Wednesday, December 19, 2012


Advent brought mild weather and enough rain to get the roses blooming around the statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary.  We were all at ministry sites until today; for Br. John it meant meetings at the School Leadership Center at UNO for two days last week. 

Center hall downstairs with a drawing of bonfires that guide 'Papa Noel' along the Mississippi
John Petrullo’s time at Café Reconcile drew to a close; he is now making the transition to Lantern Light Ministries where Br. Charles Avendano serves.  On Friday, John caught an early morning flight to Memphis, Tennessee to spend the weekend with members of his Mother’s family who moved there from Brooklyn two decades ago.

Friday evening, Matt, who had already been to see “The Hobbit” that afternoon, went with Travis to see “The Life of Pi.”  They had radically different takes on the movie.

On Saturday, December 15th, Br. Charles, Br. Bob, Br. John, Matt and Travis went to dinner with the Presentation Sisters at their home in the West End section of New Orleans.  After coming home, Travis and Matt went to Tipitina’s, a well-known music venue a short distance from our house—they were the first ones to arrive!  You live and learn--if you show up on time you are 90 minutes early for the first band.
Our front gate on Constance Street
On Sunday, Matt Beben and the community went out to celebrate his 23rd birthday which falls on December 19, 2012.  We went to Dante’s Kitchen and Matt tried the escargot and pronounced it excellent as well as the Seafood Courtbouillon, [gulf fish, shrimp, mussels, tomato shrimp broth, green onion butter crustini] which Br. Bob also had and declared very good indeed. A bit of after dinner port ended his New Orleans birthday dinner.  [The trois mignon dinner wasn’t shabby either, according to Travis.]

The 'Isaac' Memorial pillar holding up the balcony--4 month anniversary.  Flowers are growing up it.  They await estimates.
The beginning of this third week of Advent took an odd turn on Tuesday.  Dianne Collins from the buildings department of the Archdiocese of New Orleans had called a week before to schedule ‘the annual building inspection’.  Br. John did not remember 'annual inspections', but agreed and with Br. Bob labeled problem areas and made a list: nothing done on the crumbling front balcony and one of the pillars, siding and window storm window frame blown off the building four months ago, a fire door on the first floor nailed shut, a gap in the floor that allows rodents into the first floor kitchen, etc.  These have been already noted but the response is always: “We are getting bids…” or “The pastor will get bids…”
Main entrance.  We added wreaths and flowers to siding and window frame torn down by Isaac.  Sort of a still life.  It will never move unless we do it.  Doors go unpainted--we call it 'shabby chic'!
On Tuesday, signs were posted noting, once again, needed repairs and Br. John stayed home to meet the inspectors.  What a surprise he got!   Dianne arrived with Liz Lacombe from the buildings department and a group, not of building inspectors, but folks from our neighbor, Ecole Bilingue de la Nouvelle Orleans, who want to expand --who came to look the place over!  They came to inspect the building—the ‘inspection’ a bit of a ruse.  They were on their way, without permission, up the stairs to inspect our living quarters, when confronted.  When Br. John halted them he was told the top floors were only leased to the Brothers; therefore the owner had the right to walk through or ask someone else to whenever he wanted!  [Perhaps renters have no right to privacy in New Orleans?]  No permission was needed, according to the Archdiocesan reps who were acting on the direction of the pastor, so they said.  

Br. John refused permission, ["Call my Provincial" did the trick] and the folks from the building office acquiesced and left.  In a later phone call Br. John was assured that all the higher ups understood and everything now was just fine.  However, this is not the first time that one reason was given to mask another purpose, or that, at a minimum, the rights of the Brothers as tenants, let alone as a religious community, are airly ignored by folks who should know better.

But we have here no lasting city, and we are now much wiser.  “Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice shame on me.”  

Guess we will enjoy it while we can; in the end it is about the money of course.  If someone will pay more rent, that is the bottom line.  This is a business, and the archdiocese and parishes have to pay bills; the parish we rent from is planning a major Church renovation that will cost lots of money no doubt.  We have to be grateful that the Archbishop has allowed us to serve the people of God here in his Archdiocese. 

And we are still here, the sun is shining and it is a beautiful time of year in New Orleans.  We are doing good things, living happily in community, surrounded by many more supporters than we can imagine.  Who knows how long it will last--at least we 'done good while we could.'

And it is Christmas.  In the light of the tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut and the people who lost family members, friends, neighborhoods and livelihoods after Katrina our ups and down are minimal—perhaps this recent bit was rather odd, sort of rude and sneaky, disappointing but not awful. Somebody probably meant well--or maybe they just want us to take a hint!

Anyway, we have made many good friends here, we still can and will celebrate all the good that envelopes us, and the God who comes to us in many guises.

An Advent thought:

The Church asks us to understand that Christ, who came once in the flesh, is prepared to come again.  When we remove all obstacles to his presence he will come, at any hour and moment, to dwell spiritually in our hearts, bringing with him the riches of his grace.  
                                                                                        Charles Borromeo

May God's grace and gracious presence be with you this Advent and Christmastide.

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