Unity: a divine adventure was the title of these summer retreats with presentations on the history of the Focolare, the Art of Loving, the Word of Life and Unity. Games, sharing group sessions and time to get to know one another were dispersed throughout the day and Mass was the highlight of each day.
This year’s Vacation Mariapolis in Galveston provided an opportunity to go into depth in the spirituality during the mornings while enjoying moments of rest and socializing in the afternoons, with evenings bringing everyone back together for mass.
The relaxing activities included Ferry Rides, historical sights, the beach, the Moody Gardens and indoor fun as well. But before taking off for the fun, a short morning reflection got the day started: “…We must love every neighbor. But which neighbor? The one who passes by us in the present moment of our lives. So we’re not talking about a platonic love, not an idealistic love, but a concrete love: my neighbors now are you; your neighbor is me, and your neighbor is the person sitting next to you or in the seat behind you. We must love not in an idealistic way or in the future, but in a concrete way and in the present, now. We have to love. We have to love.”
Everyone worked hard in the local communities to invite people and prepare the event, finding occasions to go outside of themselves, taking risks, reaching the outskirts and peripheries… being true ambassadors for Jesus.
Invitations were offered to speak about the retreats at masses and to various parish organizations giving a great opportunity to work together and build unity as a community. These retreats also gave everyone the chance to put together their talents and gifts in preparing and carrying out the actual program. Some sang in the choir for the first time while others learned to lead a sharing group, be an MC and give talks.
“It was really a gift for me to be at the Spanish retreat. I witnessed how each one in the community really gave everything. There was a strong sense of ownership. The language was not a barrier anymore because of the strong mutual love.”
“Another impression was that a small group asked a couple of times, who is in charge? Is it a leadership team? Is there one who leads? Our parish should function like this… My answer was that we are all giving; some this, some that, from the youngest to the most “mature” in years. Their comment is that one cannot tell the difference between who’s who. You all are the same.”
Many new people were able to attend and spend the day with us, happy to hear the presentations and meet other people.
They learned something they could put into practice:
- “To put aside your desires to support the other.”
- “I can respect each other’s point of view without fighting – agree to disagree.”
- “I was able to love those who were in front of me.”
And they left with new vigor:
- “A renewed commitment to my vocation in all senses.”
- “I feel like I went to a spa.”
- “It gives me an inspiration to continue living the gospel as home and work.”