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Father Jim is Headed Home!

As you may recall, in December 2021 our pastor, Father Jim Duffy, S.M., announced to the parish that his Superior in the Society of Mary was sending him on a sabbatical to rest and rejuvenate, both spiritually and physically. In notifying the parish he said, “I am tired and I do need to re-energize myself.” He also said that, “I truly look forward to coming back as your Pastor with renewed Hope and Vision.” He has completed his time away and is currently on a leisurely road-trip back to Brookhaven, making stops in Santa Fe, Austin, and, finally, New Orleans to see some sights and to visit with friends.

A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to talk with Father Jim briefly about his experiences - he called one day after breakfast and before his first class of the day at the Redemptorist Renewal Center in Tucson, Arizona. He told me that the experience has been, “very good, very relaxing - and I quit smoking cigars!”

According to the retreat center’s website, the Contemplative Study and Retreat Sabbatical program that Father Jim participated in is focused on spirituality, “specifically spirituality that is anchored in a contemplative attitude and approach towards life. The atmosphere provided by the Sonoran Desert is essential to the experience. The desert, if we allow it to serve as a metaphor for our spiritual journey, can provide unique access to God.“

Among the sessions were Redemptorist Spirituality, Desert People/Thono O’odham Nation (religious & cultural practices and archeology), Life Transition, Forgiveness (Healing of Hurt, Fear, Grief, and Anxiety), Pathways to Contemplation, Contemplative Autobiography, and Pottery.

His study in contemplation focused on the writings of St. John of the Cross, a 16th century Spanish mystic, whose writings serve as a guide for the spiritual life that leads to union with God. Father Jim has been reading The Ascent of Mount Carmel and The Dark Night of the Soul which he described as ‘really heavy.’ Then he laughed and said, “It tells you to do one thing…and then tells you ‘don’t do it!’ Because it might be a false pathway to God. I will be reading this the rest of my life.”

He said this a number of times - “I will be reading this the rest of my life.” The texts teach the reader to let go of earthly things and to avoid obstacles to the spiritual life. Father Jim told me he might have some work on getting rid of some things!

He quoted the opening stanza of the Ascent of Mount Carmel, which he has memorized, and is particularly meaningful to him:

“One dark night, fired with love's urgent longings -- ah, the sheer grace! -- I went out unseen, my house being now all stilled.” The house, of course, is the human soul.

Fieldtrips were also an important part of the sabbatical program. These included a visit to Casa Alitas, a Catholic clinic for migrants; Tombstone, Arizona; Sabino Canyon, Chiricahua National Monument; and a night star viewing trip to the Lemmon Mountain Sky Center Observatory was “amazing.”

Possibly the most moving sabbatical experience was a fieldtrip to the Kino Border Initiative (KIB) in Nogales, Mexico. The Initiative works “with one foot on each side of the Mexican border in Nogales, Arizona and Nogales” in the state of Sonora Mexico. The KIB provided humanitarian aid for migrants including clothing, meals, shelter for women and children, and first aid. Father Jim and his fellow clergy were able to serve meals to the migrants and visit the border wall. He described it as a “good experience.”

In closing our conversation, Father said, “I really enjoyed my sabbatical. I have been praying for the parish daily and look forward to coming back and being energized. Hopefully, some of your prayers rubbed off and I can give to some of the people of OLA what I have incorporated into my spiritual life.”

Father Jim will return on Friday, June 3. Look for him at Mass on the June 4/5 weekend.

- Anne Stephens, Communications Director

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