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Usually one writes these sorts of annual letters and updates around Christmas time but for numerous reasons I didn’t succeed in doing that this year. Or last year. Or the previous one, or… well, let’s just leave it there. As I’ve recently celebrated my 37th birthday, I’ve had occasion to recall with joy and gratitude many of the things I’ve experienced and remembered in the last 12 months. I thought I would share a few of these with you in something of a photographic narrative that will undoubtedly wander, contain hyperbolic word choices, and undoubtedly illustrate some great run-on sentences that will make the linguists among you reach for a drink. (Note, the photographic part is in the other attachment in low resolution, or online as a download or as a slideshow – depending on how good your internet connection is. Cycles, Rhythms, and back again In the Servants of the Word, brothers are sent, recalled, and resent. Our placement in households and service is part of the great ineffable mystery of the celibate call. I find that relegating things to “mystery” is a helpful little trick I use for dealing with things I can’t comprehend and yet are part of my reality… I have lived in Lansing for 3 years, leading our house there and doing my studies and mission from there. In July, I moved back to Ann Arbor to our “International Formation House” on Catherine St. It seems that this brother’s life is sponsored by the number three. I was in London for 3 years (2002-05), then in Ann Arbor for 3 years (05-08), then in Lansing for another 3 (08-11) and presumably I shall be here in Ann Arbor for three years. I’m loving being back in Ann Arbor. It feels a little like I’m returning to my roots and reconnecting with the people who’ve shaped my adult life most substantially. My time in Lansing had its challenging moments and I’ve been surprised at how life-giving and joyful my experience of being back in A2 has been. God is good and merciful – He knew I needed this. I don’t know how long this will last, but I’m glad for it. The Life of a Brother The Catherine St house is super fun. We have 10 guys living in our 2 houses and 7 nationalities represented. (And yes, I’m counting myself as French for this tally! Lebanon, Ireland, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Mexico, France and the US) With such diversity we have lots of interesting personalities, gifts and talents, and backgrounds: this makes for a very rich life together. I’m not leading the house like I was in Lansing, which is also a great relief. I do still have some leadership role as I am helping with some of the formation of the young men who are living with us. I teach a few courses and am doing some spiritual direction for a couple of the guys as they discern their call to this life. Some of my SW responsibilities have me working with younger guys (we call them affiliates) who are starting to look into our life and want to hear more about the Servants of the Word. The Life of a Missionary In our student work, University Christian Outreach, I continue to do a fair bit of oversight and training of our staff workers. This usually means lots of meetings, emails, and desk time. I’m also working with some of our newer student groups (in Vancouver, and in Montréal in particular) as they grow. This means I get to use my French a bit and do some travel – which of course I really enjoy! We now have 9 student groups across North America and have close to 25 staff working full or part-time in various capacities in our outreaches. It’s been a real blessing to see this ministry grow. The late nights, the frequent weekend activities, and the transitory nature of student work do make this kind of ministry fairly challenging for those who live a “normal” life – so I’m glad for the gift and calling I have. The Life of a Student I’ve been working on a Masters in Theology for almost 6 years now and the end is finally in sight. (I hope!!) I took my last class in the fall. Now I am working heartily (10hours per week) on my thesis. I hope to have it done by
Not sure what will come next academically or what I’ll be “doing” with this degree. I’m well aware that the moniker is underserved. But rest assured. As I’ve often been heard saying: “it’s all luck”… So with that brief moment of lucidity behind us. So when you combine the travelling opportunities with the fact that my digital camera (thanks to the tremendous generosity of my parents!) can take ridiculously high amounts of photos. Through the amazing generosity of a friend of one of the brothers. The topic is: “Keeping the Lord’s Day holy: a study of the implications of the third commandment and its sanctification of time for the new evangelization. to cap off the retiring experience we had a big retreat at the end of that week for all of our UCO groups in North America with 200 or so students and staff. I spent 2 weeks here discovering the parks and stunning beauty of that city in the midst of ferocious Stanley Cup fever. South Carolina During the first week of May. but I think I’m ready to be done with studies for a little while. I have created a bit of a reputation of being a photographer. and the waterfowl were wonderfully worry-free.” Yeah I know. I will now much less briefly mention my past year’s journeys across this beautiful continent and my one quick foray across the ocean. I have discovered that if you take ENOUGH pictures. The Winter of My Retreat Earlier in the month I had a chance to go on / help lead three retreats in a row. Vancouver In early June. when all this was over I was tempted to ask the brothers for an opportunity to take a personal retreat… but since that doesn’t fit with the number three. Lebanon. sounds a little thick – but I’m really enjoying doing a lot of reading and thinking about the impact of the commandment to keep the Sabbath holy. These are best illustrated by taking a look at the attached file with photos of these places. we were given a week at a house on the beach at Fripp Island. Needless to say. I joined the formation household for their vacation in South Carolina. On our way to Fripp Island. The week after that I led a 4 day retreat for the younger men in our outreaches who are interested in SW life. This year’s theme was on the Letters of Peter and Jude. Between Christmas and New Year we go away for a week of spiritual refreshment and refocusing. Brian and I did a hike in the Smokies and we also got in a couple days visit with some dear friends in Maryland on the way home. I resisted! The Travelogue As you probably know I’ve developed a bit of a photo-taking hobby over the years.the end of the term so that I can defend it in May or June. California Three days visit to Phil and Cami on my way home from Vancouver was one of the highlights of the year for me. Then. Whilst I don’t really think I’m a “photographer” in the true sense of the term. The weather. . The first one was our annual Christmas retreat with my household. the waves. three of us UCO Staff Michiganders went to Vancouver to lead a month-long student summer household program with our new outreach. This wonderful opportunity to see old friends and revisit a fascinating place was spiritually anointed and personally very life-giving. A day to visit the vineyards of Amador county. a day to fearfully walk Rattlesnake trail (and almost begin that final journey home due to a close encounter!). a delightful opportunity to tour around San Francisco and Muir Woods with Megan and Chris (my cousins) who had just come in for a week of vacation. the law of random good luck states that you’re bound to have a good one or two. Lebanon I spend one week in January visit and “auditing” our community in Beirut.
What a joy for me to experience and serve our student mission in my other language! On one of the days. snakes and arachnids. worms. centipedes. Snakes. and Maine. New Hampshire. followed by several lovely days of discovering the world of tidepools in Acadia National Park. I visited our budding francophone student outreach in Montréal for a few days. and the fall colors were at the rendezvous.The North East Corner This year’s personal vacation time was a road trip to some of the few remaining states I’ve never been to: Vermont. Nico . you’ve made it this far – well done! My endless chatter and blab about myself is now finally drawing to its weary conclusion. This glorious vacation was launched by a terrific visit to the Schalekamps in Albany. Many kind thanks to all of you for your recent photos and Christmas newsletters – you are in my prayers! Much love. Montreal In the early fall. I think if I weren’t living in Michigan. mushrooms. the main student leader took me to a nearby national park and we climbed ourselves a little mountain. With several of my staff worker friends we did an epic road trip to the “North East Corner” of the US. My vocabulary was enriched as I discovered that the pastime of looking for snakes is called “herping”. Then we climbed a couple famous mountains in NH and ME. some of my day-off fall walks in Michigan turned into voyages of discovery of the wild and wooly bizarre world of insects. Michigan walks A recent acquisition of a macro lens has opened for me the new world of the minuscule. As a result. What fun! Well. I might tempted to become a bit of a herper… This year I saw 5 different kinds of snakes in the wild and 3 of them rather dangerous.
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