Saturday, March 11, 2023
Priscilla A. Greear - Florida Catholic
MIAMI SPRINGS | In 2019, Elizabeth Fiallos juggled a corporate career as a 16-year business analyst at Florida Power & Light and a stressed family life with her husband, Oscar, and three children. Overwhelmed, she joined a mom's ministry and the family ended up attending an Impactos de Cristiandad archdiocesan retreat.
The Spirit-inspired weekend indeed “impacted” the family, awakening their faith, church engagement — and even a new vocation. Elizabeth said she felt inspired to pursue a longtime interest in teaching despite lower pay.
"It changed our lives. It changed our family, our marriage" after a troubled time, she said. "I think it was putting an emphasis on slowing down and being more intentional... Impactos had connected us with like-minded families who want the same things for their families, to teach good morals and values and keep Christ in the center of our family."
The Fiallos got married in the Church, prioritized time with their children and plugged into service. They now serve on the coordinating group that plans quarterly Impactos weekends. She earned a master's in education and loves teaching at St. Timothy School in Miami.
"We were both career-focused and although we loved our family above all, we didn't understand the importance of family and God being part of our family," said Oscar Fiallos. "In Impactos, after the first retreat, I said I want to serve in this... We were born Catholics, baptized Catholic, but we weren't churchgoers. We wanted to do for other families what this did for our family. And it changed our family dynamic, it changed our priorities. And now we give everything we can to this movement and to serving."
The Fiallos and other participants in Impactos joined the ministry’s founders at a Mass and gala Feb. 11, 2023, at Blessed Trinity Church in Miami Springs to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the archdiocesan movement.
Adelita and Ernesto Roche and Rafael Marquez conceived the family retreat to include children but modeled after Cursillo retreats. The first weekend took place in February 1973 at a house on Miami Beach where volunteers played soccer, fished with the kids and watched babies during the retreat.
At the anniversary Mass, Jesuit Father Eddie Alvarez, pastor of Gesu Church in Miami, recalled his first assignment at Blessed Trinity, which served as a host parish to Impactos.
Cursillo was the "mother of all movements" to revive faith in God, followed by Impactos and others, he said. "It was the ‘70s, a time that the Holy Spirit wanted to move Hispanics, wanted to move them to his heart through Impactos. That's when the first Masses in Spanish began," he said. "The Holy Spirt moved a group of married couples who wanted to bring Christ to the family."
Father Alvarez remembered all the jittery lay leaders giving talks over the weekends and those who stayed faithful through movement dry spells.
“I've seen couples who have grandchildren who are trying to pass on the values of Impactos," he said. "Many hours and many weekends have been given to Jesus to bring Christ to the family."
He prayed for the ministry's continued impact and reminded the founding members of their abiding call to instill faith. "All of your homes are churches where Jesus is present. You might say, 'What can I give now when I am old and I dedicate so much time to visit the dentist, the doctor?' Give advice to the young ones, it will not be wasted!"
Cuban immigrants, the Roches said they had participated in Cursillo when they sought a ministry to include their children.
"What I got out of Impactos is that the Holy Spirit exists, and the second thing is that God gives you 100-to-one and then some," Ernesto Roche said.
Claudia Ros, who serves on the coordinating group with her husband, Jose, said retreats are held every three months with about 30 families. The weekend addresses topics including social environment/media, family dialogue, and Christ and the Church, and gives families tools to improve their parenting skills and marriages. Follow-up activities include beach days, parent socials and a dinner dance.
Deacon Mike Fresneda is spiritual director.
"It's one of the few ministries in the archdiocese with the families coming together. Children come with parents. I think it's very valuable, it brings Christ into the family. Kids learn too and as they get older they learn to serve as teens," said Claudia Ros, who joined Impactos 15 years ago and now brings her 13-year-old. "We open up to everyone in the archdiocese. We have families come down from Broward County."
"We tell them, especially young families, the importance of these pivotal moments with our children. We only have a limited amount of time to be able to pass on the faith to our children," she added.
Kevin and Elena Cusano and their children, ages 12 and 16, got involved recently.
"It's difficult to find other practicing Catholic families," said Elena Cusano. "Here we find families who want the same things for their kids and we have a great time... My 12-year-old asks when is the next one. He loves to play with the other kids. We're serving and doing something in our community."
Fifty years and 436 retreats later, Ernesto Roche now sees clearly how small acts of service can impact others. "It amazes me where it's at and how it has turned out with so little effort on my part."
The Fiallos family is deeply grateful for the legacy of Impactos. "Now we understand the power of community, the power of faith, and we give thanks every day to be here," said Oscar Fiallos.
For Impactos retreat information write [email protected].