St. Anthony Shrine & Ministry Center
Aug 2 2014 9:00AM to 8:00 PM
St Anthony Shrine & Ministry Center
100 Arch St
Boston MA, 02110
August 3, 2014
It is a quiet Sunday night and I am reflecting on what just happened at St. Anthony Shrine in Boston yesterday: an Emmaus Ministry One-Day Retreat in the Friary on the Franciscan Feast of the Portiuncula.
As the Pieta Ministry, we have offered many weekend retreats at the Shrine over the past five years; however, this was our first One Day Retreat and our first retreat as the Emmaus Ministry for Grieving Parents there. The presence of the Holy Spirit and our children was palpable. Once again, the Shrine is our spiritual home in Boston.
Fr. John Hogan OFM, Guardian of the Friary said, “I am sure that I am speaking for all the friars here at St. Anthony Shrine when I say that we were privileged to offer hospitality to all the parents who participated in The Emmaus Retreat for Grieving Parents last Saturday.”
Eighteen parents from MA, NH, and RI attended the retreat; nine of them had been to a previous Emmaus Ministry retreat. Time since death ranged from a few weeks to 21 years ago. Causes of death included drug overdoses, suicides, murders, and illnesses.
Members of the Retreat Team included Fr. Tom Conway OFM, Spiritual Leader; Bro. John Maganzini OFM, Spiritual Leader, Spiritual Director, Liturgist, and Musician; Fr. Joe Quinn OFM, Music; Peggy Hassett, Spiritual Director; Claire Michlovitz, Parent Witnessing and Publicity; Carol & Jerry Lemerise, Check-In; Beth Rapoza, Candles, Parent Directory, and Name Tags; Charley Monaghan, Parent Witnessing; and Charley and Diane Monaghan, Retreat Coordinators.
The retreat opened with a heartfelt welcome from Fr. Tom Conway, OFM, the Shrine’s new Executive Director, who served as one of our Spiritual Leaders for the retreat. “This is the only ministry of the Shrine that we invite into our private friary living space for an entire day or weekend, and, on behalf of all of the friars, we welcome each of you to our home,” said Fr. Tom, instantly setting everyone at ease.
We then moved into the absolutely beautiful 5th Floor Friars Chapel for the Welcoming Prayer Service prepared and coordinated by Brother John Maganzini OFM, one of the original founders of the ministry. In preparation for the traditional Lighting of the Children’s Candles, Bro. John gave a powerful explanation of the Christian candle lighting tradition. He emphasized the fact that in lighting the candle, we are invoking the Light of the World and the light of our children. In the lighting of the candle, we are one in their presence. As one would expect, the blessing and lighting of the candles was very very emotional for all.
We then gathered in the Friary living room to hear a moving reflection presented by Fr. Tom. “Focus on the now,” Fr. Tom exhorted us,”not the past or the future. In our brokenness, healing begins now, if we are open to it and the coping mechanisms others can provide.” A good discussion of “How could this be God’s plan for us?” followed.
After many friars joined us for lunch in the Friary dining room, we gathered again for two poignant Parent Witnessing reflections by Claire Michlovitz and Charley Monaghan. Both Claire and Charley gave extremely moving reflections on where they are in their own personal spiritual journeys today.
Following the Parent Witnessing, we broke into smaller groups. Topics of discussion in the Mothers’ Group included… age of a child: does a miscarriage “count”? (of course); saying goodbye to the earthly bodies of our children; words of advice to mothers who are only a few weeks or months out; cause of death…the end result is all the same.
Topics of discussion in the Fathers’ Group included…how can we be fathers if we cannot protect? What is the role of a father? Do mothers grieve more deeply than fathers?
The traditional Emmaus Walk followed, after which we had the option of reflection time in the chapel, companioning each other, reconciliation, spiritual direction, or free time. Eventually we reconvened in the chapel for a Mass celebrated by Fr. Tom during which each child was remembered by name during the Intercessions by Bro John and the Eucharistic Prayer by Fr. Tom.
Fr. Tom’s homily was particularly inspiring as he focused on the fishes and loaves of bread and tied them into the earlier gospel of the mustard seed. “Both gospels tell us,” said Fr. Tom, “that we have all that we need right now….just as the disciples had all that they needed to feed the masses (yet didn’t know it) and just as the mustard seed has all that it needs to produce the mighty bush. Likewise, deep down inside our souls, all of us have what we need to get us through. Oftentimes, we just don’t realize it.”
After a welcome respite of drinks and dinner with the friars, we returned to the chapel for our Closing Prayer Service. Bro. John opened the service with a prayer and “On Eagles’ Wings.” Fr. Tom then asked parents to form a semi-circle around the candles. He invited the friars to join us for the laying on of hands. As we stood together, holding hands, we felt the Spirit flow through us in so many different ways as each of the ten friars there moved among us and held our heads in prayer. Afterwards, Fr. Tom anointed the retreat participants.
The retreat concluded with Bro. John reminding us that we were extinguishing the wick of our candles, but not their light, the light of our children and the union of our child with the Lord. In devotion to Mary, Mother of Mercy, the friars and parents concluded the retreat by singing “Salve Regina.”
Afterwards, Bro. Daniel Murray OFM, who remembers Emmaus Ministry parents and children every day during the friars’ Morning Prayer, said, “It was a privilege to share prayer, meals, and time with these special parents. I was very touched by the strong sense of bonding that took place among all the participants. The whole retreat is the wonderful work of the Holy Spirit.”
Bro. John Maganzini said, “As I continue in this ministry, I am always so deeply touched by the desire of the parents to seek the “spiritual” to find answers, come to peace, and pray. I felt a strong sense of “community” throughout the retreat…the welcome into our friary…the presence of the friars……the rituals…..the presence of the parents and the sharing of their stories. I can never know the loss of a child, but I feel privileged that these parents come and bring their pain and their struggles….together we experience the Franciscan blessings of community and compassion.”
Parents who attended said…
“I enjoyed both (Parent Witnesses)… the feeling of compassion and empathy towards them from all their listeners was palpable.”
“Everything from the Franciscans’ hospitality, the opening prayer candle lighting ceremony to the closing prayer ceremony with the anointing and laying on of hands was so incredibly moving.”
“I felt so connected. This is a beautiful ministry and I will attend again.”
“Atmosphere was relaxing, food was great, and discussions were very helpful. All of the liturgy was beautiful, comforting, and uplifting.”
“We appreciate everything Fr. Tom and the friars did to make it such a special day.”
“This was a safe, comfortable place just “to be” with other parents who knew what it is like to lose a child.”
“I loved the nurturing from the Friars. Indeed, I felt very blessed.”