. Bonaventure University. It is Kevin’s opinion that, historically, the Mountain would not exist but for SBU. A decisive question for the future is whether the Mountain can exist without SBU. What role will the Mountain play in the future of SBU and vice versa? Discussions of the boards of both institutions concerning these questions, including fundraising, are vital.

I addressed three practical points. The first was the need to clarify the relationship between the Mountain and the other two “arms” — liturgy/formation and service — of SBU’s University Ministries. The second were the opportunities that the revitalization/reconfiguration process affords both for attracting friars from other provinces to Mt. Irenaeus and for re-planting the Franciscan charism of the Mountain in other provinces and at other Franciscan universities. Third was a suggestion that the Mountain team develop practical programs that would help other ministry sites of Holy Name Province to employ the “Mountain way” as a modality/tool for addressing the widening gap between young adults and the Catholic Church.

Kevin and I will present a report of this meeting to the Provincial Council. The board and leadership of the Mountain were asked to plan specific and concrete ways to bring together Holy Name Province, Mt. Irenaeus and SBU for further discussion.

— Fr. Larry was elected Provincial Vicar in June 2014.

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