Sunday, June 25, 2017

Transitions, transitions, transitions!

The Prior is back. Only, it's not the same Prior.

From early 2007 to mid-2011, Br. Bede, who was then the Prior of Holy Cross Monastery kept readers informed on things going on at the monastery and their import or meaning for him. Br. Bede wrote pretty much on a weekly rhythm. I don't know that I will match that, but we'll see.

I am very fortunate that I have become the new Prior of our monastery at a time when our community is thriving. Seventeen monks live at the monastery today. That's the largest number of monks here since I joined the Order in early 2004. We pray and chant well together. And we work, serve and play well together. I hope to tell you more about our crew in the future.

What strikes me today is the sheer amount of transition that is going on within our walls. Here are some of the transitions I can think of for the moment.

Light transitioning through a prism. Happy Pride Month to all, by the way.

Br. Robert James Magliula was elected Superior of the Order of the Holy Cross at its annual chapter meeting in West Park on Thursday, June 8. He was installed as our new Superior on Saturday, June 10. That's what I call a fast transition. Br. Robert James will be in residence at Holy Cross Monastery and is in the process of moving from his previous cell and office.

He succeeds Br. Robert Sevensky who has been the Superior of the Order of the Holy Cross (OHC) for nine years. Br. Robert is leaving for a well-deserved six-month sabbatical on July 15 in the United Kingdom. He will come back to us in January 2018. That only leaves the past and new Superiors a few weeks to pass on the baton.

Once our OHC Chapter had elected new members to the five-brother Council that advises the Superior they met for their first in-person meeting on Sunday, June 11. One of their jobs was to consider the local elections of Priors and Formators in our four monasteries (Santa Barbara, CA, Toronto, ON, Grahamstown, South Africa, and West Park, NY).

They approved the candidates selected by their respective houses. And that's how I became "official." Our monastery had conducted the election of a Prior Coadjutor back in January. This was a novelty meant to enable a smooth transition of responsibilities between the incumbent Prior, Br. Scott Borden and myself. It has proven a very fruitful way of handling the transition.

As it happens, Br. Scott had a most unfortunate accident in mid-May at the monastery while conducting re-wiring of our internal electronic network. He fell from a scaffold and broke both his arms. He soon had reparative surgery which has been very successful in speeding up his healing. He still wears removable casts at this time but is doing really well.

Soon after his accident, Br. Scott and I decided it made sense to speed up the transition of responsibilities and I became Acting Prior, pending approval by OHC's council. At this stage, I have been in charge of our monastery for five weeks.  I can definitely say that it has thickened the consistency of my calendar.

The Prior of a monastery is the leader who is ultimately responsible for the administrative and pastoral management of the monastery's community, its ministries, its businesses and finance. I have started being involved in several ways in all of these areas. 

Luckily, this is a team sport and I rely on the brothers a lot; there is very little that the office of Prior enables me to do alone. I have to give guidelines and perspective, then delegate, then supervise and fine-tune the guidelines as we go. What's different from corporate management is that all along pastoral concerns mix with the business of getting things done. Few managers live round the clock in an egalitarian, love-oriented environment with their charges. It has its advantages and challenges.

Brother Scott has started taking a six-month sabbatical. For the moment, he is at home recuperating from his accident and surgery and generally taking it easy - when he is not fixing some of our Information Technology that got fried by a thunder-storm last week...

Soon, he will leave to go visit our house in Grahamstown, South Africa. He will then attend a religious ecumenical conference in Germany (on the occasion of the 500th anniversary of the Reformation). He will then return a few weeks to our monastery and may take classes at the Enneagram Institute. In October, he will lead with Br. Aidan Owen a pilgrimage in England and Scotland. Finally, he will spend time with the Community of the Resurrection, a Benedictine community in Mirfield, in the North of England.

This means, the Order and the monastery are in new hands and we will be out of two faithful and talented brothers for the better part of the rest of 2017.

But there are more transitions going on. In May, two men entered the monastery as postulants; the Rev. Peter Pearson and Mr. Enrique Yepes. They will try their vocation with us through their six-month postulancy. God willing, they will then be clothed as novices of our Order and continue their monastic formation while increasing their involvement in the worship and work of the community.

By mid-July, Br. Bob Pierson will relocate from our monastery in Santa Barbara, California, to become our new Novice Master. At present, Br. Robert James Magliula is doing double duty by giving classes to our men in formation.

Regretfully, Br. Simon Thuku asked to leave our novitiate and returned to live in New York City in mid-June. We have greatly appreciated living and worshiping with Simon and we wish him the very best in the next stage of his life.

As you can see that is a lot of transition to go through in only a few months for a (still relatively small) band of monks. We are all relying on our respective support networks to help us learn and grow through it all but it can get stressful at times.

I believe we all look forward to some stabilization and routine settling in in the months to come, God willing. In the meantime, may I ask for your prayers for all the men involved. In return, don't hesitate to let us know what we can pray for together with you.