Br Joe is working on text.
Watch out for what you pray for! Those were my exact thoughts when a new friend Xavier from the Episcopal Relief Organization on the ground in Puerto Rico called me back a few days before Christmas.
After praying for several weeks about what I could do to assist in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico I started making inquiries to the Diocese of PR. I could not get through on the phone or via email. I finally thought that God did not want me to get involved with any ministry in PR so I stopped calling and emailing. I wanted to use up all my unused vacation time to do something useful but again I finally gave up and kept busy with ministry projects at my local church here in New Orleans, St Anna's Episcopal Church. Now back to the call from Xavier. He suggested thinking about adopting a small Mission Church outside of San Juan and see what could be done. The name of the Church is San Timoteo in Bayamon, PR. I immediately started praying about what could be done. The logical first step would be to find out what this little Mission Church needed and what could be done to bring hope and a sense of God’s presence to them in the form of relief. I felt led to schedule a flight to San Juan near the end of January. It all started to come together at that point. Xavier provided me with contacts from the Diocese of PR. I flew into San Juan on 1-25-18 and stayed at a little hotel in a nearby town called Levittown. Bayamon was only a fifteen-minute drive away. I woke up early on Friday, 1-26-18 for morning prayer and discovered that day was the Feast of St. Timothy the Apostle. I thought that was interesting because the whole purpose of this trip was to visit and aid a little church named after St Timothy. I promise you this was not planned! After morning prayer there was also a beautiful rainbow over the ocean. I was filled with joy and anticipation about what laid ahead of me. I had a sense of what missionary zeal must be like. I got into my little rental car and started my short trip on backroads and streets with no working traffic lights or street signs to Bayamon to see what condition San Timoteo was in and to take pictures to send back to potential donors on the U.S. Mainland. Later that same day I was asked to make a visit to the Diocese offices in San Juan to meet Bryan a seminarian who is coordinating with work groups wanting to volunteer in PR.
The meeting included Bishop Rafael and Cannon Rafael. They all were so gracious and thankful for the initial financial donation that was being made for San Timoteo. Bishop Rafael was also very interested in making sure the parishes that make up the Diocese of PR know more about the Anglican Order of St Francis. On Sunday I was invited to meet members of the Vestry and their temporary priest Fr. Jose. It was a blessed time spent with all my new friends. The Liturgy included lively singing giving praise to Our Lord. We all prayed the Prayer of St Francis. It ended with a feast of fresh fruit, pasta salad and Puerto Rican Coffee.
Plans are now being made to request financial donations to assist San Timoteo and get them back on their feet, so they can carry on with the work of sharing the Gospel of Jesus in their community. I give thanks to God for allowing me to be a servant to those in need. I am learning so much during my new and lifelong discernment process as a Franciscan Brother. Opportunities to serve God are right in front of us every day of our life. Responding to these opportunities bring such joy and happiness in my life and I see the same thing happening to my fellow Brothers in the Order of St Francis. That is the same joy that Francis found in the smallest ways serving and in his respect for all of God's creation including worms. I am praying for all of you that are looking to serve God in religious life or as a lay person that you will listen to the Holy Spirit and consider your call to spread the Gospel of Jesus and consider the example of St Francis.
Pace e Bene (Peace and All Good)
Your Brother in Christ and Francis,
By Br. Les
Five Brothers gathered together in April for a mini-retreat at Richmond Hill in Richmond, Virginia, to share in God's presence, and in the communion of brotherly fellowship. Richmond Hill, the site of a former convent of cloistered Sisters of the Visitation established on top of Church Hill, is Richmond's highest point and is now an ecumenical retreat center. The retreat center is operated by a community of individuals who work and live at the center and pray for the city with a regular prayer cycle of Morning, Noon, and Evening prayer. While all of the groups had plenty of time for their own activities, all of the groups were required to share in the community's cycle of prayer three times a day and break bread in the sharing of meals with each other. At meal times, the community residents purposely spread out among the tables and encourage the groups to mingle why they eat. This was a very interesting dynamic for our retreat and allowed us to share our Brotherhood's way of life with not only other Christian denominations, but also with fifteen or so Aspirants to Holy Orders in the Episcopal Church, most of whom did not know that the Church had religious orders and communities at all. Since the residents only do prayers three times a day, the brothers held Compline together in the chapel. On Sunday morning after Morning Prayer, the brothers walked to St. John's Episcopal Church to participate in the celebration of the Eucharist. St. John?s is the site of the Second Virginia Convention in 1776 where Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, Richard Henry Lee and other important figures in the American Revolution listened as Patrick Henry gave his now-famous "Give me liberty or give me death" speech. In our time together, the brothers shared with each other their own experiences in their relationships, communities, ministries, and parishes. They discussed their challenges and successes of how others perceive us as Friars, and most importantly how God has blessed each one of us in our own ministries. Praise be to God!