News from Mayne Island
A New Life for St Francis of Assisi Chapel, Mayne Island
In September 2004, the Chapel was sponsored by the Victoria Human Exchange Society which has a Branch on Mayne Island, and its new life began. It became a Memorial Chapel honouring the original builder, Tom Fitzgerald, who died on January 1, 2003. Tom was a prayerful man who exhorted others to pray, especially for peace. The patron he chose for his Chapel was St Francis of Assisi whose prayer is: Make me a Channel of Your Peace. A peace Garden is springing up in the quiet area behind the chapel and many people are contributing deer-proof plants and labour.
“What a spiritual space!” is the most common sentiment expressed by people who enter the Chapel of St. Francis of Assisi for the first time. And no wonder. The private Chapel was built in the early 1980′s to nurture the faith of local Catholics living on remote Mayne Island and has been the meeting place for resident and holidaying Catholics for 22 years — until last August, when the decision was made by the Catholic authorities to move services to the larger Anglican church of St. Mary Magdalene at Miner’s Bay.
The Human Exchange uses the chapel as a sacred space where members can go for Days of Retreat away from the city –something that our earliest friends from the street really wanted to see. On these days participants car-pool, ride the ferry, eat lunch together and spend time learning about tools for living with others/ sharing gifts/ and supporting one another towards a healthier community in justice, peace and compassion. Comments from participants include: ”We live in an age of anxiety, being with like-minded people can bring comfort and peace”; “A ray of hope!”; “This is the human spirit at it’s peak”; “Very productive – I feel I have a safe place to say what I need without being judged”; VHES has a life to it. The Creator Spirit – a life force — promotes it and propels it to make choices.”
The Chapel is open to all who wish to use it. The first 3 day week-end Retreat happened on the June long week-end when several Mayne Islanders decided to take time to regale themselves with Brian Swimme’s newest DVD presentations: The Powers of the Universe–truly an awe inspiring experience. Thank you to Edith Gulland of the Human Exchange for purchasing these DVD’s for us.
On June 18, our gathering, facilitated by Stephe Newell-Niggemeyer, a gifted volunteer who has a home on Mayne Island, explored tools for self-care and for living in harmony with others. A very productive workshop held in the sacred space that made the experience even more positive. We intend to continue to explore tools for resolving conflicts; and what to do in situations where conflicts cannot easily be resolved because of different mind-sets and value systems–what attitude to have in these cases? How to act assertively (self-care) yet compassionately (care of the other).
There is no payment for use of the St Francis Memorial Chapel. Donations may be made towards the work of the sponsors: Mayne Island Branch of The Human Exchange Society. The Human Exchange, is a ‘family of friends’ who share life’s gifts with those who are poor and homeless in the knowledge that, these days, anyone could lose a job or home. The name is taken from a writing of Thomas Merton: “Every meeting of persons is an exchange of life’s gifts” Those who initiated this movement in 1992 wished to move away from the benefactor-needy model of dealing with human need which leaves some people powerless and hopeless. Instead they wanted to listen to and support people who had good ideas on how to solve their own problems. People who are poor are often labelled and segregated from the rest of society–their gifts are lost. The VHES develops gifts in the belief that “people known by their gifts flourish; people known by their weaknesses languish.” A quarterly newsletter is also a forum for the poetry, art, and writings of those who would not otherwise have their works published.
The Chapel is a special gift of a sacred space in which all are invited to share spiritual gifts and to grow in the spirit of justice, peace and compassion.
To heal our broken world, we must each be growing towards human wholeness–we are only fully human when we realize that at the centre of our being is our Divine Source and Destiny. That the Kingdom of God is within and among us is a perennial belief of many faith traditions. As we achieve inner peace, we more easily respect the different paths by which human beings are brought to wholeness. ” The glory of God is the human Person–fully alive!” Irenaeus
To promote peace and healing within ourselves; our communities; and within our world, St Francis Chapel offer times of meditation and sharing open to ALL who wish to take part. Whoever is willing to share a spiritual gift is welcome to do so and will be respected for it.
Many thanks to those who drop off gifts of clothing and household goods at 313 Mariners Way, and to those who let us know when they have items/ furniture/ computers etc that may be used in one of our 7 houses for low-income persons in Victoria, Sidney and on Salt Spring Island. The VHES rents the houses from sympathetic landlords and sub-lets rooms to persons in need of short-term accommodation while they solve whatever critical problems they face, with the support of a new ‘family of friends‘, the Human Exchange. Such a commitment to others in need requires radical faith; the humility to learn from those who have experienced what it is to be without material things; a non-judgemental attitude; and the ability to compassionate people who are fighting addictions or are challenged by mental illness. One of our inspirations was Jean Vanier, who chose to identify with the broken and handicapped in L’Arche Houses.
The VHES is a registered Charity, but it is not an agency with staff and office. Rather it is a gathering of persons supporting each other towards a more equitable and just community. As such, it is a faith community. Sponsoring the Memorial Chapel of St. Francis has created a providential opportunity for the Society to reach it’s full potential as a catalyst for change in personal lives and in the community.
Charlie Pyott of happy memory sharing his beloved cat with a member of the first Apple Seed House. Charlie gave a small trailer to a man who was a street scavenger thus assisting him off the street to work as caretaker of a gravel pit. This set the tone for the sharing of gifts that is the mark and witness of the Victoria Human Exchange Society.