I enjoyed a week long retreat at our St. Thecla (pronounced "Tekla") Retreat House in Billerica, Massachusetts in early July. Our retreat director was Sister Filippa Castronovo. Sister Filippa is a scripture scholar who specializes in studies on St. Paul. When I was in Rome, Sister Filippa gave a semester long course on St. Paul and our Founder, Blessed James Alberione. I enjoyed her classes, since they were not solely academic but infused with an enthusiasm for Paul. The Pauline retreat which Sister prepared for us brought in more dimensions of St. Paul's spirituality and practicality.
Our retreat was followed by another week (almost) of meetings and presentations. This year we once again enjoyed the insights and suggestions on dialogue offered by Sister Janet Baker, a Sister of Mercy from Philadelphia. Then Sister Rose Pacatte, one of our own Daughters of St. Paul, presented a full "media day." Sister emphasized "Media Mindfulness" and awareness of the impact of media on our lives and on our culture today. She showed us a movie called "The Story of Stuff" which is a simple yet powerful indictment of "buying just for the sake of buying," or as some would call it, "consumerism"--getting "stuff" we don't need that we soon throw out or store in our garages or pay to store in storage units. Sister Rose heads up our Pauline Center for Media Studies located at our center in Culver City, California. If you want to see "The Story of Stuff" go to www.thestoryofstuff.com. You can download it or order a CD.
The Encounter, as we call our 5 to 6 day meetings and updating, was also a chance to reconnect with other Daughters of St. Paul stationed across North America, and this year with two of the Sisters who have been in Africa. One American Sister who has spent the past six years in Nairobi, Kenya returned to the USA. Sister was the novice director for all of our African novices. Now a native African Sister is taking over that position.
Another Sister, who is from my home town, Sister Augustine Nemer, also attended the retreat and encounter. Sister Augustine was back in the States to celebrate with her co-novices the 50th jubilee of her religious vows. Sister returned to Nairobi on July 29th. She has been in Africa more than 20 years. She works in the editorial sector in Kenya. It is good to meet and talk with these Sisters working far from their home lands.
Since this is summer: time for vacations, retreats, encounters and staff holidays, it makes for a full schedule for myself.
This past Sunday, August 10, was the day of our Pauline Cooperators' picnic. Since rain was always a possibility, we held the picnic at our place. Our center has a spacious hall on the ground floor equipped with a small kitchenette. Our grill is on our rooftop patio. Two of the men cooperators generously offered to fire up and maintain the grill. Everyone brought food or drink. We had Philippino dessert and the traditional noodles called pancit (pan - zit); special cornbread from a Paraguayan lady; salad from an Ecuadorian lady; veggies from a Chinese lady and lots of other goodies. Two of our Holy Family members attended the picnic with their spouses and some of their children. Games and music filled the evening and we all enjoyed ourselves. Most of us at the picnic had been awakened at 3:50 AM by a thunderous noise. Since we have had so many thunder storms lately, I did not rush to the windows after the initial sound. Then came a series of "booms"--almost like continuous fireworks. At one point I thought "Is this an explosion?" It was not raining, so it was strange to hear thunder.... At 9:30 Mass in our parish, the pastor asked us to pray for the explosion victims. At that early hour, a propane gas depot blew up and several explosions followed. Those who looked out their windows saw an orange ball and then flames as several propane tanks blew up. A few thousand people were evacuated from their homes and apartments. Many left in their night clothes, some even without shoes on their feet. Miraculously there were only two fatalities: a fireman who collapsed, and it seems the night watchman. Had it been a weekday, and a school day, there may have been much more damage and loss of life. The apartment buildings next to us shook with the explosions, and were lit up by the light of the fires. "In the twinkling of an eye" life changed for a lot of people. It was a literal "wake up call" to be ready for any future disaster, and to be ready--when the Lord comes--to meet him. People in Niagara-on-the-Lake saw the orange sky from across Lake Ontario. We thank God for sparing our city from what could have been a massive tragedy. We pray for our city and provincial governments to do their best to insure that this kind of accident does not happen again. I also prayed for all the "first responders," firemen, policemen and EMT men and women who were at the scene in minutes, and stayed for hours.
I wish you all a great rest of the week. To those who have sent in comments, thank you. I still have not been able to take the time to check out your suggested links. God bless you all. Sister Mary Peter Martin, FSP