Angie Carboni conducts communal rosary and prayer sessions at the Marian Shrine of Gratitude in North York, Ont. Photo courtesy Angie Carboni

Centre seeks to spread message of strength

By 
  • September 17, 2021

Saturdays and weekday nights have taken on a special dimension in Angie Carboni’s life in recent months.

Carboni, the executive director and founder of the St. Bernadette’s Family Resource Centre, has been guiding communal rosary and prayer sessions at the Marian Shrine of Gratitude in North York, Ont.

In some semblance, these outdoor gatherings empower her to flex her same gifts as a spiritual guide that she utilized for in-person retreats before COVID-19 dismantled normal society in 2020.

The keynote message of her recent talks is that we must transcend this culture of fear and trust in Jesus’ plan for each of our lives. 

“Many people have been shut in, many people fear what’s going to happen,” said Carboni. “If you have a relationship with Jesus, you have a power within you. … He can strengthen you.”

She hosted a gathering at the Shrine of Gratitude recently to commemorate the Feast of The Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary and shared the famed story of the founder of the Shrine, Ukrainian Catholic priest Fr. Basil Cembalista.

In October 2004, he tossed a dry branch and, somehow, a sharp fragment ricocheted and pierced his right eye. He called out to the Blessed Virgin Mary, and within days, his eyesight was miraculously restored to 20/20 vision.

Carboni is inspired by accounts of people who sought and surrendered to God’s healing power. She says she has experienced this intervention firsthand. Last year, she stumbled backward on an escalator, and her instinct was to call out “Jesus” at the top of her lungs.

“I did somersaults down that escalator. The weight of the luggage I was carrying pulled me backwards. Everyone in the mall would have heard me calling ‘Jesus.’ He saved my life. The man stopped the escalator, stopped it before I could have connected with the very last step and split my head open. I went for a CT scan and the doctor smiled at me and said I didn’t have any damage.”

With new waves of COVID cases and continuing restrictions, Carboni devotes her time to appearances at the shrine and virtual retreats — anyone can request an online seminar from Carboni by reaching out to her at the St. Bernadette’s Family Resource Centre — endeavouring to remind participants “that we need to be human.”

Carboni has adapted her discipleship during the pandemic, but she relishes a return to the old normal when God says it is time.

“Jesus did not want us to be away from each other. When Mother Mary had Jesus in her womb, her instinct was to go and help Elizabeth. She gave charity. We need to be there for each other emotionally, spiritually and even physically. We have to get back to what God wants us to do.

“Sure, we can be careful, but we cannot be afraid. We need to smile again.”

Carboni added retreats to the St. Bernadette’s Family Resource Centre in 2003, inspired by what she witnessed at the 2002 World Youth Day in Toronto led by the late Pope John Paul II.

Since then, she’s designed presentations for kids, teenagers and adults. She particularly cherishes the experiences of leading retreats for individuals with intellectual or physical disabilities. Her in-person retreats include praise and worship, testimonies of faith, group prayer and offering of sacraments.

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