Close Encounters, Last Chance Mass and a Lesson on the Basilians

St. John Neumann – Canton, MI – January 2nd

Celebrant: Fr. Manny Chircop, CSB (Congregation of St. Basil) – Appropriate he was the celebrant on this, the feast day of St. Basil “and some other guy.” 🙂

Initial Thoughts: I saw the words “Established 1978” on the wall as I walked in to the gathering space. But as I walked into the worship space I thought, “No. There is no way this place looked like THIS in 78.” Turns out, SJN did indeed have a reconstruction revamp about a year ago. I would be curious as to what it looked like prior to this, but needless to say, it looks very up-to-date and modern. Lots of natural light.

Homily Reflection: Fr. Manny apologized for going “off script” but he couldn’t let this feast day go by without a word about the Basilian Fathers, which is his order. So the homily was about his experience with this order and how he came to join them. In a nutshell, he was a teacher at an inner city school, they were looking for a place to have a retreat, found a retreat center in Pontiac, Michigan run by Basilians, he was so impressed with how they ran the retreat that he joined the retreat house and then later, joined the order.

He was most impressed with how the Basilians tried to blend in with most of the laity. They didn’t wear a collar nor any outstanding garb that would make them stand out as Fathers. They didn’t push their values on anyone. They didn’t want anyone thinking that they were better than anyone else.

Fr. relayed this back to the Gospel by saying that John the Baptist could have taken on a high and mighty role/attitude – But he was not there for himself – he was there for the people, as if to say, “No, don’t pay attention to me, pay attention to the one who is to come.” Fr. concluded by asking us to pray for this group of men, the Basilians, to remain humble and simple, to educate and to teach in school and in all walks of life and to continue to inspire young men to their order.

Holy Moments: Fr. asked before the end of mass if there were any birthdays or anniversaries that day. A woman behind me, named Sarah, was pointed out and so the whole congregation sang Happy Birthday to her. A sweet idea!


26231970_928056427362721_5702370253614707561_oEncounter Ministries Conference – Christ The King- Ann Arbor – January 4th, 5th and 6th

Forgive the longevity of this experience but I promise this is the shortest I could make it:

I’m not even sure where to begin but I will just say this was my very first experience at Christ The King, which is a charismatic parish in Ann Arbor. Encounter Ministries is described as a ministry that “exists to train and equip disciples to manifest the love and power of the Holy Spirit in their own sphere of influence.”

I heard about this particular conference on social media and at the urging of a friend, and after seeing my pastor, Fr. John Riccardo as well as Dr. Mary Healy listed as keynote speakers, I registered. I didn’t even do any research on Encounter Ministries prior to registering, except for watching this YouTube video of Fr. Mathias a couple of days prior.

The first night of the conference was Thursday night. I saw a ton of people from my own parish of OLGC but I actually ran into a young adult friend from Cleveland, who was there with many of her classmates from the University of Akron. After speaking with her for several minutes, I found a seat next to my good friend Karen. I told her this was my first time at something like this and she remarked that I was “going to be fully immersed in the Holy Spirit,” or something to that effect. I was really excited and just prayed for continued receptivity to whatever I was going to experience.

 

Fr. Mathias began the evening by speaking on sort of an “Intro to the Baptism of the Holy Spirit” but also spoke about his own journey and how he felt called to a healing ministry. He made several references to Scripture from the book of Acts but wanted to focus more on getting the message that this is for everyone, not just for extroverts or missionaries. Everyone needs the Baptism of the Holy Spirit. He asked us to think about the apostles BEFORE and then AFTER Pentecost = Before, they were afraid, they hid and they denied. But AFTER, they couldn’t shut up! Without Pentecost, there’s no power and there’s no evangelization. The same is true today.

And so that’s what he called us to – a New Pentecost for a New Evangelization, a renewed desire for prayer, for praise, to read Scripture, to share the gospel, more victory over sin, a desire for community and most of all – JOY.

There was a lot more that was said but those are as far as my notes got me. He then asked us to bow our heads and he was going to baptize us in the Holy Spirit. I’m still a little confused as to this whole thing but all I know is I almost immediately started crying as soon as he asked us to bow our heads. It came out of nowhere. But then it wasn’t so much sadness as much as it was repentance, or at least a feeling of repentance. Fr. was speaking words into the mic but I can’t recall all the phrases he was saying, I just remember feeling a sense of tingling and warmth coming over me.

A short time later we were instructed to have the person next to us pray over us. So that meant Karen laid hands on me and prayed over me. I felt that same warmth and although I didn’t shed tears, I felt like God was trying to say something. I even felt, at one point, like I was weightless, almost like I could float away any minute. VERY strange but a GOOD strange. Luckily, Karen seems to have some gifts that the Lord has blessed her with and said that she felt the Lord asking me to praise him out loud (more). I don’t really praise God as much as I thank God out loud. But I thought, if this is what the Lord is asking me to do, then I’ll be obedient to that. So if that was the only message I was to receive the entire Encounter conference, I was content with that. I mean, God has given me the gift of gab. He wants me to speak His name more? I can definitely do that. 😉

Friday night was Fr. John’s turn to give his talk. I would categorize it as a call to back to reality.  It was a nice balance, I think. He started out discussing the famous Rublev icon of The Trinity, which he’s given a homily on before, here (around the 5:30 mark) . He then discussed Matthew 9:35-38. Jesus has compassion – meaning internal turmoil. Why this response? Because we are like sheep without a shepherd – meaning we are torn, weary, ripped apart, mangled, helpless, tossed aside, thrown down. Before he discussed what Jesus did, he mentioned exactly what Jesus doesn’t do:

He doesn’t throw his hands up in frustration

He doesn’t yearn for the good old days

He doesn’t vent on social media

He doesn’t condemn those who are lost

He doesn’t act – He tells the disciples to pray for HIM to act and to reclaim His creation. But only if we’ll be the kinds of laborers He has in mind.

After a brief reflection on St. Francis of Assisi, Fr. John then went into details of why some people are not healed. Why do some people suffer? Why does the Lord allow this to go on? In his opinion, (and I concur) he said that perhaps God wants to conform us to His Son, to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. If we all long for an encounter of His love, then how far do we go? How much do we look like Jesus? Do we have the Sacred Heart of Jesus? And what does that look like? Fr. remarked that to have the heart of Jesus means you are present, you are attentive to the needs of others, you express care and concern for the other. He asked us to pray to God and show us: “How far is my heart from Jesus?”

Saturday, Dr. Mary Healy spoke before the vigil mass. Her talk was AMAZING.  She spoke about so many things but my favorite part, aside from an unexpected reference to the movie The Bourne Identity, was her explanation of the Prodigal Son. She talked about the older son/brother and how we as a Church can sometimes have that same attitude towards others, especially those who are new. How can we help the lost if this is our mentality? And here was the kicker question: “What if the prodigal son would have ran into the older brother and NOT the Father as he came home?” What if that’s what it’s like when someone approaches US? Are we like the Father or are we like the older brother? Wow. Convicted much?  I could sit and marinate on that for hours.

Fr. Ed, the pastor of Christ the King, gave a great homily on Saturday but for some reason, I didn’t take notes. You would think, my first charismatic mass but no notes. Not one! Big time fail on my part.

After mass was dinner in which I made a fool of myself gushing over Dr. Healy for the second time so that was nice and embarrassing for me. After dinner, was the big Worship session followed by testimonials from 3 different people.

All of their experiences were different but the underlying theme was “I wasn’t so sure about this. I had my misgivings/doubts, but I knew God wanted me to use this gift.”  I had no reason to doubt their personal experiences of healing others. But a very small part of me, thought “This is good for them, but I’m not so sure that’s my gift.”  I would LOVE to be able to pray over someone and heal them but is this really a gift that God grants to all of us? Even if we ask for it? Something to think about…

To conclude, if Fr. Mathias desired for all of us there to have a personal Pentecost so we can have the courage to share our experiences with others, then I would say that desire was met in me: I experienced a personal Pentecost of the Father affirming me in my identity of being a beloved daughter, I’m using the gifts He has given me, especially with regards to teaching, and He is pleased with what I’ve done so far. He wants me to openly praise Him more often, to remember that all that happens is because He wants union, and that all the work He has done in my life is due to my obedience to His will, not my own. All glory to Him! 


St. John’s Chapel – 7pm – Sunday January 14th

Celebrant: Fr. Walt

Initial Thoughts: This chapel is part of a large retreat center and banquet hall, hence the long and narrowness (is that a word?) of the layout. I’ve grown accustomed to sitting across from one another since this is the same set up as the chapel at Domino’s Farms. I walked in 30 minutes early so was able to get the pictures, although there are better ones on their website .

Something I noticed right away was there was no crucifix, but I happened to be sitting across from the 12th Station of the Cross, so I gazed on that for awhile. I was trying to figure out who exactly comes to this last chance mass (which, I found out is NOT the last chance mass in the area – apparently there’s a 9pm in the area). But it was a pretty packed chapel with various types – singles, couples, families, older. A true variety pack.

Homily Reflection: A month from today we’ll be in Lent! Today’s readings remind us to be be still and allow ourselves time to get away from the noise. Not just the audible noise but the noise we see, like social media feeds and Instagram photos and news headlines on the tv and internet. Samuel, in the first reading, quieted his heart so God could speak to Him and that’s what we are called to do during this Ordinary Time.

In the Gospel, we hear Jesus’ very first words he spoke. He asked a question: “What are you looking for?” Well, what are WE looking for? Jesus tells the apostles, “Come and see.” He extends the invitation into His life. They could hear and see clearly because they were receptive, and that’s what we are called to be as well.

Holy Moments: The cantor and the music minister on the piano were both outstanding! I don’t know if it’s because this place has awesome acoustics or what, but both were really pleasing to listen to. You know how you can tell someone is smiling as they are singing? I think she was that way, especially for the final song.

If I ever want to end my weekend on a high note, especially in the evening, I’m coming back to St. John’s, most definitely.

Until next time…


One thought on “Close Encounters, Last Chance Mass and a Lesson on the Basilians

  1. Thanks for sharing your experiences at Encounter, Michelle. Your reflections have made the conference come alive for those of us unable to attend.

    Did you know that St. John Center was the former major seminary for the state of Michigan? Here is a little background on it (from the AOD website)…

    “St. John’s Provincial Seminary was established in 1948 as the major seminary in Michigan by the bishops of the state under the leadership of Edward Cardinal Mooney. At the time, there were not enough seminaries in the Midwest and the bishops decided to establish a major seminary, a designation that reflects the institution conferring graduate degrees.

    St. John’s provided graduate-level theological education and spiritual formation for diocesan priesthood candidates from the dioceses of Detroit, Lansing, Grand Rapids, Saginaw, Gaylord, Kalamazoo, and Marquette.

    Founded in 1919 as a minor diocesan seminary, Sacred Heart Seminary in Detroit was attended by high school and undergraduate college students. From 1948 into the 1980’s, it was common for men graduating from Sacred Heart Seminary to attend St. John’s for their graduate studies. St. John’s continued its mission for forty years, expanding into the education and formation of laity and religious.

    As the number of seminarians in Michigan declined in the 1970’s and 80’s, the Archdiocese of Detroit obtained sole possession of the St. John’s property and facilities.

    The Archdiocese designated Sacred Heart as its major seminary in 1988 when it added a Graduate School of Theology to its College of Liberal Arts. Seminarians at St. John’s transferred to the newly established graduate program at Sacred Heart, after which St. John’s was closed and was put up for sale.

    St. John’s remained unsold and dormant for several years. In 1994, the Archdiocese began to revive the complex as a family and youth center with retreat and conference facilities to serve teenagers, young adults, engaged and married couples, as well as Catholic support groups.

    After extensive renovations and construction, the Archdiocese reopened the 245,000 square-foot former seminary building in 1996 as the St. John’s Center for Youth and Family with approximately 180 dormitory-style rooms for overnight guests. A new retreat center building made the facility the largest of its kind in southeast Michigan.

    Renovation and construction included a 10-acre purchase of land from Northville Township that facilitated the expansion of the 18-hole golf course to the present 27-hole public course and driving range. The opening of the for-profit St. John’s Golf & Conference Center in 2000 continued efforts to transform the campus into a conference center.

    The Center for Youth and Family was later renamed the Retreat Center at St. John’s and rededicated to the service of God, Church, and community. The nonprofit Retreat Center developed an emphasis on evangelization and hosting various religious groups while continuing its ministry to young adults as well as its wedding ministry.

    In 2006, a privately financed, for-profit hotel—The Inn at St. John’s—was opened to complement and serve visitors to the St. John’s Golf & Conference Center.”

    Probably more than you ever wanted to know but the Center has a very unique history. As a seminary, the chapel is designed for the recitation of the office, with each side alternating stanzas. The windows depict the various offices that seminarians progress through on their journey to the ordained priesthood.

    It is a fascinating place whose beauty can only be fully absorbed after much prayerful reflection. St. John Paul II bestowed an Apostolic Blessing on the Center which hangs in the lobby.

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