As in past years, the 5-day gathering included programming for all ages and all walks of life, with time for deepening understanding of the Focolare’s spirituality, Daily Mass and prayer services, recreational activities, and time for sharing. But this year, the retreat style programming took place only in the mornings, leaving afternoons and evenings as time for enjoying the lake and natural surroundings. Those attending chose lodging from many options, with everything from hotel style to rustic camping. The flexibility of schedule and accommodations was greatly appreciated by all.
The morning programs centered on the theme of finding meaning and redemption in suffering, offering strong reflections and first-hand sharings from participants of all ages on facing the sufferings of daily life personally and within the broader community life. Reflecting on the experience of suffering, the Focolare Spirituality offered a unique approach, that of delving more into Jesus’s experience of suffering and abandonment in his passion and death on the cross and the triumph of that suffering in Jesus’s resurrection. As an abbreviated thought, presenters often referred to a term used and lived by Chiara Lubich since the early days of the Focolare Movement – Jesus Crucified and Forsaken or, even more simply, Jesus Forsaken.
Following the morning sessions, the open schedule of the afternoons not only provided many opportunities for fun and relaxation for participants of all ages, but many of those activities were enhanced by heart-to-heart sharing on the morning programs. Each day ended with moments of reflection as well as an upbeat and entertaining talent show one evening and a beautiful, family-style campfire another evening. Of course, the peaceful, scenic lake and surroundings, as well as the conference center’s history of hosting ecumenical gatherings, all enhanced this year’s exciting and new Mariapolis experience.
- “I learned about Jesus Forsaken. We suffer, even as young people, as He suffered on the cross and we can offer Him our sufferings. When we go through difficult times, we just have to remember this. I want to return to the Mariapolis and I would also like to learn more about Jesus Forsaken and be closer to God.”
- “I’ll try to remind myself not to be blocked by suffering when I meet Jesus Forsaken. I will try to trust that God is there and through the suffering I find His love, even when this does not happen immediately or when I would like. “
- “In recognizing Jesus Forsaken, my actions become contemplation. I can pass from suffering to love, from the Abandonment to Easter. ”
- “We all suffer and with Jesus Abandoned we can do it. God gives us only the sufferings we can bear and we can pass through the dark tunnel, resolve ourselves, and start over again.”
- “I found a different USA here, where people try to live as part of a larger family.”
- “Every experience has spoken to me personally, questioning my daily life. I will never forget the love I’ve experienced here. It is a true family and here I felt that Jesus was truly present among us.”
- “I renewed the ‘yes’ that I said when I was young. God renewed in my heart the fire and the joy of loving Him, especially in the most difficult times, not remaining in the suffering but calling Him by name, so that I can be another Jesus and continue to love. “
- “Now I understand that suffering is a gift from God, but only if we answer with a supernatural love. This transforms everything. “