Journeying with Young People at Mt. Irenaeus Franciscan Mountain Retreat | Franciscans, Youth and Faith

Many people today – particularly young people – ache with the anxieties of not belonging, of not being sure of life and its direction. They need to be refreshed and healed and helped to find their way. This need inspires our life and ministry at Mt. Irenaeus: to create a space in which people can experience the reconciling love of Jesus who makes all things new(cf. Rev. 20:5).

From its beginnings in the 1970’s, students from St. Bonaventure University (Allegany, NY, USA) joined friars in fashioning the dream we call “The Mountain.” Gathering in nearby religious houses, traveling to places in the woods and on mountain tops, making retreats in various settings, together we friars and students have found our way to fashioning a place for peace.

Today our student-leaders form the group “Mountain Community Leaders.” They participate in weekly Sunday gatherings, commit to a regular form of personal prayer, and collaborate with the friars in the ministry of Mt. Irenaeus. We offer evenings, overnights and weekends at The Mountain to all members of the St. Bonaventure University communityso that everyone can experience our life of prayer and peaceful re-creation. Studentsare “missioned” to “go among” their peers who need the Good News.  They are true evangelizers who help others feel closer to one another and to God in a world that is often dark and inhospitable.

As a student-leader once suggested, our style of collaborative ministry is explained through the image of the wagon-wheel:each one of us is a hand-shaped spoke, and Christ is our center, axle, and hub.  Indeed, over our fireplace is an old wooden wagon-wheel, reshaped into a religious image that suggests the color and fire of the Spirit of God who sends us into the valleys of our world to welcome new “spokes” into our wheel of life, that they too may experience and share the healing and reconciling love of God.

When we welcome others to experience the joy and generosity of true family life, we make a difference in our world.  The smallest acts – setting a table, weeding a garden, and hearing the Word and breaking bread with one another – let us know we are one family. Foolish as it may sound, together we friars and students know that divisions can cease and peace can be ours, for our deepest understanding of our faith tell us that we indeed are already one: reconciled, made whole and at peace in Jesus who has makes all things new.

For more information about the Brothers’ ministry at Mt. Irenaeus, please visit their website: https://mountainonline.org.


This article is part of a series profiling the work that friars are doing throughout the world to accompany young people in faith. These stories are only a sample of the ways countless friars walk with young people today.  As we Franciscans prepare for the 2018 Synod of Bishops Young People, the Faith and Vocational Discernment. May these stories inspire all who read them to an ever-deeper commitment to sharing the Joy of the Gospel with our young sisters and brothers.