Sunday, June 12, 2011

A Short, Sweet Summary

OHC's 298th Chapter - The assembled monks and a few Holy Cross Companions
West Park, Saturday, June 11, 2011 - picture by Br. Randy Greve (who ran into place, top right)
Chapter is over! It was quite an amazing week. We worked really hard. We prayed hard, as well. We even played some. And we emerged from all of this as a remarkably united, energized, and amazingly well-functioning group of men - brothers.

We agreed to the founding of Holy Cross School in Grahamstown (South Africa). This will be a school under the Order's aegis which will provide high-quality primary education for poor rural children.

This is an outcome of years of work, trying to find a solution to the dreadful educational conditions in the area around our monastery. Schools are seriously sub-standard or completely absent. Over the years we have started a scholarship program, an after-school tutoring program, recreational programs and other things. The outcome has been the realization that the kids are so deprived so early that the only solution is to have a school that will get them early and will have first-class instruction right from the beginning.

We will be operating grades K-3 (actually South Africa calls Kindergarten "Reception", so it will be R-3). We have good advice that if we get them started this far, they will be able to adjust to the excellent schools that can be found in town, and we can see that they are able to continue in those schools through our Scholarship Program. We will support them for as long as they want to remain in school - through college, if that is their goal. Our scholarship program has just had its first students graduate from local universities, so we have a track record there.

The Order has committed to pay for the construction of the school building, and work will begin soon, so that we can have a Grade R and a Grade 1 beginning in January, when the school year starts. We will then add one grade a year until we are operating all 4 years. Classes will be small. Instruction will be first-rate. Equipment will be state of the art. The school is going to be small, because of the small size of the classes, so what we can accomplish will be limited. But we are going to do what we can. We have also committed ourselves to a major capital funds drive which will raise money to finance and endow the school.

The monastery in Grahamstown is named (in the local language) Maria u Mama we Themba, which means Mary, mother of hope. This is one of the ways in which we are determined to offer hope to the poor people who live in the area around us. And without this school, the local kids have very little in the way of hope.

The Order also committed itself to a major building renovation at the monastery here in West Park. This involves installing a new roof on the monastery building (which has needed doing since the day the building was finished in 1967). This will make possible the remodeling of several rooms to provide Assisted Living space for some older brothers, as I described last week. We are finalizing the plans at the present time. We hope we can begin on this project within a few months.

The conversations that led up to these decisions were full of energy and of hope. Passing the actual resolutions took less than an hour. We were extraordinarily united. It was an amazing week!

We also took an afternoon off for a cruise on the Hudson River. It was really fun. You get a totally different perspective when you're down on the river itself.

Monday is a rest day for me. Tuesday is for packing. Wednesday I leave for Kerhonkson, at the foot of the Catskills. When next you hear from me I will be into my Sabbatical.

I deeply appreciate the many good wishes and promises of prayer that so many people have sent. I hope before long to be letting you in on what life is like for a monk on the loose.

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