While most of our country was celebrating Labor Day and the unofficial end of summer, Fr. Bob Warren, SA, was welcoming 25 people to Graymoor for the “Do Not Fear to Hope” annual retreat. Do Not Fear to Hope is the Friar’s ministry for people living with HIV+/AIDS. The Franciscan Friars of the Atonement were leaders in providing a place of comfort, acceptance, love and reassurance during the AIDS crisis of the 1980’s and 90’s through Do Not Fear to Hope. During the height of the epidemic, Fr. Bob welcomed as many as 100 people for the annual retreat, and 30+ at a monthly support group.
The weekend-long retreat is a sanctuary—a time when people living with HIV+/AIDS can pause in their daily lives and come together to reflect upon the important things in life and escape the stigma often associated with the illness. Fr. Bob has been leading the retreat for nearly all 30 years, and has witnessed so many acts of incredible connection and camaraderie between the group members. “We have some who have been coming since the beginning, as well as newcomers, and everyone is accepted and welcomed. Sometimes they compare medicines and treatment, and other times they discuss ways to tell their families about their diagnosis.”
Fr. Bob and the Do Not Fear to Hope ministry of the Friars is a wonderful example of living out the vision statement of the Franciscan Friars of the Atonement: To bring At-One-Ment to a fragmented world through gospel love, mercy and healing.