Editor's Note: The reporter for this post was also a participant in the event.
From January 21-23 sixty Hispanic men from the Portland area participated in the San Juan Diego spiritual retreat at the Father Bernard Youth Center. The retreat was led by Juan Pablo Segura and Rodrigo Llorente, members of the St. John Society and students of Mount Angel Seminary.
Just a quick look at the men’s faces when they arrived at the retreat was very eloquent. Their eyes looked timid, their faces stony, and very little words came out of their mouths. When we arrived at the end of the retreat there was a new glow in their eyes and words of joy were shared by many participants.
The retreat’s goal is that the men are able to experience an encounter with Jesus. It is directed to men who are baptized Catholic but not active in their faith. It offers an interplay of talks, testimonies, moments of prayer, group sharing and sacraments, all seeking to convey this message: “In Christ there is a new situation.”
|Juan Pablo Segura leads the retreatants through how to pray the rosary.|
|Rodrigo Llorente and Juan Pablo Segura lead a procession to the cemetery of Queen of Angels Monastery.|
One of the most touching moments was the testimony of Jessie Sanchez, a parishioner of Holy Cross Catholic Parish. She came to the retreat to share how her life changed when she and her husband participated in the retreat. Sanchez shared that there was a missing piece between them, and they couldn’t get along without it. Christ was the missing piece, and when they found him, everything changed in their relationship.
The retreat was staffed by a team of thirty men that had been preparing spiritually for two months. Their goal was to be instruments of Jesus, seeking to facilitate the encounter of the attendees with the Lord.
When the retreat was over, Oney Galindo, a member of St. Anne’s in Gresham and a team member, shared his amazement about God’s power: “In only three days, God has the power to change a man’s heart; he loosened the bonds to sin and wordily things of these men and gave them New Life. This is something very impressive; no one else can do that.”
The San Juan Diego program offers a path of spiritual growth to husband and wife. The spiritual retreat is the starting line of the program. Each retreat has had forty participants plus the thirty members of the team that staff the retreat. This means that when the eight spiritual retreats of this year are over more than two hundred and eighty families will have participated in this spiritual experience.
Many of the retreatants shared that when they arrived, they felt they were carrying a heavy backpack. But after encountering Jesus, experiencing his love and forgiveness for them, all the weight of the backpack had gone.