« We continue to serve those who call. »
As we all struggled with the pandemic over the past 6 months things have been fairly quiet at “The Mount.” The time has allowed us to do more thorough cleaning and maintenance of our aging buildings. Thanks to the generous donations of many loyal retreatants and some government subsidies our staff has been kept busy during these months. One new feature has been having time and resources to expand our garden for use by outside groups, including the Calgary Diocesan “Feed the Hungry” program.
Although we have not had any regular overnight retreats since March 15, 2020 some one-on-one spiritual direction and work with addiction programs have taken place. We continue to serve those who call.
As of the end of August we have begun some ministry subject to proper social distancing, masks and hand sanitation. We hosted 3 different retreats by invitation only to work out the kinks before starting again with the general public. People from the treatment centre, Simon House (founded by Brother Bernie Barry), came out for a twilight retreat (an evening with meal, reflection and prayer). Eleven of our retreat captains (those who help organize retreats) took part in an overnight retreat the last weekend in August. We will limit the groups to twenty people to safeguard distancing in the chapel, conference room and dining area.
We have continued our ecumenical outreach hosting a number of other churches including one of the Calgary Alliance churches on Saturday of the Labour Day weekend. One-day sessions with various groups are being scheduled on a regular basis. The retreat team is called upon to serve plated meals and refreshments in addition to their regular ministry.
Regular weekends start in September; again, with limited numbers. We have also had many visitors who ask to spend time on the grounds or pray the outdoor ways of the Cross.
Another new dimension is the use of a few acres of the grounds far from the retreat buildings by a group called “Growing Roots Forest Play” who have young children explore nature. They will come daily during the week throughout the year. We see this initiative as part of our ministry in keeping with “Laudato Si” among other initiatives taken by the community. It is also good exposure for the locals who have not been here before.
Finally our ministry from the retreat community also involves answering calls to well-known friars from hospitals and prisons. As well one of our friars, in the person of Friar Dennis Vavrek, serves St. Mary’s Parish in Cochrane as a full time Pastor with extra tasks due to the pandemic.
We look forward to an autumn of many ways to spread the Good News of Jesus Christ even though restricted by Covid-19.
Kevin Lynch, OFM