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Festival of Life 2008

Our Festival of Life is over, but our hearts our still full of joy, memories, and emotions of everything we experienced in the last four days since Mother Elvira arrived in Florida. It’s like one of those storms that we get here and worry about their impact on us, but this time it was a storm of Holy Spirit that came in the power of reconciliation, love, and mercy, and the impact on us was strong! I am sure that many people were filled with a new hope that will slowly bring the transformation of heart as we put into practice all that we heard.
I do not know where to begin because there are so many things that I have lived in these days, but let start with St. Maria Goretti. On Thursday Ocotber 23, an historical day for our Cenacolo Community in the States, we opened the house for young women. Seven girls came from Europe to begin this mission. Bishop Snyder celebrated Mass and walked through the house and property blessing everything with holy water. The families and former members who are our regional contacts in different areas of the United States, plus a few friends of the Community, joined us. It was just a beautiful day. Our girls danced and sang, bringing a wonderful feeling of joy to the day. It made me so happy.
During this time, memories were flashing through my mind of the many different guys who worked on this property to prepare this site and these buildings for the girls. So many different experiences happened in the house in the last three years since we first started the project. Some were painful and disappointing; others were discouraging and difficult; many were rewarding and joyful. Through them all, we continued to pray and trust in God, knowing that He called us here, and we have only to be faithful to respond to His call of love. He will do the rest. We can do nothing without Him, and we don’t want to take even one step without Jesus. We know that we would fail on our own, but if we do His will in love and humility, He will bring life and joy to us and all who come here, hungering for healing. Just to see the presence of the girls and Mother Elvira, her joy, enthusiasm, and freedom, made the day so special.
Beginning on Friday, we had our retreat with over three hundred people who came from all over the States and Canada and some parts of Latin America. In those moments when Mother Elvira spoke or lead us in prayer, it was powerful and joyful. She moves in true freedom when she expresses herself without any concern about whether people will like what she says or not. She speaks the truth that she knows we need to hear, both to us in Community and to our families. She touches the heart in a way that only her is capable of doing. Whether you are a believer or not, whether you have faith or not, you know in your heart that she is speaking the truth to you and about you.
She spoke about the values of family, the role of the wife and mother, how to form your children when they are little. She talked to us about marriage, about our pride, our selfishness, the materialism that brings death, the role of the dad and the impact he has on his sons and daughters if he lives for his own success, image, and ego. When she was speaking, you could not hear a sound, just so much silence and respect for the truth we all knew we were hearing even when her words lacerated our hearts. So many of those in the audience had never been around the Community before. If they really desire life, this encounter with Mother Elvira will be the beginning of the transformation of their lives.
The retreat went really well with other powerful testimonies from parents and former members of the Community. Many young men and women, who have completed their internal journey in the Community, flew here from different parts of the country to see her, because she was God’s instrument in saving and transforming their lives. They came back to say “thank you” and to be with their “mother,” who believed in them enough to demand from them what other believed they were incapable of giving and being.
All the dads whose sons or daughters have been in the Community for two years, worked like crazy in the kitchen serving breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and washing dishes with an extraordinary calm and joy among themselves. It was so special to see so many expressions of life in Comunita Cenacolo. We really thank all of you older families who worked so hard to make the weekend special for the new families. Thank you for your “ servizio” (service) for everybody else. Grazie.
On Friday night we had a nice Adoration led by Mother Elvira with Kim and the guys from the Community leading the music. It was the first time some of the parents were able to see their son or daughters, so it was very special.
On Saturday night we shifted everything to OLOH where the guys did the biblical drama “Rejoice in Hope,” presenting different parts of the life of Jesus, the story of our salvation. It touched the hearts of everybody who saw it, but most of all there was a great feeling in the air. Mother Elvira and Bishop Baker were on stage afterwards, singing and dancing with the guys and girls of the Community.
Finally we arrive at the last day, Sunday, the day of the Festival of Life. We were blessed with a gorgeous day of sun and a light breeze that make the days in Florida so pleasant. After some joyful songs of praise, with everyone singing and dancing, Mother Elvira spoke to us about the transformation of life for the young men and women who enter Comunita Cenacolo. Then we took a break for lunch. Our 2+ years parents handled the food and the manned the tables. They were pretty busy and worked hard. In the little time I was able to walk around and look at all the activity, it was beautiful to see all those people trying to make this Festival of Life very special for our 15 anniversary. For sure it was special. We listened to many testimonies, songs of praise and worship, testimonies of guys who came to us in the death of addiction and now were here with their wives and children to celebrate the gift of their new life. The world offers no true hope for the addict, but God can bring new life, abundant life, full of hope and joy.
We then had a beautiful Eucharistic healing service. Mother Elvira prayed while the Lord Jesus walked among us. Wounds were laid bare. Wounds buried for years were immersed in the mercy of our tender Savior. We ended the day with the true celebration of life, the Holy Mass. We were blessed to have three bishops with us, Bishops Galeone, Baker, and Snyder. What joy!

Then the moment arrived for hugs and kisses with many tears, but this time they are tear of joy and new life. Mother Elvira reminded us that the Festival of Life should continue in our hearts every day, for we can truly say that we were dead and now we are alive with hope, courage, and joy in our hearts. We thank her for her “yes” and for her courage and determination to follow God fully in faithfulness and love.
Again “thank you” to all who gave the gift of yourself in these days!

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