Letter from the Superior – Fall 2021

Dear Friends in Christ,

September usually brings with it a return to routine, which for us normally means a reopening of both the Guesthouse and the Chapel after their closure in August. Not so this year. Like so many routines of the past, done almost as a matter of course in other times, these two markers of the fall are anything but routine this year. Our Guesthouse remains closed, and the Chapel, at least for now, is open only for the Sunday Eucharist. As it is for all of you, our routines continue to be anything but routine now, as we reinvent our life day by day.

One of the things which we have had to reinvent is our understanding of the monastic virtue of hospitality. Our Rule reminds us that people are yearning deeply for “the things of God.” Before the pandemic we knew exactly how to offer that to those who came under our roof, through silence, worship, safety, fellowship, security, prayer, beauty, courtesy, acceptance, intercession, guidance, teaching, and encouragement. These are all the things which our Rule tells us are markers of our ministry of hospitality. The difficulty is that the Rule assumes these are done in person, and face-to-face! Now that much of that ministry is online, how can those same markers of hospitality be made tangible virtually? As we have shifted our ministry of hospitality online, our hope is that some of the markers which we value, and you cherish, are just as tangible as they are when you are here in person.For us however, the graces of hospitality do not flow only in one direction, from us to you. They flow in both directions. Again, our Rule says, “just as we enrich our guests’ lives, so they enrich ours.” After many of the programs we have offered online, a Brother has always said, “It was so nice to see their faces and hear their voices.” As we have reinvented how we do hospitality, we have been so encouraged and heartened by your online presence, just as you have been encouraged and heartened by ours. For that we are grateful.

We are also grateful for the fact that we have at last been able to reopen the Chapel, at least for the Sunday Eucharist. It is so good to have people back worshipping with us, even with cautions in place. Over the summer we have also been able to welcome a few residential guests, including a number of Inquirers. Among those we welcomed to worship with us were Brother Jack’s family on the joyful occasion of his initial profession of vows. It was a truly wonderful day, made all the more meaningful as it was one of the first days the Chapel was open to guests.

Being able to welcome a limited number of people again means we were finally able to welcome Michael Hardgrove to come and test his vocation with us. Michael’s arrival was delayed by more than a year because of the pandemic, but he was finally able to come this summer, and he was received as a postulant in June.

After several years of a highly successful monastic internship program, we were set last summer to make some adjustments and provide a way for fulltime graduate students to share our life. In the wake of the pandemic, the internship program has changed into a residency, and Sharon Christner & Gabe Colombo moved into the Guesthouse in the middle of August. While we don’t see as much of them as we did the interns, their presence in our lives is already appreciated and valued.

With each small step – residents, postulants, Inquirers, Sunday morning congregation – our ministry of hospitality is beginning to look familiar once again. At the same time, over these last months, we have discovered to everyone’s surprise, and especially mine, that the marks of hospitality which we so value can be experienced in real and tangible ways online, just as in person. While we rejoice in the limited ways we have been able to return to in-person ministry, the graces of online ministry over the last months have been encouraging and heartening. We have been honored that you have chosen to join us, whether in person or online, in real time or in virtual time. By doing so you “enrich our lives” and “enlarge our vision of God’s world.”

Please know that hold all of you in our prayers,

James Koester
Superior, SSJE

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