Friday, 14 November 2014

Family Mission to Romania

Our First Family Mission Trip: Baia Mare, Romania

We decided to embark on our first family mission trip over the fall break. We headed off to Romania to connect with our friend Claudia as she worked with a congregation of Sisters to help the poor. We were blown away by the extent of their selflessness, their ministry, and their generosity. They worked us hard and we left exhausted (which is good!).  Here is the story of our mission and of course a little about celebrating our Catholic faith and family in the month of October.

Winter turns 9! 

We ended September with Winter's 9th and began October with Becca's 23rd.  Winter asked mommy for a double chocolate cake with nutella and strawberries and she got exactly what she asked for!

 Therese and Anna joined Winter in celebrating.

And so did Benedict. He wrapped up his gift in a crumple of paper.

Rebecca had quite the prolonged birthday celebration and enjoyed both a 'standing room 4 euro ticket' at the Vienna Opera to see Swan Lake and a one day pilgrimage to the Infant Child of Prague.

 In her pilgrimage to Prague, it was the time of year where the main cathedral displayed their main relic: the head of St. Luke.

Here is a picture of the holy head of St. Luke.

 A picture of Becca from the castle overlooking the city.

Ember Days

Four times a year we celebrate Ember Days (the turning of the season). We head out into nature and talk about how the changing of the season reflects the journey of our Catholic faith. This time we decided to make crosses as our activity.

Family Hike

We ended up with a vehicle for free for a day and took off with a couple friends (Margi and Susanne) and the family to our favourite spring water place: Talhof. This time, though we decided to explore a bit and do a little family hike.

Here is the magnificent bridge we had a picnic under.  We found a trail (Das Kalte-Rinne-Viadukt) that hikes along the tracks to a series of villages and comes in contact with 15 of these old bridges. We only hiked a little ways and saw two of them.

As we passed by a tunnel we came across a cave so we very excitedly explored. It was an emergency tunnel built to connect with the train tunnel. So we stood at the end of the cave as trains whipped past us in the tunnel. It was a bit intense for the kids.

The second bridge:

As we had really no clue where we were going or how far or how long we wanted to hike, we just let Tristan lead and pick the trail. It was great to see him being a leader.

He brought us back to the road which we walked back to our vehicle.

And then we filled up with spring water and Tavi tried to help too.

Feast Day: St. Isaac Jogues and the Canadian Martyrs

This was our first year celebrating the Canadian martyrs and we decided it is a feast day we'll keep celebrating in our family traditions. As Isaac Jogues and his companions were missionaries to the native indians, we decided to bake some bannock on a stick over a fire and to have indian tacos for dinner.

And of course, we must celebrate with friends: Here is Ryan trying out the freshly cooked bread dipped in butter and sprinkled with sugar and cinnamon. Yummy!

Family Mission to Baia Mare

After having received so many blessing from folks whilst being here, we decided it was time to give back. We decided to tithe the week of our fall break to serve others. So, after much deliberation of the best way to get to Romania, we procured a vehicle for 9 days and headed out. The drive from Trumau to Baia Mare took us about 9 hours.

We arrived, with an hour time change, around 7:30pm and Claudia had dinner all prepared for us. After a hot meal of soup and meeting Sister Rosalba and the girls we went to our rooms at a nearby convent.  
Here is the view from our bedroom:

Here is kinda of dark video of our sleeping quarters up in the attic.

And a picture of the convent from the outside.

The next morning was Sunday, so we headed off to a church with the Mass said in Hungarian. It was mission Sunday and we were able to speak to the people and the priest presented us and our testimony about coming home to the Catholic Church.

In the afternoon on Sunday, we headed out to enjoy our only afternoon off for the whole week! We walked through the park and up to a hill overlooking the city.

Who is Claudia? Who are the girls we are walking with? Claudia Cufoian is an unbelievable woman with a heart of gold and incredible leadership skills. She is the acting mother of 6 beautiful girls whom she is raising in the family house. There have been around 35 girls go through the family house. Sister Rosealba is the amazing Italian sister that also raises the girls, cooks great meals and helps to run the home and the day centre.

Here in this video is some traditional Romanian music and Denisa giving Kate a piggyback ride.

After some time walking and talking, we finally came to the Manastirea Greco-Catolica - small monastery for Greek Catholic nuns. They have a beautiful piece of land that was given to them over looking the city.

Here we are: top: Denisa, Kate, Rebecca, Tavi, Claudia, Anca, Sister Rosealba, Winter
Front: Benedict, Felica, Steliana, Lolo, Simona, Tristan.

Baia Mare was an industrial city and the communists built this large smoke stack to help spread the pollution from the immediate area.

The daily plan was as such: (of course all teaching was done with an interpreter)

Morning: Wake up and get ready and have breakfast around 9:00 at the Family House. At this point, all the kids were in school until noon. During this time we'd prepare for the afternoon, and our kids would play or do some homeschooling.

Lunch:  At lunch time around 65 kids would come to the Daily Centre (a separate building on the property). These kids were from poor families and would be fed lunch, teeth brushed, would be helped with homework and taught their Catechism.

Afternoon:  I would teach 2 hours of drama with a focus on virtues. I taught the younger boys about the virtue of courage using drama and Bible stories. I taught the older class about the virtue of trust. Rebecca would teach 2 groups of girls for an hour her 'Little Flowers' virtue program that she taught Winter last year.

Evening: For three of the 5 nights, Becca and I did sessions for parents and youth.

7:30pm - Supper
11:00pm - Blessed Sleep

I took the kids to the park on Monday morning as Becca needed some time to prepare and I was already to teach the first drama classes.

The park was fantastic! Check out the cool contraptions to play on!

Here is Becca and Winter learning about virtues and saints with Claudia and the Day Centre girls.

And here is Anca with some of the youth displaying the word 'Trust' with their bodies.

One of the mornings we took a walk with Claudia to the market and to pick up the girls from school. Here are a few of the pictures:

Here is the square where Mass was held when the communists took the churches and gave them all to the Greek Orthodox. So the faithful would stand in the cold to have Mass in the middle of winter. Claudia said you could hear many stamping of feet as people tried to keep their toes warm during the Mass.

All Souls Day was coming up soon so the market place was full of flowers and wreathes and candles with which to adorn the graves of loved ones.

And there were walls of cabbages as the folks made ready the sauerkraut for the winter season.

A huge pile of paprika!

We walked into the old city and saw the Church (below) where we went to Mass on the past Sunday and the old clock tower.

And then a treat of ice cream from Claudia!

On the evenings of Wed. and Thursday we spoke to parents on how to build a strong Catholic family and how to raise your kids to be saints.

What did our kids do all day?

They helped out and loved the kids! They participated in the drama and Winter participated in the Little Flowers Virtues. Then if we were both teaching at the same time, Winter helped to look after the youngest two.  They worked hard and played hard. They weren't shy and they were super cooperative. I was very proud of all 5 of them!

Katie helping Claudia make breakfast.

Tristan looking after Tavi.

A picture of the house and backyard from the top floor of the Day Centre.

Our family, Claudia, and the kids at the Day Centre. Our last day and our good-bye. They prayed many blessings over us as we left. It was very touching.

Rebecca and the girls with their Little Flowers virtues wreathes.

This picture is of the older group acting out snapshots of the story of the Shipwreck and St. Paul.

Me and the boys in the drama classes.

On the last night we spoke to the youth volunteers about preparing yourself to be in a marriage for a lifetime. Here is a photo of the some of the youth at the session.

And as quick as a bunny, Friday was here and we had to say good-bye. Now, at the front of the Centre there is a pastry shop that they own and sell pastries to help pay for workers and costs. So, joy of joys, we had pastries every morning for breakfast! Here is our own special cake made for us by the workers in the pastry shop.

Our last breakfast and final good byes.

Felicia and Katie.

Katie and Felicia and Lolo.

In the attic, they had their own chapel and we had Mass after the sessions with the parents in the evenings. We came up here to pray and sing together one last time before we left.

The Pastry Shop.

Driving through Satu Mare which is on the way to Baia Mare.

A rest stop in Hungary!

All Souls Day

We arrived home late on All Saints Day (alas, no party for this year) and then spent the octave of All Souls Day praying for the faithful departed that may be in purgatory. During this octave, under the regular conditions, we could receive indulgences for those in purgatory. So together, as a family, we prayed in the grave yard on 4 different days and gained indulgences for our departed loved ones.

Sermon from the Vineyard: Discipline can save a child's soul

At the parent session in Romania we spent some time talking about the importance of discipline. It is a topic that many folks have opinions on and most of us hate doing. It is hard enough to discipline ourselves, let alone our children. And yet, if we don't discipline ourselves to discipline our kids life is actually more difficult. For the last few years I've been using the phrase 'Discipline is a gift'. I would tell my kids often how I'm giving them a gift by having them stand in the corner, do extra chores, or pay money for something they broke. Of course I'm not receiving the gratitude deserving of the great gift of discipline, but it'll come some day.

Just this week we had a discussion at the supper table (another reason to make supper time mandatory and the high family moment of the day) and the topic came down to discipline. I can't remember exactly how it got there, but I'm guessing it was surrounding the need to spank Katie yet again. And the discussion dove to a new depth. I talked with the kids about the need to learn to obey their parents so that they can learn to obey the teachings of the Church which is in essence obeying God. If one cannot learn to obey (primitively out of fear or perfectly out of love) then the eternity of one's soul is at stake. Jesus is pretty clear on this point. One poignant example is that if we don't help the poor, feed the hungry, cloth the naked, etc. then Jesus states that He doesn't know us and we go to hell (see Mt. 25). Obedience is a virtue. One that begins to be developed when we are children, not only so we grow up to be happy, productive citizens, but also for the eternal salvation of our soul.

The table became really quiet. Tristan and Winter nodded their heads. They asked if we enjoyed disciplined. I explained to them how we hated it and took no pleasure in consequencing and punishing our beloved children, but that we had to be obedient to God who informs us that we have an obligation to raise our kids to love their God and their neighbour.

It's a big responsibility being a parent. God help us to be a model of obedience to our children.

For the Grandparents:

Dressing up for Sunday Mass!

 Tavi loves to help daddy sweep the floors on Saturday mornings.

Benedict's night cap that he sleeps with every night. Crazy kid.

Prayer Requests and Thank-you:

1. Unfortunately we still have not had any contact with the specialist and a possible solution regarding the tumour in the bottom of Winter's foot. Continue to pray for Winter. 
2.  We had a break through with Becca's blood pressure. She is still on medications, but after various diets we've tested we've noticed a definite drop in her blood pressure when she eats vegetarian or rather more fruitarian. This is the first sign of something working in over a year. Deo Gratias.

Thank you for your prayers.

We would love to hear from you!

Love, Kenton, Rebecca, Winter, Tristan, Benedict, Kate, and Tavi     

Mailing Address: Schloss Trumau Schlossgasse 21 2521 Trumau, Austria If you would like to financially support us - the easiest way is probably by paypal.  Our email is Or online via the ITI website (just make a note that it is for the Biffert family).  Or just drop off the donation at St. Mary's Church in Red Deer and they will get it to my father.

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