Orange Park, FL (USA)
God uses all things to call us to Him, even social media. Our family was blessed to meet the Home of the Mother through a post from the Karney Family. Shortly before Easter 2016, they shared again that it was not too late to register for the upcoming Holy Week Retreat. The Karney’s frequently shared stories and links from the Home through social media, so the name Home of the Mother caught my eye on the post. The timing couldn’t have been more of God. It was exactly what I had been longing for and could not find. A life more centered on Christ. A family more centered on Christ. I emailed immediately to see if they could accommodate us. I was excited at the thought of a new tradition for Holy Week. A tradition free of the material distractions from the true meaning of Easter. What I was seeking was a renewal, a rebirth of sorts, but I did not know it at the time.
Having never been on a HM retreat before, we arrived early on Thursday and were warmly welcomed by a HM laywoman, Delores, who quickly got us acclimated and into our cabin. That was the beginning of my family’s renewal. I am not normally a trusting individual, even in Church related activities, but some (ONE) thing in this place, these people, called to my soul and filled me with trust. Before I knew it, this overprotective Mother of 4, had little idea of where her kids 13, 10, 7 and 3 were. I have never had such a feeling of peace. The schedule for the weekend included times for the parents and children to separate in their groups and do different activities. In between the different talks and activities, we were to retrieve our children from the Servant Brothers and Sisters that were leading their age groups. Rarely did this happen and therefore rarely did the Brothers and Sisters rest from the care and formation of my children because the children never wanted to leave them.
I had prepared my kids for no candy and other material expectations they might have had from the lack luster celebrations of Easters past. Instead they sought books on Saints and shirts proclaiming the Gospel. What a wonderful surprise it was in the early morning hours of Easter Sunday, following a beautiful, spiritually filling (but long for a 3 year old) Easter Vigil, to have a joy (and sweets of every kind) filled celebration for Jesus at His Resurrection Party. A Resurrection Party! All these years and I had never really celebrated what God did for us and what a gift Jesus gave us. What a party it was for Jesus, complete with skits and songs by the Sisters, Brothers, kids and adults, celebrating His Saints and Our Salvation.
I committed our family to the Home that weekend and our journey had begun. Fast forward through many, many girls retreats, summer camps straight from Heaven, boys retreats when the Brothers visit, weekly formation talks with the Sisters for every level of understanding, even now 4 year olds. The 3 older children, completely on their own accord committed individually without me even knowing. It has only been 10 months since our initial experience with the Home but I feel the sense of a new family in the Home and among the members. We look forward to seeing more of the Brothers and hopefully having them with us in the States permanently soon. We were overjoyed and blessed to be so new to the Home and receive the great blessing and honor to meet and share a beautiful Thanksgiving Retreat in Jacksonville, FL with Fr. Rafael and Mother Ana. I cannot thank God enough for the Home of the Mother and look forward to growing in Christ through the honor and virtue of His Immaculate Mother.