Spirit of Ministry: An 'invitation to consider the rest of creation'

By Michael Krueger, affiliate, FSPA Director of Affiliation

At the beginning of 2024, I began meeting with a small group of Franciscans (from different congregations and traditions) as a part of the Franciscan Federation’s Emergent Group. This group was invited to dream and envision how Franciscans can be an active presence in their own communities and the wider world. In order to be invited into a space of discovery, we listened to an interview with storyteller and mythologist Martin Shaw, who offered this invitation to dreaming: “Dreaming is uncorralled, dreaming is wild, dreaming is holy.” Out of this wild and holy landscape, a few words began to resonate: Beauty, relationship, justice and creation. Creation, though, emerged as an integral piece of all of the dreams that were shared.

As an affiliate myself for 13 years, I often write about profound encounters that I’ve had with creation. In reflecting on St. Francis’ call to “rebuild my church,” a new call has been emerging, one which is growing louder and louder — that the church, as a community, does not only include the brick and mortar, it does not only include the people who have gathered but also the very land on which we step, the ecosystems that are woven like delicate threads and a canticle of creation that is both expansive and diverse.

Here are some reflections that I have written in the past. As we hear our own call “to rebuild my church,” you are invited to look for personal “moments of encounter and discovery” and consider the rest of creation.

At Prairiewoods Spirituality Center in Hiawatha, Iowa, there is an old oak tree known as Grandmother Oak. To find her, you are invited to walk down one of the many trails that wind their way through Prairiewoods. Grandmother Oak is close to 300 years old and serves as a living memory for the land — a record of the changes that have taken place and of how we have both positively and negatively impacted the environment.

In order to survive, Grandmother Oak has been tended to and cared for; her roots go deep into the ground and her trunk has weathered both snowfall and wind, drought and heavy rain. Her limbs extend far beyond her shadow, providing shade and habitat for creatures — big and small — who are an integral part of her ecosystem.

Hundreds of miles away, during a break from a meeting at the Siena Retreat Center in Racine, Wisconsin, I found myself walking along a path that led to the shoreline of Lake Michigan. The sound of waves greeted me before the sight of any water. The day before, a storm  had inundated the area with rain, and a nearby stream, which fed into the lake, became a torrent of rushing water that overflowed its banks. The stream entered into the lake not in stillness, not as a trickle, but as a churning, overpowering force. This provided the idea that sometimes we are called in a voice that overpowers; at other times, though, it is the distant sound of a whisper.

Left: Michael Krueger, Lisa Brouellette and Emily Orth, former WisCorps Service Members, and Meg Paulino,
affiliate and FSPA Archivist, tend to  the bee colony on FSPA land on St. Joseph Ridge in La Crosse, Wisconsin

Last year I finished watching the BBC series Detectorists. The series follows the stories of Andy and Lance, members of the Danebury Metal Detecting Club. From the opening theme song, you are invited into the natural world of fauna and insects, after which you are introduced to the stories, friendships and simple adventures that take place while exploring the English countryside.

What I found to be so wonderful and refreshing about this series, beyond the characters, is that it invites the viewer into a slower, and what can at times seem to be, more intentional way of life. On FSPA Land on St. Joseph Ridge in La Crosse, Wisconsin, opportunities to be more intentional are practiced through both the mundane and extraordinary — from the turning of soil with a shovel and the pulling of weeds in the garden, to the lifting frames of comb and honey from a beehive, to the dispersing of prairie seeds over the forest floor, to seeing the exhale of breath on a cold evening hike illuminated by candles and the silence of Advent prayers.

And at St. Rose Convent in La Crosse, there is a group called EcoPact that meets monthly to discuss and put into action sustainable practices. This, too, has involved small efforts — introducing eco-friendly laundry products, revising recycling procedures and providing  recipes through The Seasoned Franciscan recipe swap. EcoPact is also undertaking larger efforts, most recently with the installation of an EcoVim. It is a machine that transforms daily food waste into immediate compost — goodness that will be used to nurture the gardens at St. Joseph Ridge — in the St. Rose kitchen.

Much like Grandmother Oak, it is my desire that FSPA affiliation — and by extension, each of you — continues to remain rooted in the mission and values of the FSPA. Through our own networks, in partnership with our affiliation companion communities and prayer partners, may we continue to recognize the sacredness in all of creation. And may our own actions contribute to a sense of beauty and awe, allowing us to once again be invited into dreams that are wild, uncorralled and holy.

About Michael

Michael is the director of affiliation for FSPA. He became an affiliate in 2011 after graduating from Viterbo University in La Crosse, Wisconsin. Michael is a member of the FSPA companion community, Among the Trees. To learn more about affiliation, visit fspa.org and click on “Become an Affiliate” under the “join” tab.

*Enter your email at fspa.org/theseasonedfranciscan to receive notifications when new recipes are posted.


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