By James Leadon

For the Sentinel

MOUNT ANGEL - Last week, Mount Angel Abbey held its 16th annual Summer Conference - a unique blend of sunshine, prayers, families and singles of all ages, meeting, sharing, learning, and fun, all in the setting of age-old Benedictine hospitality.

Keynote speaker Dominican Father Paul Murray - a priest, professor and poet - explored how poets have made the experience of God real for themselves and others. He discussed and read from the works of a number of poets, including St. John of the Cross, T.S. Eliot, and William Shakespeare. He explained his theme 'Searching for God' this way: 'In and through poetry Christian men and women have, over the centuries, expressed their love for God, and described in ways that strike home to our hearts what it feels like to desire God or to be in search of God.'

He also noted that God is in search of us as well. Conference participants found in their rooms a calligraphed passage from the the book of Jeremiah, in which the prophet says: 'When you seek me you shall find me; if you search with all your heart, I will let you find me, says the LORD.'

On Wednesday night, in response to requests from conference participants who learned that Father Murray wrote his own poetry, Father Murray read some of his poems on the abbey lawn.

Father Murray was raised in Belfast, Northern Ireland. He teaches at the University of St. Thomas (Angelicum) in Rome. He has lectured widely and conducted seminars and retreats on several continents.

Other adult classes at the conference included 'Reflections on Women in the New Testament,' led by Mount Angel Seminary Professor Elaine Classen Park, and 'How the Bible Can Teach Us to Read the Bible' led by Deacon Chris Anderson, professor of English at Oregon State University, Corvallis.

MASC Gazette was the conference's daily paper. Using borrowed computers, a class of eight 6th- to 11th-graders wrote, drew, pasted up, reproduced, and distributed it - by noon each day. Barbara Curtin, assistant metro editor of the Salem Statesman-Journal, guided the effort.

'Butcher, Baker, Software Maker?' was a new class for high-school students and older young people. Michael Danielson, Seattle high-school teacher, and Benedictine Father Odo Recker, Mount Angel Abbey's vocations director, helpled with such questions as 'What do you want to be when you grow up? How does your faith fit in?'

Evening options included a barbecue on Wednesday followed by poetry reading and a sing-along, and an intergenerational dance - which included line dancing - on Tuesday.

About a third of the 220 participants were there for the first time. About two thirds of the participants were adults. They came mostly from the Pacific Northwest: from Stayton and Springfield, from Hillsboro and Lake Oswego, from Aloha and Scappose, from Battle Ground and Bellingham, Wash. But they also came from as far away as Liberty, Mo., Spring, Texas, and Romulus Mich.

'People come to Mount Angel Abbey each year,' says steering committee member Bruce Weber, 'to be in contact with others who are seeking to live a more fully Christian life. We come to renew our hope and faith and our energy. We come to have fun, and to pray, and to get support for 'consecrating the world' through our ordinary activities, as we are called to do by the Second Vatican Council.'

For infromation about next year's Summer Conference, write Gordon and Barbara Bollinger, 416 NW 12th St., Corvallis OR 97330.