The most significant event, of course, was the death of our Fr. Martin Boler on November 7. Fr. Martin, in addition to serving as Prior here for nearly 40 years, was a father, friend and spiritual advisor for countless numbers of you during those years. He was also a pioneer in the area of ecumenical relations, reaching out both to non Catholic Christians of various traditions and non Christian alike. His presence is greatly missed.
The most recent of these events – one that brought us as much joy as the death of Fr. Martin brought sadness, was the clothing of our two novices, Randy Larkin, now known as Brother Matthew and John Zimnicky, known as Brother Luke. Additionally, in October, we received Brian O’Connor as a postulant.
A word often associated with Christmas is “gifts”…gifts purchased, gifts given, gifts received, gifts anticipated, even gifts returned. Gifts is what it is all about. In thinking about gifts recall those you have given. In the best of circumstances the search and careful thought given to gifts to present is rather a spiritual pilgrimage that allows us to at least initially attempt a match between the gift, the giver and the gifted one: a sort of trinity of the right present for the right person from the right person. We rehearse their lives and our relationship to their lives, imagining what gift, what tangible token, will capture the spirit and the soul of the person and bring alive our relationship. That is the ideal. I cannot remember all my presents over the years, but I do remember the relationships. The gift is but the means to define and develop and express the relationship(s) that we have.
For those of us who believe that the greatest gift is the gift of love, Christmas is the ultimate and most intimate expression there is. The child in the manger is the means whereby God’s love is presented to the people whom he loves. The birth of Jesus is many, many things: it is miracle, it is mystery, it is mercy, it is harbinger of hope, it is the gift of God for the people of God. Christmas is God’s initiative, it is God’s work; the fullness of God’s relationship of love first established in the covenant with Moses and completed in the covenant of Calvary. The gift of God for the people of God…even against all the forces of this dark and cold and unremitting world.
You need little reminder of the darkness, the coldness and the remitting character of the world—a world of homelessness, war, grinding poverty, corrupt politicians, unimaginable abuse of children; a world of broken homes and broken dreams. It is precisely into this dark world, where it is easier to believe a plausible lie than an impossible truth, not some Radio City Music Hall wonderland that Christmas comes. We cannot understand or comprehend it; all we can really do is fall to our knees and adore. All we can do is receive the gift. It takes courage to believe that we are loved – loved so much that God cared enough to send the very best. The gift of God for the people of God. May you know this gift and cherish it in your heart.
Prayerful best wishes for a blessed Christmas and an amazing 2013!
Fr Joseph Gabriel, O.S.B.
and the brothers
On Jan.25th, Br. Gabriel attended the funeral mass of Sr. Marie Julianne Farrington, former general of the Sisters of St. Mary of Namur. Many years ago, her community rented St. James' guest house and the Annex for the sisters and their students to spend days of prayer. After she retired from her leadership, she spent some time at the monastery to classify the writings of Fr. Damasus.
On February 2nd. Br. Gabriel celebrated 50 years of solemn profession. His talents are evident in the kitchen with the meals he prepares for the community and the guests.
On Ash Wednesday, Br. Justin, (John Young) became a novice.
On the feast of St. Patrick, Br. Joseph, a monk in simple vows from Christ in the Desert, arrived to discern a possible transfer among us. We had a special recreation for Fr. Patrick Mundy, a retired priest in residence who shares the priestly functions with Fr. James.
Our first lambs of the season arrived on April 14th and by the end of the month, we counted 200 lambs from 110 ewes. We were blessed with favorable weather and healthy animals
On April 21, Br. Dominic Savio, a Vietnamese Cistercian from Vietnam arrived for his extended stay with us. He was accompanied by some of his confreres who are in residence or studying in the USA. A few days later, an unexpected snowfall (4 inches) caused a power outage for 18 hours at the monastery and around the area.
The annual Damasus Winzen Conference was given by Professor Edward Hahnenberg on the liturgy. The shearing day, May 26th, attracted a large crowd and the work was less hectic with the help of many volunteers. On May 29th, Fr. Patrick Mundy had heart surgery and recuperated quickly.
The Abbot President of the American Cassinese Congregation, Abbot Hugh Anderson, appointed Fr. Joseph Gabriel Cusimano as prior administrator for a period of three years. His family lives in Buffalo, NY. He arrived on June 8th to begin his assignment accompanied by Br. Francis who spent 3 months here in 2002. Douglas Gravel who led the New York Oblate Group for many years died after a long struggle with cancer.
On July 14th, Abbot Hugh Anderson, president of the American-Cassinese Congregation officiated at the installation of Fr. Joseph Gabriel Cusimano, monk of Christ in the Desert, as Prior Administrator for a period of 3 years.
On July 26, Br. Caedmon who spent 10 months with us returned to his monastery, Christ in the Desert. In the afternoon. a tornado hit our area. The worst damage began 3 miles from us, in Golden Glow through Elmira. St. Joseph's Hospital, where Fr. Martin resides, lost their power for 24 hours. We had no power for 4 days; our generator supplied enough power for the lights and the refrigerators of the main building. Many trees broke but the damage to the buildings was minimal. The worst was to a 70 foot-long canopy between the dining room and the chapel. It landed upside down against the chapel.
Our D-Day was celebrated on Aug. 12th with friends who shared a brunch after mass and enjoyed a music recital with Clare Smock and friends.
On Sept. 3rd., Br. Francis left for Rome to serve as translator during the General Chapter of the Subiaco Congregation. On Sept. 15th, our Prior, Fr. Joseph Gabriel went to Rome to attend the Congress of Abbots of the Benedictine Confederation which is held every 4 years. The participants re-elected Abbot Notker Wolf as Abbot Primate. On Sept. 24th, work began to connect the chapel with a covered link. As the community is getting older, this project , estimated at around $200,000. became a necessity. The apple harvest lasted only 2 weeks because it was 23% of last year’s crop.
On October 5th, the annual workshop, Emmaus Gathering dealt with the theme: Stories of Resurrection: Humanity Coming Alive. Presentations and discussions helped the participants in their search for a deeper involvement as Christians. At the same time, our fields were used by 70 Border Collies that competed during a dog trial. Though our sheep were moved ably through the fields by those clever dogs, our wild sheep proved quite a challenge. On Oct. 12th, Fr. Philip returned to Vietnam to take charge of a new foundation. His confrere, Br. Dominic Savio, works on sculptures and started a major piece, St. Benedict , with one of the trees that was damaged during the tornado.
The monastery participated in a program sponsored by the government and NYSEG to reduce the electricity usage by changing light fixtures and light bulbs with more efficient products. This should help reduce our monthly electric bill that averages $1,200.
Before Fr. Martin was due to come back, he died at the hospital on the 7th after enjoying some ice cream. The funeral mass took place on Saturday, the 10th, the eve of his patronal feast, St. Martin of Tours. On Thanksgiving Day, three Vietnamese monks, including Abbot Matthew came for a brief visit. Since we had difficulty finding a retreat master this year, we had a quiet retreat week by ourselves and concluded with the reception of two novices: John Zimnicky (Br. Luke) and Randy Larkin (Br. Matthew).
Fr. James Cronen spent a few days at the hospital for a leg infection. He uses a motorized wheel chair to save time and energy around the monastery. Our Prior attended the New York Oblate meeting on Dec. 12th and presided at a memorial mass for Fr. Martin on Sunday the 16th at the Convent of Mercy in Brooklyn.
During the year, we received many donations in memory of our deceased friends.
Age 88, of Mount Saviour Monastery, formerly of Omaha, Nebraska, passed away peacefully, on Wednesday, November 7, 2012 at St. Joseph's Hospital. He is survived by the community members of Mount Saviour. He attended Creighton Preparatory High School and Creighton University and graduated from Creighton University Medical School in 1947 and interned at St. John's Hospital in St. Louis Missouri. He had one year as a resident in Pathology and three years in Urology at the St. Louis City Hospital. He was in the Navy V-5 program during WWII and served in the Korea, Japan and Okinawa during the Korean conflict. After a brief time as a Urologist with his father in Omaha, he entered Mount Saviour Monastery near Elmira, NY in 1955. After novitiate he began studies for the priesthood at Catholic University of America. He made life commitment as a Benedictine monk of Mount Saviour in 1959; was ordained priest in 1960 and received a Licentiate in Sacred Theology from Catholic University in 1961. Among other Duties, he taught Moral Theology at Mount Saviour from 1961 to 1964 when he became Guest Master. He was appointed Sub Prior in 1967 and Prior in October of 1969. He served on committees for the International Congress of Abbots and Priors during the early 1970's and gave numerous retreats during those years. Responsibilities as Prior caused him to radically curtail those activities. Fr. Martin remained Prior until he retired in 2008. In September 2011 he entered the Skilled Nursing Facility at the St. Joseph's Hospital in Elmira until last month when he was able to return to the monastery for two stays until his final hospitalization on November 3. His funeral mass was held on Saturday, November 10, 2012.