Bishop Edward Malesic took a daytrip recently to visit the Apostolate for Family Consecration, also known as Catholic Familyland, during one of its Holy Family Fest weeks.
AFC is a private association of Christ’s faithful founded in 1975 by Jerry Coniker and his wife, Servant of God Gwen Coniker, whose cause for sainthood is under consideration. Located in rural Clinton County in the Diocese of Stuebenville, it attracts hundreds of people for weekly family summer vacations. The facility also hosts retreats and other events throughout the year.
“I’ve been invited to visit many times,” Bishop Malesic said, explaining this was the first opportunity he could do so. “I am proud of what happens here. I appreciate the family focus.”
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The bishop said a number of people from the Cleveland Diocese were there during his visit, including Father Joe Menkhaus, whom he ordained in May. Father Menkhaus’ family is active at AFC and his father, Joseph, is a director and executive vice president of the AFC Board of Directors. Menkhaus and his wife Christy are AFC Disciple Life Members and have been active since 2001.
As the bishop celebrated Mass, he told the congregation it was the feast day of St. Lawrence (Aug. 10), a martyr in the early Church. The Roman prefect told Lawrence, the treasurer of Rome, to gather the Church’s treasures and bring them to him. Lawrence asked for some time and came back with the poor, lame and needy of the city, which angered the prefect, who ordered him to be roasted to death over a fire.
Accounts said St. Lawrence maintained a sense of humor as he was being executed, telling the torturers to “Turn me over. I’m done on this side.”
Bishop Malesic said the lesson is when we help the needy, we do it for Jesus. “The Eucharist feeds us to do what he asks,” he explained. “Jesus comes to us and asks us to come to him, wherever he is found.”
He mentioned a visit to two Cleveland shelters that aid the frail homeless who are recovering from hospitalizations and other health situations, Joseph’s Home and Mary’s Home. The facilities, operated by the Sisters of Charity of St. Augustine Health System, are located in a refurbished former convent and part of a renovated school.
“Jesus isn’t talking about just the materially poor. There are wealthy people who are the poorest people in the world,” he said, noting that Jesus is “a light that wants to come alive. You’re getting a light here. Don’t let it go out with the winds of the world when you leave here. IF you want to grow in grace, be a blessing to someone else.”
The bishop said being generous in spirit expands our hearts. “Being generous to others lets us grow and make more room in our hearts. Keep the faith to the end and you will live. Die to self and live for Jesus,” he said, adding he has hope for the future.
“How did the early Christians grow their faith? They lived with hope; they lived for Christ. You should live for Christ. Help those who are spiritually starved so they can live.”
The bishop also reminded those gathered that it is not their job to be the savior – that is Jesus’ role. Their place is to pray and help lead others to Christ. “Pray for the ongoing conversion of your heart, family and the world.”
Mass was concelebrated by several priests, including Bishop Joseph Coffey, auxiliary bishop for the Archdiocese for the Military Services, USA, who was speaking at AFC that week; Father Menkhaus and Father Kevin Barrett, AFC chaplain. Among the deacons assisting were Deacon Ian Kelly and Deacon John Green from the Cleveland Diocese.
During his visit, Bishop Malesic received a tour of the property from Randy Christensen, president and director, and his wife Diane. He saw the campgrounds, cabins, several chapels, athletic facilities, auditorium, fishing pond and tombs of the Conikers, AFC founders.
AFC said its mission is to help families grow in holiness and to teach them the easiest, shortest and safest path to holiness through family consecration to Jesus through Mary, in union with St. Joseph.
During Holy Family Fest, a God-centered vacation, families can attend daily Mass, have the opportunity for reconciliation, the rosary, Divine Mercy Chaplet and other prayer times. There are breakout groups for participants of all ages, free time in the afternoons, family activities in the evening and programs for teens and young adults.
AFC said the power of family consecration is that “if enough souls live it, the ripple effect can be strong enough to crush Satan.” Families can make an act of consecration together and live out their consecration daily.
Click here for more information on AFC.