Christian Brother Matt McKeon was Principal of four Colleges across New South Wales, Australia, over a total of twenty years. He was Community Leader in six different communities of Brothers – a total of 42 years, the longest being 15 years in Canberra. He has three University degrees, including a Masters in Theology and a Masters in Religious Education. Asked what he does today in his ‘retirement’, he writes…
Retirement – never gave it a thought really – maybe someday. What do I do? Well first I claim a record: where else in the Christian Brothers has an 85-year-old been re-appointed as Community Leader? That is one role I have, but such has been my community at Canberra, so willing are the Brothers, so gifted are they all, so many community functions do they unselfishly perform, that all I have to do is be a brother in their midst. Because of a significant heart attack three year ago I attend Cardio-Rehabilitation Gym three times a week. Beyond that, well I try to keep out of mischief and have great fun doing the things I enjoy.
For example, I have re-trained as a Spiritual Director because so many people had been asking me to take them for Spiritual Direction. This re-training has been one of the most precious gifts I have received. At that time I applied I was 77, but in spite of my age I was accepted and did an intense twelve month full-time course in Melbourne at Heart of Life Spirituality Centre. Since graduating, I have many people from prayer groups, staff and parents from St Edmund’s College in Canberra, Priests, and Novices from different Congregations, who come to me for Spiritual Direction.
I am involved in various ways with Charismatic Renewal. Each Wednesday I lead a Prayer Group that meets from 8.00-10.00 pm. We run Life in the Spirit seminars, a seven-talk programme to introduce people to the Charismatic Renewal – I normally organize it and give two of the talks. I am also the Secretary for the Catholic Charismatic Meetings for the Archdiocese of Canberra and Goulburn – as I delight in organizing, this is a pleasure to do. Each Sunday evening, after taking part in the Charismatic Mass at St Benedict’s Church at Narrabundah, I am a member of the prayer teams that take it in turn to pray in pairs with people who wish to come to the front of the Church expressing their needs. I have been on the National Charismatic Committee for Retreats for Religious and Priests, and after 30 years of this work I recently retired; from these Retreats I buy the taped talks for members of my prayer group to ponder during the next week and I use the data projector to display the talks
Daily I go to St Edmund’s College where I have been given an office for Spiritual Direction. There I spend time with Directees and mix with staff. Each week I write an article on Blessed Edmund Rice for the weekly bulletin Vortex trying to apply aspects of his life to the youth and parents of today.
I have been a member of the College Board for several years now and am deeply impressed with the quality of contribution its members give to the College. My role is to lead them in contemplative prayer patterns at the commencement of each meeting. For some time I also sent out a monthly reflection article on contemplation to board members.
I give some assistance to the senior boys of the College in being part of the team that runs retreats for Years 11/12. The students go to Jindabyne and Tuross for these retreats. My role is to be a group leader there and lead volunteers in an exercise called Prayer on the Beach or Prayer on the Mountain, simply demonstrating to them the way I am led to pray in the midst of a beautiful stimulating scene in nature. I then invite them to find a spot where they can do the same. When they return after thirty minutes they share what happens to them and it is wonderful to hear and see the movement of the Holy Spirit in their lives.
I am available to work with senior boys in Independent Studies. This entails guiding the students in their choice of a Religious Studies subject they may wish to investigate at depth and monitoring their progress to a final presentation. Part of the process is to take them to the College Chapel once a week and teach them a mode of prayer. I give them experience in a particular prayer style during a period of silence, and then in groups, with another teacher, monitor and guide their spiritual progress. Each week I prepare some contemplative thoughts that they are invited to ponder before journalling their reflections.
So you see why I claim not to be retired yet.
Sometimes I ask myself what drives me now. Well it is like this. Three years ago, when I had a sudden heart attack, by the providence of God there were ambulance men in the room with me. My heart simply stopped and I dropped. Resuscitated quickly, I had a stent implanted, and now I am kept alive with pills and exercise. During my time of convalescence I asked myself why I was one of the few to recovery fully. I remembered that when I was a boy what attracted me to be a Brother was the thought I read that there are thousands of youth out there who will never know Christ unless someone volunteers to tell them. That thought strongly motivated me to say yes to being a Brother. Now the insight came that there are thousands out there who do not know the Lord and will not unless someone volunteers to pray for them. So today I desire to spend more time in prayer for this very purpose. I am not good at it yet, but I desire to be. I yearn for more time to pray.
Adapted and republished February 2012 from Vol. 5 No. 7 of the Oceania Christian Brothers’ Newsletter.