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Articles about Hosea Foundation

The article below was published in "The Evangelist", the magazine of the Diocese of Albany,NY.
It is reproduced here with the permission of the publisher. Read the original on their site
.

Composer of note: "Music is the language of the soul"

Catholic composer Gregory Norbet left the monastery long ago, but the legacy of his former life of prayer, study and contemplation hasn't left him.

During his 21 years as a Benedictine monk at Weston Priory in Vermont, he served as composer, lead singer and arranger for 12 albums of contemporary Christian hymns and songs. There, he wrote some of his most recognizable pieces, still sung by Catholics across the country: "Hosea (Come Back To Me)," "Wherever You Go" and "All I Ask Of You."

Mr. Norbet is bringing those songs -- as well some recently composed tunes -- to the Albany Diocese to benefit Abba House, a spiritual life center.

Busy schedule

Besides composing, Mr. Norbet is a lecturer, directs parish retreats and plays concerts.

He criss-crosses the country, he told The Evangelist, with the goal of "helping people discover the hospitality of God's love for them, so they can impact the world by the kind of decisions they make and people they choose to be -- and grow in greater awareness of Jesus' invitation to new life."

As he travels, he enjoys discovering how parishes of different shapes, sizes and cultural influences go about their outreach programs. He is impressed by the variety he has encountered.

"They do all the things that Jesus did when He went into a community -- feed the poor, by operating a soup kitchen or food cupboard, or serve the elderly with home visits or bringing them to the doctor's," he said.

Even in "humbler" parishes that "may struggle financially and have difficulty getting people to do the music and other things, somehow the spirit of Christ is as apparent there as in a place that has the earmarks of professionalism and a larger material base," he said.

God and notes

"Music is the language of my soul," Mr. Norbet explained. "It's a gift that God has given me. It is a friend that I go to visit when I feel sad or worried. It is a place that I visit when I am reading or praying Scripture."

He said that his songs are intended to stimulate fresh perspectives, introduce a sense of God's peace and help to impart the strength needed to meet life's challenges.

The challenges could be his own or others' -- friends who have suffered the loss of their only son, for example, or an elderly couple facing their twilight years with "tremendous compassion and faith."

"I write from the perspective that -- in the midst of the joyous, or the sad or the uncertain -- the faithful love of God is there to guide, console, uplift, inspire and give hope," he explained.

Melodies

Melodies "just come," he said, and might float through his head; he'll scramble for a guitar or piano to put what he hears into notation.

Sometimes, simply sitting at the piano and playing will "provide inspiration: a melody can be found, words can be shaped around it."

At 63, Mr. Norbet reflected on his life with gratitude: "I have had all my life an extraordinary experience of God's love and compassion, and I want others to have as powerful and as deep and profound an experience as I have had. Jesus is my friend -- and inspiration."

(9/18/03)

Reprinted with permission of The Evangelist, a publication of the Albany, NY, Roman Catholic Diocese (www.evangelist.org).


"LIVING DEEPLY"


by Bob Keeler, Staff Writer
NEWSDAY, Dec.7, 2002



Even as a child, Gregory Norbet had an unexplained but powerful gift for making connections with the marginalized, the kids who attracted only derision, who could forge no alliances with others, who did not feel a valued part of the whole.

That faculty for compassion has endured, marking the three nearly equal thirds of his life: the 21 years before he joined Weston Priory, a small Benedictine community in Vermont; the 21 years in the priory, where his mostly self-taught musical skills created a gentle, accessible liturgical music that is now familiar in churches across America and abroad; and the nearly 20 years since he left Weston in 1983 and later began his retreat ministry.

"I think I've always had that sense, that I want to try to help people who are not so sure they believe they're worthy of being helped," said Norbet, who will lead a two-day retreat at St. Mary's, a Catholic parish in East Islip, on Dec. 16 and 17. "And I think that's been very much at the heart of my vocation. I think that that's God work."

Norbet's vocation changed shape after Weston, but it has retained its core: his music and the sense of compassion and reconciliation expressed in the song "Hosea," written during his monastic years. "Come back to me with all your heart, don't let fear keep us apart," the lyric begins. The refrain is: "Long have I waited for your coming home to me and living deeply our new life."

The song took its name from the Hebrew prophet who preached reconciliation and return to a right relationship with God.

The name clings to Norbet's retreat ministry and more recently to his Hosea Foundation (www.hosea foundation.org), whose purpose is to bring to life the vision of Norbet and his wife, the distinguished iconographer Kathryn Carrington. They dream of establishing a contemplative center in Vermont for anyone whose life of service to others creates a need for retreat, prayer and renewed energy.

"There are a lot of people who want to change the world by being out there on the firing line, whether you're a missionary in South America or whether you're confronting issues in the South Bronx," Norbet said. "What the Hosea ministry and the Hosea Foundation are about is about helping people to change their inner lives, so they can come to greater consciousness to see how they live their lives, how that's affecting what happens in the world."

At Weston, Norbet and the other monks regularly welcomed guests on retreat. That experience gave him a firm foundation for building a contemplative center. "It's a little bit of Weston," he said. "It's a little bit of a contemplative monastery. It's a little bit of a renewal center. It's a little bit of a house of prayer."

In his retreat ministry, Norbet has honed his hospitality skills, drawing on his gifts of compassion and music. "I personally think he's probably one of the best composers of religious music in the contemporary American church," said Msgr. T. Peter Ryan, pastor of Our Lady Queen of Martyrs in Centerport, where Norbet has led several retreats and where a Carrington icon of Mary adorns the church. "I think that his music is really remarkable. There are a few pieces that probably will last forever."

At his retreats, Norbet sings and plays his growing recent repertoire along with the music he wrote at Weston. But it's not a concert. Between songs, in tones very different from the standard preached retreat, he offers gentle reflections. So it is more than just the music that draws people.

"It's the themes he picks," said the Rev. Steven Peterson, pastor of St. Mary's, where Norbet has led previous retreats and where three Carrington icons draw parishioners into prayer. "A lot of times, the themes are on reconciliation, forgiveness, healing. For Advent, the theme will be hope, but the way to hope will be reconciliation and healing. The music really touches people's hearts. It's a very inviting kind of style. It's not a preachy kind of style."

It is that style that Norbet hopes to use to provide a place of welcome in the Vermont hills. This dream had remained dormant until he met William Rich in 1989 during a retreat in Litchfield, Conn. Rich was then a vice president of IBM, had been ordained a deacon two years earlier and was battling cancer.

"I loved his spirituality," Rich recalled. "There's a gentleness and an openness to it that touched me. So we ended up talking on the breaks. The following week, he called me, and he said, 'Bill, we are meant to do something together.' We laughed about it. He said, 'You just watch ... '"

A few years later, the dream came up during a visit by Norbet and Carrington to Rich and his wife, Fran. "We were sitting under this large old tree at Bill's house in New Hampshire, their beautiful farm, and we were telling them our dream," Carrington said.

On that occasion, Rich just listened. The dream arose again in later talks. Then, about four years ago, as they sat at the Rich home overlooking the White Mountains, the conversation became more pointed. "When he brought it up again, I said, 'Gregory, you've had this dream long enough. Why not? Let's try it,'" Rich said. "That's when we started working on the foundation."

Rich helped create a board, including two other astute business executives, Robert Rittereiser and Gerard Collins, and Bishop Frank Griswold, presiding bishop and primate of the Episcopal Church, USA. The bishop had met Norbet at Weston. Over the years, Griswold and his wife, Phoebe, and two daughters would often visit Weston on their way to New Hampshire and share a picnic with Norbet.

"I think he is, by nature, a healing presence, and I think that's what people pick up," Griswold said. "In this frantic, shattered, broken, tense world, the calm of Gregory and his constant reiteration of the compassion of God is a message that people deeply need and welcome and one reason they find his retreats so very healing."

At the start, Rich encouraged Norbet to set a lofty fund-raising goal for the foundation: $6 million. So far, they haven't come close. Despite the fiscal expertise on the foundation's board, raising the money has not been easy. Among the 11,000 people on the mailing list that Norbet has developed over the years of his retreat ministry, most are of modest means. The downturn in the stock market has eroded the wealth of potential givers. And raising money is not Norbet's strength.

"His is a gift of prayer; his is a gift of meditative song," Griswold said. "But fund-raising, which is a full-time work, is not who he is called to be. In fact, it could undermine his ministry if it became his focus."

For years, Norbet and Carrington have operated without a financial safety net, living on his fees for retreats and her commissions for icons. He could have opted for a job and a regular salary, but he believes this is the work he is supposed to be doing. "We both have this very deep desire to serve in this way," Carrington said. "We feel it's our authentic call."

The foundation has provided a little more structure for the ministry, but it will take some doing to make the contemplative center in Vermont a reality. "The day it started, we said, 'For this to work, we need a miracle,'" Rich said. In fact, the foundation's motto is: "Be part of a miracle." Nothing miraculous, such as a large contribution by a major benefactor or a foundation, has happened yet. But Norbet and Carrington remain committed to the work and hopeful about the dream.

"I think it's going to happen," Norbet said. "I'm not wavering. I don't have a doubt."


Copyright (c) 2002, Newsday, Inc. This article originally appeared at:
Newsday, Dec.7, 2002
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