Hello! We just returned from our one week family retreat at Catholic Family Land in Bloomingdale, Ohio, and IT.WAS.AWESOME!
Yes, there was camping involved.
Yes, we had some stormy weather.
Yes, we had to drive 11 hours each way with 7 kids who mostly get carsick.
Yes, the devil tried to keep us from going under the guise of a cancelled camper.
But also, yes, IT WAS SO WORTH EVERY MINUTE!
We were very excited to see our three neices who are working at the camp all summer. Bridget will be a freshman at Franciscan in the fall with JP, and happened to catch a butterfly on our first day there like a modern St. Francis(ca).
We had ordered grocery pickup from Walmart in Steubenville which was a smart move because I could plan meals and only get exactly what we needed. Plus, no trudging through the store with all nine of us, asking for treats. Oh, your kids don't do that? Teach me your ways! Then we headed to the campsite about 20 minutes away, and set up our amazing camper that we had rented:
I wish I took photos before we brought all our junk inside, but it was very comfortable and spacious. It slept nine technically, but realistically, Phil and I took the queen bed, the three little boys took the bunk beds in the back and Maggie slept on the pullout couch. Eamon slept in a tent every night (how is he my child?) and JP and Andrew slept in a different camper with their cousin.
I planned the easiest meals I could think of and we cooked in the crockput, or in an electric skillet, or on my brother-in-law's grill. We ate things like chicken tacos, burgers, hot dogs, chicken sandwiches, meatball subs, etc.
Arrival day was on Saturday with nothing on the schedule except settling in and going to a daily Mass that evening. Sunday morning started with Mass and then lots of free time spent exploring and playing and swimming and chatting. My favorite part of each day was sitting around the fire at night, catching up with family and friends, waiting for the teens to come home from their nightly youth group :)
Monday-Thursday bring more structured days with morning Mass, talks for the adults and group time for the kids (divided by ages) where they learn about the faith but mostly just play, swim, do arts and crafts, sing, dance and have tons of fun. Each afternoon there is a different sports tournament going on (basketball, volleyball, frisbee, soccer, and softball) that kids and adults can sign up to play, or you can just hang out and swim on the pool, relax, go to the chapel or snack shack, take your kids to all sorts of fun play areas...you get the idea! Evenings have a rosary and then planned family activity (bonfire with smores, family dance night, skit night, and a show that involves all the kids), and then the teens go off to youth group and the littles go off to bed and the parents get more adult time by hanging around their camp sites.
What's that? You want s'more pictures? You got it!
Our seven kiddos had 11 cousins at the camp, and lots of returning campers who had become friends.
My sister and her husband came for the first time with their son (their 2 daughters worked there) and had a blast!
Each evening rosary had a different twist. One night, Father called all of the children up and asked them questions about the mysteries (a real nail biter when your child likes to raise his hand before he knows the answer). Another night, different groups each led a decade, like the dads, then moms, then teens, etc.
|What's more handsome than a holy man in prayer??|
|What's more beautiful than holy women in prayer??|
And what's more edifying than seeing your children unafraid to pray the rosary with their peers?
Every day at 3 pm, everything stops on campus (there's actually two campuses) for the Divine Mercy Chaplet. I snuck a photo of Maggie mid-Chaplet and everyone at the basketball court who all stopped to pray:
Good friendships were deepened...
...and marriages were strengthened...
...in a place where everyone feels connected and included because of their common faith, no matter where they are on their journey.
Sometimes I would just walk around with my camera and chuckle at the sights in Catholic Family Land. Like some monks playing mini-golf:
And four priests saying confession each afternoon for hours, with lines of people waiting to go:
And sports teams in prayer before a tournament game:
And Matt Fradd just randomly sitting in front of me at the rosary:
And Bishop Strickland walking around campus, when I stopped the little boys to say "Hi to Father" before I saw him at Mass later that day and realized he was BISHOP STRICKLAND! No photo evidence of that, just a very deeply engrained embarrassing moment for the memory books. I think he forgave me though with this blessing on his way out of Mass ;)
|I forgive you Colleen, even though you called me Father.|
There is literally something for all ages here. We stuck with the little kids because that's what good parents do, and we barely saw our older ones during the day. They all had the freedom to roam and good people roaming alongside them. They come back and check in, and play sports with their parents, and eat meals together... and it's kinda like heaven on earth. Phil and I would take long walks each day to beautiful sites and through hiking trails and I want to go back already!
Where were we? I got distracted by Phil playing frisbee :) Oh right, more photos, less talking...
My bookends *insert crying emoji*. We will be dropping JP off to college on Brendan's 5th birthday. They are going to miss each other so much!!
God really helped Phil and I make some decisions that had been weighing on our hearts, and with lots of prayer and time to reflect with the sacraments, we were able to leave our family retreat feeling at peace with the direction we were moving in. The kids are already asking to go back next year, and with a fun, family-filled, faithful retreat like this...why wouldn't we?