By Fr. Salvador González, OMI Kingsretreatcenter.org
Valentine ’s Day is usually a time for couples to give and receive flowers, chocolates, cards, and maybe go out to dinner. Valentine ’s Day weekend was that and more for the fifty couples that spent the weekend renewing their commitment to Christ and His Church at Kings House Retreat Center in Belleville, IL. The parish retreat team was led by Bibiano and Leonor Calixto, long time parishioners of Holy Rosary parish in Fairmont City, IL. The Pastor of Holy Rosary is Oblate Father Harold Fisher, OMI. The parish retreat team was made up of 10 couples pictured in pink shirts with Fr. Salvador González, OMI, who guided and accompanied the retreat at Kings House. Other supporting couples came from parishes in the St. Louis area to help the retreat run smoothly.
A special mention to the six couples that made up the team of Lay Missionaries that came from Miami to preach the retreat. These couples have a special connection to the Oblates; they come from the parishes of Santa Monica and Saint Stephens in Miami that were staffed by the Oblates for many years. “We lost much when the Oblates left, they formed us well and empowered us, and this is why we can do this ministry of preaching retreats, “said Martha from Miami. Alfredo and his wife Hilda remember the Oblates that served their community and left a lasting positive impression. “We are so grateful to Fathers James Taggart, Leo Deon, Leo Leblanc. We are still mourning the loss of our beloved Fr. Alex Roque,” they said. “This is our fourth year coming to Kings House, and the hospitality is like none other; I feel right at home. The moment I knew you were Oblates, I felt at home,” said Xiomara from Miami.
The retreat focused on the dynamics of married life, learning communications skills, the role of forgiveness and compassion in the family. A key focus was on the teachings of Pope Francis on the family and the Gospel. The retreat included; talks, sharing, dramas, movies, devotionals, sacraments, and of course, a lot of music and praising. On Saturday night, the dining room at Kings House was converted to a beautiful candlelight dinner dance space for the couples to enjoy a date night. The closing Mass was held at Holy Rosary Parish. The presider and preacher was Fr. Salvador González, OMI, concelebrated by the Pastor, Fr. Harold Fisher, OMI. The couples who experienced the retreat will have opportunities to meet again every month in a small community setting guided by the local couples and different invited priests.
This retreat is just one part of the ongoing collaborative ministry of the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate in Belleville which includes Oblates from Kings House, Shrine of Our Lady of the Snows, St. Henry’s community and Holy Rosary parish working together to minister to the Hispanic/ Latino communities of the Diocese of Belleville, through regular celebrations of the Mass, confessions, sacramental ministry, spiritual direction, vocation ministry, retreats, and other pastoral activities.