PUTNAM, Conn. — On Friday, Oct. 12, 55 men traveled to Putnam, Conn., a small town bordering northwest Rhode Island to attend the ‘Change Me to My Lord’ men’s retreat held at the Immaculate Conception Renewal Center.
The retreat was facilitated by a team of volunteers under the Multicultural Ministry for the Diocese of Providence.
Some participants arrived carrying the fatigue and frustrations that life situations have accumulated. Many shared that they were not attending church regularly.
Following a welcome dinner, the men visited the chapel to take part in praise and worship, recite the opening prayer and have a moment of adoration before the Blessed Sacrament.
Deacon Luis García, who serves at Blessed Sacrament Parish in Providence, led the opening prayer encouraging participants to open their hearts to Jesus Christ.
“Be prepared because God has great things for you if you open yourselves to his love and grace,” he said.
Afterwards, the participants proceeded to the main hall for an opportunity to get to know each other a little more, each of them sharing their name and country of origin.
Many participants shared what they hoped to get out of the weekend: “I want to find peace and be a better father and husband,” said one of the participants. “I want God to take away all the anger that I have inside,” another explained. “I want to find strength to change because I have many vices and addictions,” a participant said with a broken voice and tears in his eyes.
On Saturday, after morning prayer and breakfast, they heard the first talk entitled “The Love of God.” Participants were invited to dialogue in small groups, sharing their own experiences of the love of God in their lives. Little by little the participants were opening up and sharing with more confidence.
Victor, a member of the team, shared an inspiring testimonial of his life and experience of coming back to the church. He recounted how shortly after coming to America in his eagerness to work and obtain material things that he had neglected his family and had developed egocentric attitudes that led him to the point of almost destroying his family.
“I found myself alone, desperate, not on speaking terms with my wife, and one day I arrived at the church, where I knelt down, silently cried and asked God for forgiveness. Shortly after, I made the decision to attend the men’s retreat.”
“This retreat had a great impact on my life but I had to work hard to recover my wife’s love, trust and forgiveness,” he added. “I realized that the most important thing is to be close to my family.”
But he said that he and his family continued to experience difficult trials.
“One day when I got home, I had an episode with a blood clot on my brain where I was about to die. They took me to the hospital on an emergency, and I had two years in recovery. But God is good and never abandoned me.”
He said that he had to endure three surgeries on his brain to correct complications and in the second operation he had an infection in the brain that took him to the brink of death.
“They had to open my brain in an operation where I had more chances to die than survive, and I had my brain open for three months with a hole in my head.
“During this time our whole community was praying for us, and the doctors told me that for 10 years I was not going to be able to work, but for the honor and glory of God, I recovered.”
He said that after three months he began to recover energy and slowly get better. His wife, family and parish community continued praying for him.
“I said here I am Lord, do what you want with me, but Lord, please take care of my family. In four months, I was starting to improve and at the end my wife did not have to give our house to the bank and I even ended up without debts. When you belong to a community they will help you in your difficult moments and they will not leave you alone, if you surrender to Jesus. The Lord has healed me, I’ve been working again for a year. God allowed me to get even better work than I had before. God does great things, God does not abandon you.”
Many shared that they were greatly impacted, experiencing the love and mercy of God and committed themselves to continue staying close to God. Each participant received a certificate and an invitation to a Spiritual Growth Seminar to continue learning about the faith and they were also challenged to become involved in their parishes and volunteer.
For more information about the Change My Lord retreats, call the Office of Hispanic Ministry at 401-421-7833 x233. There are four retreats offerings during the year, two for men and two for women.