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Sabbatical Update from Fr. Rob

Dear St. Paul’s Community,

I wanted to write you with an update to let you know what I’m doing with this time away that the Bishop and you have so generously given me, and for which I am so very grateful.

The first part of my time away, leave time set aside for me by our Bishop, has been for rest, refreshment and renewal. The second part of my time away, sabbatical time given by you, is for some serious work exploring an issue near and dear to my heart, which is the health and welfare of our world’s oceans.

Since I last saw you, I’ve been focusing on the rest and renewal part of my time away, and am now shifting gradually into the sabbatical work. I’ve been practicing Centering Prayer at least twice each day for a minimum of 30 minutes each (often more and longer), and enjoying the graced awareness of God’s presence abiding in me as I abide in God during this time of pure and restful unplugged silence away from the busyness of the world around us. I love prolonged silence! And, I’ve been studying and praying with Scripture and reading a variety of spiritual works.

A favorite book of mine has been The God Who Gave You Birth: A Spirituality of Kenosis by Cyprian Consiglio, a monk (and the current prior) of the New Camaldoli Hermitage in Big Sur, California where I made a 22-day silent retreat many years ago. What is kenosis you might ask? Kenosis is a Greek word that conveys the concept of the self-emptying of one’s own will and becoming entirely receptive to God and to the divine will. This is what St. Paul was talking about in his Letter to the Philippians when he said, “Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 2:5). This leaves me with two on-going questions: May I decrease (my own willfulness) so that Christ may increase within me? And may I put on the mind of Christ (develop Christ consciousness) and try to walk in his ways in all situations? This sure does require a whole lot of reflection and repentance on my part along the way.

I’ve also been reading The Sacrament of the Present Moment by Jean-Pierre de Caussade. He says that God is always present with us – right here, right now - at every moment; the only question is: are we present here and now with God? Having this time to focus entirely on the ways of Jesus and to marinate in prayer has only heightened and clarified my desire to spend the rest of my days aiming the entirety of my life at Jesus, at all times and in all places, and in inviting others to do the same. For, as St. Paul says, “he is the image [ikon] of the invisible God; in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell” (Colossians 1:15, 19). Towards this end, I continue to meet with my spiritual director regularly, and I also meet with the two Jesuit priests who had previously guided me through the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola on two separate occasions as we review the many rich lessons and practices contained therein, and I also meet with a long-time friend and monk from SSJE who has been like a big brother to me since we first met in 1991. Additionally, I enjoy reading about Mary’s messages to the world in her many apparitions, and I try to pray the Rosary every day. I love how Mary reminds us repeatedly about the teachings and mandates of her son, and does so from the heart of a loving mother.

I’ve been enjoying long bike rides, ice baths, and yoga with Sonia. I’ve been catching up on a whole lot of long-overdue chores around our home. And I’ve been doing research and putting the finishing touches on my sabbatical plan.

I have been invited to enter fully into the work of Creation Justice Ministries (CJM), and will be working with CJM’s leadership on a variety of initiatives focused upon the current health, state, and needs of our world’s oceans and waterways. This will involve visiting a number of Blue Theology outposts, National Marine Sanctuaries, and other Marine Protected Areas around the country where we will work with faith leaders, scientists, educators, and public officials before and after dives as we conduct research, engage in conversations, learn from the locals, develop curriculum, and lead educational workshops about the importance of protecting our waters. They’ve also asked me to lead diving and boating excursions out to the areas we’re working to protect in order to get more people fired up, committed, and engaged.

My first trips on behalf of CJM include:

Sonia and I are going to the Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary off the coast of California to explore this unique area and learn from local marine experts and professors.

I will be going to Florida (the Atlantic coast) to dive, study, and work with Dr. Robert Sluka, the Director of A Rocha USA’s Marine Conservation Program and the Lead Scientist of A Rocha International's Marine Conservation Program. A Rocha is a global family of Christian organizations working together to live out God’s calling to care for creation and to equip others to do likewise. A Rocha USA is a national community of Christians working in marine science and biodiversity conservation to protect and restore vulnerable habitats, species, and communities. Their programs and conservation projects focus on applied scientific research, environmental and theological education, and environmental action. Their key areas of work in the USA are marine conservation, climate action, and habitat preservation. As a part of the worldwide family of A Rocha organizations that span over 20 countries, they are committed to helping affected people and places by providing resources for those interested in biodiversity conservation and caring for creation. Bob and I will dive in a number of local areas around his home including the Florida Springs, the Blue Heron Bridge, and drift dives around West Palm Beach, and then we’ll go to the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, and then to the Gray’s Reef National Marine Sanctuary off the coast of Georgia. (Interesting side note: Bob is a lay preacher at St. Gabriel’s Episcopal Church in Titusville, FL.)

Sonia and I will go to Florida (the Gulf coast) to dive and work with Ed Rosenthal, the Founder and CEO of Repair the Sea (and a former Navy Chaplain).

More trips will follow.

I am also working together in concert with Oceana, the largest international advocacy organization focused solely on ocean conservation. Oceana’s mission is to protect and restore our oceans, which they do by leading strategic, directed campaigns that achieve measurable outcomes for the oceans. Oceana leverages law, science, advocacy, and strategic communications to win policy change around the world. I’m currently working with the Massachusetts Campaign Manager on legislative matters at both the state and national level.

And we are attending conferences and trainings which include:

Sonia and I are currently doing the Sacred Water: Oceans and Ecosystems course put on by Just Faith Ministries, an 8-part program in which we learn how the health of our oceans, waterways, and ecosystems impacts both our present and our future.

Sonia and I participated in the Summit on Ocean Biodiversity put on by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the Smithsonian Institution which brought together a wide variety of experts to explore solutions we can implement now to ensure healthy oceans for generations to come.

In March Sonia and I will attend the Boston Sea Rovers 2024 International Ocean Symposium.

In April we will participate in either the Climate Reality Leadership Corps Training in New York City or the 2024 Ocean Decade Conference in Barcelona, Spain, depending on when we go to Palma de Mallorca, Spain to visit Sonia’s father who is quite sick with cancer.

And I’m also doing an Extended Range Trimix technical diving course which is a fun way to get back into the physics and physiology of breathing varying combinations of gasses at varying depths for varying lengths of time. I love having opportunities to refresh my memory and skills around this aspect of being underwater for significant periods of time.

Theologically, we could say that this is all driven by one simple fact:

Water is the ultimate unifying force of our planet.

This is a unique time of refreshment and exploration, the likes of which I’ve never imagined or experienced before, and I am so grateful to all of you for it. Thank you!

Please know that you are very much in my heart and in my prayers. I think of you and pray for you every day, and I send you all my love. I look forward to seeing you all again on June 1st and I’ll send you monthly updates between now and then.

Again, thank you for this amazing gift!

Many Blessings,



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