Greetings Sisters and Brothers All,
“Three years before he died St. Francis decided to celebrate the memory of the birth of the Child Jesus at Greccio, with the greatest possible solemnity. He asked and obtained the permission of the pope for the ceremony, so that he could not be accused of being an innovator, and then he had the crib prepared, with hay, an ox, and ass. The Friars were all invited and the people came in crowds….The Mass was sung there and Francis, who was a deacon, sang the Gospel. Then he preached to the people about the birth of the poor King, whom he called the Babe of Bethlehem in his tender love.”
(Major Life of Francis, Bonaventure)
As we approach the Feast of Feasts, as Francis called it, a theme hit me as I pondered what to share with you as I send this greeting. One of the few things I remember from theological studies so many years ago is: Ecclesia semper reformanda” = the Church is always changing. Not the solid basics of our faith, but the ways we celebrate and present Jesus to the world are what change. I do not think Francis or the Pope would mind that we have been “innovators.” We have tried to present Jesus here to runaway homeless youth since 1980. Over the years, there have been constant changes in how we make best use of the houses, our independent living skills program, and our collaborative team approach of the best staff in the world. But, as we all know, change is often painful. A few years ago, we down-sized after we sold the other single house, which had been our Emergency Shelter. Since then, we’ve polished and reformed out Transitional Independent Living Program. Needless to say, we have celebrated many successes in the lives of the youth and young men who have found a shelter in this manger.
Change continues, and as of the New Year 2018, we will relinquish our ties with NYS Office of Children & Family Services, both the certification and very minimal funding. We have wrestled with this dragon decision over the past few years. Reduced funding of about 70%, revised regulations coming out in 2018 with politically correct demands that no longer allow us to hold true to our Mission/Philosophy, constant demands for more documentation that never brings us more funding or helps with the intricate issues of today’s youth, and so much more made this decision for change inevitable. As you recall, the Family that gave Birth to the Babe of Bethlehem in a manger, also had to “move on” and head to Egypt for the sake of the Child’s Life. Thus, as of January 1, 2018, we will make a big change: We will continue to serve young men age 18-24, which we can do without the former certification. We will revise our program as needed and continue to realistically evaluate and plan for the future.
So this Christmas we celebrate many years of fruitful ministry. The residents with us as I prepare this letter are doing well, growing, maturing, and being nurtured here in “body, mind, and spirit.” Former residents continue to visit. YOU our faithful Friends and Benefactors continue to support us with gifts that rival those brought by the Three Magi to Bethlehem. We are most grateful. May the Babe of Bethlehem smile upon you and fill you with blessings and the Peace that only He can give. Of the gifts we ask for most in this Holy Season, we beg a remembrance in your prayers. As stated above, change is always painful. I almost feel as if we are jumping ahead to the events of Holy Week, the Cross, and the blood, sweat, and tears of the Babe of Bethlehem, Who grew up and endured the Cross to save us.
A Blessed and Merry Christmas to you! Joyous wishes for the Holidays and New Year.
In the words that were Francis’ hallmark greeting: Pace e bene! Peace and all good!
Friar Joseph Bayne, OFM Conv.