At the orientation, parents must commit to actively participate in the life of Cenacolo throughout the minimum three years of their son/daughter’s journey in the Community by consistent and faithful attendance at all Parents and Family Retreat Weekends, held twice a year in St. Augustine, Florida, and monthly 1st Saturday Meetings held regionally throughout the country. If parents are unwilling to make this commitment, then Comunita Cenacolo is really not the place for your son/daughter.
Parents and Families Retreats and First Saturday Meetings
If the parents do not genuinely walk with the Community, they will be a hindrance, not a help, when a young man completes his journey in the Community and exits to begin his life in the world. The family must learn the difference between “help” that aids their son toward adult responsibility vs. perceived “help” that, in reality, keeps their son in a perpetual emotional adolescence, no matter how old he is, by supporting him financially and materially, thus paying his way through life. Without attending the retreat weekends, the family will continue to make the same mistakes of the past, having only their old beliefs and perceptions of their role and his needs, all of which failed in the past. Family action that helps a non-addict can be very harmful to an addict. It is an absolute necessity for families to learn what to do and what not to do.
Without committed and consistent attendance at the Retreats and First Saturday Meetings, the family will have one of two reactions when the son exits: idealization or pessimism. Pessimism perpetuates the belief that he is the same “old loser.” He will not be trusted or respected, but will be treated as the drug addict, the liar, the manipulator, the thief, the user, and the exploiter.
Idealization produces the false belief that the son is so prayerful and strong that now he can drink, no longer needs to avoid certain environments, and is able to do everything that everyone else in the world does without the risk of falling back into a world of darkness. In addition, family members may feel their own guilt about the past and may want to make up for it. All this results in �helping the son� by family choices that actually stunt his growth in responsibility, steal his opportunities to develop self-confidence by making it on his own, and place the young man in situations which are dangerous for the particular vulnerabilities of addicts.
Family’s Parallel Journey Motivates Addict
The parents’ conviction that their son needs to remain in Community is a fundamental stimulus and motivator for the young man to remain committed to a difficult and arduous life, which demands many sacrifices. When the men are tempted to leave, they hesitate far more to take that action when they know of their family’s involvement and participative commitment to the process. Through the retreat weekends, family members learn how to respond and handle delicate and complex situations, including premature exits.
The family’s attendance at the Parents and Families weekends and 1st Saturday meetings gives the young men great joy. When they enter Community, the men don’t really believe that their own lives can change, and they know that their families often have lost hope, as well. Learning that their families attend the retreat weekends and the 1st Saturday meetings, the men realize that the family again believes there is hope for them and cares enough to be involved in their lives.
Families Helping Families
Family retreats and 1st Saturday meetings are an integral part of Community life through which families learn from the experience of other Community families. As they enter into the life of the Cenacolo, families come to believe again that their son can find healing. Parents, who have been attending the retreats for two years or more, tell about the changes in themselves from the time they attended their first Parents and Families Retreat. They speak to the new parents about their initial questions, confusion, misconceptions, struggles, resistances, and fears, as well as their new insights, feelings of trust, and personal life changes, resulting from their journey with the Community. They learn from each other’s struggles, questions, failures, and pain. Through their own healing, they are able to shed the shame and guilt that has enslaved them for years. Families receive the consolation, wisdom, and healing that God provides through others, who have themselves wrestled with despair about their children, and who have gradually come to a place of hope and rejoicing.