Reflections on Directed Study

The Marianist Family Retreat CenterAnthony Fucci, Director
 The Marianist Family Retreat Center
417 Yale Ave., P. O. Box 488
Cape May Point, NJ 08212

Leaving my corporate position back in 1999 to become the Center Director of the Marianist Family Retreat Center in Cape May Point, the one requirement of my new job description that I was most uncomfortable with was having to make a one-week retreat each year. It's not that I have never been on retreat, but for a whole week? I was sure that my time would be better spent tending to the daily needs of the Center. Then one of the Marianist brothers suggested I contact Carol Ramey, Director of the North American Center for Marianist Studies in Dayton, and see if she would be interested in setting up a one-week directed study/retreat program. Well, 2004 was my fifth consecutive year meeting with Carol.

Carol and I decided that my time in Dayton would be divided into Marianist Studies of a chosen topic and personal reflective time. My accommodations at Mount Saint John allowed for both of these.

The first year, September 2000, was dedicated to studying the Marianist Founders and some of the key ideas on which the Marianist Family was built. Much of my time was simply reading documents, articles, and parts of books and then reflecting on them with Carol and Father Ade Windisch, a member of the NACMS staff.

By the time September 2001 approached, I was becoming more comfortable with my position and started to look at the ministry of the Center and where it fit into the greater Marianist family. During our planning session, I expressed to Carol an interest in coming up with characteristics of Marianist family retreat ministry, similar to what was done for Marianist education. At that time we decided that I should study the Characteristics of a Marianist Education and see what applications might be made to the family ministry. My time was spent studying these documents and a visit to Chaminade-Julienne, a Marianist high school.

Once I returned from NACMS, we gathered all the leaders of the various Marianist family ministries from around the country in an attempt to come up with the characteristics of Marianist family ministry. In the end, we developed a wonderful document entitled Core Beliefs of Marianist Family Retreat Ministry.

In September 2002, I started to wonder about my leadership position in a Marianist ministry, specifically if I was being Marianist in my leadership style. These questions led Carol to research documents that I could read to learn more about leadership and being a Marianist leader. During the course of the week, I found myself drawn to the leadership style of Marie Thérèse de Lamourous. I was then introduced to the term servant leader by Dick Ferguson, Director of the Raymond L. Fitz Center for Leadership at the University of Dayton. Combining the person of Marie Thérèse with servant leadership was a natural. In the end, I identified most with Marie Thérèse and servant leadership.

By 2003 I was so convinced in the value of these weeklong experiences at NACMS that I decided to require our Program Director, Jessica Sherwen, to join me. With the aging and dwindling numbers of many religious, orders are looking more and more to lay people to take leadership positions in their ministries. The Marianists are no exception. Jessica and I are very much the leadership of the Marianist Family Retreat Center, and both of us identify ourselves as lay Marianists.

Our goal with Carol in 2003 was to look at our roles and how we interact with one another, the rest of the staff, and even our families. Carol suggested that we try a new program that was developed called My Dear Friend, based on the letters of Adèle. Essentially the program involved us reading the letters of Adèle and writing one another with our thoughts, ideas, and feelings. The program was extremely effective and led us to see our roles at the Center and personal relationships in a much different light.

This past September 2004 we decided to take a deeper look at the 3 Offices of Marianist religious life. With Jessica as our Program Director (Education), myself as Center Director (Temporalities), and Father Ted Cassidy, SM as Chaplain (Zeal), we very much see our ministry as fitting into this structure. We read documents and had lengthy discussions with Carol about the 3 Offices and how we might apply them to our ministry.

For me, what started out as discomfort, has led to enriching experiences that I would highly recommend to any person seeking a deeper understanding of the Marianist charism. So much of what is learned at NACMS is done in a non-overwhelming way, respecting the personal needs and desires of the individual.

For more information on directed study programs, please contact us.