Anawim stresses spirituality - Catholic Courier

Anawim stresses spirituality

Anawim is a Hebrew term for the “poor of God” — people who live in total dependence on him. Some Southern Tier residents might add further definitions, based on how they became connected with the Anawim Community:

For Shirley Fernandes, it provided hope and direction through an emotional crisis.

For Angela Jeronimo, Anawim represented a path back to her Catholic roots.

For Christine Deragon, it offered a support base for raising her young family.

The common denominator for all three women is the fulfillment they have gained — so much so that each has now been active with Anawim for more than 25 years.

Anawim Community, a center operated by priests and lay Catholics, is dedicated to spiritual and missionary endeavors with eucharistic and Marian devotion serving as a basis. The center, established in 1975, is located at 122 E. First St. in Corning. Its members engage in a variety of activities, including:

* monthly liturgies for special causes, particularly healing Masses;

* nocturnal weekly adoration from 9 p.m. Friday to 7 a.m. Saturday;

* weekday reflection gatherings beginning at 5:30 a.m.;

* daily prayer based on a book of meditations, the rosary and Liturgy of the Hours;

* a weekly Holy Hour to pray for religious vocations;

* programs on spiritual topics that are open to the public;

* pilgrimages to the Philippines, Fatima and various shrines;

* and special intentions offered at community prayers and Masses.

Jeronimo, who serves as the center’s coordinator, noted that Anawim is open for prayer at any time: “It’s never closed. The lights are on at 4:30 in the morning.”

The Corning center is staffed by Barbara Brennan, founder and codirector, and Father Frank Marino, a Marist priest. Both are serving until August at the Anawim mission in the Philippines, where Father Daniel Healy, Anawim’s director, is based. That center, established 15 years ago, provides spiritual formation to the poor and also is a house of formation for seminarians. A third Anawim Community exists in the Diocese of Metuchen, N.J., and many priests from that area travel to Corning to give lectures.

Though not a diocesan entity, Anawim operates with the blessings of Rochester diocesan leaders. Jeronimo, Fernandes and Deragon, all parishioners of All Saints in Corning, note that Anawim members are typically quite active in their parishes.

“What we offer here at the center are programs and opportunities that are a little different,” Deragon said. “It’s giving an additional opportunity for spiritual development for people who are already interested in that kind of thing at the parish.”

There are 25 to 30 regular members in Corning, but Fernandes said the emphasis is “less on numbers than on each individual person.” She recalled that the Anawim Community was in its infancy when she first got attached for its charismatic prayer offerings such as healing Masses “to balance out many difficult emotional problems,” she said.

“I hadn’t experienced anything like it. I was very struck with a couple of things — the spirit of reconciliation and community, the fact that there is a group of people trying to live the Christian life according to the Gospel. That was new to me; I never knew about interior life. Once I experienced that, I just wanted to experience more and more,” said Fernandes, who is secretary to the community.

Fernandes said she experienced significant personal growth through her involvement in formation programs as well as outreach service to the elderly, youth and hungry.

“It lifted me up for a personal relationship with Jesus and not being afraid to express my love, externally as well as internally,” she said.

Jeronimo, meanwhile, describes herself as a “cradle Catholic” who went to college and “threw all that away.” Through the Catholic charismatic renewal she found her way back to the church, and Anawim aided significantly on this journey.

“I was searching for a place to really understand my faith and live out my Christian walk,” she said.

Deragon and her husband, Timothy, have four children ages 16 to 25. In their early years with Anawim they would often travel to Corning from their home in Geneseo.

“We just kind of both were searching a little more for help in raising our kids — I guess, how to bring them up in the difficulties of the world around us,” Deragon said. “It was kind of an extension of Marriage Encounter. We found a great deal of support for our family, and it opened up a spiritual dimension that we had not been exposed to.”

In fact, Deragon’s family moved to Corning in large part to become closer to the Anawim Community.

“We definitely wanted to be within a comfortable distance. That was kind of the hub,” Deragon said.

Anawim members obviously take their faith very seriously. Some have even spent time in the Philippines, including Fernandes who was there from 1997 to 2003 and plans to return in August.

“I guess you could say there are sacrifices, and we’ve made some radical choices, but they’ve been always beneficial to us spiritually — kind of like, ‘where else could we go, Lord?'” Deragon said. “The Anawim charism has always caused me to look more deeply at life; life has a much deeper dimension than meets the eye. You can start looking at things from the perspective of what is God saying to me.”

“I think it’s learning that dependence on God. No matter what, he’s always good to us. I see it as an answer to many of today’s problems, if we can go to him and not lose sight of why we’re here,” Fernandes said.

“I’m a mental-health therapist. Having the time to pray to begin the day, it has enhanced my own work as a vocation,” Jeronimo said. “Not that I don’t have my ups and downs, but I’ve never fallen away from that. I always feel privileged that God gave me a community to live that out.”

EDITOR’S NOTE: For more details about the Anawim Community, call 607/936-4965 or visit

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