What an awesome feast we celebrate today! As we commemorate the solemnity of St. Joseph today, on the 150th anniversary of his designation as Patron of the Universal Church, I am reminded of the joy and responsibility of being the father of seven children and now of being the president of the Apostolate for Family Consecration® (AFC). Like St. Joseph, I stand in awe of this amazing grace of fatherhood and the privilege to serve other families through the AFC.
It is not a coincidence that the Holy Family is the patron of the AFC. As we support families to grow together in truth and holiness, we look to St. Joseph as our model on how to love and devote our lives to Jesus and Mary. We strive to imitate his example as a spouse, a father, and head of the Holy Family. Let me share with you my family’s AFC story and the current direction of the AFC.
My Family’s AFC Story
My wife, Diane, and I have been involved with the AFC for 35 years now. We attended our first AFC event, as a newly married couple, in 1986—back when the AFC was still based in Kenosha, WI. We came to our first Holy Family Fest℠ at Catholic Familyland® in 1991. We ran AFC Peace of Heart Forum® and Be Not Afraid Family Hour® programs for several years. I began serving on AFC’s Board of Directors two years ago and last November, I was elected as the sixth president of the AFC.
As our family grew, the AFC was a stronghold in raising our seven kids in the Catholic Faith. We consecrated our family to the Holy Family and did our best to live that consecration every day. As parents, what Diane and I desired most for our children was that they would grow up loving the Catholic Faith, embracing it as their own, and ultimately passing it on to their children. It was not always easy. It never is. But the AFC provided the support we needed.
Today, all our children are very active in their Catholic Faith. Six of them served in the AFC’s summer missionary programs, and our youngest is hoping to do the same. Four of our children found their spouses at Catholic Familyland. Needless to say, we are very thankful. This is the hope we have for every family we serve here at the AFC.
A New Springtime for the AFC
Our founders, Jerry and Servant of God Gwen Coniker, envisioned that the AFC would be carried on by families other than their own. We are very grateful to the Coniker family for bringing the AFC to where it is. Now, through God’s grace, our founders’ vision has become a reality. The AFC belongs to us—all the families who have been touched by this great ministry! I’m proud to be a shareholder with you in this unique gift God has given the Church and society.
This is a new springtime for the AFC. The world needs what the AFC offers—now more than ever. As Sr. Lucia of Fatima said, the battleground is marriage and the family. If we can strengthen young families by giving them the experience that our families were able to have through the AFC, then we can bring light to our dark world. God in His providence moved the AFC from the founding years to where we are today with great hope for the future.
Refocusing on AFC’s Core Competency with Your Help
As AFC president, I perceive my job as striving to understand our Board of Directors and Membership so that I can execute their vision and not stand on my own.
Starting last December, I embarked on an AFC Family Tour. Together with some of the Catholic Corps men, I visited with 57 members, donors, and benefactors in 13 states including New Jersey, Virginia, Michigan, Minnesota, Florida, and Colorado. I wanted to meet AFC families, dialogue with them, and see how the Lord may be working through them to inform the direction and priorities of the AFC.
Meeting the families who are, or have been, a part of the AFC family has been invigorating and inspiring. We laughed together as we reminisced on our Catholic Familyland (CFL) memories. We clarified issues and challenges. We shared candidly about our hopes for the AFC.
I shared with our members, donors, and benefactors that, with the changing times, the AFC’s core competency has moved from being a premier media outlet for the truths of the Catholic Faith to a “family to family” ministry. In this regard, we are focusing on how we can create the best AFC experience through our programs and environment. Once we are able to perfect that experience, we hope to partner with other apostolates to expand what happens here at Catholic Familyland to other areas.
For 2020, we will be reinforcing our message of Family Consecration and its related Four Points summary. Together, we will explore the relevance of Family Consecration to your family.
In addition, our goal for this year is “No Empty Cabins!” An empty cabin is a family who will not experience what we (Holy Family Fest alumni families) have experienced. We are trying to eliminate all obstacles for a family to experience a Holy Family Fest℠. Every family deserves a chance to experience a life-changing encounter with Jesus Christ, through Mary and St. Joseph, in an environment of prayer, fun, and community. Our children need to know that being Catholic is far from being boring and that it is a very normal thing.
Please pray that we can discern the Lord’s promptings in order to make your 2020 Holy Family Fest experience the best one yet.
Tell Your AFC Story
As I’ve mentioned, one of the inspiring aspects of my visits to families was hearing how their families have been changed by the AFC. I’m humbled by the many sacrifices families make to attend an AFC event and by their generous support through time, talent, and treasure. These families give so much to ensure that their children and their children’s children will continue to experience what they have experienced. As many families have shared with me, there is just nothing like an AFC event! Here’s a couple of these stories …
“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 “Catholic Familyland” located near Bloomingdale, OH I was a little apprehensive. […] 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… As the Catholic mother of 6 children, 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! […] And it was wonderful for my husband and I to receive such encouragement and guidance in our struggles to be good, holy parents…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.” – Emily
“I have to tell you the week spent at Catholic Familyland this summer has reminded me of the beauty of Catholicism and the gift given in the Eucharist and how very blessed we are to be part of it… Thank you, to the staff and all those who contribute to making the world a better place through providing opportunities like this to grow closer to Christ and the family. I struggled the first couple of days with the heat, and to be honest I am not a camper, but the holiness I found at this place was a gift I will never forget. I went home and appreciated all that God has given me in a new light. Things I may have taken for granted before are now counted as a blessing. I truly hope to enlighten others to visit this beautiful place, and I look forward to the opportunity to return with my family!!!” – Theresa
These stories are not only encouraging for the AFC staff, but also powerful evangelizing tools to inspire other families to attend an AFC event. Your story may be what another family needs to hear as they become aware that what you have is what they are looking for in their family. So please share your story and allow the Holy Spirit to use you to bring another family closer to Christ.
Looking Forward to Serving Your Family
As we move quickly into the busy preparation season for the Holy Family Fests, please know that the staff are praying for your family as you too make preparations to come here. We are all very eager to see and serve your families. For us, it is really like a big family reunion where old friendships are rekindled and new ones made, a microcosm of the unity of the Body of Christ.
I would like to extend my sincerest appreciation to all the families who took time from their busy schedules to meet with us these past few months. It was a pleasure and a blessing to meet all of you. I would ask that you please share some thoughts or impressions about our visit, or about what the AFC means to you and your family. Let’s encourage each other and keep the dialogue going! Please share in the comments section below. I would love to hear from you.
United in the Holy Family,
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