‘Thisness’ Theme of St. Francis of Assisi Staff Retreat

HNP Communications Around the Province

RALEIGH, N.C. — The Catholic Community of St. Francis of Assisi held its annual staff retreat from July 24 to 27 at the Trinity Center, the retreat center for the Episcopal Diocese of East Carolina. This year, Mark Reamer, OFM,pastor, pictured on left, invited Francis Di Spigno, OFM, executive director of university ministries at St. Bonaventure University, to lead the retreat.

Francis led us in reflection on medieval philosopher Blessed John Duns Scotus’s thoughts of haecceitas — thisness — as well as in reflection on the life of St. Clare, and the way we can view the San Damiano Cross as a mirror in which we can reflect upon our community.

Those familiar with St. Bonaventure University will recall the recent collaborative effort there — The Thisness Project  — focusing on the dignity of the human person and calling each to think deeply on who he or she is. Francis, shown at right in photo, shared the success of that campaign and asked us to consider ways that we as staff can live out two primary affections to which we are called — the affection for self, and the affection for others and justice for them. As staff, how will we balance these two affections, and how can we help our parishioners to live them in balance?

Our reflection on St. Clare’s life also called us to continue the discussion on haecceitas by considering her correspondence with Blessed Agnes of Prague. Francis encouraged us to look at the way we see each other and ourselves. Are we offering one another respect and affection? Do we challenge each other to be responsible and know our strengths and limits? Do we allow our authentic encounters with others on our staff and in our community to change us?

The final reflection focused on the San Damiano Cross. We examined the ways that this symbol for our faith can help us think about creating pathways toward becoming a more connected and supporting community. For many of us, it is an opportunity to hold up a mirror for one another, to use the imagery of St. Clare, and share our thisness more clearly with each other and those we serve in ministry.

Staff response to the retreat has been positive, particularly the time focused on haecceitas. In the words of William McConville, OFM, associate pastor of St. Francis, “It was one of the best staff retreats we’ve held.” Though refreshed and energized by this experience, our staff is already looking forward to next year’s retreat.

— Jason Lillis is coordinator of family life at St. Francis of Assisi Parish in Raleigh, N.C.