Although forgiveness can be difficult, it’s apparently an act that many people wish to attempt.
That’s how Lisa Rustici explained the healthy turnout of nearly 60 women who gathered March 25 at Our Lady of Lourdes Parish in Elmira for an evening of reflection that she organized, “A Cup of Forgiveness.”
“What I seem to be hearing is it got them jump-started. They knew they needed to forgive, and didn’t know how to start,” said Rustici, who serves as director of sacramental preparation for the cluster of Our Lady of Lourdes, St. Casimir and Charles Borromeo.
Rustici observed that the gathering brought out a large cross-section of women — “ones in their 80s or older, some in their 20s, married, widows. It really crosses generations,” she said. “A few were going through a divorce, a few were having real issues in the workplace, with family in general — not having talked to a sibling in awhile, not having talked to a daughter or son. There were even some who needed to forgive people who were no longer alive.”
The evening began with a silent soup supper, with participants bringing their own cups to reflect on the “cup of forgiveness” theme. A video was then shown conveying the message that if you don’t forgive today, you may not have tomorrow to do so.
“You really could’ve heard a pin drop,” Rustici remarked.
She said other points of discussion were the different stages of forgiveness, and “how forgiveness doesn’t mean you should be hurt again, be a doormat — sometimes you have to forgive from a distance.” Rustici also acknowledged that not everybody may be seeking the forgiveness you wish to offer: “When you forgive, it’s for yourself.”
A candlelight ceremony ended the evening, along with the singing of “Go Light Your World” as a reminder to promote forgiveness and harmony at every opportunity.
“Countries can’t get along if people can’t get along. It’s that whole ripple-effect thing,” Rustici said.
The event lasted for four hours and was open to all faiths. Rustici noted that one participant was a woman from out of town who had stopped in, curious, because she was walking by Our Lady of Lourdes and saw all the cars parked.
Rustici has organized these women’s events for the past six or seven years. In addition to one night during Lent, an evening gathering takes place during Advent with a similar structure that includes guest speakers, meditations, song, time for journaling, and/or videos.
“I used to go on retreat faithfully every year and just loved the idea of doing a women’s retreat. I don’t know, it’s become a real ministry for me,” Rustici remarked. “The thing has grown, and I’ve grown as a person, at least in this regard. I feel I’m doing what I should be doing. Things fall into place; you feel good about it.”
Rustici said she senses a need for increased Catholic adult-education opportunities in the Southern Tier, and the reflection nights are a way to do so without involving the cost and travel of going on an actual retreat.
“You really have to bring it to the people,” she said.
She added that attendance has increased steadily over the years, with the turnout on March 25 being “by far the highest.”
“This is truly a welcome sight for those of us who have seen this grow,” said Tere McCahill, a frequent participant who attends Our Lady of Lourdes.