We need to keep greeting our fellow Christians that way during the 50 days of this precious Easter season. Let’s remain open and receptive to all the graces the Risen Christ bestows on us.
If the 40 days of Lent were about saying “no” to those things to which we too easily attach ourselves and which impede our friendship with the Lord, Easter is about saying “yes” to the grace that frees us up to more fully experience that friendship daily. And don’t you feel different already? Something is freer within, something has given us more room and more space for God. That’s what we savor in these Easter weeks.
I am spending the bulk of the Easter Season on special assignment from my Provincial who asked me to attend to our continued Mission Advancement efforts throughout the country while living and working out of our novitiate in Denver. Here I can keep a close eye on all elements of a special fundraising initiative we call, “Setting Our Hearts on the Kingdom.” This initiative will allow us to build a new wing immediately adjacent to our novitiate which, taken together, will become our new priory/novitiate residence. I am charged with the task to raise $5.5 million to fund this project (see the artist rendering below).
Why has this become necessary?
Think of a divided family. Our novices live on an L-shaped hallway on the 2nd floor of the St. Dominic Parish Center in Denver. Our senior community of 8 friars live down the alley in the well-worn building next to the Church; not the norm for Dominican life nor the ideal for a house of initial religious formation. Imagine trying to raise your young charges with them living over the garage and down the block. See what I mean!
Experienced friars serve as mentors and wisdom figures to the novices. At the end of the novitiate year, these older friars vote whether to support or not support each young man in their quest to continue Dominican formation. Yet, they encounter each other only officially at prayer and meals.
The younger friars have something to offer, too. They inspire older friars with their youthful courage and enthusiasm while trying out a countercultural, some would say by today’s standards, radical way of life. This mutual and critically beneficial interaction is, at best, strained and, at worst, nonexistent in the current configuration. The young friars and the solemnly professed friars need to live as one family each day allowing for mundane, but ever so formative everyday exchanges and interactions.
Additionally, the parish center is increasingly busy in the evenings and on weekends due to the growth of the parish. While that growth is a very good result of an active and dynamic Dominican parish, it means a greater restriction to the second floor of the center. There is less free access for the novices to the first-floor chapel when they want to pray, or other areas on the grounds to contemplate and read.
This reality is the opposite of “a home office.” It is attempting to experience a home life in a busy office and public center. When young men entrust their lives to us, we need to be worthy of that trust. How we form them, in what physical and human circumstances, is a fair reflection on whether their trust is rightly placed. Apprentices need their teachers nearby to learn their craft; less with words that instruct, than with examples that edify.
I have come to realize the most important thing we do after receiving candidates for Dominican life is to form and sustain them. Space forms, and people form us! Look at our own homes growing up. Our parents, if they could not always be there, wanted someone to be present when we got home from school. The truth is, any developing family needs each other around, bumping into each other, rubbing elbows in all those unscheduled moments to develop as a healthy, happy and holy family.
That is especially true for young people considering religious life who need an environment predisposed for study, prayer and contemplation if they are going to preach and teach from a place of depth and substance. For those responding to God’s call by taking a year out of their lives “to try on our life,” we don’t owe them the minimum, but the maximum effort in making their “noble experiment” a worthwhile and ultimately successful discernment.
To this end, we hope to break ground by August of 2019. All “family projects” offer some risk but as a dear friend of mine, Derek says, “Sometimes the greatest risk is not to risk at all.” These young men are worth the risk and we appreciate your prayers and continuing support on their behalf. If you would like more information on the project, please indicate that on the space provided in our enclosed envelope.
God bless you, and for all you continue to do for the Order and the Church. I am eternally grateful.
In the spirit of St. Dominic,
Fr. Andrew Carl Wisdom, O.P.