By Jacqui Bollinger

What is more joyous than a reunion, coming together from distances of miles and years? On the weekend of Feb. 17, 2023, during St. Bonaventure University’s 11th annual 80’s weekend, alumni came to reunite, reminisce, to celebrate the bonds of friendship forged on that campus. That Saturday, at the McGinley-Carney Center, nearly 100 alumni chose to share ‘Memories, Prayer and Thanksgiving” with Fr. Dan Riley, ofm, Br. Kevin Kriso, ofm, and one another.

With readings from Thomas Merton’s ‘Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander’ and the Gospel of Matthew, the group celebrated in joyful contemplation the power of God’s love and His desire that we see one another as He sees us in a “liberation from an illusory difference” among people. Beginning with individual introduction, there was much laughter and connection, memories shared, gratitude expressed and encompassing of all this, great love.

The love was evident in the efforts of those who organized the celebration, including Rob Buckla and Mike Fenn. Volunteers such as Tom Schuh, and his wife offered their musical talents to bring our spirits into contemplation. Mary Jean Stevens, Hilary Van Norstrand and Charla Stevens Kucko read an excerpt from Merton’s work and Mike Camoin read Matthew 5:38-48, each voice bringing those present closer to the Word.

Fr. Dan and Karen Pulaski began the reflection with bringing clarity and insight to what had been read, leading to a greater awareness of God’s call to see “the secret beauty of their hearts” when we look at those around us. Others also shared their reflections, each one a valuable offering. Bill Harvey composed a list of petitions that centered prayers on not only the community present in that place, but the greater community alumni would rejoin when 80’s weekend came to a close. Dr. Matrecia James, a trustee of the Mountain, and Dean of School of Business, led the Lord’s Prayer and the Sign of Peace, acts of union with the reunion as people prayed in unison then greeted one another with evident pleasure in being present together.

This did not end the celebration, though, which closed with a belated birthday celebration for Fr. Dan. As a birthday is a celebration of gratitude, experience and community, it was the perfect close to the event. The Lord was present, honored, and ultimately, carried in hearts full of gratitude and love as they exited the McGinley-Carney Center.