The Secular Franciscans’ Lenten Retreat included time for fellowship. Here, attendees share lunch in the parish hall. (Submitted photo)

Jan Jubert

Editor’s note: Jan Jubert is the minister of the Our Lady Queen of the Universe Secular Franciscans at Holy Family, Woodruff.

Our Lady Queen of the Universe Secular Franciscans hosted their second annual Lenten retreat on Saturday, Feb. 18, at Holy Family Catholic Church in Woodruff. The retreat was offered to all parishioners in area churches and church clusters, as well as to all La Verna Region Secular Franciscan fraternities.

Four priests offered inspirational talks to help attendees prepare to journey with Jesus through this Lenten season.

Jason Martin, a diaconate candidate, opened the session with prayer, followed by the first speaker, Fr. Aaron Devett. The topic of his talk was, “God Promised: I will free you and bring you home.” He talked about all the important figures in biblical history who were chained and in bondage, and how God was always there to give them strength and raise them out of their darkness. He emphasized that each of us has our own cross to bear and that each is differently tailored according to our needs, weaknesses and strengths, and that Jesus said, “Pick up your cross and follow me; I am always with you.”

Fr. Maria Joseph Kodiganti’s topic was “Faith, Failure, and Forgiveness,” which began by reacquainting attendees with the Profession of Faith they pray every Sunday, just as Peter did before Jesus. Faith is a gift from Jesus. Just as Peter, David and many others did, we too, have fail our faith but it is temporary, foreknown and forgiven. If we are reflective and honest in our spiritual walk, we will grow through failure. God uses failure to motivate us and to change our ways and to think about his purpose for our lives. God is not surprised when we failed. He picks us up and gives us a new beginning when we come confessing our faults and failings and asking for forgiveness.

After the first two talks, there was a break. Confessions were offered as one of the break choices, since the opportunity was requested by many participants last year. Three of the four priests heard confessions during the half-hour breakout session.

Fr. Ron Serrao’s speech began with the Gospel reading of Matthew 25:14-30, which is about three men receiving various talents and what they did with them. He emphasized that each man cared for the talents given him to the best of his ability. We all have been given talents, gifts and grace from God, that we need to cultivate and multiply so as to help others find and grow their blessings. He reminded us that we are stewards, not just of money, but of our time, resources and abilities. God gives us talents to motivate others in the goals that will ultimately serve Christ and rewards those who use their talents to improve themselves and their community.

Fr. Jerry Hagen spoke on “No Pain, No Glory.” He gave many everyday examples of how we endure pain and struggles and how we have to work, practice and be consistent, diligent and dedicated in seeing things through and not giving up. We can think of sport figures, musicians, academic gurus and married couples that have had to give countless hours and years of nonstop dedication and work to succeed. So, let us continue to keep our eye on the “prize,” walking with Jesus, and at the end of our journey arrive home.

After closing prayer, many gathered in the parish hall for lunch, fellowship and conversation.