MIDDLEBURGH, N.Y. — After living in three temporary residences in the three years since Hurricane Irene severely flooded homes in Upstate New York, Peter Chepaitis, OFM, is finally moving to a permanent place.
The director of Bethany Ministries lost the trailer he had been renting when it was severely damaged in the 2011 storm. “I will be moving into a more permanent residence and ministry center on Feb. 15, after living in three temporary residences since Hurricane Irene severely damaged the place where I had been living in August 2011,” Peter said.
A New Apartment
While Peter won’t be returning to the place he had rented since 1995, a new apartment will suit him just fine, and his mailing address and phone number will not be changing.
During the past three years, Peter has been getting over the loss of his possessions when five feet of mud and water inundated his rented trailer-home and office. He fled with just a few belongings: a violin, Franciscan habit, laptop, a book of the Liturgy of the Hours, a change of clothes, and the Blessed Sacrament.
This new start will be renewing for Peter, who continues to enjoy an active retreat and mission schedule, traveling around the country, including a visit to the West Coast last year. The Advent and Christmas season were especially fulfilling to Peter, who said, “This past season renewed my enthusiasm as a friar and a priest, deepened my experience of the power of the Sacrament of Reconciliation, and made me more aware of the hunger for reconciliation in the people we serve.”
Peter often travels with Sr. Anna Tantsits, IHM, giving retreats and parish missions, and covering Masses for priests who are sick, on vacation or just want parishioners to hear a new voice. They also have begun a monthly gathering of people interested in the spirituality of Francis and Clare and how to live that in their daily lives, Peter said.
A Busy Schedule
In December alone, Peter celebrated Mass during five weekends in four different parishes in the Diocese of Albany, where Bethany Ministries is located. In one parish, he heard confessions steadily for close to four hours over two weekends.
Last March, he traveled to St. Paul’s Church in Sacramento, Calif. — a parish with a large membership from the Philippines — for a retreat. His travels also included Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and throughout Upstate New York. Peter and Sister Anna also managed to visit people, participated in ecumenical services, and even helped a 91-year-old become a Catholic.
Details on these retreats can be found in the latest edition of Bethany Ministries’ yearly newsletter, dated Winter 2013, which has a theme of “God is a Surprise.” The publication, along with Peter’s homilies, are posted on the ministry’s website. Peter and Sr. Anna mail the newsletter to almost 2500 people, he said.
— Wendy Healy is a Connecticut-based freelance writer and frequent contributor to HNP Today.