Ash Wednesday – “Desert Day”

February 23, 2007

On Ash Wednesday we observed our first “desert day” which consists of observing quiet throughout the day for private prayer, refection, spiritual reading and rest. We were free to sleep in later if we wished with no community responsibilities until the evening Mass at 5:10 PM.

I took advantage of this by waking up two hours later then I usually wake up. It was a good day for spiritual reading, spending several periods in private prayer before the Blessed Sacrament, “journaling,” and beginning preparation for this Sunday’s Mass when I will preside at the community’s liturgy.

Lunch was taken in silence as we tried to maintain a spirit of solitude throughout the day.

At 5:10 PM we gathered in the chapel for mass which included the blessing and distribution of ashes. Fr. Jack McAtee was the celebrant of the Eucharist with Br. Kevin Dargan preaching. I first met Br. Kevin, a Maryknoll brother, 30 years ago while I was studying for the priesthood at Maryknoll School of Theology in Ossining, New York.

Fr. Jack McAtee, a former missionary in Japan, shared with us several “Chinese” characters which were poignant for us to reflect on as we were beginning our Lenten journey. These characters were: “mi” – be lost, “meng” – darkness or confusion, “jian” – gradually,” and “ming” – light. In other words they meant: To be lost in darkness or confusion and gradually being brought into the light.” This is a summary of our Lenten journey of faith from Ash Wednesday to Easter Sunday when we will celebrate the “new life” of Resurrection through the renewal of our baptismal promises.


Another set of “Chinese” characters were: “zi” – self, “xin” – new, “ming” – of, “zing” – character, “li” – is, and “ji” – the basis. He translated these characters to mean, “Self-renewal is the basis of character.”


Br. Kevin Dargan preached a wonderful homily telling us a true story of the conversion of a woman preparing for baptism in Tanzania, Africa where he lived and served as a missionary for 25 years.

Here are some photos for you to enjoy:

Br. Kevin Dargan reading the Gospel and preaching at our Ash Wednesday Eucharist

Fr. Jack McAtee blesses the ashes to be distributed at Mass

Br. Joseph Schmidt receives blessed ashes from Maribel Carceller

Br. Dennis signs Fr. Peter Callery with blessed ashes

Br. James Needham signs S. Marci Krause with blessed ashes

May we all have a most Blessed Lent!


Mardi Gras – “Fat Tuesday”

February 22, 2007

Tuesday evening we celebrated Mardi Gras with a wonderful party. During the party we shared an old New Orlean’s tradition: the King and Queen Cake. In each cake is baked a small plastic infant. Both the man and women who find the infant in their piece of cake are chosen as the King and Queen of the Mardi Gras. A wonderful prize was awaiting each of the winners. Each winner was given a coupon to be redeemed at any time allowing them to ask a member of the Social Committee to take their place at doing dishes after lunch or dinner on one afternoon or evening.

We enjoyed each other’s company, eating, drinking, laughing, telling stories and some even played the card game “hearts.”

Please enjoy some of the pictures I took of our party.

The King and Queen Cakes

The “babies” are found

The King and Queen of the Mardi are crowned: Fr. Ed Foken and S. Cecilia Liew

The certificates are awarded

Did you catch the small print on the certificate. It states that, “selling this certificate is strictly forbidden and may result in forfeiture or the severest of penalties including but not limited to listening to John Derasmo’s jokes for one hour.”

Me and my date for the Mardi Gras

Playing a game of hearts

Staff Members: S. Helen, S. Susan, Br. Dennis and Br. Joe

Fr. Peter Callery, Fr. Jack McAtee and Fr. Rudy Breunig

S. Cheryl Marie Wagner, S. Pat George, S. Guia Jambalos and S. Rita Clancy

S. Joann wearing the festive dress of her country

Amazing Grace Sunday, February 18, 2007

February 19, 2007

Today was an “amazing” Sunday! Those who prepared our liturgy were aware that churches throughout the world were invited to celebrate together “Amazing Grace Sunday.” The liturgy was introduced with the following words,

“Two hundred years ago, British politician William Wilberforce and his band of loyal friends took on the most powerful forces of their day to end the slave trade. His mentor was John Newton, the slave-trader-turned-songwriter who wrote the world’s most popular hymn, “Amazing Grace.”

This year marks the 200th Anniversary of the abolition of slave trade, but the work of justice and mercy continues. Today, 27 million men, women, and children are still enslaved around the globe.

We are joining churches around the globe in singing “Amazing Grace” and praying for the end of slavery–once and for all.”

We sang “Amazing Grace” as both the entrance and recessional hymn at our liturgy today so that we could pray in solidarity with others throughout the world whose heart’s desire is to see an end to slavery in all its forms.”

After Mass we were treated to a wonderful brunch which Fr. Jack McAtee, Fr. Larry Brixius and yours truly (Fr. John Derasmo) prepared. We served both a ham & broccoli and vegetarian quiche (Yes, Virginia, real men make and eat quiche), fresh fruit salad, a mixed green salad, biscuits and fruit & nut bread.

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This past week, as part of the sabbatical experience, we were invited to put together a “lifeline” which is similar to a timeline. A “lifeline” contains a recalling of the significant events, people and experiences you have had during the course of your life. Thank God I’m only 53! This includes a reflection of significant people and events, the high points and low points of our lives. After putting our “lifeline” together we were invited to share them within smaller groups of six. This takes place at the level you are comfortable sharing. What a special time of grace and healing this experience was for all of us. We will continue to meet regularly with the same group of people throughout the sabbatical to continue reflecting and sharing on our lives.

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I thought you might like to see some other photos of the Sangre de Cristo Center. These will include some of the interior of the building and a photo of the inner courtyard garden. Enjoy!

The Fire Place Room

The Chapel (Front View)

The Chapel (Rear View)

Stained Glass Window above the altar

Blessed Sacrament Chapel for Private Prayer

Inner Courtyard Garden

This week we are celebrating Mardi Gras in preparation for Ash Wednesday which will be a “desert day” (a special day of quiet prayer) for us at Sangre de Cristo. (Actually when you’re living in a desert, everyday is a desert day!)

As the Holy Season of Lent approaches let’s continue to pray for each other.

Valentine’s Day Celebration

February 15, 2007

Well, today was Valentine’s Day and the Social Committee planned a lovely Valentine’s Day Party. (Believe it or not, I am a member of the Social Committee, a sign that I am already being stretched by this sabbatical!)

You might be asking yourself, “How do 40 “celibates” (36 participants and 4 staff members) celebrate Valentine’s Day? Well, I’m glad you asked.

Valentine’s Day greetings were placed outside our doors to greet us as we awoke. Following breakfast and our morning chores we had a beautiful Mass combining the liturgical Feast of Sts. Cyril and Methodius with the traditional celebration of Valentine’s Day.

S. Mary Geneva proclaiming the First Reading at Mass.

Fr. Larry Brixius presides at the Mass.

Fr. Edd Salazar reads a beautiful verse attributed to Pedro Arrupe, SJ (see below).

“Nothing is more practical than finding God, that is, than falling in love in a quite absolute, final way.
What you are in love with, what siezes your imagination, will affect everything.
It will decide what will get you out of bed in the morning,
What you do with your evening,
How you spend your weekends,
What you read, who you know,
What breaks your heart,
And what amazes you with joy and gratitude.
Fall in love, stay in love,
And it will decide everything.”

Valentine Day Lunch


After dinner we retire to the living room with a cozy fire in the fireplace.

Everyone begins to gather.

Our musicians lead us in song.

Fr. Tim Mullligan, (Fr. Larry, background), Fr. Ron MacDonell and S. Anne Dixon get the party going.

We listen to a beautiful Filipino song about love.

Fr. Roland Bunda , S. Anne Dixon and I share a light moment.

We conclude our celebration with the “Aussies” leading us in “Waltzing Matilda.”

So there you have it!
No boxes of chocolate,
No dozen roses,
No beautiful card with a touching sentiment,
No diamonds or other jewelry,
No romantic dinner for two,
Just 40 celibates singing songs of LOVE
about what could have been.

Actually, we sang many types of songs throughout the evening
and had a great time enjoying each other’s company!


Welcome to Sangre de Cristo

February 12, 2007

I arrived safely in Albuquerque, New Mexico on Monday afternoon, February 5, 2007. I wish I could say the same for my luggage. Luckily, the airlines located my luggage and delivered the two pieces of luggage to the Center the very next morning.

We were warmly greeted at the airport by Br. Joseph Schmidt and transported to Sangre de Cristo Center an hour and a half trip north by shuttle van. Once at the Center we were welcomed by the other staff members: Br. Dennis Galvin, Sister Susan Kusz, Sister Helen Collier and Cynthia Gray.

Sangre de Cristo Center is located approximately 13 miles outside of Santa Fe, New Mexico. It is situated in the midst of 600 acres of “desert” approximately 7,500 feet above sea level making this the highest desert in the United States of America.

There are 36 participants (priests, brothers and sisters) arriving from all over the globe.

I invite you to journey with me during my next “100 Days in the Desert.” I will share some thoughts and photos at the end of each week.

Let’s pray for each other.

The Main Entrance to Sangre de Cristo Center

Right side of main entrance

Main Entrance Door

View out from main entrance

Pajarito Mountain (View from Main Entrance)