By Deacon Steve Rangel
February 15th-17th was the first ever Gathering of Families sponsored by the New Mexico State Council of the Knights of Columbus. It was organized by their Supreme Representative and former State Deputy, Patrick Mason and his wife, Rachel. With avid support from both Archbishop John Wester of the Archdiocese of Santa Fe, Bishop James Wall of the Diocese of Gallup, NM State Deputy John Brault and the Knights of Columbus State Officers, the vision for this weekend became a reality.
It was a weekend “designed to be relaxing and give every member of the family time for spiritual, human, intellectual, and pastoral growth.” Held at the Embassy Suites in downtown Albuquerque, there were 45 families in attendance which included 90 adults and over 100 children ranging in age from infants to teens. It was a unique event designed to provide an opportunity for families to come together for a weekend conference in which every member of the family could participate without anyone being excluded. In Archbishop Wester’s opening comments to those gathered, he stated that families celebrate the presence of God in their lives.
The conference consisted of times when whole families were involved in prayer, worship and song, as well as separately timed break-out sessions for women and men. While one spouse was with the children, the other was involved in adoration and talks given by Archbishop Wester and Fr. Matthew Keller, of the Diocese of Gallup, followed by table discussion with Mary-Rose and Ryan Verret of Cecilia, LA.
During each adoration session, Archbishop Wester spoke to the participants about the connection between Christ truly present in the Eucharist and the presence we have to each other in our families. He reflected on three important aspects of family life: 1) being truly present to each other with the gift of time, which is the gift of life; 2) using the gift of time to really listen to and attend to one another in the present; and 3) while being present and listening, be non-judgmental with the gift of acceptance. “These gifts,” he said, “grow and nurture a family.”
The Verrets presented an introduction to the not-for-profit virtues-based marriage preparation renewal ministry which they founded, Witness to Love. They spoke of how families, who represent the domestic church, can turn homes into missionary outposts for parishes. They challenged spouses in their separate sessions to question how they reveal the face of God to their families and encouraged them to ask God for the graces needed.
On speaking of the Beatitudes in his Sunday Homily, Archbishop Wester, said they “are a blueprint for the life of Christ. They are a description of Christ who emptied himself to do the Will of God. As we empty ourselves for family, God is there filling us up.”
It was so wonderful to see the children enjoying the conference, making new friends, running around, playing, dancing, and having fun. During the breakout sessions, they colored pictures to decorate the banner displayed at the evening family dinner. It was a vibrant, exciting, and inclusive conference where families could be themselves. It is important to have events like this so the kids can feel included while families get to visit and get to know each other, building new family faith communities.