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Assisi House

St. Bonaventure College
P/Bag 500x Ridgeway
Lusaka Zambia, C Africa
Christmas, 2004

Dear Ken,

Thank you, many times over and over, for the ways Franciscan Retreats have helped again and again. Because of your help Assisi House continues to operate very well. Over these months and years, the setting has developed a reputation for retreats -- people love it. Especially the grounds are often described as very conducive to prayer in the harmony, color of flowers and shrubs, roses in abundance.

So often the house if filled to capacity. The week before last there was a group in for a Franciscan Directed Retreat. That is accomplished with the use of Franciscan sources, Prayers of Francis and Clare, and accompanying Scriptures.

Also at the same time, I have had two sisters in for 30-day retreats. That is a good commitment in time and opportunity to truly get to know someone in the listening as prayer experiences, faith stories, come forth in the direction sessions.

Further into this coming week, I am directing a Brother of an African Community (Mariannhill). He is from Rwanda, and as he prepares for his final profession he talks of a need for truth in the problems and genocide of Rwanda. There is also a Sister of the Holy Cross, a young Zambian; another Franciscan Sister is a seasoned religious, engaged in a ministry more involved in medical care as a physiotherapist. There is a Christian Brother on retreat, a Baptistine Sister, and in another couple of days a priest of the Kiltegan Congregation (named from the area of Ireland that is center and source of their missionary congregation).

Due to the gifts from Franciscan Retreats, I have been able to keep fee-structures to a minimum, affordable by Zambian standards. If the present rate is put into US $ value, it is about $8.50 per day for accommodation, meals, retreat direction, prayer atmosphere. I say "about" because the fluctuating value of the kwacha to dollar is always hard to pin down. It is any where from 4700 kwacha to 5,000 kwacha to one U.S. dollar. In January I will raise the rate to 40,000 kwacha for accommodation, and 10,000 for a direction session. If that comes to kwacha 50,000, that is about $10.40 per day.

So all is well. I continue to be in good health. You, too? How is Howard? Pass greetings all around the community.

And personal wishes of peace to you, Ken. Keep well. And extend a greeting to your family. Long long ago, there were your sisters, as I recall, participating in youth retreats at Mt. St Francis. But that was over twenty years ago! A lot has happened since then.

Merry Christmas, Blessings of a New Year.


The retreat house is on the grounds of St. Bonaventure College, which is jointly owned and operated by the three families of the Franciscan community: the OFM's, the Capuchins, and Conventuals. 


The new chapel, finished in June 2000, ready for prayer. It was dedicated December 8, 2000.(The photo is lop-sided, not the chapel).



The interior of the new chapel. The altar is shaped like the Franciscan Tau, with an inlaid map of Zambia.The circular window resembles the host. The chapel comfortably seats about twenty people.



Brother Tony Droll contemplates the image of Mother Church holding the tabernacle. The tabernacle bears an intentional, and striking, resemblance to the chapel. (The statue might also be "Mother Mary" or "Mother Africa." In every case, she honors the Eucharist and offers it to her people.)


A retreat group celebrates the very first mass in the new chapel. Retreat Directors are Father Don and Sister Elaine Thaden, OSF, on the right. The retreatants represent the Sisters of Mercy, Baptistine Sisters, and Daughters of the Redeemer. All were preparing for their final profession. In this photo they are still playing the drums-- and a shaker -- as the mass ends. 


On September 17, 1999 -- the feast of the Stigmata of Saint Francis,three friars (left to right, Brother Joseph, Brother Richard, and Brother Patrick) celebrate the Solemn Vows as members of the Conventual Franciscan Order. After profession they danced with joy before the altar and the congregation. 


Conventual Franciscan students and professors at Saint Bonaventure college. Photo taken in June 2000. There are over a hundred solemnly- and simply-professed friars in our Zambian province, most of whom are African.  

Thank you for viewing these pictures from our Zambian mission. Franciscan Retreats and Spirituality Center gives five percent of our retreat donations to encourage the ministry of retreats to our fellow Christians in Zambia. Many people -- especially sisters and brothers of indigenous African communities -- could not make a retreat without our support. If you want to contribute directly to Assisi House, please send your check to Franciscan Retreats and Spirituality Center. We can assure safe passage of your donation to Father Don Helpin and his work in Lusaka, Zambia.

16385 Saint Francis Lane - Prior Lake, MN 55372 - 952-447-2182 - email: secretary@franciscanretreats.net