Alvernia Heights

Fall Retreat commenced this weekend for us Change A Heart Members. We got off “service” early for the week and spend Thursday traveling  north to the Syracuse area to meet up with FrancisCorps, a sister program of ours. The six hour van ride was reminiscent of my SBA and Urban Immersion days as we slept, sang, danced and laughed our way to central NY. Kelly our program director let us stop and see Niagara Falls on they way! It was breathtaking and extra fun to stop somewhere “unplanned.”  About six hours after departing from Milgate Street we made it it Alvernia Heights, the location of another community of sisters within the religious order that began our program. It was a hilltop view of vast grasslands, forest and countryside. Here we met FrancisCorps Syracuse for our weekend together. There are four people in their program and eleven in ours and everyone had no trouble getting to know each other and connecting over home, service, life and dance of course! Our days were structured by some time committed to discussing Community and communication as we are entering our second full month of living in community. 

Free time was spent however people chose. Some ran, some slept but I chose to spend a lot of time with the miniature horses and Icelandic pony that were on the grounds owned by Sister Eileen. Joy and I  were thrilled to play with these little guys, bringing them for walks, grooming them, learning about their driving adventures from Sister Eileen and feeding them apples. Joy and I rode Liker, the Icelandic on Saturday. For anyone horsey out there he has a gait called a Tolt which is a four beat slow pace..feels like a four beat jog. I still prefer my leggy western pleasure horses but he was adorable! 

I was also able to go for two hikes that day, one in the morning with a FrancisCorps member and one in the afternoon with Joy! The area has lakes created by glaciers which make them very deep and unique in their ecosystems. If the sun is indirect, you can see the green hue of the water caused by its unique make up. The opportunity to get out of the city and become surrounded by nature and ponies was extremely valuable for all of us. Each hike was the “same” route that took us about two hours around the lake. 

For anyone unfamiliar with the concept of a retreat, it is a gathering of people (campus students, parish, community in my case) who come together to reflect and grow on one or many topics while also taking time to connect oneself to whatever might be lacking in your life. It could be sleep, relaxation, connection with your community, prayer or nature in our cases. For me it was a little of everything! 

Something special for me this weekend was having the opportunity to connect with the four FrancisCorps members. In this almost countercultural time in my life it is especially valuable to relate to others going through similar experiences as me. They too were from all over the place but there was one girl from Boston! 

COMING UP: “regular” work week this week: SYMPOSIUM NEXT WEEK!

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