Our Mission and Purpose
My dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
I am so excited to be writing you today because I can finally flesh out with you the mission and purpose of Eternal Flame of Hope Ministries. Our Mission Statement is somewhat fuller than what I am about to say. When people ask me our purpose I try to summarize it in a sentence so that it is memorable to the hearer and easy also for me to articulate. “Our purpose,” I say, “is to bring people closer to God through art, nature and spirituality.” This is deliberately broad and a little vague for a reason. The reason is that it can incorporate many avenues to the Holy.
Let me share a little story to illustrate my point. I had to welcome a little child into our faith, so I was off to do a baptism in south Brooklyn while I was living in a church in central Queens. The baptism was for 1:00 pm, so I thought it would be prudent to leave early and wind my way to the church through local streets to avoid possible delays on the highway. It was about noon and I found myself driving through a very now trendy area of Brooklyn called Park Slope. I couldn’t believe how many young adults were on the street at this time. There were skate boarders, and dog walkers and joggers and hipsters and women, many women, pushing baby carriages and strollers. The place was teeming with people—and they were all in their thirties or younger. Then it occurred to me, if this was another time, say forty years ago, the streets would be nearly empty. Why? Well, because, being Sunday the people would not yet be on the streets. Where would they be? They would be at prayer, worshipping their God on Sunday.
Wow! I thought to myself, how far the Church has fallen in relevancy! How far it has fallen, and how scary this is for all parties concerned. It is scary for those on the street and not at Mass—and I am sure a good portion of those on the street were Catholic—because they are depriving themselves of the grace of such a perfect encounter with God. It is scary for the Church to see younger people on the streets and not in the pews. On many Sundays as a priest in the Diocese of Brooklyn and Queens, I look out into the congregation and muse to myself where have all the young people gone? Indeed, a missionary Jesuit priest on vacation from his assignment in Nigeria shared these very same observations with me. “I look out into the congregation,” he said, “and see only older people.” He continued, “The Church in Nigeria is so young, so alive, what happened here?”
Yes, this is precisely the question, the befuddlement and the opportunity! This is where our Ministries wants to be. You see, I am convinced that young people want God, that they hunger for Him. It is very difficult to be young today and to be without the moorings of faith. Yet, they try to fill the void in their lives. Yoga classes and yoga institutes to certify yoga instructors are doing very well today. There also has been resurgence in meditation and eastern philosophy, all ways of trying to connect with and experience the divine! Experience here is the key! All people, but especially younger people, want to have an encounter with God. They want to feel His presence. They want to experience Him. Meditation and yoga provide a peaceful and calming experience, a preparation for encounters, however, of course, not the encounter itself! Today’s younger folk are looking for so much, but they want to be doers and participants. They do not like not being told, rather they want to be guided!
Can our Church not only be Christ’s bride, and His body and our Mother, can our Church also be our mentor and guide? Can it lead people to an encounter with the Lord and still be open to allow those to experience Him in a supportive and non-judgmental environment? Can we take the time to create a place where this can be facilitated?
I believe Heaven’s Embrace, our unique retreat property in the lower Catskill Mountains, has the answer to these questions!
(Next week, with God’s help, we will explore this more deeply! I can’t wait to visit with you again! God Bless!)
-Fr. Richard J. Bretone