150 brothers and sisters from around the United States gathered last weekend north of Atlanta, GA – a historic weekend for our community! The journey from Oakland, CA to the retreat center took a full day by plane, train, and automobile, but the excitement of greeting so many wonderful friends and praising together on Friday night made the trip well worth it. We didn’t have hot water the first night in the single ladies’ cabin, which provided a great opportunity to share stories of the cold-water showers on our various missions with Fidesco and ESM.
On Saturday we got to witness Therese Miller and David Neira making their steps into formation for lay consecrated life in the Emmanuel Community. Both are dear friends, and neither has had a smooth or easy path to being able to say “yes” to Jesus in this way. Their perseverance through the challenges of financial obstacles, language and cultural differences, and pioneering this vocation in the US made their steps even more beautiful. It was also a great opportunity for us to praise God for the gift of this brother and sister specifically, and the gift of the communion of the states of life as a special grace of Emmanuel. I also made my step of Commitment in the community on Saturday night, along with six other brothers and sisters, and three who made the step of Welcome and Discernment. What a joy to answer God’s call to me personally alongside others who are doing the same, and to know that you all are my home and family.
The teachings during the weekend were on What it Means to be Emmanuel, Consecrated Life in the Community, Hope in the Darkness, and Enculturation of the Community in the US. Most of us have experienced discouragement and hurt surrounding the abuse crises in the American Church, and the third teaching reminded us that hope does not mean believing everything will be OK – after all, we’re all on a river headed towards the waterfall of death (direct quote from the Kanes). Rather, hope is having our eyes fixed on eternity with Christ, by receiving His light in the Eucharist and sharing it with the world. I was also especially touched in the fourth teaching by the word from the Lord that “I have a new wine for you, for the US, for the Church… but you are still in the old wineskins.” We were reminded that we have permission to evangelize, that our authority comes from the Holy Spirit and our light comes from being adorers of Christ, and the Emmanuel community has specific gifts to offer the Church in the US – especially in the communion of the states of life and in the outpouring of the Holy Spirit.
As usual, our time together as Emmanuel was filled with joy and laughter. Thank you so much to all the brothers and sisters who made sacrifices to organize and be present at the weekend, and offered their gifts of teaching, logistics, and music. Thank you to all who prayed for our time together. We’re hoping to host a gathering in California next year, so please pray for our organization and get ready to visit the Golden Coast!