Dear Editor: Since you requested that readers share a memory of a Religious Brother, I offer you this one.
Forty-one years ago last spring, three Marist Brothers of the Province of Esopus met to talk about an idea and a hope.
The Marist Brothers have a wonderful piece of property on the Hudson River in the village of Esopus. Until that time, it had been their novitiate house, which had recently moved to another place, and the property was unused.
Brother David Cooney, F.M.S., had an idea. Brother Leo Forrest, F.M.S., had the place (Esopus) and Brother Stephen Martin, F.M.S., had the skill of organization. Yet, between them, they knew that there were things missing.
The Brothers then, like many Brothers today, understood that it was necessary to invite others with complimentary skills to co-create, co-operate and collaborate, and into this troika was added Sister St. Christopher Donnelly, C.S.J., for her charm, daring and winning personality and Sister Clare Francis Dowling, P.B.V.M., who can create a game or an activity, teach a song or lead an activity at the blink of an eye.
Malcom Muggeridge wrote a biography of Mother Teresa called “Something Beautiful for God,” and when I think of Marist Esopus the words “something else beautiful for God” come to mind.
Since that meeting and that beginning summer, “Esopus” has developed into a space where children, young adults and adults with special needs, children with hearing impairment, children with cancer, children with HIV disease, children from the inner city, and other groups have come, a week at a time, for the sun and the pool, to meet and mingle with hundreds of volunteers, young and not-so-young and professionals, in this safe environment.
This past August, Brother Owen Ormsby, F.M.S., director of the Marist property now, held the first “Esopus Family Reunion.” Several hundred current and former volunteers, family and friends spent a wonderful afternoon reminiscing, swimming in the pool, dancing and walking around the property.
Brother Dave is now a missionary in Liberia, Africa. Sister Chris is living in retirement in Florida and Sister Clare is in retirement in New Windsor, N.Y. Brothers Leo and Steve have both passed away.
I am happy to also mention that the Marist Novitiate has returned to Esopus.
BROTHER TOM BARTON, O.S.F.