EUSTIS | In a quiet, contemplative atmosphere of fluttering light and crinkling Bible pages, men and women could be seen gazing at crucifixes, their hands clasped in prayer. Some of them brushed away tears or took notes, their pens danced across journals.
John Molloy, director of children’s ministry at the Diocese of Orlando, had just introduced a meditation on the crucifix at the Answer the Call retreat at St. Mary of the Lakes Parish in Eustis. This served as one of nine reflections Molloy led throughout the day on September 18 that invited retreatants to delve into a personal encounter with Christ and the Gospel message.
Nearly 30 catechists, liturgical ministers, volunteers and others involved in faith formation attended the event.
“In today’s age, we must remember the message of the Gospel needs to be echoed again and again,” Molloy said. “It’s important for anyone who is handling on the faith to recognize we need time away to focus on Jesus and where He is calling us next.”
Molloy likened the retreat – held six times a year in different areas of the diocese – to a marriage. It’s important, he said, to have those “date days” with Jesus just as you would with a spouse.
Attendees were asked to ponder how God calls them to sainthood – both during the retreat and afterward. “The beauty of our God is that He stops at nothing to get us back,” Molloy said. “If God feels distant, that’s on us; He didn’t go anywhere!”
For Paula Shafer, a parishioner of St. Mary of the Lakes for 45 years, reflection on the Holy Spirit and calling on Him to help with evangelization was one of the most impactful portions of the retreat. As a Bible study leader for adult faith formation, Shafer said she enjoys attending retreats like this one to help her develop her spirituality.
“One of the ladies at our table said how uncomfortable she can feel with personal questions at a retreat but, after some chatting, she joined our next Bible study right there!” Shafer said.
Monica Vega, catechetical director at St. Mary of the Lakes, also felt God’s call at the retreat – to drop anxieties caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and other things beyond her control.
“I place my trust in Christ,” Vega said. “I can see the fruit of this time spent with the Lord, as I have less anxiety and great focus on what matters most. Parishioners should attend retreats like this one to better know, love and serve the Lord. Even if they know the basic message of the Gospel, this retreat will help them dive deeper and see how great an impact it can have on their lives, and on the lives of those they serve in their families and parish ministries.”
Upcoming retreats are Oct. 23, Nov. 20, Dec. 4, Jan. 8, 2022 and March 12, 2022. For locations and to register: 2021-2022 Answer the Call Discipleship Retreats Tickets, Orlando | Eventbrite
By Dana Szigeti, Special to the Florida Catholic, September 22, 2021