Singles retreat comes on heels of Pope’s letter to youth

KISSIMMEE – More than 50 members of Singles for Christ gathered at Holy Redeemer Parish in Kissimmee to continue ongoing formation and to deepen their relationship with Jesus. The “Crossroads” retreat is part of a series of talks focused on vocation discernment. Most have gone through the ministry’s three-month Christian Life Program, an initial formation process required to become a member. The retreat came one weekend before Pope Francis’ newest apostolic exhortation dedicated to the young, Christus Vivit, which addresses much of what the organization is already doing.

Dobbie Cerrado is a parishioner of Holy Cross Parish and pastoral formation coordinator for Singles for Christ, a ministry for young adults who want to know Christ and discover their vocation, which Pope Francis says, “is a call to missionary service to others.” He adds, “for our life on earth reaches full stature when it becomes an offering,” (Christus Vivit, 254). The mission of the group is to create a community of fellowship where people ages 18 and into their 40s can grow in faith.

Cerrado is a 10-year member and helps coordinate pastoral formation for their quarterly retreats. “I am passionate about it because I went through that period of being lost and not knowing, not having any sort of purpose as a single person,” she said. “When I eventually found this ministry, it gave me so much more life and purpose.”

Holy Redeemer Parochial Vicar, Father Archie Faustino was the retreat speaker and Father Jorge Torres, pastor and director of seminarians, formed part of the discernment panel. Father Torres’ experience as vocations director for the Diocese of Orlando for eight years aided the singles in distinguishing God’s call for their lives. The panel also included a married couple who met through Singles for Christ and Louis Cantor, a single blessed secular Franciscan (someone who has consecrated their life to service for God).

“The main takeaway I got from this retreat is that, our priority in life should be to love God first, because He already has our future planned out for us,” said Sheryl Pelayo, parishioner at St. Matthew Parish in Winter Haven. “It may not be the one we imagined, or have been praying for, but He will take care of our needs no matter what circumstance or vocation we may find ourselves in. And what we need to do now, is to strive to be holy and use our time, talents and passions for His glory.”

In a leadership role with Singles for Christ for several years, Pelayo said the “Crossroads” retreat came at the perfect time as she discerned her future role in ministry. “I realize that I just need to rest in God, and trust His plans,” she said. “Any decision I make in the future needs to be done with the grace of God, through discernment, the Sacraments and prayer.” Her words echoed the exhortation, which affirms that “…finding our true selves in the light of God and letting our lives flourish and bear fruit,” is what brings lasting joy. (Christus Vivit, 257)

As the young adult arm of Couples for Christ, their goal is to be integrated to the parishes. The program is structured and offers yearly conferences all over the world. The ministry also serves the poor through missions. Pope Francis points to missionary work as key in Christus Vivit. “Social engagement and direct contact with the poor remain fundamental ways of finding or deepening one’s faith and the discernment of one’s vocation,” (Christus Vivit, 170) said Pope Francis.

Although the organization is more active in Jacksonville, Tampa and South Florida, the local group continues to grow with a presence in Orlando for more than 15 years. Through “households” which meet bi-weekly and offer prayer, praise, Scripture reading, and Bible studies. Ongoing fellowship is also encouraged and facilitated. “Through having these small groups, you’re accountable to one another in your faith journey,” shared Cerrado. “You meet. You talk. You pray together so you have, sort of your own family. Many of these people are separated from their family because they are migrants or here alone. We push one another and we go through different studies to help us grow in our faith.”

Singles for Christ falls under the Couples for Christ Global Mission Foundation (CFC), which began in the Philippines in 1993 and grew into a worldwide movement. Founded on its core values of “pro-God, pro-family, pro-life and pro-poor,” today, CFC is in more than 100 countries. The ministry includes youth and children ministries.

To learn more about Singles for Christ, contact Dobbie Cerrado at dobbiecerrado@yahoo.com.

By Glenda Meekins of the Florida Catholic – April 2, 2019