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MINISTER’S LETTER

 

Dear Friends,

Br Clark Berge SSF

Br Clark Berge SSF

Recently the brothers closed Little Portion Friary on Long Island. The decision to do so was very difficult; once taken, everything went quickly.

We were very fortunate that a local charity in Port Jefferson, New York, was interested in buying the friary. Hope House Ministries, founded in 1980, was begun in the Little Portion Guesthouse. Soon they moved to permanent quarters in the village. Thirty years later their need for a larger facility prompted their eager decision to buy the friary.

Hope House Ministries is an outreach ministry of the De Montfort Fathers. They provide accommodation, support, counselling and training for young men seeking to recover from drug and alcohol abuse and addiction. The have decided to call the new facility Hope House Academy at Little Portion Friary. Initially about 20 young men will move in. Their first priority is to enlarge the chapel by removing the back wall; already they have paid to have the ovens in the bakery repaired so that the young men can carry on the work in the bakery. They are excited about the labyrinth and the beautiful vegetable garden too.

The Society of St. Francis is retaining the cemetery. The woodland was sold to the county for a park. The transfer of the friary and adjacent property will take place on September 3. The brothers are leaving most of the furnishings so that Hope House can start using the facility right away. We are taking our Franciscan related library, some artwork, and the items from our sacristy. Each of us who has been living here will clear out his belongings: heaps of things going right back to the charity shops they came from.

The Province of the Americas will be consolidated in California, with a friary in San Francisco and another in Los Angeles. There are ten brothers in the Province, with the possibility of some postulants, but we are facing challenges with four of our active brothers being very senior in age.

I got to pack the Franciscan library. One of the benefits of packing that collection of Franciscan books was a chance to browse some old favorites and make a quick scan of unfamiliar volumes. I’d never read Golden Words: The Sayings of Brother Giles of Assisi, but he was a very bracing companion for me during those days of grieving, packing, letting go. A farmer’s son, he joined St. Francis when he was only 18. The two set off on a long walking tour to the coast soon after. His sayings have some of the earthiness of the farm, and the topsy-turvy wit of St. Francis. I am not sure if these are just remembered sayings or if he wrote them down, but he spoke among other things about the classic Franciscan themes of poverty, love, prayer and contemplation, and the need to work. As I was feeling unhappy about the move and fearful about the future, these words of Giles leaped off the page: ‘Remember: the road to victory is Defeat Street!’ Things aren’t always what they seem. Others who have left houses, fields, and family to serve the Gospel have been rewarded many times over.

Wishing you much peace and all good in the midst of life’s vicissitudes.

May the Lord give you Peace.

Clark Berge SSF