By Sr. Natalie Sayde Salameh
St. Maron’s Church in Jacksonville, Florida invited us to offer a parish mission on March 24-26th. The Maronite Servants collaborated with Reverend Elie Abi-Chedid, pastor, in scheduling this lenten retreat.
On Friday evening we joined the parish in praying the Benediction of the Cross, followed by a supper where we were able to meet and greet the parishioners. During supper, Mother Marla Marie facilitated a lectio divina on the Sunday’s Gospel of the Healing of the Paralytic, and taught the adults of the parish this method of prayerfully reading the scriptures.
On Saturday, we facilitated a combined retreat with the MYO and MYA of the parish. The theme was “Be Made Clean” and was based on the Gospel of the Healing of the Leper. The day included presentations and interactive group activities, adoration, confession, abundant laughter and fun.
We had two presentations for the day, one from Mother Marla Marie, on the cleansing gift of confession; and the other from Sr. Therese Maria, on the gift of Jesus truly present in the Eucharist. I also gave a personal testimony on how the gift of confession has made a tremendous impact in my spiritual growth and healing.
The morning included small group discussions, which focused on some of the fears and distractions we may have on approaching confession, and, more positively, how confession improves our relationship with God.
Following the close of the retreat day, we were joined by a number of the MYO at Mandaloun Lebanese Restaurant for dinner and a dabke party. A very big thank you to owner and chef, Mr. Pierre Barakat for hosting the evening.
On Sunday morning before Divine Liturgy, we facilitated an hour of catechesis with the children of the parish. We walked the Way of the Cross with them in order to highlight Jesus’ great love for us, especially in His Passion, Death and Resurrection.
In the afternoon, we spent some time sight-seeing with a number of MYA and adults of the parish, which included a visit to the beautiful Cathedral of St. Augustine, and St. Augustine Beach. We were blessed with very fine weather, typical of the Florida climate that everyone raves about.
We would like to thank Fr. Elie Abi-Chedid and the parish and volunteers of St. Maron for hosting this event and for their outstanding hospitality. A very big thank you to Dr. Gabriella Assi for helping to coordinate this event at the local parish level. And to all those families who genuinely opened their hearts to receive us. We were most grateful for their positive feedback, warmth and receptivity to the healing message of the Paschal Mystery.