A few years ago we began a journey that was so unique and inspiring that I feel compelled to share it with you! In all honesty, when a dear friend extended the invitation to us and another family to join them for a week at a place called The Apostolate for Family Consecration, also know as “Catholic Family Land,” located near Bloomingdale, OH I was a little apprehensive at first. Were it not for some slight familiarity with it from having gone to college nearby and the trust I have in my friend, my imagination might have gotten the best of me. I would be forced to spend the entire time on my knees singing traditional Church hymns and studying the Catechism as my children wriggled and writhed about, yearning to run free? Thankfully, I trusted in my friend’s advice and let the Holy Spirit guide and my family was richly blessed for it! What we encountered was nothing short of the best vacation we have experienced as a family and we have returned at least 5 more times!
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The Setting. Imagine a beautiful, hilly, rustic, rural campground where kids can ride their bike from your tent, RV or cabin to the main activity center in complete safety amongst other committed Catholic families who are all looking out for one another. My husband and I marveled at the peace we found in this and remarked often that this is what it must have felt like for our grandparents when they were kids, so simple and wholesome. Nestled in the middle of all this is a beautiful chapel and a large pavilion area that offered a traditional snack bar where kids loved to gather to cool off with a pop or ice cream cone when the sun got a little too hot.
It was fun. This unique place has everything that typical summer camps have to offer, complete with swimming pools, sports courts (basketball, tennis, sand volleyball, softball and soccer fields and more -- all put to good use through planned tournaments for adults and children alike), a stable that offers pony rides for the littles and horse trail rides for the older kids, an enormous ball pit/jungle gym structure and one of the most amazing homemade water slides ever. I must admit after my husband coaxed me down it the first time, I ran back numerous times more to see if I could get more speed and catch more air off the top of the big drop! The many activities and events were led by a warm staff ranging from adults consecrated to this ministry to college youth ministers in training and high school aged kids, many of whom were Familyland visitors themselves for years.
It was active and relaxing all at the same time. The kids had a blast riding their bikes from the cabin to the snack shack and then off for a quick dip in the community pool. As the Catholic mother of 7 children ranging from 17 to 1, I was in awe of how safe and wholesome it was and how it specifically met the needs of my whole family- including my husband! We have stayed in own cabin with a full refrigerator and microwave (some are even air conditioned) and they offered a meal plan for dinner so Mom could have a break from cooking; this since evolved into owning a pop-up camper that we set up and camp during our time at the Fest at the Apostolate for Family Consecration as a way to make it a bit more affordable and rustic.
It was faith-impacting for the whole family. Each day began with a beautiful Mass at 9 am after breakfast, and was followed by a couple hours of religious activities for the kids (think VBS for the littles and Youth Group for the teens) while the parents enjoyed a speaker over coffee and donuts. At lunch, the family regrouped for lunch and the afternoon of recreation (sports, games, swimming, etc…). In the midst of all this, the Sacrament of Confession and Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament were available for hours each day and a Chaplet of Divine Mercy was recited during the 3 o’clock hour. mazingly, in this setting, the kids never batted an eye at participating in these worthy things and even came to appreciate that “it isn’t that hard if you just don’t make a big deal out of it.” In the evenings, while the rest of the family was enjoying hanging out and roasting s'mores by the fire, the teens had organized youth-group-type gatherings which they always enjoyed and came back talking about excitedly. Many parents related to us that the reason they keep coming back year after year is because their teens beg them to! And it was wonderful for my husband and me to receive such encouragement and guidance in our struggles to be good, holy parents. My husband laughed the other day as he recounted his experience of looking over at our son during a homily on what fatherhood means and how fathers should act only to find him grinning and shaking his finger jokingly at him as if to say, “you heard it, no more excuses!”
Our Whole Family Got Something Out of It. What really sets the Apostolate for Family Consecration, Family Fests apart from all the other vacation destinations is that it was created out of a desire to provide families with a safe place to grow in holiness, not as a business to make money. You don’t have to be a saint to go, you just have to be open to having a great time, and experience the love and healing that the Lord wants to offer your family. My main prayer during my week at Catholic Family Land was thanksgiving that I was willing to give it a shot. I am so thankful that we could experience the love and joy that the Lord is offering through this official Vatican Apostolate whose foundress is a mother of 13 and is recognized by the Catholic Church as a Servant of God (the first step to being a Saint.) It is no fluke that we saw license plates on cars from as far away as Vermont, Canada, Carolinas, Georgia, and Alaska and met some who flew in from California. So visit www.afc.org and consider it for your next vacation. They also have wonderful resources available for living out your faith at home found at www.familyholiness.com and www.familycatechism.com.
Copyright 2017 Emily Jaminet
About the Author
Emily Jaminet and her husband have 7 children. Jaminet is the Executive Director of Sacred Heart Enthronement Network, WelcomeHisHeart.com, shares "A Mother's Moment," a daily radio reflection, a podcast host and radio personality. She is the co-author of Divine Mercy For Moms: Sharing the Lessons of St. Faustina and The Friendship Project, Pray Fully, Our Friend Faustina, and her most recent book Secrets of the Sacred Heart. You can read more of Emily’s work at EmilyJaminet.com or InspireTheFaith.com.