November 27, 2022
It’s now the First Sunday of Advent, just after Thanksgiving, and a beautiful time of the year for connecting and re-connecting with family and friends. The trees have shed their colorful foliage, the autumn harvest has passed along with its sunny, cool days.
Loretta returned home a little over a month ago, in mid-October, from her much deserved and needed summer break. The Advent Wreath with its pink and purple candles has been set up in the Chapel.
This month we thought we’d be a bit nostalgic and include prayers and thoughts from our two former chaplains, Father McVey and Padre Jones.
Our first offering is from Father McVey’s letter of September 1987. It’s followed by Father Jones’ prayer from our September 2006 newsletter.
We, as Church, as God’s people, declare very loudly that we are not citizens here. We are a beloved people on pilgrimage. It is not wrong to need our brothers and sisters when we are sick or when the church burns down or when we get old and have no means of supporting ourselves. If we give all we have in our pilgrimage together God will provide for us when we are in need. We are a faith community opposed to the values of the world. Yes, the world teaches so-called responsibility which simply means secure yourself so you will have no need to depend on others. But doesn’t Jesus tell us to receive with gratitude and share with abandon and His heavenly Father will provide the increase. “Be intent on things above.” We seem to be mired in the things (the values) of the world. If we are intent on securing ourselves by a multiplicity of insurances, IRA’s, clerical funds, etc. where is our faith? If we were intent on sharing it all would not God provide for us? Have we given in to the fears so rampant in our day? Insurance companies reap a harvest sown by fear. Are we a part of all that?
We are the people of God on pilgrimage – followers of the way. We are a people of faith and faith is not always practical. It doesn’t make much sense to the world.
–Father Ray McVey
“Lord, hear the prayer of those who gather at Your table of unty and love. By doing the work You have entrusted to us, may we sustain our life on earth and build up Your Kingdom in faith.”
– Mass for the Blessing of Human Labor, September 4 (Labor Day)
“Lord, let Your work be seen by your servants, and Your glory by their children” –Psalm 90, 16
Loving God, we celebrate the dignity of just, honest human labor. All who are able to work give You thanks; We praise You for the works of Your creation.
Many, however, cannot work; many are unemployed. Countless others toil in cruel, unjust, inhumane conditions.We pray You rescue them from this vicious cycle of poverty. Change the hearts and minds – and laws and policies – of greedy and powerful rulers, leaders and legislators.
Send Your Spirit upon us, that we may speak out and work – against unjust labor practices. May all people enjoy the fruits of just labor.
“Prosper the work of our hands, O Lord;Prosper the work of our hands.”–Psalm 90, 17
–Father Robert Jones
Wise words from our beloved Chaplains, two Champions of Peace and Justice, who cared deeply for our men. We miss them, may they rest in peace.
We wish all a Blessed Advent Season and a Happy, Holy and Peaceful Christmas and New Year., and thank you for you care and support.
—Peg McCarthy, for the Unity Acres Community
July 2022 Appeal Letter
History in the Making:
At the founding of Unity Acres, the country was in the throes of the Viet Nam War. Our veterans returned to a country divided over how and why the nation was involved in the war. The soldiers often did not return to a hero’s welcome. Many suffered from PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome) as well as drug and alcohol addictions. Many were surviving by wandering the streets and living under cardboard boxes. Father Ray McVey, and many others recognized the need, taking some into their homes, feeding them at Unity Kitchen, etc. Seeing the number grow, and wanting to help, Father Ray and a group from the community founded Unity Acres in Orwell, New York. “Unity Acres saved my life!” said John L., a former resident.
Following the purchase of the former Oswego County TB Sanitarium, Father Ray and a small group of volunteers from the Syracuse community proceeded to make Unity Acres a livable residence for homeless men. It has served thousands of such men over 50 years. Rules are simple: No violence and no drugs, including alcohol. Men generally cooperate working as a team in the kitchen, doing laundry, mowing the lawns, patrolling the buildings at night, etc.—whatever is needed. An AA group meets weekly in the Dining Hall.
Many men have spent a lifetime at the Acres. The ﬁnal resting for over 250 of the men—including 75 veterans—is St. Martin de Porres Cemetery located on the property just over the bridge behind the buildings.
Unity Acres receives no government or Diocesan subsidies to meet our expenses; we depend heavily on gifts from individuals like yourself. Resident with an income contribute ﬁnancially. Donors have been numerous and most generous over the years. However, contributors are fewer in number than in past years due to the aging of our donor group.
A Time for Renewal:
We are engaged once again in the slow process of building up and renewing this community of support for the men of Unity Acres. We do so in the spirit of Father McVey, who, when faced with unmet needs and unpaid bills, would always remark: “No problem: God will provide!” The last 30 pandemic months have presented us with new challenges and struggles.
We need to get the word out now as we are cautiously re-assessing and re-adjusting our mission in a rapidly changing (post?)-covid world.
Perhaps your church or community organization would like to learn more about Unity Acres. You may consult our website for more information on mission of Unity Acres, our on-going needs, current and past maintenance projects; many of our past newsletters are available at the ‘Archive’ tab. Please contact us at email@example.com if you would like a speaker to make a presentation.
The need for this service ministry is still great. Unity Acres is a place where the men receive a place to live in safety and dignity. We appreciate all you do and ask you to share our story with one of your friends or family members. The need now is to spread the word.
Elaine Crough, for the Long-term Sustainability Committee
February 10, 2022
We want to begin the new year by sending along a word of thanks to all who receive our newsletter; to all who think about the needs of the men of Unity Acres, who offer prayers for the Acres, who send along a donation or a word of encouragement, or who assist the men in any way, tangibly or intangibly … It is through you that God is providing for us as He has done for more than 50 years. And we are grateful. Through Him, you have helped to provide a home and community for hundreds of men over the years, miraculously provisioning all our needs.
We also want to send along our concerns and thoughts for you. It has been over two years now since we have all become aware of the novel corona virus. It was a virus that no one knew very much about, nor did anyone at first really understand very well how to avoid it. We are sadly aware that many of you, our friends and neighbors, have been affected by this deadly disease. Thankfully, according to new reports, the pandemic seems to have begun to subside, the numbers of new cases are down, and fewer people are being admitted to the hospitals. As these difficult times appear to be drawing to a close, we continue to pray that your days will be less stressful and that you will again enjoy good health, safety and peace of mind.
As for ourselves, during these last months, we have food on the table. We are managing to stay warm and dry, and protected from the elements. We have an excellent source of clean drinking water. We have clothing in abundance. We have food and we are staying warm … And we continue to be free of the virus. We have no reason to complain! We are blessed.
With the approach of March 3rd, the 53rd anniversary of the date when Father McVey first took possession of the former Oswego County TB San, I would like to ask all of us – especially all of us living at Unity Acres to reflect for a moment or two what the Acres means to us. Imagine Father Ray coming here during the cold winter of 1969 and facing the many obstacles, hardships, and yes heartaches as he set about trying to refurbish old abandoned run-down buildings so men with problems and addictions might have a safe place to heal and recover. His mind and heart had been overwhelmed with love for the men. His vision became reality, and for the remainder of his life, Father McVey worked tirelessly in furtherance of the idea of Unity Acres. Because of his legacy we are here today and enjoying the fruits of his labor. There are still a few men living at the Acres today who remember Father and speak with such love and respect for him. Then suddenly they will have a twinkle in their eye, as they laughingly recount a funny little story or anecdote about him! As in the past two years, we will be quietly celebrating this 53rd anniversary.
In closing, dear friends, I wish you all grace, peace and good health now and in the coming months of Spring.
November 7, 2021
The Fall always brings memories of days gone by. At least it does for me. This year I became a member of the Unity Acres Board. A membership of significance to me. May 1969, I moved into the former Nurse’s Building. At that point it was the only inhabitable building. I came to the Acres as a volunteer for the Summer. Didn’t leave for over a year.
I met Father McVey as a seminarian two years before. He providing housing for men on — I think Chester St? That summer I worked as a community organizer in St. Lucy’s Parish. Ray was a priest’s priest. He was like no one I had ever met. So motivated by ‘the Spirit’. He lived his life inspired by the Holy Spirit. Everyone remembers ‘no problem’. The summer of 67 my assignment wasn’t directly connected to his ministry. We (seminarians assigned to various places) met every week for prayer, mass and then dinner. The culinary experience was one I never forgot — warm bread from Columbus Bakery, surplus Spam and cheese accompanied by a little vino. We all looked forward to the prayer and the meal like it was a four star restaurant. The camaraderie was intense and the learning, life changing. So when the notice went up on the board at Wadhams Hall advertising the summer assignment I quickly signed up. But I had no way of knowing where this would lead.
Ray got to the Acres sometime in April. By June, I think we had 10 men living there. In addition to me two graduates from Oswego volunteered through the Newman Center. They had visited during the year. Ray mentioned he needed help for the summer program and they agreed to stay for the summer. They were perfect candidates. Two young teachers. They designed the summer program. Arts/Crafts and trips to the beach along with games and other fun stuff. My initial job was to work with a few men to prepare the building for the kids to play and sleep. I had to get a bus drivers license to drive the ‘Crazy Bus’ every week to get the kids and return them to the city! After school ended in June we would pick up 20 kids on a Friday night at St. Lucy’s and return them the following Friday. The kids had a ball, but were a lot of work to supervise and keep safe, especially at the beach.
It was an intense summer. One of my favorite memories is mornings with Roosevelt. I would rise relatively early and he was always up with the coffee on and at the ready cooking fantastic breakfasts. He and I would sit there along with Ray, rolling cigarettes and drinking coffee as all the men would slowly move through the dining room. It was a perfect way to see the men, talk and get a sense of where they were and where the day was headed. The coffee pot was the proverbial ‘water cooler’!
As the summer progressed we had a crisis. The pump simply wore out and the buildings had no water. Peter a grand guy, a wiz with everything mechanical. He diagnosed the problem. Simply the submersible pump was shot and we needed to replace it. The parts would take two to three weeks and we were running the camp and had 10 men living there along with the rest of us. Ray didn’t want to suspend the program so Pete came up with the idea to damn the stream that still runs under the bridge, which was wooded at the time. If we damned the stream we could pump water into the mainline and keep the toilets running and showers running.
Fortunately my dad a contractor had equipment. I called him explaining the problem. He sent a high volume pump with fire hoses up from the city to pump the water. We then built a damn which pooled water for the pumps. And it worked! However, we also needed more water for drinking and cooking. The solution, which Ray came up with by virtue of the ‘spirit’ was to use the water from the spring up near the Salmon River Falls. (It is still there. I looked last time I was at the Acres) I would drive the truck every morning to the spring which pours out on the side of the road and fill two huge barrels. I did that for three weeks until Pete and Ray got the pump going. Of course Father McVey firmly believed that without the ‘Spirit’ we would never have fixed the pump, built the damn or found the spring. Kind of like the miracle of the wine at the wedding in Cana?
I believe the Holy Spirit was onboard with the effort, just as It has been the past 52 years. How else would we still be here! As Ray would say, ‘no problem’ and ‘the Spirit will provide’.
Amen. Robert Detor
March 14, 2021
We sincerely hope you, our friends and benefactors, are beginning to recover from the tremendous amount of change in 2020 due to the impact of COVID-19.
For those of you who have lost loved ones, we ask God for consolation for you and your families. For those who personally had to battle the COVID-19 diagnosis, we ask for healing. We pray that each and every one of our friends is doing well.
It is now more than one year since COVID-19 was declared a pandemic. At first it was rather daunting for us, and we wondered how we would cope. With the support and advice of the Oswego County Department of Health, we quickly settled into following the guidelines of the CDC: the men began wearing masks, limiting ‘off-campus’ trips, practicing social distancing and frequent hand-washing. We had hand-cleaning stations installed in each of the bathrooms; these sanitizers are stocked with an anti-microbial foaming agent. All the men were issued their own individual sanitizers as well. Public areas in the buildings are sprayed every other evening with a liquid disinfectant.
Our dining room and food service practices were rearranged. Clear plexiglass shields were installed at the serving counters between the kitchen and the dining room. Many medical appointments are now conducted via telephone.
These new practices which began last March and April are still being maintained, and I am happy to report that one year later we have not had a single case of COVID, no colds, no flu, no illnesses. However, it was a great relief when the public health nurses arrived on February 19th to administer the first round of vaccinations to all the men and the staff, plus a few neighbors. We anticipate the second round of injections on March 19th. Our thanks go out to the Oswego County Nursing Services.
Christmas came and went rather quietly, but very nice, I think. Thanks to all who remembered us with your cards and greetings, prayers, gifts and donations.
March 3rd marked the 52nd Anniversary of Father McVey’s arrival in Orwell, and taking up residence in the old TB San with five very trusting men. This year, because of the lock-down, the staff and residents planned a quiet observation of the day: a small gathering in the chapel, and a special meal at the supper hour.
It’s hard to imagine the hardships and troubles Father McVey had to face compared to our lives today. In the first years, the living was hard and food sometimes scarce. But from reports, the men dealt with it with very few complaints.
I am sure Father McVey and Kate would be astonished today if they could just visit our warm buildings and well-stocked pantry and freezers. We have so much for which to be thankful. Along with each man having a warm private room, they are offered three full meals a day. Our food bills are greatly reduced this year thanks to the outpouring of donations from many groups and individuals: Saint Elizabeth Seton Parish in B’ville sent up a huge food donation on January 24th – their annual food drive for the Acres. Frank Begani and the Knights of Columbus held a food drive for us in cooperation with the Catholic Churches in Oswego and delivered three pick-up trucks full of groceries on February 26th – also a lot of laundry detergent. Gary King and his wife Ellen head up efforts in cooperation with members of the Agape Fellowship Church in Lafargeville; they arrive once or twice a month with one or two pick-ups full of bread and other food products.
The United Methodist Churches in Pulaski and Sandy Creek host monthly food giveaways, and we regularly get a phone call at the end of the food distributions to ‘glean’ from the leftovers: usually dairy, and nicely packed boxes of fresh fruits and vegetables.
During the summer we got calls to come to the distribution sites at the Pulaski High School and at the Sandy Creek Fairgrounds for milk-give-aways.
Our thanks also to Bob B who often dropped by to check out our pantry shelves and supply whatever was lacking, and to the folks from the Mexico Food Pantry who stop by every Friday night, and to the folks from Grindstone Farms who stop by frequently!
Last week, Dan Krupke contributed can goods (mostly # 10 cans) and frozen good enough to fill our new grocery van twice, and then some! Thank-you, Dan.
Thanks also to neighbors and friends, who just stop by to deliver milk, baked goods, fresh vegetables and so on.
And to Paul Drescher who has been keeping us supplied with coffee for many years. And to members of several church congregations who remembered our men during the cold weather and brought warm caps, knit hats (tuques), warm gloves and socks. Thanks to all of you!
Surprisingly, the winter is passing fairly quickly, and rather uneventfully (in respect of the weather). We have had plenty of snow, but not more than we are accustomed to getting, and even that has been rapidly melting during the last few warm and sunny days. We are looking forward to the coming of spring—Daylight Savings Time started today—the first day of spring, the return of the Canada Geese, and the crocuses pushing their way out of the soil and into the sunshine.
The Lenten Season is now drawing to a close as Easter is approaching. We wish to take this opportunity to wish each and every one of you a Happy and Holy Easter. In gratitude we pray that God will abundantly bless you and your loved ones.
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September 14, 2020
Greetings and peace to all of you who have been such faithful supporters of Unity Acres!
This is a most strange time in our American history and it has affected all of us in so many ways – physical, emotional, spiritual, financial, cultural, and everything we can think of!
We know that some of you have had the terrible experience of having a loved one die of this Covid19. Our deepest sympathy and prayers are with you. Perhaps some of you have been ill yourself and have recovered. Probably many of you have been separated from loved ones during this time that has forced us into much more restricted daily lives and that takes a toll on everyone.
Certainly, Unity Acres has experienced some of this strange time but – thanks be to God – there have been no infections and no deaths.
Nevertheless, it has obviously been hard on the men to be so isolated and especially difficult for Steve and his mother, Loretta, who have hardly been able to leave the area, and for Peg McCarthy who has not been able to be present since she has been with her son out of town. We are blessed that Bear Foote has continued to be able to do work around the Acres and it is the great, great ministry and service of the three of them that have kept all as well as possible at this time. To say that they can never be adequately rewarded for this is to say too little!
Yet we are people of hope and the people of faith and endurance and pray for each other and for the courage to sustain daily life during this pandemic. As with all, we wait and hope for some type of vaccine but know that that is most likely months away and we will be continuing with masks and restricted movements for some time.
However, there have been moments of support as the men have largely pulled together to maintain safety and sustenance for all. Also, on a personal level, I had the opportunity on Labor Day weekend to preach at the churches of Saint Matthew’s, Saint Francis, in Saint Mary’s, in the East Syracuse, Minoa and Bridgeport area in speaking about the history, life, ministry, and “place of constant miracles” that is Unity Acres.
Considering all the social distancing and not being able to always read faces, as I stood at the door of different churches as people exited, so many made lovely remarks about the Acres. Particularly exciting to me was getting to talk with Father McVey’s niece and family at Saint Matthew’s. We both teared up as we talked about Father Ray and some of those early days. She also said that she has some different artifacts and things that she wants to give us at the Acres and I will look forward to the opportunity to get those and bring them there.
Our hope for all from all of us on the board is that not only we are all healthy during this time but that we continue to make this place a place of hospitality for all even though we have had to be restrictive during this time.
Your prayer for all at the Acres is always appreciated and your faithful support likewise. Please take good care of yourselves and let us continue to believe that the Holy Spirit works even in this challenging time in making something good for all out of this tragic time.
Dave Pasinski, Vice President, Unity Acres Board of Directors
Reflection on dealing with Covid19
Hello friends! What is difficult for me during this pandemic is not being able to see people’s faces while shopping, going to church etc. We can’t see people’s expressions so there is less engagement with each other. It makes me appreciate a friendly smile and an impromptu conversation even more.
When I get discouraged I remember that God is always with me and I have an angel guiding me. Our Blessed Mother Mary is an excellent model for me too. Although Mary experienced times of isolation and pain, she never lost her faith and trust in God. As Romans 8:28 tells us “We know that all things work for good for those who love God, who are called according to His purpose.” So I pray to live as God wants me to live and I look forward to the masks coming off and seeing all your smiling faces!
Kathy Crandall, President, Unity Acres Board of Directors
It has been quite some time since my last writing. I have been somewhat “out of the loop” inasmuch as I have been with my oldest son John in Brockport since the outbreak of Covid19 in early March. It has been a time of mixed emotions for me both satisfying my family who have been so protective of me during the Virus but missing the Acres and my co-workers and the men and my daily responsibilities there. I am so pleased that Loretta, Bear and Steve have managed to hang in there during these difficult times and have kept the Acres going and safe for the men.
Steve does send work for me to do here and they are in frequent contact with me by text, phone or email. Unity Acres and all connected are in our daily prayers.
Stay safe and God Bless you.
Sincerely, Peg McCarthy
March 7, 2020
O Lord, you been our refuge,
from generation to generation…. (Psalm 90, 1)
On Tuesday of this week (March 3), at four in the afternoon, a small group of worshippers – some of the men, and most of our usual week-end congregation – gathered in our Sacred Heart Chapel for a Liturgy of the Word and communion: marking Unity Acres’ 51st Anniversary. We heard the reading from Isaiah: “So shall my word be that goes forth from my mouth; It shall not return to me void, but shall do my will, achieving the end for which I sent it” (55, 11); the Psalm of that day’s Mass (Psalm 34): “Glorify the Lord with me, let us together extol his name,” and the Gospel from Matthew: “…Your Father knows what you need before you ask him. This is how you are to pray, ‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name…’ ” (6, 8-9) We shared prayers of thanksgiving for people who gave of themselves over the last 51 years to imagine and dream and build Unity Acres; for the men who have lived and died here, and who have served one another in this imperfect community. We shared prayers of petition for men who are away from us, and for people struggling with addiction and homelessness.
The weeks prior to our little 51st anniversary celebration (and since the last ‘newsy’ newsletter) have been full: Thanksgiving and Advent, the Christmas season, a few weeks of ‘Ordinary Time’, the beginning of Lent…
As we think back over these few months, we want to let you know that because of the generosity of so many of you, our good friends, we enjoyed a wonderful Thanksgiving feast, followed by the annual Christmas party on December 14, sponsored by Christ Our Light Parish in Pulaski. These good folks have been celebrating Christmas with us for many, many years—no one is quite sure for how long, perhaps going back to Unity Acres’ beginning in 1969, so that would be 50 years! During the weeks of Advent, during those weeks of waiting and preparation, gifts and food kept arriving at our doors, and we were treated to many superb meals prepared by our gifted (and dedicated) kitchen staff. The dining room was decorated to reflect the joyous season, the Birth of our Divine Savior, Jesus, the ‘reason for the season.’ And then, after a week, we all begin a New Year with thoughts, hopes and prayers for another year of God’s many blessings.
But as we reflect on the fun and blessing of the Christmas Season, we are also aware that there were times of sadness during and preceding the holidays. During November, we were saddened by the deaths of Ed Zacharek, Father McVey’s brother-in-law, as well as Tony Lombardo, a long-time supporter and member of Unity Acres, and proud parishioner of Saint Lucy’s. Tony and Ed both died on the 5th. William Hamilton, Dr. Laura Hamilton’s dad, died on the following day. Our condolences and prayers for them and their families.
Some time ago, we learned belatedly by way of an email conversation with Mark D in Phoenix, that Mark Rude had passed away, on April 23 . Mark had stayed at the Acres for two and a half years beginning in February 2016, but returned home to Utica in October 2018. Peg and Steve had the occasion to have a few phone conversations with Mark after his return to Utica, and he too seemed settled and content.
Then in November, Bill Kimball got word that our beloved Rick Husner – one of our very dedicated cooks for several years beginning in 2010 – had died some weeks previously, in Rochester, following a lengthy battle with cancer. Rick had first been diagnosed while living at the Acres, and had begun treatment at University Hospital in Syracuse, but eventually settled in 2017 at an Assisted Living Facility in Hilton, and continued treatment at Strong Memorial Hospital. Rick went through many treatments as well as surgery, and put up a spirited fight. The cancer, however, took his life. Rick died on October 28.
The same week that Bill learned of Rickie’s death, he also learned that Loren MacEwen had died at the Gardens Assisted Living Facility in Oswego, on November 17. Loren was a very amiable fellow from Fulton who spent close to a year at the Acres from July 2016 until March 2017, but realized he needed care which we were unable to provide, and so he moved on to the Gardens where he was quite comfortable.
And on January 3, we received a call from University Hospital concerning one of our former residents. We quickly learned that Jim Cole who had been with us for four or five years, and who had been a wonderful help to Father Jones during those years, had been involved in a terrible accident, fatally struck by a passing vehicle as he was walking along Highway 481 in Fulton. Jim’s untimely death was an awful shock to all of us here. Jim was a terrific worker, handling the phone room on assigned days, accompanying men to medical appointments, cleaning the hallway in the first floor of the main building, mowing and weed-eating, looking after and keeping the Chapel neat and clean, assisting Father Jones in the Chapel and Sacristy, also helping Father in his room, and on doctor visits. Jim’s family arranged a beautiful tribute to him: a funeral Mass at St. Mary’s in Florence — the little church was packed — Father John Hogan, pastor of St. John’s in Camden, presided. Luncheon followed at the parish hall in Camden, put on by the parish’s Funeral Ministry. To say we shall miss Jim is an understatement. I guess we always hoped he might some day come back to us. But now he is in the arms of his God whom he served so well in his life.
Saint Paul tells us to “Rejoice with those who are happy, and to weep with those who weep” (Romans 12, 15). This verse from Holy Scriptures is certainly a part of our life here at the Acres, and really, of everyone’s life. We began this letter with celebration and rejoicing during the Thanksgiving, Advent and Christmas seasons, and weeping during the times we suffered pain from losing those we love. On Sunday, February 2, the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord in the Temple, we gathered in our Sacred Heart Chapel and with the strains of Here I am, Lord, we opened our Liturgy in honor of Father Jones’ 60th Anniversary of Ordination. Father was ordained by Bishop Foery on February 2, 1960. Carey Landry’s By name I have called you was our communion meditation, and we closed with another of Father Jones’ favorites, the Benedictine monks at Weston Priory singing, Come to me all who are heavy burdened and I shall give you rest. From the Chapel we proceeded to the Dining Hall for a delicious meal: Shrimp Scampi, cake and ice cream. During the gathering for dinner, we all joined in Padre’s theme song, Smile, don’t you know God loves you, come to think of it I love you too. This happy song by Carey Landry, who Father called his hero, has been a theme of Father’s all during his priesthood. I can’t be happy unless I know that you are happy too! Kurt baked a large sheet cake (chocolate with white frosting) which was served that evening, and another cake (also chocolate but decorated and too beautiful to cut) which we saved until the following weekend’s meeting with our board of directors.
Weeping and rejoicing were both part of this event to mark the 60th Anniversary of Father Jones’ priesthood, which was such a special and important part of him. Needless to say Father Jones is missed by all just as he has been loved by all during these sixty years of Priesthood in parishes in Oswego, Syracuse, East Syracuse, Cleveland and Constantia, at Elizabeth House, and during his twenty-six years here at Unity Acres.
As Simeon prayed at the Presentation of Jesus in the Temple, and a part of Father Jones’ night prayer, “Now you may let your servant go in peace, your word has been fulfilled, my own eyes have seen the salvation which you have prepared in the sight of every people: a light to reveal you to the nations and the glory of your people Israel…”
God Bless You,
For the Unity Acres Community
October 21, 2019
Let the trumpet sound,
and let the Fiftieth Year
Let freedom be proclaimed,
and let this Jubilee Year
be a Holy Year…. (Lv 25, 9. 10)
Here we are the morning of October 21, 2019, the 24th Anniversary of the passing of our Kate Stanton and the day after our annual “picnic.” This year rather than organizing a picnic for the third Sunday in August, we celebrated instead a Fall Fest on the third Sunday in October. And instead of a stifling hot summer day, we enjoyed a beautiful and cool autumn day, alive with all the colors of Autumn, and for our guests the pleasure of a lovely fall drive in the country.
If the Lord does not build a house, then in vain do the builders labor … This is the refrain of our opening hymn at Mass, our Eucharistic Celebration, and the culmination of our Jubilee Year, the 50th Anniversary of Unity Acres. Sixty-five or more people gathered in our Sacred Heart Chapel marking this blessed event. Father Paul Mathis, longtime friend of Father Bob Jones, and of many of us here at the Acres, presided and celebrated this holy Mass, along with altar server Frank Ellinger.
Steve prefaced the first reading from Exodus with a “Reading from ‘Saint’ Raymond McVey”: “On March 3, 1969, we arrived in Northern Oswego County in the unheard-of Hamlet of Orwell. Five very trusting men accompanied me on the journey … This move was something like the Israelites leaving Egypt. The city was slavery, the streets, depression, alcohol, drugs, jail and the endless cycle would start again. A trap, a web from which there was no escape for so many hurting people.” And so from Holy Scriptures, Exodus in the twelfth chapter: “The Lord spoke to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt, saying: ‘This day shall be for you a day of remembrance, a festival, which all your generations shall celebrate with pilgrimage to the Lord: Let it be your custom forever.’ ” (Ex 12, 1. 14)
Then Frank Ellinger leads us in the Responsorial Psalm: “How very good and pleasant it is when Brothers dwell together in Unity. It is like precious oil on the head, oil flowing down upon the beard of Aaron… like the dew of Hermon which falls on the mountains of Zion, for there the Lord ordained His blessing, Life forevermore!” (Ps 133)
Next, the second reading from Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians (1 Cor 12, 4-11) ‒ Bill Kimball is the lector: “There are different kinds of spiritual gifts, but the same Spirit … different forms of service but the same Lord … there are different workings but the same God who produces all of them in everyone… But one and the same Spirit produces all of these, distributing them individually to each person as he wishes.” All of us – with the many gifts given to us by the same Spirit, the same Lord – answer: The Word of the Lord.
Jim and family lead us in singing the Gospel Acclamation as Father Paul prepares to proclaim the Holy Gospel from Matthew 25. This Gospel reading is a powerful one, and it is one that Unity Acres is based on. “ ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me.’ … ‘But when did we feed you, give you a drink, and when did we welcome you?’ … ‘Whenever you did this for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did it for me.’ ” (Mt 25, 31-40) The Gospel of the Lord.
Afterwards, in his homily, Father Paul related stories from when he was a young and newly ordained how he Father Ray’s care for people who needed food, clothing, shelter and how Father Ray addresses these difficulties with his first houses of hospitality which proceed the founding of Unity Acres; and how Father Ray & Kate Stanton and others who have followed in their footsteps, including Father Bob Jones and those serving the Acres at present, are following the message of Matthew 25. Father Paul also refers to the Gospel of the 29th Sunday in Ordinary time which calls for perseverance. And so we try to persevere in the footsteps of Father Ray McVey and Kate Stanton, and those who have followed, and the strong message Matthew gives us in his 25th Chapter.
Following the Apostles Creed, Deb Carnes steps forward to lead us in the Prayer of the Faithful: “All powerful, ever-loving God, we thank-you for Your love and Your providential care which have sustained the Unity Acres Community for fifty years, and in Jesus’ name we pray: Lord, hear our prayer.” This prayer continues thanking God for so many Blessings, and for friend past and present who have been a forceful part of the formation and continuation of Unity Acres. For our supporters and benefactors, and the happy repose of the souls of those gone before us including those buried in our St. Martin de Porres Cemetery. Our prayers continue for those struggling with homelessness and addiction and for those suffering from ill health, especially we pray for Brendan, Bear Foote’s six- year-old grandson who is not feeling so well this week and “Lord we ask you to give Your help to all who call on You in faith. May the power of Your Word and Sacraments bring strength to the people gathered here today. Amen.”
During the Offertory the McCarthys lead us in a Hymn to our Blessed Mother, Hail Mary, Gentle Woman, as a tribute to, and in Loving Memory of, our beloved Kate Stanton who passed on to her eternal reward twenty-four years ago today.
As we approach the Altar and receive Christ’s Body we hear the strains of Weston Priory’s Come to Me, a favorite hymn of Father Jones’, and so in loving memory of Father J. who served the men of Unity Acres for over twenty-five years.
Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy burdened, and I shall give you rest. Yes my yoke is easy and my burden light.
After receiving Father Mathis’ blessing, all gathered join with Jim, Deirdre, Cian and Shane and sing out the theme song of our 50th Anniversary:
Jubilee! The Lord provided for a time for the slaves to be set free, for debts to all be cancelled, so His chosen ones could see. His deep desire was for forgiveness, He longed to see their liberty, and His yearning was embodied in the Year of Jubilee. Jubilee, Jubilee, Jesus is our Jubilee, Debts forgiven, Slaves set free, Jesus is our Jubilee.
Our celebration continues….
Mass is now over and our congregation makes its way over to the STAR Building where our Autumn decorated Dining Room awaits with a sumptuous Fall Dinner of delicious baked ziti, green beans and winter squash from our garden and a green salad all prepared by our gifted kitchen crew under Loretta’s able direction. This wonderful meal was topped with a choice of pumpkin pie with whipped cream or apple pie and ice cream or a piece of cake specially decorated for the occasion. The tables were set with Italian bread and nicely formed butters and bottled water. Waiters (and waitresses) came around offering cups of cider and taking orders for hot coffee. We especially miss Gary Christie who had done our annual picnic and other events and holidays for many, many years, but his brothers stepped forward and we are most grateful to everyone who helped decorate, serve, wait tables and clean up after. I would like to name each and every one who helped with this wonderful meal; who helped in any way in decorating the dining room which greeted us as though it were an expensive restaurant, but would be afraid to leave off someone’s name inadvertently. Besides the men and Loretta, help came from Deb Carnes and Meghann Hunt. God has blessed Unity Acres during these 50 years and we are most grateful.
The sun came out during Mass and shined on us for the rest of the day. The colors of the leaves, the blue sky, the beautiful Chapel and Dining Room reflect God’s many years of blessings. Very often when sitting down to one of our meals, I have said, “we are spoiled”. That we are and a day like yesterday puts into the light those blessings. The men put in much time and effort in making a day like yesterday happen.
As our second reading from Saint Paul tells us, there are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit gives them. Each of us has been given gifts that are different from each other. To some the gift of cooking, to others the gift of decorating, to others gifts of cleaning, polishing and waxing. To others the gift of organizing, of washing dishes, pots & pans.
The grounds were groomed due to the gifts of some of the men, and decorated with pumpkins and corn stalks. The phone room is in the capable hands of two of the men, the mail is picked up and distributed by two others; laundry done by another and night watch by four or five others. Three men do the shopping each week. Each floor has a houseman who keeps the bathrooms clean and the hall ways swept and mopped. The ‘dungeon master’ cares for the dorm and welcomes the newly arrived members of our community who live there during their first two to three weeks here. Three men are drivers, one man operates our water system, assuring that our drinking water meets all relevant health standards. One of our men keeps an eagle eye on our boilers as well as some of the plumbing. The clothing room and garden are cared for by another. Another has taken on the responsibilities of our hog-raising operation. And during the upcoming winter season, the snow blowers and hand shovels will be taken up by still others. I feel like I left out some of the many gifts that we are blessed with in this Home for otherwise homeless men. We are all here together as one family and together we collaborate and use our many gifts for the good of all.
We thank those who came yesterday and joined with us in our celebration. Whether a Picnic in August or Fall Festival, our gatherings each year are intended as a way of thanking our many supporters, without whom Unity Acres could not exist. We thank you most sincerely. And we look forward to next year when we will assemble again in our Sacred Heart Chapel and the STAR Building Dining Room for another year of thanksgiving and celebration.
God Bless You,
For the Unity Acres Community
September 23, 2019
The Lord has done great things for us,
and we are filled with joy.
—Psalm 126, 3
This Newsletter serves to bring us up to date with events and happenings at Unity Acres since our last letter in August and to serve as a reminder of our upcoming FALL FEST, OCTOBER 20, BEGINNING WITH MASS AT NOON as well as speaking a bit of the history of our picnic over the past many years. For those many years we had a summer picnic beginning with an outdoor Mass, mostly in the front of “B” Building but over the years we did try other locations on our property. Once down by the creek which turned out to not be such a good idea – too far for folks to get themselves down there – also no power, etc., etc. Several years it was held behind the North Wing and that was OK but it worked out best on the lawn in front of our main building which houses our Sacred Heart Chapel. Everyone loves a picnic but it is a challenge what with being concerned about the weather, setting up chairs and serving salads and other foods in 90 degree weather. And so this year as we also did 4 or 5 years ago, we are planning on a FALL FEST and our Noon Mass will be indoors in our beautiful Sacred Heart Chapel, loved so much by our beloved priests, Father McVey and Father Jones, and in their memory. After Mass we will continue over to the STAR Building into the Dining Room for our meal which will consist of Roger’s delicious baked ziti and vegetables to go along with the main course along with special dessert.
This annual event is carried out every year as a way of thanking our many supporters, without whom Unity Acres could not exist. We thank you most sincerely and look forward to a big turn-out as we continue the celebration of our Jubilee, our 50th Anniversary Year, which marks Unity Acres’ founding on March 3, 1969!
We enjoyed two cook-outs since our last letter. First being Mexico United Methodist Church treating us to a delicious picnic lunch on August 17. These good folks have been doing this for many years every summer and we look forward to their delicious salads, cookies and everything else that they serve, as well as bringing donations, including food and litter for our feline population. Thanks ladies and gentlemen from Mexico UMC, you are special.
This past Saturday the Knights of Columbus from Camden and the North Shore treated us once again as they have for several years to an outdoor BBQ of hamburgers and sausage, plus salt potatoes and beans, a hearty man’s lunch and during the meal, the Ingersoll Brothers from Camden entertained us with great Gospel Music! These Knights are longtime contributors to Unity Acres, supporting us with generous monetary donations especially during Thanksgiving and Christmas seasons as well as Easter time. [Click here for more photos of the Mexico UMC and KoFC Summer Cook-Outs.]
August 9, 2019
All creatures look to you
to give them food in due time.
When you give it to them, they gather;
when you open your hand,
they are satisfied with good things.
—Psalm 104, 27-28
After a string of near perfect summer days, yesterday storm clouds rolled in from the west, along with gusty winds, and heavy rains. The rains no doubt are needed for the good of the lawns and gardens. This year’s cold & wet spring delayed Henry in planting of the vegetable garden for several days, but by now the vegetable plants and looking very good. Mark D. has been hard at work with keeping the lawns mowed, while Robert M. has tackled the flower beds, which had been starting to look overgrown and very weedy. Consequently, the grounds look terrific.
Nevertheless, we want to remind everyone that we are cancelling our annual picnic for this year, which has normally been held the third Sunday in August. We are planning instead for a Fall Fest in October. And we have set the date as Sunday, October 20, 2019. We plan to begin our celebration with Mass at Noon in our Sacred Heart Chapel. After Mass, we’ll head over to the Dining Hall for our Fall Festival meal.
We mentioned in our last newsletter about a hot dog picnic that was arranged by members of the Agape Fellowship Church. On June 23 these good folks came all the way down from Lafargeville (north of Watertown), and set up in the kitchen. As the hotdogs were being grilled outside on the BBQ, and the food line was being prepared, they joined us in the Dining Room, with their musical group leading us in a Hymn Sing to the enjoyment of all. The Dining Room was alive with these folks and ours, breaking bread together and singing along. Our pantry abounds with donations from Agape Community throughout the year. We are most grateful to them for their generosity and faithfulness. [Click here for more photos of the Cook-Out.]
On June 25 the community gathered in the Chapel to listen to Carl Steele, Chief of the Orwell Fire Department, speak about Fire Safety. This is done occasionally to remind us of the necessity of keeping ourselves and others safe from the danger of fire, as we occupy these big frame buildings. Thank-you, Carl, and members of the Orwell Fire Department. We are grateful for your concern and interest.
On July 18 the big Van from All Saints Parish pulled up with several smiling faces from the Brady Faith Center, happy to be here and ready and willing to roll up their sleeves and help clean and sort the pantry and dining room. They were accompanied by Kevin Frank, their Director, and who goes back many years with Unity Acres. A few days later, the Van was back again and a couple of vehicles and this time young folks from All Saints, again through Brady Faith Center. These folks cleaned, scrubbed, and dusted our Sacred Heart Chapel, Sacristy, B Bldg. Sitting Room and entrance ways. After helping with chores, the young folks and chaperones joined us in the Dining Hall for lunch. We believe they spent the rest of the afternoon enjoying the beautiful weather at Orwell’s famous Salmon River Falls. We are most grateful to Kevin and these good young folks and the adults that accompanied them and joined in the cleaning.
The week-end of July 27-28 Steve and Bill Kimball traveled to St. Francis Xavier Parish in Marcellus where Steve spoke at each of the Masses on the background of Unity Acres as part of the annual Diocesan Missionary Cooperation Program, which is arranged by the Society for the Propagation of the Faith. We thank Father Muscalino and his parishioners who welcomed Steve and Bill to their church and parish, for their hospitality and generosity.
Through the past few months we neglected to congratulate two of Unity Acres Members who celebrated their Jubilees: one 50 years as Priest and the other a Religious Sister. They are Father John Schopfer who celebrated his Jubilee of Ordination on May 17. Also Sister Ida Gregoire, RSM who celebrated fifty years as a Sister of Mercy. They are two very devoted people in their respective ministries, helping the “least of God’s brethren”. Father has been with the Brady Faith Center back to the time after Father Brady died and Sister has ministered with the sick and underprivileged. Congratulations Father John and Sister Ida on your fifty years of service to those in need.
June 24, 2019
He fed them with the finest wheat,
and satisfied them with honey from the rock.
—Psalm 81, 17
After a long, cold and wet spring, a rainy May and June, the fine weather seems at last to have arrived: our men have been busy with mowing lawns, planting the vegetable garden, tidying up the cemetery, filling in pot-holes in the driveways, hauling away branches that had broken off trees during last winter’s windstorms and heavy snows…. With the improved weather we’ve had a few cook-outs already, first over the Memorial Day holiday, and again last evening. Members of the Agape Fellowship Church, of Lafargeville, organized a hot dog barbeque for the men, along with a musical program. We all had a fun time together, and a nice occasion to visit between our men and the thirty or so members of the church who attended the event.
The season of Lent found us in the Chapel on Fridays for Stations of the Cross and on Good Friday in the Dining Hall, along with Helen Clark. Easter Sunday greeted us with songs of Resurrection in our beautiful Liturgy in our Sacred Heart Chapel followed by a dinner with all the trimmings and ‘fit for a king’ which it was. It wasn’t long after Easter that we were readying for and enjoying our annual ‘Friend-Raiser’ dinner at All Saints Parish Hall, where there’s singing ‘Jubilee, let the trumpet sound.’ We are most grateful to the many who joined us for the celebration of our Jubilee Anniversary. The Dinner at All Saints was a beautiful event enjoyed by all. We thank Dave Pasinski, Nick Orth, Father Fred Daley and All Saints Parish, the McCarthys and all who contributed to make this a special event, marking an era in the history of Unity Acres.
On April 7 we joined many at St. Lucy’s Church to celebrate Bill Cuddy’s retirement from Jail Ministry. Bill’s ministry to those in the jail goes back almost to the beginning of his priestly career and up to the present. Words cannot express what Bill has done for men and women incarcerated first in the Public Safety Building, and then later in the Justice Center in Syracuse, and to the families of those incarcerated. Bill and his lovely wife Pat deserve some retirement years. Congratulations, Bill!
But it has not been all celebration and parties during the last months. On May 13, Roger, Lou, Bill, Loretta, Peg, and Steve gathered at Assumption Cemetery: Gary Christie, our long-time ‘head cook’ was buried alongside his parents. The graveside service was led by Sister Monica Nortz, former president of our board, and a friend of Gary. Thank-you Sister, all of us who attended were comforted by your thoughtfulness and your presence with us that day. Rest in Peace Gary, we miss you. A week later, on May 20, we buried Joe Cardone at Saint Martin de Porres Cemetery. (Gary and Joe’s deaths were announced in the February newsletter.)
On Sunday May 26 just after our Liturgy we received word that Bud Cashion was near death in Crouse Hospital where he succumbed to his illness a few hours later. Bud has been part of our Chapel Community for many years, always sitting in the back pew in the main section of the Chapel. He had been here the Sunday before but took a turn the next day and struggled during the week but seemed to be improving and then on Friday he took a turn for the worse and was taken to Crouse by Ambulance. Bud was a lovely man who lived in Lacona and was with us every Sunday and when Father Jones was here celebrating week day Masses, Bud was right there in his pew. We can still hear the hearty Hi Father and Hi Bud greetings loud and clear, as Father sometimes forgot that his microphone was on. Bud is missed by all. Rest in Peace Bud.
On June 1 we joined friends at St. Margaret’s in Mattydale for a Memorial Mass celebrating the life of Sue Heinley who passed away on March 11. Sue and her husband Barney befriended Unity Acres many years ago, befriending Kate Stanton especially, delivering at least weekly donations of food, clothing and other donations that they gathered from friends and churches and agencies in and around Syracuse, organizing and coordinating the men’s Christmas stockings, as well as writing and mailing thousands of donation acknowledgements. They are missed.
To all of you who look forward to the Annual Picnic every August, we are announcing a change from our usual practice. We are not scheduling a Picnic this summer, but are planning for Fall Fest in October on Sunday the 20th. All are welcome. Hope to see you then! Exact particulars of the celebration to be included in an upcoming mailing, and also on the website.
Peg McCarthy For the UNITY ACRES COMMUNITY
March 3, 2019
How good and pleasant it is when
Brothers dwell together as one.
—Psalm 133, 1
The Trumpet sounds: Let the 50th Year be hallowed–JUBILEE!
It’s the last Sunday before Lent, and our Chapel has been carefully prepared for our big Celebration today, our 50th Anniversary Day. By 3:30, residents and visitors are beginning to arrive and by 4 pm our Sacred Heart Chapel is pretty much filled and Jim McCarthy asks us to stand and greet our Presider, Father Jim Schultz and open our hymnals to Come Let Us Worship the Lord. From the first reading from Leviticus 25, 8-12, we hear: Count seven times seven years, a total of forty-nine years. Then on the tenth day of the seventh month, the Day of Atonement, send someone to blow a trumpet throughout the whole land… set the fiftieth year apart and proclaim freedom to all the inhabitants of the land… the whole year shall be sacred for you… And so the theme for this 50th Anniversary Year of Unity Acres is one of Jubilee. For here at the Acres men come and can leave behind their addiction to alcohol and drugs and are set free. As in our closing song Jubilee, Jubilee, Jesus is our Jubilee. Debts forgiven, slaves set free. Jesus is our Jubilee. And in the second reading from Hebrews 12, 18-24: the people have come to Mount Zion and to the City of the Living God, the heavenly Jerusalem… to the joyful gathering of God’s first born, whose names are written in heaven… to Jesus, who arranged the new Covenant. The Gospel from Matthew 14 begins with Jesus leaving in a boat to a lonely place to be alone after hearing of John the Baptist’s death but people followed Him by land and when He saw them, His heart was filled with pity for them and He healed the sick. And then when it became late, He took five loaves and two fish and giving thanks to God, blessed and broke the loaves and gave them to the Disciples to distribute to the crowd and after everyone ate and had enough, twelve baskets were left over. The food that comes into Unity Acres Dining Room feeds our multitude as Bob Angel used to say. Gary Christie who left us for his heavenly reward in January fed thousands during his seventeen years in our kitchen. And as Psalm 122 responds I rejoiced when they said, let us go to the House of the Lord. Our men and ourselves rejoice as we have come to Unity Acres, a house of the Lord.
Following Mass, our visitors and residents proceed to the Dining Room in the Star Building where Roger and the kitchen staff has prepared a beautiful meal. The Dining Room is soon filled with a happy, noisy crowd. The tables have been set with green napkins and gold-foil covered treats at each place setting. After everyone has found a place to sit, Father Schultz says the grace in which we all join. Roger serves the baked ziti and bread. John T. serves the green salads, Al L. and Billy C. serve iced tea and water, while Tom W. is keeping control of the kitchen. After everyone has been served dinner, John and Billy serve Mary’s freshly baked apple pie — with ice cream, and lemon pie with whipped cream. From the compliments received it would appear that the meal has been a great success. It’s worth noting that this was Roger’s first big event since Gary’s unexpected death. Roger and Gary were great friends, and they worked together frequently in the kitchen.
Our sincere thanks to all present for taking past part in our celebration–It was great seeing you here! And a big thanks especially to Father Schultz for leading us at Mass and in our prayer on our Jubilee day.
February 10, 2019
To all these qualities add love, which binds all
things together in perfect unity.
Let the peace of God control your hearts,
the peace into which you were all
called in one body. And be thankful.
—Colossians 3, 4-15
In a little less than three weeks, on the first Sunday in March, we commemorate the anniversary of Unity Acres’ founding. This year it’s our Jubilee Year—50 years from the day on March 3, 1969, when Father Ray McVey, accompanied by 5 very trusting men, made the big move from Huron Street on the West-side of Syracuse to the old and abandoned TB Sanitarium in rural Northern Oswego County, in snowy Orwell.
As we prepare for the upcoming celebrations—a liturgy here on March 3, our Fund-raiser dinner in Syracuse in May, our annual picnic in August—I also want to reflect a little on our experiences of the last several weeks and months—both joyful and very sad experiences.
Since the October Newsletter there are many that we should recognize and thank. The Hermann Family, our neighbors from across the road came over on Halloween to greet the men as they gathered for supper. These good folks have been doing this for years. The entire family, Grandma, Grandpa (Betty & Albert) plus daughters, sons-in-law and children in their Halloween garb, come with Halloween treats for the men. What a beautiful way to train children to be kind to others. We wish God’s healing blessings on Albert and Betty and the whole family.
On November 10th, a Saturday, we buried the ashes of Dave Wood, who had died in Syracuse early in 2018. Dave Pasinski, one of our board members, presided at the burial. Dave had stayed with us at the Acres, off and on, for many years, and during his stays very willingly pitched in in the kitchen—always glad to help. He’d been living for quite a few years in Eastwood, and died at the old James Square, after a brief illness. Rest in Peace, Dave.
At the end of the graveside service, and in honor of the many veterans buried in our cemetery, Dave’s friend Richard recited the John McRae poem, In Flanders Fields. The following morning, in chapel, and as part of our Veteran’s Day (Armistice Day—Remembrance Day) observance, we again recited In Flanders Fields, and prayed for peace in our troubled world.
Our last newsletter was dated in October, and of course, since that date, we celebrated the Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s holidays, with a lot of help from friends, supporters and donors whose gifts of food and presents helped to make our celebrations happy ones. Christ Our Light parish in Pulaski, once again, provided for the men’s annual Christmas party in early December, and several parishioners attended the party to serve, and ‘to be one with us’ that day. The dinner was a roast beef—done to perfection.
Similarly, we have received from various donors and friends many, many food donations including countless loaves of bread, canned goods, cookies and Christmas gifts organized through the Agape Fellowship Church in Lafargeville; turkeys, hams and many other food items through Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton in Baldwinsville; wrapped Christmas presents from Cortland; more such gifts from the Elks Club in Oswego; a delivery of turkeys and other food items received through the Lowville VFW; bags of Christmas presents from Saint Mary’s in Skaneateles; cooked dinners sent over from Saint James’ Church in Pulaski; warm socks from Saint Leo-St Ann in Holland Patent; fresh produce and dairy through the regular food-give-away at the Sandy Creek United Methodist Church… It’s been like Christmas and Epiphany all rolled into one: bearing gifts they traverse afar. This is by no means an exhaustive list—we just want to acknowledge the generosity we receive so regularly from so many, and to express our gratitude.
And we thank the many people who responded so generously to our fall fund raiser letter in November, and to all who sent monetary gifts during the Thanksgiving and Christmas Seasons. Your gifts are greatly appreciated.
As we do every year, we distribute presents to the men, after enjoying what has become for us the traditional evening Christmas Eve meal: Spaghetti and Meatballs. During the day, as the meal is being prepared, the presents are arranged around a Christmas tree which has been set up in the middle of the dining room; after everyone has eaten, each man receives a large bag of gifts, and smaller bag full of various snacks.
Christmas morning arrived cold and bright, with fresh snow, clear skies, and a nearly full moon hanging low in the western sky. Our dinner was served at noon: Turkey with all the trimmings—delicious! And after everyone had eaten, there were still other presents to be distributed to the men. And again, on New Year’s, still another feast.
Our celebrations were happy ones, but tinged with sadness at the absence of Father Jones, and also in the absence of Mary-Agnes Roy, our long-time organist. During these past weeks the reading from 1st Corinthians 12 has reminded us that we are many parts of one body….that if one part suffers, all suffer with it; if one part is honored, all the parts share its joy. So it is with our little Community here at Unity Acres: we have been saddened and concerned at the sudden, traumatic and very serious illness that struck Steve Fleming, only a few weeks ago [thanks be to God, he is doing very well now, settled back home with family in Saratoga County]. And about Rick Husner who is suffering from a serious chronic condition, and is now in an assisted living facility outside Rochester.
Joe Cardone who died on Christmas Eve in Oswego. He had been a resident for many years at the Pontiac Nursing Home – he was admitted there perhaps ten years or more ago. Joe will be buried at our Saint Martin de Porres in the spring. Father Schultz from Christ Our Light Parish in Pulaski kindly agreed to celebrate Joe’s funeral mass. Few of the men currently at the Acres knew Joe, but we managed to share some happy memories at the calling hours at Summerville Funeral Home in Sandy Creek with some staff members from the Nursing Home and … I remember Joe as a happy man, who liked to laugh.
We have suffered much this past year at the loss of Father Jones and Mary Agnes Roy, but God does provide. We acknowledge our Frank Ellinger who now leads us every Sunday morning in a beautiful Liturgy of the Word with Eucharist. On the morning of Thanksgiving day we presented Frank with a plaque with the words, ‘In appreciation for your outstanding achievement and spiritual devotion in his service.’ ‘Rejoice and be glad because great is your reward in heaven’ [Matt 5,12].
When the composition of this present newsletter had begun, in late January, on the 27th, in the first draft Peg referred to that Sunday’s reading from Nehemiah: ‘Do not be saddened this day…’. And we have been trying to take this word to heart.
But another heavy concern was then troubling also our hearts. Gary Christie, known to many of you our readers, and to most visitors to Unity Acres, had been taken by ambulance early on the morning of January 7 to Oswego Hospital, where he underwent emergency surgery before being transferred to Saint Joe’s. Gary received excellent care while at Saint Joe’s, but was critically ill, and we were warned that recovery was unlikely. Gary died peacefully during the late evening of Tuesday January 29. Steve, Loretta, and Roger were with Gary throughout that last day, and were able to say a last good-bye to him, and pray over him as he was dying.
Gary has been part of the Acres since first settling here in 2002, after the death of his mother with whom he had been living in Presidential Plaza in Syracuse. During his first few years at the Acres, Gary learned to cook, learning much from Doug Stevenson, who was then ‘in charge’ of the kitchen. After Doug’s leaving the Acres, Gary gradually [probably not so gradually] became the long-time head of the kitchen. Other cooks have come and gone during the last 15 or more years, but Gary has been the one who would reliably take charge and show up. [I’m trying not to say he was the one left holding the bag, but often enough that’s more or less how it’s been.] Roger & Steve tried to spend as much time as possible at the hospital, and were frequently accompanied by Loretta, and by Bill Kimball who did most of the driving back and forth. We are thankful to the men, who in Gary’s absence, have stepped up and have continued to provide nourishing meals for everyone here.
Father Schultz from Christ Our Light again kindly agreed to celebrate the funeral mass. The readings were chosen with special care: From Isaiah 25, ‘On this mountain the Lord of hosts will provide all peoples, a feast of rich food’ … From Matthew 25, ‘For I was hungry, and you gave me food…’ These readings from the Scriptures exemplify the kind of man Gary was and the life he led, and we can be confident that Gary, with his servant’s heart, has been met with these words: ‘Come you who were blessed by my father, inherit the kingdom…’
In the spring, Gary’s body will be taken to Assumption Cemetery, to be buried in the family plot, next to his mother.
We thank you for all your help and appreciate your prayers for those who are struggling, for those who have died, and for those who mourn. Again we quote Ezra the Priest from Nehemiah, ‘Do not be saddened this day, for rejoicing in the Lord must be your strength’ and so in this year 2019, our fiftieth year, our Jubilee year, we will rejoice in the Lord who is our strength.
Peg McCarthy, Steve Dickhout
October 16, 2018
Let your mercy come to me, O Lord,
salvation in accord with your promise
—Psalm 119, 41
The month of October sneaked up on us and now we are nearly in the middle of this colorful month, such a beautiful time of year. Labor Day marks the end of the State Fair and pretty much the end of the summer with children returning to school. Before we know it, the leaves are turning, the air is refreshingly cooler and the fisher men and women are gathering in the river and streams of Pulaski. The stores, motels and businesses all welcome those who come with their reels and poles and waders with hopes of taking home their quota of salmon. Fall is definitely in the air.
Here at Unity Acres, there is the scurrying and getting ready for colder weather. The boilers were attended to by our Bear Foote this week-end and we are feeling the welcome warmth of these furnaces. Soon the plastic will be surrounding the porches of A Building and the Bricks Coffee Shop. Mark and Roger have been busy with another mowing and Jerry continues his painting of the porch and ramp of the Annex. The air conditioner and fans have been removed from the Chapel and hot soup greets us at lunchtime in the dining room. Days are getting shorter and before long daylight saving time will make its exit for another year as we begin to hear words like “lake effect”! Also looking forward to Loretta’s return after a much deserved “sabbatical”.
We were treated to a Bar B Que by the Camden Knights of Columbus two weeks ago along with a trio who entertained us during the meal and beyond. They promise to return for another concert. They played blue grass with Guitar, Bass and Dobro. They were good! Both the meal and the music were enjoyed by all.
Later this month we are expecting a group from St. Mary’s Parish in Oswego to put on a hearty luncheon for us and these folks are very much appreciated, we’re not sure but believe they are the Confirmation class of that parish. Will report at a later date.
Tuesday, October 23 will mark Father Jones’ birthday. He would have been 84 this year and to mark the event, we hope to celebrate Mass at four o’clock that day. After Mass, Father’s Jones’ photo will be added to our ‘memorial’ gallery of photos of Father Ray McVey, Kate Stanton, Bill Spurrier (Brother Marcellus) and Carol Guthrie. Father McVey and Kate founded and led Unity Acres from its inception in 1969 until their deaths six months apart in 1995. Carol and Bill were part of the leadership at the Acres in 1991 when Father Jones’ (and Peg’s and Steve’s) involvement first began, and continued here for many years afterward—Carol served at the Acres until poor health gradually forced her retirement during the early 2000s, Bill served until his sudden death in 2008. Their photos grace the entrance way to our main building, B Building which houses the Chapel, Sacristy, Office, Phone Room, Dormitory and many resident rooms. The photos surround the words IN UNITY THERE IS STRENGTH, which has been the motto of Unity Acres all these years. Above all hangs a crucifix, which signiﬁes our faith in Christ as our Savior and Brother.
As we stumble along without Father Jones, we are blessed with our longtime resident Frank Ellinger who has been Sacristan and Altar Server for all these years since joining our Community in 1979 along with Brother Marcellus and Bob Angel. Frank leads us every week in a beautiful Liturgy of the Word with Eucharist. Occasionally we have a priest to celebrate Mass and consecrate our hosts. Thank you Frank. You are a true blessing to us.
September 9, 2018
Here we are three weeks since our Annual Unity Acres Outdoor Mass and Picnic. This year marked a difficult one for us as it was the first one in many years without our beloved Chaplain, Father Robert Jones. Father Jones had been with us since the fall of 1991 and shared in the annual picnic beginning the summer of 1992 when the ‘Torch’ was passed from Father Raymond McVey.
Father McVey’s retirement from Unity Acres was of short duration – only six months. He returned to the Acres in January of 1993, but his health failed in March 1995 and he passed on from his illness shortly thereafter on April 21 of that same year. And so Father Jones had been our Chaplain ever since, until his passing on July 22, 2018. It is difficult and painful carrying on without him.
This year we were privileged to have our dear friend from the days of St. Francis Farm in the 90’s, Father Tom McNamara, O.F.M.Cap. to preside at our Mass. Father Tom was well received and all enjoyed his homily urging us to not be afraid to get our hands dirty and stepping out of our comfort zone and to take the road less traveled. Father is a Franciscan, Capuchin priest and pastor of Our Lady of Sorrows Parish in New York City. He has a longtime association with Unity Acres and St. Francis Farm and had a close friendship with Father Jones, Father Moritz Fuchs and Father Ted Sizing. The Mass and Picnic this year was held on August 19 which was Father Ted’s birthday and the 2nd month anniversary of Father Fuchs’ death. It was in Loving Memory of Father Jones and included tributes to Fathers Sizing and Fuchs.
Our Director Steve Dickhout welcomed all to this annual occasion and explained to those who had not heard, that Father Jones had passed on after having been in Seneca Hill Manor for four months after a fall and subsequent cerebral hemorrhage. Also that we usually would have had our beloved long time organist Mary Agnes Alrutz-Roy leading us in a gathering song, but that Mary Agnes had just died in St. Ann’s Rehab Facility in Rochester after months of struggling with a brain tumor.
Following the theme of this year, our Mass opened with Jim & Deirdre McCarthy leading us in Dan Schutte’s “If the Lord does not build a house, then in vain do the builders labor”. We pray that our house here at Unity Acres has been built by The Lord and The Lord will keep us going for many years to come.
The first reading delivered by Steve was from the Prophet Isaiah, Chapter 25, Verses 6,7-9, “On this mountain, the Lord of hosts will provide for all peoples. On this mountain, He will destroy the veil that veils all peoples, the web that is woven over all nations; He will destroy death forever. The Lord God will wipe away the tears from all faces….” This reading from Isaiah speaks to us especially at this time of grief on our part.
IF TODAY YOU HEAR HIS VOICE, HARDEN NOT YOUR HEARTS from Psalm 95 we answer Jim during the Responsorial… “we are the people He shepherds, the flock He guides. Let us sing joyfully to the Lord, let us come into His presence with thanksgiving….”
And again following our theme for the year, the 2nd Reading done by Bill Kimball was from 1st Peter, Chapter 2, Verses 5-8, “And now you have become living building stones for God’s use in building His house… see I am sending Christ to be the carefully chosen, precious cornerstone of my church, and I will never disappoint those who trust in Him.” We pray that we don’t reject Him, “The same stone that was rejected by the builders that became the Cornerstone, the most honored and important part of the building.”
ALLELUIA, ALLELUIA ―A reading from the Holy Gospel according to John, Chapter 21, Verses 1-18. “When they had finished breakfast, Jesus asked Peter ‘Do you really love me’, ‘Lord you know I love you, and Jesus answered ‘Feed my Sheep’”― three times Jesus asked Peter, and three times Jesus said to Peter, ‘Feed my lambs, feed my sheep’. The Gospel started out with the disciples fishing to no avail until Jesus instructed them to cast their nets over the right side and their nets were full and then they ate breakfast with Jesus. This Gospel passage ends with words that have struck a prophetic message to Father Jones, ‘Amen I say to you, when you were younger, you used to dress yourself and go were you wanted; but when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.’ Father Jones lived these words of Scripture in his final illness and has now been released from that suffering.
During the Offertory, Carey Landry’s beautiful song Do You Really Love Me repeated beautifully in song the dialogue between Jesus and Peter and the final verse asks all of us “Do you really love me, Jesus said to me, Yes we really love you, we will follow you. Then feed my sheep He said, My people feed my sheep.” These words speak to you and me. We must follow Jesus and on the way tend to and feed His sheep, our fellow people.
The Mass progresses through the Prayer of the Faithful and the powerful words of the Canon and then all join hands in the Lord’s Prayer and finally proceed to receive the Bread of Life, the Body & Blood of our Savior, Jesus Christ, left for us as an eternal covenant. Strains of Weston Priory’s Come to Me fill our campus as the faithful receive this living bread, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy burdened, and I shall give you rest. Take up my yoke and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart, and you’ll find rest for your souls. Yes my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” These words and this song were favorites of Father Jones, words that sustained him through life and are printed on his prayer card.
Before closing and after the Communion Song, we all join with Jim & Deirdre in another of Father’s and that is the Garden Song by David Mallett and was sung as a special tribute to Father and all our gardeners, Fr. Fuchs, St. Francis Farm, Frs. Ted and Tom and our Henry. “Inch by inch, row by row, gonna make this garden grow… someone bless these seeds I sow, someone keep them warm below, ’till the rain comes tumbling down.”
Father Tom leads us in the Closing Prayers of this holy Mass and time devoted to Father Jones with Fathers Fuchs and Sizing also in our hearts and we then join in Padre’s theme song: “SMILE, DON’T YOU KNOW GOD LOVES YOU, COME TO THINK OF IT I LOVE YOU TOO, TAKE THE TIME TO SMILE AT SOMEONE AND BEFORE YOU’RE THROUGH, SOMEONE WILL BE SMILING BACK AT YOU.”
We will try to keep smiling, Padre. It’s not easy but we must remember the words of the 2nd verse, “Do you ever feel that you are all alone? Remember God’s love for you is strong, and soon your heart will sing this happy song”.
And now the Assembly moves over to the STAR Building where a picnic feast of Hot Dogs, Hamburgers, Salads, beans, corn, fresh tomatoes from our garden along with scrumptious desserts and plenty of soda await the hungry crowd. All of this lovingly prepared and arranged by our kitchen crew along with Loretta and Mary, and helping to serve were Helen, Joan, Kathy and Bill, Gary, Roger, John, Tom, Al, and Lou.
A video presentation rolls on in the Pool Room arranged by photographer Bob W. along with Bear Foote. Also collages of photos and articles grace the dining room, reminding us of times past.
We try to visit with each guest but the time goes by so fast that before we know it people are heading for their vehicles and our annual outdoor Mass and Picnic are history for another year. We thank all of you that are such faithful followers and supporters of Unity Acres. We are planning and looking forward to the 50th Anniversary next Spring.
God Bless you.
August 1, 2018
“Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for yourselves. For my yoke is easy, and my burden light.”—Matthew, 11, 28-30
Many of you will have perhaps already learned of our sad news concerning Father Jones. Father Jones died early on the morning of Sunday, July 22, at the Manor at Seneca Hill Nursing Home, in Oswego. He had been admitted to the Manor subsequent to a fall during the morning of Palm Sunday. Peg maintained a continuous watch over Father’s progress, and we continued to hope that he might be well enough and strong enough to return to the Acres, until Father’s health took a sudden turn for the worse on Friday the 20th. During the day Saturday, Father’s sick-bed was attended by friends and family. During the late evening of Saturday through Sunday morning, Peg, Loretta, and Steve sat vigil with Father Jones until his death at 3.35am, while Bear kept watch over the Acres.
The following days are a bit of blur, as plans for liturgies and arrangements were made: calling hours and the Vigil for Priests at Saint Lucy’s, funeral mass at Unity Acres, and burial at Saint Mary’s Cemetery in Dewitt. We are so grateful to everyone who attended the services both here and in Syracuse: your presence was a consolation! And we regret the oversights we made in failing to call or email people whom we should have contacted.
The vigil and funeral mass were intended to give honor and recognition to Father Jones for his 58 years of service as a priest, and for his long-time service at Unity Acres which began in 1991. In keeping with Father’s sunny disposition, there was laughter, as well as tears, the sharing of anecdotes, and an account of the origins of Dr. Gootch’s (in)famous ‘Binomial Theory.’
During the graveside service, Father Jones was laid to rest next to the graves of his mother and father and his well-loved brother Don. A small container of soil from our Saint Martin de Porres Cemetery had been fetched and emptied onto the casket and into the grave, so that a part of Unity Acres could be made part of Father Jones’ final resting place.
Father Bob: May the angels greet you, and bring you to that place of rest and refreshment, where Lazarus is poor no longer. Rest in Peace.
Steve for the UNITY ACRES COMMUNITY