By Sister Geraldine Garbarino
How fortunate I was to be able to get away for a week at this retreat center for a private retreat. As soon as I drove up the winding road to the hill’s entrance, I felt an unusual peace. The grounds were so welcoming, and the quiet was what I needed. In the main patio is a large statue of Saint Francis of Assisi with his outstretched arms in a welcoming position. I felt our Lord was saying, “You are always welcome here with me to enjoy the serenity of Saint Francis.”
My time was spent in meditation, reading, taking walks and visits in the chapel. My siesta in the afternoon was very important to keep up my energy for the coming days. There were few people there during the week, which was a plus. I felt close to my family, but seemed to hear God calling me to Himself.
What a blessing to be there, and it was only forty-five minutes from Fremont. The meals were exceptionally healthy and plentiful, and I looked forward to the private table. The Lord said, “You are not here to reach out to me; you only have to receive and enjoy me. You do not have to find me; you only need to be aware of me. In so doing you will learn the meaning of peace. Come away awhile and rest with me.”
I also enjoyed reading again of Pope John the 23rd, whose peasant heritage resembled mine. He lived in wealth, but preferred to be poor, remembering his heritage.
This was a place of blessings, new choices and new decisions, in search of a deeper awareness of God. This is a setting I will return to another time as it says, “We Welcome You.” It is a safe and quiet place to be alone. Thank you Lord, for inviting me to spend time with you.
I was born June 10, 1924, in North Oakland, California. My parents, Maria and Andrea, were born in Rondonnia and Monte Bruno, two villages above Milan surrounded by the Apennine Mountains. They met and married in Manhattan, New York. Tessa, Al, Dave and Anna, my brothers and sisters, were born in New York. The family moved to North Oakland in 1911, and Frank, Adrian and I were born. I went to Sacred Heart Grammar School in North Oakland, St. Joseph’s Academy in Berkeley and entered the Sisters of the Holy Family in San Francisco in 1943. After my years of training, I taught religious education to public school children for ten years and then became the Director of the Programs. I was missioned to San Jose for six and a half years, Fresno three years, Reno eight and a half years and returned to the bay area in 1963 where I was assigned many parishes. My favorite was the Naval Air Station in Alameda, where for seventeen years I directed the program. This was the most interesting as it consisted of children and parents in the Navy who did much traveling each day was a new challenge. In 1980, I went into Pastoral Care in Castro Valley for seventeen years, where we were responsible for the sacraments at Eden and Laurel Grove Hospitals, plus fourteen rest homes. Thank God volunteers were many and assisted in the work. Now, I am retired as of 1997, and live at the Motherhouse in Fremont, California. Life is slower now, and we can make choices in our volunteer work. I garden at Ardenwood Regional Park on Mondays, and I have taken creative writing classes since 1998. Each day is precious, and I often think of all the happy memories of family, ministry, and trips, which have been an important part of my life.
Geraldine Alice Garbarino