Author Archives: Duggan Kevin

Welcome remarks at Blessing of the Site of the Retreat Center

St. Francis Retreat Center


Remarks and blessing by Abbot Stanislaus Gumula

Today is a day so longed for.  It means that a dream that was conceived many years ago is finally about to see the light of day.  Many were the conversations that Father Francis Kline, Mepkin’s third abbot, and I had about this dream.

He once told me over the phone as he lay in his bed at Sloan Kettering that he had come up with the design of the rooms he would like to see at the new Retreat Center.   On another occasion we agreed on the architect we would ask to put this dream on paper.

And just over a month before his death in August, 2006, we were talking about it and he said he just didn’t have the energy to do the fund raising that would be required for such an undertaking.  Looking him straight in the eye, I told him: “Don’t take this wrongly, Francis, but your death will bring us the funds for this project.”  And looking me back straight in the eye, he responded, “I know.  But as long as I am alive, I have to worry about this.”

He need not worry any longer.  The outpouring from his friends assures us that this project will indeed be finished.  We are here today to begin the final phase.

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Feast of the Most Holy Trinity

What we celebrate liturgically on this feast of the Most Holy Trinity is the interrelatedness of God the Creator, the Redeemer and the Holy Spirit. Our second reading today (Romans 8:14-17) gives one indication of how the Three-in-One work together. Paul speaks of God as Abba Father. The role of the first person of the Trinity is a divine parent. All who believe are sons and daughters of God. How so? The Spirit lives in us and testifies with and thru us that we belong to God’s family. Having been made children of God by the working of the Spirit, we become siblings to Christ and fellow heirs of all that Christ has. What we inherit is both a share in his glory and his suffering.

But how does this relate to the everyday concerns that face us. The main thrust of this second reading is not so much to explicate the theology of the Trinity but to draw us into the family of God. The focus of today’s reading is the role of the Spirit drawing believers into God’s family.

Everyone senses a need to belong. Community is about the experience of belonging. It is about the feeling of coming home or being at home as opposed to thinking that wherever I am I would be better off somewhere else. We are in community each time we find a place where we belong. To belong is to be related to and a part of something greater than oneself. It also has to do with being an owner. To belong to a community is to act as a creator and co-owner of that community.

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Pentecost Sunday

1st rdg      Acts 2:1-11  all were filled with the Holy Spirit

resp Ps 104  Lord send out your spirit and renew the face of the earth

2nd rdg     Gal 5:16-25  live by the Spirit/fruit of the Spirit is love, joy …

gospel     Jn 20:19-23  as the Father sent me so I send you/ receive …

To be sent by Jesus, as he was sent by the Father, is our life in the dynamism of becoming the church here – now – in the Spirit poured forth upon us.  Isn’t this what Jesus is telling us today?  To celebrate Pentecost is to celebrate the church being brought into being by God. Not for another time or place.  Not in memories of what was or the hope of what will be, but in the awesome understanding of God ennobling us, today, at this very moment.  When Luke tells us in the Acts of the Apostles: “all were filled with the Holy Spirit” we must remember that they were as we are – limited, uncertain, struggling for understanding, wavering of heart.  They loved God with no less a desire and no greater a desire than we do.  Their faith moved in fits and starts, more developed through time, but imperfect, messy and in need of the reconciliation mentioned at the end of the gospel we just heard.  Truly they persevered through their imperfections, knowing as Paul tells the Galatians, that they were to “live in the Spirit.”  And by living in the Spirit of God they discovered the blessing of gifts lovingly given – not earned, acquired by writing a dissertation, or purchased – but gifts that were the fruit of a life of fidelity to prayer and ardor for the way of Jesus.

Sometimes we romanticize faith and the church.  Often we fail to dwell upon the reality of how deeply we are loved by God, how unremittingly God engages us in coming to understand that we were brought into existence to be loved by God for all eternity.  We don’t remember that the heaven toward which we live this life is not a reward, not a merited prize but a gift, of which, if we really understand God’s will, we want to be deserving.  The sign that we are wanting to be deserving is that the pattern to which we try to conform our activities, our goals, our undertakings is the way of Jesus.  We can only come to the Father by living in his Spirit.  Church becomes so much more than “I’m going to church’, “canon law says”, “let me look in the catechism” – when our profession of faith is the way that we live even more than what we say.

As a parish priest, I was teaching a religion class in our parish elementary school and a young student asked me where can I see the Holy Spirit?  So often artists depict the Spirit hovering over a group whose eyes are turned upward.  I took the opportunity to ask the students as a homework assignment to go home and look for the Spirit and tell me where they recognized the presence of God’s Spirit.  One young girl told me she recognized the Spirit in her grandmother who took time every morning to sit quietly and pray.  Another student spoke of a neighbor who always stopped and asked an elderly lady who lived alone down the block if she needed anything from the store.  A boy said that his uncle worked in a soup kitchen twice a month.  A girl spoke about the man who forgave her for crushing the flowers in his flower bed when she chased her ball into his yard.  Then one student spoke about receiving first holy communion and another said something about a time he really needed to go to confession and the priest was unexpectedly kind.  There was diversity in the experiences but an awareness that each person had experienced a valid encounter with the Spirit of God.  For homework, take some time to call to mind your own history of encountering the Holy Spirit in your life, of being gifted by the Spirit for your own good or for the good of another.

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Work has begun on Retreat Center

Francis Kline Chapel

Work has begun on the St. Francis Retreat Center and the Father Francis Kline Memorial Chapel which will be located on the site of the former St. Anthony Guest House. A blessing of the construction site will be held on June 3, 2012 at 3 p.m. and the building should be completed by the end of this year.

The new Retreat Center, which will replace all of the existing guest houses, will have sixteen private rooms with private baths (two being handicapped accessible with an adjoining room in each case for a care giver), a library, offices for the Guestmaster and Spiritual Director, and a room for counseling/confessions. The Father Francis Kline Memorial Chapel will be a free-standing meditation chapel dedicated in memory of our beloved Abbot Francis Kline who died August 27, 2006.

W.G. Clark and his partner Josh Stanstny of the University of Virginia, Charlottesville, are our architects and Hightower Construction Company, Inc. is our general contractor.

Dr. John Palms (former President of the University of South Carolina) and his wife Norma head the fund-raising efforts and participated in building committee meetings. Almost all of the funds to build this project  have been raised. A significant portion of this amount came in as memorials for Father Francis Kline at the time of his death.

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Easter 2012

1st rdg   Acts 10 34a;37-43  commissioned us to preach & testify

psalm   Ps 118 this is the day which the Lord has made, let us rejoice

2nd rdg  Col 3:1-4  seek what is above/life hidden with Christ in God

Gospel  Jn 20:1-9  look  –  see  –  believe  –  understand  

May God’s measureless love envelope us today as we celebrate Our Lord’s resurrection!

Whereas the saying ‘seeing is believing’ may be an apt adage for other occasions, this morning ‘not seeing is believing’ might be the better phrase.  For it was in not seeing Jesus’ body in the tomb that the disciples’ belief grew, with the understanding that his body wasn’t there because He had risen.  I am often drawn to reflect that we go looking for Jesus in the wrong places.  He is not in the place of the dead – the cemetery – the grave – in lackluster faith or in the pretense of religious practice.  Jesus is known in the midst of believers!  Jesus’ ministry was marked by attending to folks who were not the stellar church goers, but they got down to believing on a very intimate level and their faith often had to do with the fact that they had wandered from the path of relationship with God or had grown indifferent to God and they were upended by the One who ultimately died a shameful death so that we all would wake up and smell the coffee.

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Potato, Leek, Gruyere, Oyster Mushroom Gratin

Serves 10


  • 4 tablespoons (½ stick) butter
  • 1 pound oyster mushrooms, halved if large
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 4 cups thinly sliced leeks (white and pale green parts only; about 4 large)
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh thyme
  • 1 ¾ cups canned low-salt chicken broth
  • 1 ¾ cups whipping cream
  • ¼ cup dry white wine
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 3 ¾ pounds russet potatoes, peeled, thinly sliced into rounds (about 8 cups)
  • 2 ½ cups grated Gruyère cheese (about 10 ounces) Guoda works well too.
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