Testimonies from the Celebration
11 years ago, our house was opened on the Feast Day of Saint Maria Goretti. Each year, we mark the anniversary of the opening of the house with a big celebration here at our house with friends of the Community! The celebration includes, the celebration of the Most Holy Mass, dances, Gesti (simple dances with hand movements), followed by lunch and simple time spent all together. Preparing for this celebration is always busy, as we are practicing dances, cleaning up our property, and working hard in the workshop. Often times, in learning new things and being more physically tired, we see the best and the worst parts of us. These times of preparation are always a gift that helps us to see how capable we are, and what we still need to work on interiorly. Sharing these joys and struggles with one another creates a unique and very special unity.
This year was especially beautiful, as we had over 100 guests come to celebrate with us! The weather forecast for the day showed potential rain, which wouldn’t have been good news for us. I was worried about what we would do if it began to rain when my mind went to one of Mother Elvira’s talks years ago during an event in Italy. She opened her talk by explaining that before this event, everyone was warning her to move everyone inside because they were calling for rain. She said “You must have faith!” in her case, there was no rain and it turned out to be a beautiful day! I prayed to have this faith and God provided! We had a beautiful day with dark clouds for a short time, but no rain!
Everything was very beautiful, and I was especially touched by the generosity of our guests, and their support throughout the years. These occasions to come together with friends and those dear to us are always such a gift, and I’m grateful for the time we spent together to celebrate the gift that our house has been throughout these 11 years.
A few weeks before our Feast Day we evacuated to Alabama to escape the hurricane. It was there we began learning several dances that would be performed, and our lives shifted gears to get ready for the big event. Over the course of the preparations, I found myself experiencing a wide variety of emotions. The pace of daily life increased and after a slower summer, I found myself struggling to adjust.
Before community, my life was pretty chaotic and fast paced itself, but I was unable to cope without substances of other destructive behaviors. Being placed back into that mindset was jarring at first, bringing up difficult feelings and memories. This actually turned out to be a gift for me, a chance to face these lifelong challenges with new, healthy, attainable coping skills. When I faltered or let doubt creep in, there was a support system of love and friendship to guide me. Community being a “school of life” started to really make sense.
The Feast day itself was a rather beautiful experience for me. From singing in the choir at mass, to showing our wares in the market, to a drum circle with The Servant Sisters of the Home of the Mother, I lived all types of emotions. I was moved by our dances, which were prayers in themselves, and felt proud of my sisters for their commitment and joy. The company, friends of our house and Community, was wonderful; so many good people who truly care about us. There were moments I felt overwhelmed and wanted to isolate myself, but my gratitude and excitement helped me to overcome those urges and stay in the moment.
My biggest take away from the feast day is that it is good to be alive. I don’t just mean breathing, eating, sleeping. For so long, I was like the undead, no feelings of joy, pain, love, anger, or anything. I was a passive bystander in my own life. On that day, I saw people who radiated life, who filled the people around them with it as well. I felt alive for the first time in a long time. There were good and bad moments, but in the end I was just grateful to experience them. Community has given me back my life, and I cannot wait for next year’s feast day!
I have been in Community for two and a half years and this is my third feast day at Saint Maria Goretti. I’ve always enjoyed this event because I love having guests at our house. Every year it means more to me. We start preparing dances cleaning up the property about a month before the event. I love the added energy this time brings to the house. The week before, we prayed our morning rosary earlier and practiced the dances before going to breakfast. The whole house worked to spread 3 trailers of mulch around the yard, and we turned our workshop into a giant marketplace. It was beautiful to see everyone sacrifice and band together to get everything done. We had approximately 120 people for mass. I really enjoyed seeing everyone do “Gesti.” After mass, we preformend our dances, had lunch, and spent the rest of the day enjoying the company. I am in charge of the market where we sell the items we make. The money we make helps support our mission houses. I’ve always enjoyed this because it allows me to meet and talk to people. I’m always touched by how affected people are with our stories and how open people can be when you are open to them. I am grateful for days like this when I am able to see just how much joy and hope our stories can give people, and to see how much God has worked in my life. My time in Community is a testament of how I am able to keep going and be joyful for those around me despite what I might feel inside. The feast day was a beautiful moment to pray with our friends and to be truly grateful for my life, Community and for everyone who prays for and provides for us. I thank God for this Cenacolo family.