I didn’t know what to expect. I had driven to this retreat center many, many time, but had never felt the anxiety like I did yesterday.
I was driving to Gilmary Retreat Center just a half hour from Steubenville, a popular destination for both my high school and many groups at Franciscan as well. It closed in April and many items in the retreat center were up for auction. I was driving out to collect some artwork that I had seen so often in this holy place. This time when I went there were not retreatants waiting for an encounter with the Lord, but many people who came to encounter whatever they bought at this online auction. There were cars, trucks, and U-Haul vans in the grass where we played so many games: it tore my heart apart to pull up to a sight like that.
I realized very quickly I was walking around with different eyes than most others. As I walked around for what may have been the very last time many memories kept racing back into my mind. Sacred moments, fun moments, unexpected moments continued to run through my head. It seemed as everyone else saw it as a property full of possessions rather than a place full of peace.
Through my 20 or so retreats I had encountered so many wonderful people, and got to know many beautiful people as well, and now at this retreat center I was going to learn another lesson, and the timing could not be more perfect.
That lesson is about the importance of detachment. St. Paul reminds us, as does our Lord in other places, that “the form of this world is passing away. ” (1 Corinthians 7:32)
It is true without any doubt in my mind that the experiences I had at Gilmary (meaning belonging to Mary) were part of my journey of faith. However, as Christians we keep in mind our transcendent end, we should always be moving forward in faith longing to behold Him in full glory in the life to come.
“Forward, always forward, everywhere forward… man’s adversity is God’s opportunity.” – Fr. Boniface Wimmer, OSB
God is not in things. He uses these things for the glory of his kingdom, but as St. Josemaría says, “what really matters is not whether you have this or lack that, but whether you are living according to the truth taught us by our Christian faith, which tells us that created goods (or buildings) are only a means, nothing more.” Friends of God, 118
It is sad to see Gilmary go, ’tis true, but it served the purpose for which God intended for it and now it is time to move on to something new.
This lesson comes at a perfect time for me, for two reasons and I think for many other people can benefit from this lesson as well.
1. I just graduated from Franciscan University and will be leaving campus at the end of the summer after the summer conferences to enter the seminary for the Diocese of Pittsburgh. Once again I have had many faith filled experiences on campus, an I have learned many things – both in the classroom and without – but I cannot stay here forever. The school’s mission is “to educate, to evangelize, and to send forth joyful disciples.” Detachment from Franciscan is a good thing, and in fact I’m fulfilling the mission by doing so. As I prepare to leave Steubenville, to only come back for short visits, it’s important to have on my mind that I cannot stay here – God has big plans.
2. We are coming closer and closer to the completion of On Mission for the Church Alive! in the Diocese of Pittsburgh – a reorganization effort to best utilize what we have to serve God’s people in the best way possible.
In many cases throughout the diocese this means many parishes will close their doors. We’re moving from 180 or so parishes down to just 49. While it is sad to see so many beautiful places close down it is important to re-evaluate and use our resources in the best possible way.
While we must be detached from things in this world, that does not give us permission to waste them. Even Christ after the multiplication of the loaves asked his Apostles to collect what was left over, so that it was not wasted. Bishop Zubik seeks to combine our resources in order to fulfill the mission of Jesus and his Church. That mission is to preach the Gospel in the best way we can; to bring as many people to Heaven as we can – God has big plans.
God is always doing something new. While this is certainly a time of change for many of us – college graduates, and many others – I encourage you to be be open to what God is doing, just as Mary was open to His will in her life. Ask him to “give new signs and work new wonders” for the glory of His kingdom, so that we can together by “belonging to Mary” we can baptize the world. ✝