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These are stories of people like you who have gone on this retreat and have had their life forever changed.

Elizabeth’s Story

I joined St. Mark eight years ago. I would come to Mass by myself, sit by myself, and keep to myself. I would leave right after the blessing. I would sit in the back pew, watching the camaraderie going on around me and wishing I knew at least one person to speak with. I attended church faithfully, going through all the motions but not really being apart of the Mas or understanding how I could have a personal relationship with Christ. I saw others who seemed to exude pure joy and love from being at Mass. How could I get that? What did I need to do? Whom could I go to for help? These questions followed me through every mass for the first five years at St. Mark. People smiled and spoke with me, but I never felt a connection-that is, until I went to a Welcome Weekend in 2014. That weekend inspired me , filled me with joy and love, and literally transformed my faith in ways I never thought possible. Participation in Welcome touched my life forever-the stories of faith and love I have heard, the beautiful music, the praying and solitude with God, and preious friendships with my lifelong sister in Christ. Welcome marked the beginning and the end for me, the beginning of my strengthened faith and profound joy and peace in my new and awakened relationship with Christ, and the end of my loneliness and isolation. A Welcome Weekend will change your life in ways you never imagined.

Father Alfredo’s Story

Welcome changed my life and the life of my parish at the time, St. Kevin, located on the southeast side of Chicago, near the Indiana border. Our Parishioners are primarily Hispanic, consisting of some of the first steel workers from Mexico, and also include members from many Eastern European countries. I first learned of Welcome in an African American parish, Our Lady Gate of Heaven. Even though it was a very small parish, practically everyone participated and felt part of the parish. As I investigated I found out it was due to Welcome. I knew I wanted to try that program in my parish because of the impressive results and when I brought it up to the parish council they agreed to try it out. I felt a bit inadequate running Welcome because I had no experience. Luckily I found a lady in the women’s group who needed to pay for her courses at the Pastoral Institute, so I helped her and she helped us. Together we started the bilingual men’s and women’s Welcome retreats, and they have become a vital part of the parish. As soon as the participants came out of the retreat, other church members would invite them to be involved in the parish. We had a stream of new people and new commitments all due to Welcome. My priesthood changed because I relied on more and more laity to organize and carry out these retreats while I spent time building up the leadership in the parish. After I left that parish, the program did not continue but the leadership did. Since then I have used Welcome at St Simon Parish and St. Clare of Montefalco Parish I still enjoy going to the meetings, praying, and sharing with the men of Welcome.

Amy’s Story

We have all been given life by God. We were chosen by him, molded and shaped by his hands to serve a specific purpose in this life. Yet how often do we go about our day-to-day lives, never seeing beyond worldly goals? How many moments have we wasted doing things or buying things we think are necessary in order to be happy in this life? I am guilty of this, more than I would like to admit. I often look back on my life and shake my head at the moments I wasted in despair or selfishness-moments when I forgot to consider the one who most wanted to be included. God was there but I wasn’t always seeking him. It’s easy to go through the motions of faith. We can believe in God. We can try to make good choices based on right and wrong. We can go to Mass regularly. We can pretend to be strong on our own. I did all of that without hesitation during the first forty-three years of my life. However, I didn’t always remember why I was doing these things. It’s easy to become lukewarm in our faith, to let the world dictate our needs instead of turning to God to meet them. It took forty-three years of life experiences and on amazing yes to truly understand how much was missing from my faith life. By agreeing to attend a Welcome retreat, I was basically saying yes to giving God a little more of my time for just two days. I had no idea that it would be such a powerful experience for me-one that would leave me yearning for more I saw and felt Christ all around me throughout the weekend. I saw him in the “Marthas” serving others with love. I saw him in those who bared their souls and in the tears shed by others who were struck with the realization that they were not the only broken souls in the room. I saw him in the meals shared and the camaraderie of the crowded bathrooms upon rising and at bedtime. I saw him in the tears flowing over unexpected words from those who loved us and wanted us to know our worth. Christ truly renewed me that weekend along with so many other beautiful sisters of mine.





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