Saturday, March 4 2017
Facilitated by Fr Francis Tiso
The theme of our event on the 4th March 2017 was around exploring the interreligious dialogue on a global scale. This was part of an experiment in “new” monastic living from 1978 -1980 with Fr. John Giuliani and Br. David Steindl-Rast, at the Benedictine Grange, West Redding, Connecticut USA
– In that same period I became friends with some early “new monks” such as Wayne Teasdale, Bob Fastiggi, Steve Deedon, and Ed Bednar. Wayne has been particularly influential with new monks in the US, in some ways even more so since his death in about 2005.
– Ed Bednar was instrumental in connecting me to the Panikkar “monk as universal archetype” conference at Holyoke, Massachusetts in 1980 – and I became the “acquiring editor” of the book over the next three years with Seabury Press in NY
– Wayne, Bob, and other friends at Fordham University introduced me to Msgr Ettore Di Filippo, an Italian priest working in the Vatican office at the UN. Msgr. Di Filippo was creating an NGO to work to keep the elderly active in their home communities throughout the world. He became bishop of Isernia-Venafro in 1983, and it was he who ordained me to the priesthood in 1988, a few months before defending my Columbia University dissertation on Milarepa.
– In Isernia, I continued to cherish the “new monastic” ideal and continued to be in touch with R. Panikkar. Isernia is a little-known town in the Molise region of Italy. We are the “middle” of Middle Earth: about equidistant from Jordan and Santiago de Compostela, from central Germany to the Sahara. The Medi-terranean, with all kinds of rich symbolic inter text.
– In 2004, while working as a priest in the US, I acquired a small house in a rural village outside Isernia (Colle Croce), where I now live since 2009. Here I have been able to follow a semi-monastic/eremitical life while serving in various parishes. I have a meditation cabin on the property, a small vegetable garden, and a workshop for carpentry and art work.
– In 2016, I received the donation of a large house and land in Cantalupo, a town about 20 minutes east of Isernia. I am basing a project of job training on this property; we are serving a local population that is declining and under-employed (a severe economic crisis prevails with no letup in sight), but we are also aiming our programming at the large migrant population “parked” in a number of hotels and other structures in our area. My lecture tours in April 2016, October 2016, and now March 2017, are in part an attempt to raise funds for this project, which is now an official association named after the late Archbishop Ettore Di Filippo, who passed away 10 years ago. In addition to creating an inter-cultural space for local people and migrants, we are offering job training and orientation, recreational, meditation/yoga, and health-oriented programs, work in a B&B, and the cultivation of medicinal herbs for sale to companies specializing in natural remedies who prefer to use organic raw materials. Our mountain climate and low rate of pesticides and artificial fertilizers makes this kind of production highly achievable in small farm plots. Today I was inspecting two excellent sites that are being offered for this purpose. We now have about four potential purchasers for the plant products we hope to begin producing this year, and tomorrow I am meeting with a group of entrepreneurs who are offering stimulus grants for new projects of this kind in the Molise.
All this, and the rainbow body, too!