Well, no 'This Week in Madonna House' this time around for the simple reason that I wasn't there and have no idea what went on. I did want to share a little bit about my week in Bruno SK, since it was a most interesting and delightful experience.
The website is here. I have to say that I was thoroughly impressed with the place, the St. Therese Institute of Faith and Mission. There are a little over 30 students there, mostly in the first-year program, all in their late teens to mid-twenties.
I had eight second year students along with three other people, for a week long intensive course on liturgy and sacraments. This entailed my giving 19 hours worth of lectures, along with supervising an in-class presentation by the students. In between my lecture sessions, I was well taken up with pastoral ministry--reconciliation, Mass, exposition--and participated fully in the schedule and way of life of the Institute each day.
It is quite a place, offering an intensive nine-month experience of study, prayer, community life. The students receive in-depth courses on Christian doctrine, spirituality, scripture, Church history, Ignatian discernment... and quite a bit more. The 'head stuff' is accompanied by a pretty rigorous schedule of common prayer (Lauds, Mass, Adoration and rosary every day), and considerable pastoral mentoring from the team who run the institute.
The spirituality taught is a beautiful synthesis of St. Therese of Lisieux's little way, Madonna House, and Ignatian principles. Catherine Doherty's books are a significant part of the syllabus, and I found MH literature and references virtually everywhere I turned in the place.
Anyhow, a program can look good on paper (and their program looks very good on paper), but the proof of it is in the students. And by that standard, STI is doing a great work indeed. The young adults I just spent the week with were thoughtful, prayerful, happy, fun, and clearly had already received a tremendous education and formation.
As I said, I was with the second years, which is a new addition this year--it had been a one-year program until now. I had asked them to submit questions on liturgy to me beforehand, so I would know where they were at. The questions blew me away, honestly. "How can we make the liturgy more kerygmatic?" "How do you personally see yourself evangelizing in how you celebrate the Mass?" "What is a way forward to reconcile the traditionalist and charismatic approaches to liturgy?" Those are few of the ones that I remember.
So we had a great time together, as I took them through the theology, history, structure, symbolism of the liturgy, both in the Mass and in the other sacraments and liturgical expressions. From the course evaluations I received, it would appear that I worked them pretty hard, and basically drowned them in information, but they were eager for everything I gave them.
All of which is to say that there are great things happening in little Bruno Saskatchewan, an hour east of Saskatoon on the Canadian prairies. And if you are yourself a young adult, or know young adults looking for a solid formational experience to ground your faith more deeply both in your minds and in your hearts, STI is a good place to consider or suggest. Besides the formation program, there was also a fantastic community spirit, and it is clear that friendships are being forged for life among these young men and women.
And that's what I did this week!