August 31, 2023
By: Maria de la Esperanza, SSVM – California, USA
This summer, in our Shrine of Our Lady of Peace, in California, United States, from July 10 to 21, we were able, by the grace of God, to joyfully carry out the festive oratory. The oratory, like the camps, are schools of life for the children where we try to make them practice virtues, overcome themselves and live intense moments of grace and prayer through the Sacraments.
Also this time, as we have done for almost twenty years, we divided the children by age, from kindergarten to the last year of high school, and had them compete in teams. For the youngest children up to the seventh grade, the patron saints were St. Maria Goretti, St. Mother Teresa of Calcutta, St. John Paul II, St. Peter, St. Paul and St. Therese of the Child Jesus. For the older children, the patron saints for the boys were St. Joseph Sanchez del Rio and Blessed Carlo Acutis; and for the girls, Blessed Chiara Badano and Venerable Teresita Quevedo. Approximately four hundred children in all participated.
The central theme of the oratory was the Holy Eucharist. We read in the account of the disciples on the road to Emmaus: “…they urged him, saying, “Stay with us, for it is now evening and the day is almost over. And he went in to stay with them” (Lk 24:29). Thanks be to God, the children were generally very well disposed both for the classes (since we also deepened the mystery of Jesus’ life, following the Gospel according to St. Matthew) and for the competitions and recreational moments. We emphasized that Mass was the most important moment of our day and we tried to prepare them to experience it better by giving them a few small talks before Mass about its parts. After the Holy Mass, we had lunch with a brief recreation followed by more classes or games until the Holy Rosary, during which some of our priests heard confessions. It was a great grace, because the great majority of the children went to confession and received the Eucharist. The young people were able to receive Our Lord every day and He surely worked great miracles in their hearts and in their families, as many mothers testified to us about the attitude of their children at home regarding prayer and the desire to attend Mass with their parents.
This apostolate, which, by the grace of God, has been carried out for many years, has borne much fruit both in the volunteers who help us by assisting and serving meals, and in the benefactors who help financially, who see the dedication of our religious and missionaries in caring for the children, moves them to give themselves more to God, to give thanks and pray for vocations and to intensify their sacramental life. We have in our Province and currently in other parts of the world many vocations who came to know our Religious Family through this apostolate. In fact, a girl came to know our Institute and to give us a hand with the oratory and, when it was finished, she traveled with the novices (who had come to help us) with the intention of entering the Novitiate.
The day after the end of the oratory, July 22, feast of St. Mary Magdalene, we held a family day to which we invited the families of the children who had participated in the oratory. All the members of our Shrine were also invited. We started the morning by dividing the parents in a talk about the Holy Family as a model of family and the children in some classes and games with our religious until 11.30 am, in which we invited the moms and dads to play with their children. The members of the Third Order helped us to prepare games on the Sanctuary grounds, so that the families could compete as teams in soccer games, basketball, sack races, rope, water balloon wars, volleyball, etc. Following the spirit of St. John Bosco we wanted to transmit to them the implementation of the “preventive system” as a method of education for them, teaching or reminding them also of the importance of being with their children, playing with them, building trust in them and thus gaining authority, and of being able to be firm and correct them, but with love (amorevolezza).
In the afternoon, after lunch as a family, the children returned to play and develop themes with our religious and their parents had the opportunity to participate in some of the workshops conducted by couples who are members of our Third Order. The topics to choose from were: the Eucharist and the power of forgiveness, the Eucharist and the gift of life and finally the Eucharist and the spirit of Sunday. I was present at the workshop on the Eucharist and the gift of life which was led by a couple from Colombia who have a total of six children. One of the oldest is in the Minor Seminary and the daughter is in the Novitiate of our Province. They spoke in general terms about how the Eucharist sanctifies marriage and is the driving force to move it forward; also about the false standards or ideals presented by the world that attack life, replacing children with objects and animals and seeking “success” only in material things, and how this does not lead the family to God nor does it lead us to Heaven and prevents, through “false happiness”, living this life to the full, living for what is worth living, for what, after all, we are created for. They also emphasized how one can give life and is called to give life and be a source of hope, even if God does not grant natural children to spouses, as well as the importance of their children’s vocation, whether to marriage or to the consecrated life.
At the end of the workshops, we all prayed the Holy Rosary together and participated in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. Among other testimonies, a mother commented that her little daughter, at the end of the family day, told her: “Mom, now I feel full of grace”.
To be part of the apostolate of this Shrine is an immense grace. Here, simply thanks to His grace and because He wants it, many activities can be carried out where the fruits are very visible: we have permanent Adoration in which many people participate, even in the most difficult schedules; our Priests celebrate four daily Masses and eight Masses on Sundays, in addition to the great apostolate and service they offer through the Sacrament of Confession.
Outside the doors of the temple we have a property in which stands out the image of Our Lady showing her Immaculate Heart (measuring just over nine meters), an image that was inspired by a diocesan priest who was in the sanctuary before the arrival of our Institute and of great apostolic zeal, Monsignor Sweeny, who was inspired by the message of Our Lady of Fatima, even he traveled to Portugal and since then wanted to carry out in California the procession and Mass celebrated in Fatima on the 13th of each month in which the little shepherds received the messages of the VirginThis brought much fruit, made the small parish where it all began to become, finally, a Shrine where Our Lady is in charge of calling and moving the hearts of her children to finally lead them to Her Son. Our parish priest often says that there are in fact two parishes here, one in the part of the property where the statue of Our Lady is located where there are usually people who are not yet baptized, those who practice or do not practice any type of religion, who pray to Our Mother and receive her response through many graces; and the other is the Parish where the church itself is located, where the Blessed Sacrament is exposed and supports and at the same time pushes the members of the first Parish to take the step and enter the second one.
As we began these activities, Fr. Brian IVE encouraged us not to lose the purpose for which we carry out this apostolate, which is God, and that the driving force of all our apostolates and activities is prayer, since, after all, without Him we can do nothing. He “entered to stay with them”, He stayed with us in the Eucharist, He was first lifted up on the Cross and thus drew all to Himself, and He continues to be lifted up on His Eucharistic throne calling and drawing all to His Sacred Heart.
Firm in the gap!
Sister Maria de la Esperanza
Missionary in California, United States.