I had a great retreat at St. Alphonsus Retreat Center in Long Branch, New Jersey. While I thought I was chosen as one of 50 priests (maximum occupancy) lucky enough to attend, I realized that that couldn’t be the case as we only had 20 priests in attendance. The retreat house has its own beach and the crashing sounds of the waves made it so easy to sleep. The theme was “the Peace of Christ in turbulent times” and our three retreat directors did an awesome job under the circumstances.

The best part of the retreat is socializing with the NY, NJ and Pennsylvania priests, especially at the social half hour before dinner and the impromptu get-togethers later in the evening in the refectory (dining hall). The social half hour was part of the day but not so any get togethers after dinner. It was nice for me to sit (two to a six foot table) with two different senior priests, both of whose first names are Charlie. It was interesting to get their perspectives on the pandemic and how it has affected their parishes and the way each undertakes their priestly ministry. I was also able to talk with a few priests who were my age who were from Brooklyn, a red zone area, where they are restricted to 10 people for Mass – Yikes! In my case this reminded me that I should stop the grumbling and count my blessings.

While traveling to Long Branch I went by way of Summit, New Jersey, stopping at the Monastery of the Most Holy Rosary. I was able to visit with my “spiritual sister” Sr. Mary Catherine O.P. and we spent 3 hours talking! It was interesting to hear of her experience of being cooped up in a cloister with 22 sisters…actually it was also interesting to hear what it was like with six priests-brothers in a retreat house on the Atlantic Ocean. While priests and religious are called to live holy lives, there are moments, if not longer times, in which our cup of patience runs low.

One of the neat things about the Monastery is that in the public section, there is a copy of the Shroud of Turin (purported to be the burial cloth of Christ), which was purchased for the sisters by a wealthy benefactor. There are limited number of copies of the shroud throughout the world and this I believe is the only one in our country. The copy of the shroud is under six feet in length (Jesus was believed to be 5’5” in height) and the imprint of Jesus’ body is vivid. If you’re ever in Summit, NJ make sure to visit the Monastery as the shroud is on public display just inside on the right by the last row of pews.

The CATHOLIC APPEAL is the Archdiocese’s main fundraiser for the many ministries it oversees. For the past twelve years we have raised higher amounts each year – last year we raised $56K. Because we closed the parish the weekend of the launch, we have only raised $24.5K putting us off our assessment of $29.5K, leaving the parish to pay the difference.

I am sending out a letter to those who contributed last year but not this year (yet) in the hopes that even a small token gift may increase the number of our donors. I do not expect to fill the gap, but I do want to show our support in the number of donors. You folks have been INCREDIBLY generous with the parish, and whatever you can do is sincerely appreciated.

Fr.  John F. Carmichael, Pastor