by Vince Wirtner, C.PP.S., National Vocation Director, Cincinnati Province
Back in 2005, the Cincinnati Province began an appreciative discernment process in which each member was asked to think about his commitment to and participation in the life of the Community. We were to list areas where we thought we could grow in the Community.
One of my personal goals was to be more active with the Companion Movement. The companions in Florida were an important part of my journey when I was in Special Formation at the Church of the Nativity in Lake Mary, Florida. Once I was ordained a priest and became director of vocation ministries, I had other responsibilities and couldn’t really be a part of their lives as I had been.
Companions stayed on my mind and in my heart, though. I always saw the value in having covenanted lay associates living out Precious Blood spirituality wherever they are. I have a lot of respect for someone who can live it in their daily life, in the workplace, or with their family.
I have spent time with companions in the intervening years. I presented a day of reflection for the companions in Florida a few years ago. I would also visit with companions whenever I was in Florida. They are so much fun—and as much as I value the social time I spend with them, it’s even better to pray with them. There’s such a desire within them to deepen their own spirituality, and they are so committed to our Community, to being a part of the Precious Blood family. For them, Precious Blood spirituality is not an achievement; through their prayer and study, it continues to develop. And ideally, that’s how life is: we continue to evolve.
When Fr. David Matz asked me if I would consider becoming the sponsor of the two companion groups in Florida, it didn’t take me but a minute to say yes. The time that I spent with companions while I was in formation fed my desire to be more involved in the Companion Movement, not just to support companions, but to become more actively involved.
In March, I met with the companions and conveners in Florida so that we could explore how this new relationship will work. As always, we celebrated liturgy together and shared a lively meal. They realize that I live in and minister out of Dayton, Ohio, and know I can’t be at every gathering. They told me, “Anytime you plan to come to Florida, let us know, and we will get together. We’ll change our plans to include you.” They will be companions whether they have a sponsor or not—but they are also willing to do whatever it takes to welcome me into their groups.
I also appreciate the effort that they have to make whenever any of them take part in larger Community events. The economics are different for them because they live so far away. For them to come to an assembly or retreat is a big financial commitment in travel expenses. They do it because community is so important to them. The simple things in Community life that some of us might take for granted can be very difficult for them.
They’ve had to do so much on their own in their time between sponsors, and they’ve done it all admirably, but I am happy to be their Community connection for as long as I am able. I know I will get as much or more out of the relationship than they will—and I’m hoping that they will feel the same way about me.