Margaret Bryner, director of St. Bonaventure University’s Higher Educational Opportunity Program (HEOP) and chairperson of the Mt. Irenaeus Franciscan Mountain Retreat’s Annual Auction, was awarded the Francis Medal on Nov. 4.
The recipient is an example of one who offers practical vision and daily practice to accomplish visions. Growing up in her Christian faith and finding her own personal enthusiasm for “Franciscan ways” as she joined St. Bonaventure, Margaret has been willing to offer her capabilities to foster dialogue and activity between religious communities in the Olean, Allegany and Bradford area. She is tireless in her efforts with many to heighten the concern and activity for justice and the care of others. Margaret has applied her own personal resources and sought those of others for many service projects and concerns that might otherwise have stayed on the wayside and not received adequate attention.
Early, when the Mountain was developing its way of life and finding its way with Bona’s, Margaret saw the value of this Provincial ministry as a bridge between the two educational cultures and a way of attending to the needs especially of those less advantaged in our broader culture. Margaret began to bring students from the HEOP to Mt. Irenaeus for an experience in the country to further their personal development and to begin what we now call experiential learning. The Mountain became a special place of welcome and comfort as these students entered into the larger community of St. Bona’s. Their experiences helped them foster relationships with each other and a desire to learn in the classroom, having experienced some ways of learning on the Mountain.
Each summer, as the Mountain grew, Margaret grew in ways of engaging these students in life. She understood from her own background how to bring in others who were not familiar with the Franciscan or Christian tradition, lending to them the strength of her own example and journey with her clear leadership and engagement of the rest of us. She so values the personal growth of individuals and the integration of their education that she draws upon many in the university community to reengage one another in the service of our youth.
Valuing, as well as enjoying the outdoors and gardening and the spirit of our place as being educative and engaging, Margaret has helped us both form and shape our House of Peace and other structures in light of their way of service. She is a profoundly practical-minded and spiritual-driven woman who has benefited the Franciscan Mountain Retreat in many ways.
Margaret served as a trustee for Mt. Irenaeus and helped to draw us together around planning for our House of Peace and other structures that would serve the university community and the area community as well.
Seeing the need in sustaining these structures, she conceived of and then organizde our Mountain Auction, which has been going on now for six years. With its growth and success it has been a great benefit to our manner of life and ministry, helping to sustain our need for “the daily bread” so as to offer the Bread of Life to those who visit us.
As a “partner in ministry,” Margaret has been helping us find and form new friendships. She has extended the life of the Mountain through spirited evenings and celebrations, helping us to join with others in the university and area communities to lift up something that is important to all of us: the spirit of community and the peace of Jesus Christ which will “make all things new.”