WEST CLARKSVILLE, N.Y. — With a fresh layer of snow on the ground, friars and visitors enjoyed a festive celebration on Oct. 17 of the 25th anniversary of Mt. Irenaeus Franciscan Mountain Retreat. The event included a concert, celebration of the Eucharist and a buffet dinner.
Roughly 200 guests came from as close as St. Bonaventure Universitycampus and as far away as Connecticut and New Jersey to commemorate a quarter century of mission and ministry by “The Mountain” and to see the friars of the Mountain: guardian Daniel Riley, OFM, and Daniel Hurley, OFM, Joseph Kotula, OFM, Kevin Kriso, OFM, Louis McCormick, OFM, and Robert Struzynski, OFM.
“We had a great assortment of students, alums, and other friends of the Mountain,” Kevin said.
The theme of the event was “Begin Anew.” The invitation text read, “Celebrating the flow of God’s spirit for more than 25 years from our Mountain home and our milestones along the way.”
The Franciscan Mountain Retreat traces the roots of the Mt. Irenaeus ministry back to the late 1970s, according to the fall 2009 issue of the Mt. Irenaeus newsletter. Nov. 13, 1984, is the date that documents were signed for the purchase of the site of 207 acres in rural West Clarksville.
Musical performers at the celebration were Cyprian Consiglio, a monk, composer, singer and guitarist, and John Pennington, an internationally-known percussionist.
Though originally planned as outdoor events, the celebration’s concert, Mass and dinner were held indoors, because of the early snow that had fallen the day before.
“It was exciting trying to pull off the event with eight inches of snow on the ground,” Kevin said.
A volunteer committee and sponsors provided the main courses for the meal, while guests contributed appetizers and desserts.
“The help that so many people gave really brought everyone together,” Joe said. “We needed to do so much spontaneous regrouping to adjust for the change in plans caused by the weather but it all worked out fine. Everyone seemed to have a wonderful time.”
During the commemoration, Dan Riley awarded the Province’s Francis Medal to eight people, whose affiliations to Mt. Irenaeus vary. The recipients were:
• Peggy Yehl Burke, a lifelong resident of the Allegany area, a St. Bonaventure professor and dean of the school of education, and an early trustee of Mt. Irenaeus.
• Maureen (Kane) Dee, a mother of six, three of whom are St. Bonaventure University graduates, and a former member of the board of trustees of Mt. Irenaeus.
• Raymond Dee, husband of Maureen and a graduate of St. Bonaventure, a former member of its National Alumni Association and a member of SBU’s board of trustees, who has supported Mt. Irenaeus for more than 25 years.
• Kim Harris, a musician, and a native of Philadelphia who, with her husband, has been a supporter of Mt. Irenaeus for more than 20 years.
• Reggie Harris, husband of Kim, who performed at SBU in the 1970s, and was among the earliest friends of Mt. Irenaeus.
• Michelle Marcellin, a staff member of Mt. Irenaeus since 1995, is also a member of the St. Irenaeus Secular Franciscan Order.
• Rick Mikolajczyk, a craftsman who has been part of the Mt. Irenaeus team since the beams of its Holy Peace Chapel were raised in the late 1980s for its opening in 1989.
• Angel Luis “Lucho” Skandar, a builder who helped plan and build many of the structures at the Mountain.
Reactions to the Oct. 17 event were positive.
One long-time visitor to the Mountain, Franey Donovan of Connecticut, a member of the Mt. Irenaeus board of trustees, said the anniversary celebration was “incredible.”
Donovan said, “The retreat presented by Michael Blastic, OFM, was right on target and increased my overall understanding of Francis and the true meaning of Franciscanism. In addition, the music provided by Cyprian Consiglio, OSB, Carm., and John Pennington added immeasurably to the overall atmosphere of this incredible place! It was a very moving experience for me.”
SBU alumnus Jerry Ford of New Jersey, who attended the event with his wife Mary, said the celebration was “wonderful.”
“The anniversary celebration was very special, with great music, an inspiring liturgy, fellowship and good food. It was really nice to reconnect with so many folks who have been a part of Mountain life, and to meet many more for the first time.”
“The many age groups represented were amazing,” he said. “I think Fr. Dan ‘Hurls’ led the way in experience but there were also many ‘youngsters’ on hand. We were most impressed by the Bonaventure students who were present.”
Ford added, “It seemed that no one minded being moved inside for the celebration, and perhaps the crowding even added to the festive atmosphere and intimacy for the group. The falling snow in the afternoon provided a magnificent backdrop for the beautiful concert.”
The photos accompanying this article were provided by Michelle Marcellin and Bridget Walsh, a member of the Mt. Irenaeus Franciscan Sojourners community.
— Jocelyn Thomas is director of communications for Holy Name Province.