“[T]here’s no greater hope for the future of the world and the Church than to witness over 100 teens kneeling in adoration of the Blessed Sacrament during a Holy Family Fest and keeping 7-8 confessors going for 2-3 hours receiving God’s mercy and love in the Sacrament of Reconciliation…”
These are the words of Father Kevin Barrett, chaplain at the Apostolate for Family Consecration, who studied for the priesthood in Rome and was ordained by Pope John Paul II in 1992. Father Kevin regularly offers families in-depth and orthodox, yet loving, preaching on the plethora of challenging subjects so crucial to families today — from the virtue of modesty to the sanctity of marriage.
The Apostolate itself is committed to upholding a level of Catholic truth that can be hard for some Catholics to find in our modern era. It provides rich spiritual nourishment to families, by showing families how to consecrate themselves in the truths of our faith. The Apostolate has established Catholic Familyland (CFL), a camp for families nestled in the quiet, peaceful hills of Bloomingdale, Ohio. CFL is a place filled with fun family times spent horsebackriding, swimming and playing sports. But it is so much more than that. It is a place where the spiritual needs of families are met.
Our family first visited CFL when our oldest child was six years of age. That was over a decade ago and we have returned almost every summer since. As the years passed by, we have felt at times like we were standing alone on a spiritual island surrounded by a spiritually polluted ocean, wondering when the next tidal wave of worldly sin would overtake us and drag us out to sea. And perhaps a wave would have overtaken us, were it not for the grace and blessings we have received through this Apostolate. Romans 5:20 tells us that “…where sin increased, grace abounded in all the more”. And we have seen this grace abound at Catholic Familyland.
The Apostolate for Family Consecration was founded decades ago by Jerry and Gwen Coniker, and was granted pontifical status in 2007. Since its founding the Apostolate has established a television network called Familyland Television. It has grown to offer “Marriage Getaway” weekends, youth retreats, silent retreats for men and women and Family Conferences, and has expanded its mission to Mexico, Belgium, Russia, Phillipines and Nigeria.
But the greatest accomplishment of the Coniker family may be that, in an age wrought with apostasy and error, each of their 12 (now adult) children has kept their faith; and each of their now 65 grandchildren is being raised as a faithful Catholic. Mr. Coniker attributes this accomplishment to family consecration, to the family’s efforts to bring the faith to others, and to the power of the family rosary, prayed faithfully and consistently through the years.
Mr. Coniker is a gentle man with a deep faith and uncompromising character. He jokes about the boys who wanted to date his daughters over the years. Often, “They had to come to our house and pray the rosary first before the date,” says Mr. Coniker. Sadly, Mrs. Gwen Coniker died in 2002. But her spirit lives on at the Apostolate and her cause for beatification has been opened.
The Apostolate hosts summer Holy Family Fests drawing families from across the country and sometimes from around the world to find hope and healing. As Father Kevin states: “How much healing occurs in the lives of the families who attend the Holy Family Fests!” The backbone of the Apostolate is the Catholic Core — consecrated single men and women called to dedicate their lives to God for the sake of helping families get to heaven.
The teens who attend Family Fests are filled with a hope that comes from knowing they are loved not just by their parents but by our Lord. On one special night for the teens, they receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation and also receive encouraging and loving letters from their parents while praying before the Blessed Sacrament. As Father Kevin states: “It is so moving to see the teens, many with tears, reading the love letters their parents have written them, as they contemplate the beauty of Jesus’ love in the Blessed Sacrament.”
Another blessing of Catholic Familyland is that the children build one another up in their faith. As Ashley Miller, a 19-year old college student who attended a fest, says:
I met so many great college students and teenagers who all go through the same feelings and situations as I do — who feel all alone in the world because no one else around them is like them and can be passionate Catholics…I really loved Catholic Familyland because I got to meet girls and guys who were strong in their faith and looking for a solid backbone so they weren’t all alone…
…Sunday Mass was amazing. The Knights of Columbus attended. There were about 15-20 altar servers in the old garments and this made the Mass so reverent — which was so beautiful. I wish I could celebrate Mass like that everyday. There was so much joy, peace and happiness here at this camp… I thank God for allowing me to have the blessing of knowing His Real Presence and not being ignorant to His love for all of us. After attending this week I have realized that I want to just be full of love and peace and hope so that every person who looks at me sees God and His love in me.
The seemingly impossible problems facing families today can boggle the mind. But we need not despair or let these problems overtake us. As these problems have spiritual roots, so they can be solved by spiritual means. Our Lady promised at Fatima that “in the end my Immaculate Heart will triumph.” By consecrating our families, by praying the family Rosary, by forming our families in the truths of the faith and sharing these truths with others, we can protect our families, help to protect other families and help to bring Our Lady’s triumph about.
To learn more about how to consecrate your family, access the Apostolate for Family Consecration website at http://www.familyland.org/. The Apostolate can also be contacted through e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone (1-800-77-FAMILY).