As one who has been blessed by Unbound ministry, I recently joined the Unbound servant team. My first behind-the-scenes conference experience took place last weekend at Our Lady of the Angels Catholic Church in Morton, PA. The sold-out conference had 200 attendees who ranged from Benedictine monks, to a church group from New York, to local individuals who learned of the conference only the day prior.
I started out behind the book table where fifteen-year-old Micah Lozano adeptly taught me to locate Unbound products on the I-pad and process payments on the Square. Questions like, “Is Unbound available in French?” or “Do you have the dark gray T-shirt in XL?, or “Do you take cash?” came from the throng of those perusing the featured products. (The answer to all of the above was “Yes!”)
Three men wearing dark brown tunics with white rope belts approached the table and I learned they were TOR (Third Order Regular) Franciscans. Their leader was Father David Dodd, Director of Novices at Saint Francis University in Loretto, Pa, the oldest Catholic-Franciscan college in the United States and affiliate of Franciscan University of Steubenville, Ohio. Father David brought the two novices he is working with to the conference to experience Unbound ministry both for their own benefit and to learn how they can bless others using the Five Keys to Freedom. I observed the enthusiasm of the novitiates, Brothers Simon Mary Arellano and Andrew Potopa, when Father David encouraged them to choose several books and said he would pay the bill.
Later, I spoke with Brother Simon Mary, originally from Riverside, California and currently in his second year of religious life under Father David’s direction. “Novitiate year is characterized as a more contemplative year, a little more drawn back from the world,” he shared. “One of the highlights of the year is we don’t take any academic courses, but we take novice classes to learn about the charism of our community, the history of the TORs and the history of our order in particular.” He continued, “I was looking at the workbook, the idea of repentance, and [Neal] actually used the word ‘metanoia.’ As Franciscans, we are living a life of ongoing metanoia—that is our charism. The Biblical understanding of metanoia, just as Neal was talking about, is the understanding of a change of orientation in one’s life –where you’re walking in one direction and changing to walk another direction. We’re living a life of ongoing conversion; deliverance is an ongoing process. We all have our conversion of when we really wanted to follow the Lord the first time and then eventually it’s this idea of a day-to-day process of reconverting back to the Lord.”
Brother Simon Mary is curious about the Unbound model and interested in seeing how it works out on a practical basis both personally and for those to whom he will be ministering. He sees Unbound as being a good ministry tool. He said the talk on forgiveness especially stood out to him. “You can’t give what you don’t have,” he stated. “As much as we talk about forgiveness and deliverance and prayer, if you’re going to do that in ministry, you yourself have to be the first one to receive it.”
The book Unbound was on Brother Simon Mary’s radar screen, but he first read it at Father David’s request, prior to the conference. The titles he chose from the book table were Free to Be Holy by Matt Lozano, and two of Neal Lozano’s books: Resisting the Devil and The Older Brother Returns.
While conference sessions were underway, I enjoyed talking with volunteer Terrie Slate who first attended an Unbound conference ten years ago. A parishioner at Fr. Tom Monnat’s Anglican St. Patrick's Chapel (Patrick's Boathouse), housed within Heart of the Father’s Ardmore, PA, complex, Terrie often heard Fr. Tom talking about Unbound. Finally, she decided to check it out for herself and now understands the effectiveness of the Five Keys of Freedom. A bookkeeper for 54 years, now retired, Terrie enjoys supporting the Unbound ministry with her time and talents.
On Saturday afternoon, it came time to get into my car and book on home. While driving, I reflected upon the appealing warmth and effectiveness of the Unbound conference and thanked the Lord for the opportunity to be a part of this important ministry.