More than 200 people gathered at Sacred Heart of Jesus Church in Troy June 25 for the second annual Family Day Retreat organized by local parishioners. The theme, in keeping with the current Holy Year of Mercy, was “His Mercy Endures Forever.”
The 8 a.m.-8:30 p.m. event included Mass, adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, the Sacrament of Reconciliation, speakers, music, crafts and games for children, fellowship, the sung Chaplet of Divine Mercy, a Eucharistic procession and Benediction.
In their small group discussion for married couples, Deacon Gesualdo Schneider of St. Augustine Church in Montpelier and his wife, Loretta, likened marriage to dance, saying in both, the man and woman are equal, must know and do their part and communicate. “If you don’t have good communication, the rest falls apart,” Mrs. Schneider said.
They emphasized a couple’s need to be able to change their dance step when the music changes; similarly, in life people cannot choose all of their circumstances and must adapt.
In his talk to singles, Franciscan Friar of the Renewal Father Louis Marie Leonelli, director of St. Anthony Shelter for Renewal in the South Bronx, called single life a “challenge from Christ to live for Him.” He encouraged single persons to give their life to Christ everyday and not get caught in a “narcissistic mentality.”
Speaking to women, Jeanne Nadeau of the Lancaster, N.H.-based Nadeau Family Music Ministry, likened life to a purse with various pockets. “Most women guard their purse with their life,” she said, speaking of the importance of mercy and grace in each person’s life.
Father Leonelli spoke to the men at the conference, lamenting the threats to manhood today. “Manhood,” he said, “is the very thing God needs to keep things balanced.”
Sarah Mary Toce, who is pursuing a master of divinity degree from Boston College and is the New England Life and Leadership Project director, spoke to groups of teens and pre-teens at the gathering, while the youngest children worked on mercy-related crafts.
During the retreat, members of the Northeast Kingdom’s Encountering Jesus teen group performed uplifting music from the movie Sister Act.
There were addresses about both the corporal and spiritual works of mercy, and in his presentation on the latter, Father Leonelli emphasized that tolerating sin is not mercy. “Our heavenly Father loves us in the midst of our sinfulness,” he said. “He constantly pours out His love so we know we are never unloved.”
He outlined the spiritual works of mercy: Counsel the doubtful, instruct the ignorant, admonish sinners, comfort the afflicted, forgive offenses, bear wrongs patiently and pray for the living and the dead. He then called upon his listeners to “live and speak our holy, Catholic faith.”
The corporal works of mercy are: Feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, clothe the naked, shelter the homeless, visit the sick, visit the imprisoned and bury the dead.
Fredda Plouf of Our Lady of Lourdes Church in East Berkshire said she attended the family retreat to learn and listen. “I’ve enjoyed it,” she said, particularly the talks, the music provided by the Nadeau Family Music Ministry and the fellowship.
“God blessed me here” with the opportunity to connect with other Catholics said Bridget Mount of Immaculate Conception Church in St. Albans. “It has helped me refocus.”
In his homily at the afternoon Mass, Father Timothy Naples, pastor of Most Holy Trinity Church in Barton, Orleans and Irasburg spoke about mercy, The Creed and vocation, all linked to Christ. “Let us rejoice the Lord gives us mercy,” he said.
The successful family retreat, said one of the organizers, Dan McAvinney of Sacred Heart of Jesus Church, is a “homegrown example of the role lay Catholics can take putting their faith into action.”
Article written by Cori Fugere Urban, Vermont Catholic staff writer.