Mt. Irenaeus Enhances Facilities, Plans Future Improvements

Jocelyn Thomas Features

WEST CLARKSVILLE, N.Y. — The recent installation of a wood boiler system for the primary homes at Mt. Irenaeus Franciscan Mountain Retreat has been not only well received but a symbol of other enhancements being discussed by the Mountain community.

The system was purchased with the help of benefactors who contributed funds toward the project, according to Joseph Kotula, OFM, who, with the Mountain’s Buildings and Ground Committee, chose a large Blue Forge wood boiler to heat the House of Peace and The Other House. Joseph and Louis McCormick, OFM, fill the boiler twice a day.

“The boiler, which is a very low emissions gasification system, helps us to step back from fossil fuels, while, at the same time, becoming cleaner in the combustion of an energy source for our needs,” said Daniel Riley, OFM, in the Mountain’s spring 2008  newsletter.  Dan is president of Mt. Irenaeus and one of the friars who founded the ministry 20 years ago.

Joe said: “We are still looking into the possible use of geo-thermo, wind and more solar.  At the present time, we need to continue research before making a move. Our solar unit really seems to be working.  Also, we are looking at how to remodel the house that we have on the property.

“Our hope is to have others join us in life and ministry, and we will be faced with where to house others. We have many ideas from a brainstorming session but we have not finalized any of them.”

Ministry of Hospitality
The hospitality aspect of the Mountain’s ministry continues to grow, said Louis McCormick, OFM, one of five resident friars. “I am nourished by my brothers in community and by the many guests who come to the Mountain.”

Members of the Mountain’s Fraternity of the Secular Franciscan Order (SFO) are “strong partners in our hospitality ministry,” Louis added. “Twelve people are SFO members and four others are in formation.”

Many visitors – including alumni and their families, community residents, and SBU students – attended services at the Mountain during Easter weekend.  Harry Monaco, OFM, a friar in formation, said, “The chapel was full for the Easter Vigil and almost full for other services.”

“The Mountain adds something special to the Easter services,” Harry said, in an article in the March 28 issue of The Bona Venture, SBU’s student newspaper. “It is a wonderful place to go.  There’s something about being in the woods at Easter time and seeing the beauty of nature,” he said.

On March 28, the Mountain community hosted 30 visitors at a “Spring Into Bona’s” program, held for high school students who have been accepted by the university and considering coming as freshmen.  While there, they participated in life at the Mountain – in both a spiritual and a practical way.

“They even filled baskets with wood to use in the new boiler,” Dan said.

Over the years, “the larger sense of family that has always been ours here at the Mountain, and is core to our faith life as Church, has deepened  as have our priorities and goals,”  said Dan in the spring newsletter.  The Mountain’s friars and staff are reviewing three ideas as they deepen their understanding of their core elements – silence, solitude, simplicity and service.

The ideas being discussed are:
1.    Welcoming younger women  and men who may wish to join the Mountain and establish with the community a renewed way of life.
2.    Welcoming for short or extended periods of time, Franciscan women already formed in contemplative life who want to join the Mountain in their  ministry of hospitality, opening their home to students and to others as  spiritual companions “of us all.” 
3.    Seeking out, among other Franciscan men in the country, other Franciscan entities, those who might want to join the friars in their contemplative outreach to youth and the communities approach to integrative learning.

A task force, comprising alumni of nearby St. Bonaventure University and members of the Mt. Irenaeus Board of Trustees, was recently established to help formulate life descriptions.

The January trustees meeting included a discussion of plans for the future including ideas about purchasing additional land and building a new house.

Fundraiser in New York City April 19
A group of supporters of Mt. Irenaeus is planning a Mass and reception for April 19 in midtown Manhattan.  This event, the first New York City fundraiser held by the retreat center, will benefit the Mountain by raising money. It will benefit participants by offering them a chance to win a week’s stay at a three-bedroom house in Sonoma Valley,  Calif.  

Tickets to this Saturday evening event are still available, according to the event organizers. Information is available through Tom Fenn at 919-929-8958, Franey Donovan at 203-834-2444, and Maureen Dee at  570-617-4666.  The  Mass will be celebrated at 5:30 p.m. at  St. Francis of Assisi Church on West 31st Street in Manhattan, and the reception will be held in the San Damiano Room of the friary/office building of Holy Name Province at 127 West 31st St.

— Jocelyn Thomas  is Director of Communications  for Holy Name Province.