First Hispanic marriage retreat renews couples and community

Categories: Around the Diocese

The diocese’s first Hispanic marriage retreat, “Encuentro de Parejas,” was held Sunday, Feb. 14, at St. Mary School and Church in Melrose. The daylong event drew 78 couples from the diocese and as far away as Moorhead, Crookston and Minneapolis.

“We have been married 20 years and this was the first time we came to a marriage encounter,” said Oscar Hernández, a member of St. Joseph Parish in Waite Park who attended with his wife, Araceli. “[It was] an opportunity to be together without our little children.

Antonio Sanchez couldn't contain his smile from Jazmine Ambriz. The two Long Prairie parish members came to the marriage retreat Sunday at St. Mary's Church in Melrose. Photo by Paul Middlestaedt

Antonio Sanchez couldn’t contain his smile from Jazmine Ambriz. The two Long Prairie parish members came to the marriage retreat Sunday at St. Mary’s Church in Melrose. Photo by Paul Middlestaedt/The Visitor

“I learned about the need for forgiveness between us,” he said through a translator. “After today, listening to the presenters Ricardo and Lucia Luzondo, we learned to move on in a new page in our relationship. We [could] look each other in the eyes and say, ‘Yes, I am still loving you.’”

The retreat had many healing components, said Mayuli Bales, director of the St. Cloud Diocese’s Office of Multicultural Ministries. While it was organized through the diocesan offices of Marriage and Family and Multicultural Ministries, she said, the community took ownership, with 11 Hispanic couples integral in the planning process.

“Our Hispanic community is asking for these events,” Bales said. “They hear about ones sponsored by other churches but want one for Catholics where they can speak Spanish. Ricardo and Lucia are ideal presenters because they understand our culture and speak the language.”

The Luzondos are co-founders of Renovacion Familiar Ministries and offered a session at St. Cloud’s Diocesan Ministry Day last August. Ricardo is a pediatrician and Lucia an immigration lawyer, and they also serve the Archdiocese of San Antonio, Texas, in various ministries.
The day focused on Matthew 19:6 and was opened with prayer by Franciscan Sister Aurora Tovar and music, followed by several presentations by the Luzondos. Couples prayed the rosary and then worshiped at Mass celebrated by Father Mitchell Bechtold, parochial vicar of parishes in Melrose, Greenwald, Meire Grove and Spring Hill. After lunch, couples were given roses to offer to each other as symbols of their love.

At the end of the day, Father Omar Guanchez, pastor at Mary of Mount Carmel Parish in Long Prairie, blessed the couples and had them use their wedding rings to speak new vows to each other.

In their evaluations, Bales said, couples asked to make the event an annual one and also requested retreats for family and youth.
The Luzondos will return June 11-12 to present a youth and family retreat at St. Joseph Church in Waite Park. Bales said plans are underway for a Hispanic “community wedding” for seven couples, and she hopes the Luzondos will be able to participate.