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North American Preceptory - REPORT OF ADVENT MEETING DECEMBER 2006

posted Apr 2, 2012, 7:55 PM by Noah Moerbeek   [ updated Apr 2, 2012, 8:00 PM ]

Because of the rapid growth of the North American Preceptory (23 novices), the knights of the preceptory decided to convene all the members during Advent 2006 for the purpose of building community by worshipping, praying, learning, dining and socializing together. Also planned during the event was the reception ceremony to the novitiate for those novices who had not yet had the blessing.

The meeting dates were December 8-10. The venue: Saint Thomas Seminary and Archdiocesan Center located in Bloomfield, Connecticut. The Center was the former seminary for the Hartford Archdiocese which has been converted into administrative offices and a conference center. The seminary is a beautiful neo-gothic structure that provided not only a beautiful traditional chapel but also lodging, dining and meeting spaces. Geographically, the seminary is located in a quiet suburban setting, easily accessible to all forms of transportation.

                                    St. Thomas Seminary, Bloomfield, Connecticut

The members in attendance were:

Brother Charles Adams (Pro-Preceptor)
Brother Michael Price (Vicar)
Brother Rodger Phillips (Master of Novices)
Mr. Edgardo Cruz (Novice, Puerto Rico)
Mr. Stephen Haller (Novice, Maryland)
Mr. David Hilt (Novice, Virginia)
Mr. Adrian Macias (Novice, Texas)
Mr. Matthew Roe (Novice, Virginia)
Miss Eva Sturchio (Novice, New Jersey)
Mr. Jason Woods (Novice, Pennsylvania)

Presenters/Guests in attendance were:

Rev. J.G. Lessard (Celebrant, Our Lady of Guadalupe, Holyoke, MA)
Rev. Daniel McElheron (Celebrant, Presenter, Holy Family, Enfield, CT)
Dr. Robert Phillips (Presenter, University of Connecticut)
Dr. John Rao, (Presenter, Director, Roman Forum House, New York City)
Mr. Kevin Ouelette (Master of Ceremonies, St. Mary's, New Britain, CT)
Members of the Schola Cantorum and Mixed Choir, St. Mary's, New Britain, CT)

                                Holy Mass on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception

Friday, December 8, 2006 Feast of the Immaculate Conception

Most participants arrived early and took the opportunity to tour the seminary. By slight change in program, all participants reported to our assigned conference room for a very brief introduction to the program. Then Brother Charles escorted the group to the chapel for vespers. Dinner followed immediately which was an ideal opportunity to get acquainted. We tried to separate the meal time and the Mass as much as possible so that communicants could fast. It seems that the meal times were fixed by the seminary and drove the agenda. Mass had to be celebrated whenever the celebrant was available. Rev. Daniel McElheron celebrated low Mass for the participants on the occasion of the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. Thus the welcoming meeting was scheduled after we were somewhat into the program. The knights in attendance greeted everyone. Then the attendees introduced themselves to the group saying name and giving some personal background. For Adrian, Stephen, Edgardo, Jason and Matthew, it was their first time at a preceptory event and the first time to meet other members of the community. It was an important step in building our spiritual community. Brother Charles concluded the evening by leading the members back to the chapel for a recitation of the rosary in Latin. One of the advantages of the seminary is that we had access to the chapel whenever we needed it for Mass and devotions.

Saturday, December 9, 2006

At the first general session, Brother Charles reported on the major decisions of the General Chapter 2006. Briefly, he emphasized that the exercise of free will in the Militia is a matter of deciding whether or not to commit to the Rule. Once that commitment is made, then the knight/novice is bound to total, unquestioned and cheerful obedience to the Grand Master and the Rule becomes his "bible" for living. Dom. Conti made the point that if a knight is not discernible in a crowd by his behavior, he is not fulfilling his commitment to the Rule. Brother Charles also stated that the General Chapter affirmed that we may not interpret the obligations of the Rule in a manner to meet our convenience.

                                                        Dr. John Rao

At the second session Dr. John Rao delivered a lecture on the transformational mission of the Crusading Orders. The goal of the Cistercian abbey at Cluny founded by St. Bernard was to transform western society into the Social Kingdom of Christ on earth. This was done through the model of the monk. Many of the elements of society in the Middle Ages were corrupt, aristocracy, clergy, military etc. The monks at Cluny wanted to transform ordinary soldiers into soldiers of Christ by giving them the mission to pray and defend the Faith and Church. The models of the Crusades were the Cistercian pilgrimages to Santiago de Compostela. In fact, the first Crusade was organized by Pope Urban II, a Cistercian. The Mystical Body of the Church should a model for modern society. And we as soldiers of the chivalrous orders are called to transform everything into Christ. There was a short Q and A because Dr. Rao had to leave immediately to attend this father's 90th birthday.

                                                        Rev. Daniel McElheron

After lunch, Rev. McElheron delivered a presentation on the Evangelical Counsels of poverty, chastity, and obedience. He said that charity is the binding virtue behind the Evangelical Counsels. To achieve perfection, we must remove all obstacles to the love of God especially sin because mortal sin removes charity from our souls and alienates us from God. Worldly things, riches, pleasures of the flesh and position of authority, all hinder us on our way to Christ. If we humble ourselves to the Lord, He will draw us to Him like a needy person. We must practice chastity of the mind in order to bring ourselves closer to Christ. Obedience is the willful denial of one's own will. We must be obedient to God and to love Him.

                                                    Reception of New Novices

The highlight of the day was High Mass celebrated by Rev. McElheron. We were graced by the presence of Mr. Kevin Ouelette who served as Master of Ceremonies. Several members of the Schola Cantorum and Mixed Choir from St. Mary's in New Britain, Connecticut increased the beauty of the liturgy by their beautiful voices. Before Mass began, Rev. McElheron officiated at the reception of new novices into the Militia. Receiving his blessing were Edgardo Cruz from Puerto Rico, Stephen Haller, Adrian Macias and Jason Wood. Although the novitiates of Edgardo, Stephen and Jason had begun sometime before the conference, Brother Charles felt that they deserved the priestly blessing and the opportunity to commit to the Rule according to the ceremony. Mr. Macias was the first postulant of the Order to begin his novitiate during the reception ceremony. It was a moving experience for all the participants.

                                                    Missa Cantata, Saturday

Vespers and dinner were followed by a presentation by Dr. Robert Phillips, fra. Rodger's father. His topic "A Pilgrim's Progress" documented his journey into the embrace of Holy Mother Church. He stated that he came from a home where religion had little influence and from a small town in Oklahoma that worshipped the god "oil". He recalled being impressed and influenced by a neighboring Catholic family. He was impressed by the piety that reigned in the home, an impression that caused him to visit the local Catholic church where to his amazement he saw men worshipping on their knees, something he had never seen before. After that he embarked on his journey to the Faith. He recommended several books to the group, namely "Rome is Right" by Newman, "Seven Storey Mountain" by Thomas Merton, "Death Comes to the Archbishop" by Willa Cather, "Tragedy of Thomas Merton" by Alice von Hildebrand, "Our Lady of Fatima" by William Walsh, "Iota Unum" by Romano Amerio, "The Heresy of Formlessness" by Martin Mosebach, and "Brideshead Revisited" by Evelyn Waugh and lastly "Summa Theologica" by Saint Thomas Aquinas. The evening ended after an informal Q and A session with Dr. Phillips.

                                                        Dr. Robert Phillips

Sunday, December 10, 2007

Lauds and breakfast were followed by a meeting to bring closure to the conference. Brother Charles thanked everyone for coming and expressed his pleasure at making acquaintance for the first time with many of the participants. All agreed that the conference was an immense success. High Mass was a special event, celebrated by the Rev. Lessard, the pastor of Our Lady of Guadeloupe Church in Holyoke, Massachusetts. Father Lessard was one of the first "indult" priests to offer the traditional Mass in western Massachusetts. This indult was sponsored by Una Voce Hartford. It was in his church that Brother Charles "cut his teeth" as an altar server. Father Lessard also sponsored Bro. Charles into the Militia. What a joy to work with him again! At this Mass Eva Sturchio and Jason Wood volunteered to serve as Schola Cantorum and Mixed Choir. Their talent made this High Mass possible and a fitting final event to the conference. The preceptory is indeed blessed to have so many dedicated members.

Sunday Mass

Those whose itinerary did not compel them to depart on Sunday afternoon, reconvened for a second High Mass celebrated by Rev. McElheron at St. Mary's in New Britain where Bro. Charles was cross-bearer and Bro. Rodger was thurifer. The evening ended with a jovial dinner shared by members of the Militia and the parish at a local restaurant.
                                            Knights and novices in attendance

On behalf of the entire preceptory, Brother Charles wishes to thank sincerely Brother Rodger who was responsible for the program format and content and Novice David Hilt who was responsible for all the logistical arrangements, lodging, meals, meeting venues and transportation. A debt of gratitude also is in order for Novices Matthew Roe and Eva Sturchio whose copious notes of the presentations were the meat of this report. The members are especially grateful to the celebrants and presenters who shared with us their spirituality and wisdom. The meeting was a monumental success in the light of its goals which were to heighten the spirituality and sense of community of the members.


Respectfully submitted,
Bro. Charles E. Adams, CPMO
Pro-Preceptor, North American Preceptory

       Window, St. Thomas Seminary chapel