Gregorian Friars from near and far gathered in Annual Convocation on August 10-15, giving thanks for the community’s 46th anniversary of Foundation. As in past years, our annual retreat, the Chapter Meeting and many other meetings that week took place at Mount Alvernia Retreat Center in Wappingers Falls, New York. This annual week together serves as a refresher course in living the vocation the brothers share, through the Brotherhood’s Rule of Life. The Brotherhood’s Episcopal Visitor, the Rt Rev Rodney R Michel of the Diocese of Pennsylvania, was present for much of the week, celebrated the Solemn Convocation Holy Eucharist and preached on the Feast of Jeremy Taylor; his presence was a great blessing to everyone.
This year’s retreat began with a structured retreat led by Donovan Aidan Bowley (Diocese of Maine) titled “Some Dimensions of Prayer – Parallel Perceptions,” wherein the brothers listened to presentations and literary illustrations from historic authors and discussed their own experiences of those topics across two sessions. A day-long pilgrimage to our community’s place of Foundation, the former Visitation Monastery in Riverdale, the Bronx, formed another segment of our annual retreat appropriately led by our Founder and Minister General, Richard Thomas Biernacki (New Jersey) who delighted in recounting his experiences there in the 1960s through the early 1980s. The Sisters of the Visitation of Holy Mary, a cloistered order of Salesian Nuns, withdrew from that location in the early ‘80s. The Gregorian Friars were greeted warmly by the staff of the John Cardinal O’Connor Clergy Residence, a facility for retired Roman Catholic bishops and priests, where our brothers enjoyed lunch and refreshments, and prayed the Noonday Office in the former monastery’s chapel – the exact site of our community’s Foundation in 1969.
This being a General Convention year, those who served this church-wide legislative event sat together to present a roundtable discussion of the gathering in Salt Lake City in June/July and their personal experiences of it. These included Tobias Stanislas Haller (Clerical Deputy from New York), Richard Edward Helmer (Clerical Deputy from California), Scott Michael Pomerenk (Lay Alternate Deputy from California) and David Hedges (Clerical Deputy from Chicago). Adding the perspective from ‘the other house’ – the House of Bishops, that is – were Bishop Rodney Michel and Bishop Allen Shin of New York, who was the Brotherhood’s special guest for this conversation. Bishop Shin spent the morning and part of the afternoon with the community, his first opportunity since his consecration as Bishop Suffragan of New York last summer to meet and spend time with the Gregorian family.
The brothers attended to the community’s business during meetings of the Chapter, the seven individual provinces, the Council and a number of other internal groups and committees. Five provinces elected new Ministers Provincial – John Henry Ernestine (New Jersey) for Province 2; Edward Munro (Maryland) for Province 3; Nathanael Deward Rahm (Chicago) for Province 5; Peter Budde (Texas) for Province 7; and Richard Edward Helmer (California) for Province 8.
Religious life is expressed and celebrated most personally through the Rites of the Brotherhood and this year was as busy as any. Three friars made their Life Profession of Vows – David Luke Henton (Texas), David John Battrick (Newcastle, New South Wales, Australia) and Francis Jonathan Bullock (Indianapolis) – three men were received into the novitiate – Donald Sutton (Massachusetts), Max Steele (East Tennessee) and Scott Michael Pomerenk (Colorado) – and two men entered the postulancy – Angel Roque (Southeast Florida) and David Hedges (Chicago). Other positions filled and commissioned included the Director of Postulants and Novices (Francis Sebastian Medina of California), Director of Convocation Liturgy and Music (Nathanael Deward Rahm of Chicago), Treasurer and Director of Public Relations (James Teets of New York), Chapter’s Representative to Council (Bo Alexander Armstrong of East Tennessee) and Infirmarian (Joseph Basil Gauss of Chicago).