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Re: Drug Rehab Cult Comunita Cenacolo
Posted by: Jay ()
Date: October 31, 2012 03:11PM

Just one more thing and then I'll let this be for now. I wish to address the issue of how difficult Cenacolo can be, as some people here think I am whitewashing it. I can't speak to the experience of others. I know of at least three members who lost loved ones while they were in Community. This undoubtedly is a great cross to bear. Each person has their own difficulties, brings in their own pains.

Speaking solely to my own case, I just don't see how, looking back, the way some treated me or the things I experienced in any way comes even close to the trials I underwent in life prior to entering. Take the fact that when I was a teenager 50% of my face was chemically burned. If I remember correctly, only one person in Community ever knew this. He suffered burns to his face in a kitchen fire and had to spend a couple months recuperating. His was a different type of burn, not nearly as deep as mine, but I shared my experience in private to give him hope. Everybody could see that my face was perfectly normal, so I opened up with him and told how I had to work to heal chemical burns on my face for four years. That way he could see that the power of skin to rejuvenate was powerful, and he had nothing to fear. In my own case, I didn't look in a mirror for a year because I was too grotesque looking. Then, because I got no family support, I had to heal it completely on my own, without a doctor. I found a way to do this, but it was an unbelievable daily struggle. When I was in Community I sometimes drew strength from this prior experience to deal with what was going on, knowing that if I could go through that total horror I could go through this. You just can't imagine what it is like to go through that kind of hell if you haven't experienced it. And I'm sorry, slipping on the floor while being filmed just doesn't compare. It's like being expected to complain about a bad head cold you had four years ago when you grew up battling cancer. I'd take four years of Community before four years of feeling like "Darkman" and being in need of synthetic skin any day! Goodness knows back then I wished every day I could wear a mask. Suffer burns on any part of your body, there is nothing more psychologically damaging than having nearly the entire lower half of your face chemically torched. Sorry, I'm not trying to defend things like the spoon game, but it just doesn't compare. And when you've been through things like that like I have, you develop an inner resiliency and strength to cope with these smaller things, even if that strength doesn't show on the outside. You offer them up as sufferings to God, trusting in Him because he brought you through those previous greater trials. Mike says I should be honest with myself. What he doesn't understand is a person who has been through trials much more severe than Community in life isn't going to think more than four years later that mistreatment back then by people who are now his friends is really that important. Pete Wierzba tormented me in high school for a year. He appeared again as a co-worker years later in my first job, saying he was sorry to another worker but never getting up the gumption to apologize to me. Still, we were great friends while he was there. Should I have been "honest with myself", brought it up with him, and hated him no matter what all those years later? Should I do this to all those in Community that I've seen at all the festivals since 2008 that you have not been at? Does that make any sense at all, or should I rather file away my Community experiences under the "Challenging But Not as Challenging as the Various Levels of Hell I Went Through in My Teens and 20's" file? You think it is being dishonest somehow to do the latter.

I was battling addictions also in my teen years (25 years now in recovery) that led to a severe anxiety condition. I did not reach the status of being an "old guy" in Community, but thanks to the grace of God I am a VERY old guy when it comes to having a spiritual walk of recovery. I don't even want to relate here the sheer horror that was endured doing the earlier years of this and the dramatic effects it all had on my life. That went for over 10 years before I finally managed to find peace with the anxiety and its reverberating effects on career and other things. I too suffered the loss of a family member in the middle of it, and found myself in the early years put in institutions totally devoid of God and hope. In Community, I found the place where I should have been 20 years before, and I support it because I see in it other young men and women being given a second chance at life that I didn't have. But while the suffering I experienced in Community was great, it just wasn't in the same league as the suffering before. It's like comparing Purgatory with Hell. Both have suffering, but one just isn't quite of the same grade as the other. At least, again, that's the way it was for my life. Everyone's experience is different.

I owe it all to God for pulling me through the previous trials, for allowing me the time in Community that I did have, and for pulling me out near the time my brother was about to kill himself so he could be stopped. I couldn't have gone through any of it if I didn't have Him carrying me through. But what is the most bizarre thing is that for some of the things, like my burns, I am now glad that they happened. If it wasn't for them I couldn't have gotten through my later battles. The memory of them carried me through the first few years of the fight with my anxiety condition, knowing that if I could survive them I could survive this. And now with my Community experience I am using the same idea, that if I could survive with them I could survive the current easier religious community I am with now. What doesn't kill me by the Lord's grace makes me stronger. Guys in Community who do it well learn this principle. I've seen a lot of guys learn this and really grow from it. Good for them. They will be the ones in the best position for living life when they exit.

To any parents, yes if you bring your child into Community they will experience suffering. Yes, at times the suffering will be difficult for them. But it's a suffering that builds in them strength and character, qualities that they will need later out in the world.

Delilah Ashley--working with your father in Community to give you and your life the dignity you deserved made it all worth it. If nothing else was accomplished, you were worth it all. R.I.P.

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Re: Drug Rehab Cult Comunita Cenacolo
Posted by: Jay ()
Date: February 08, 2013 02:55PM

I will soon be going into the postulancy phase of the religious order I am in, and that will require me to be off the Internet for a while. It is because of this that I decided to post the "prequel" story to my time in Cenacolo. Nobody else posting here has ever heard it, and while it certainly isn't more important in any way than anyone else's story--God goes through many different means to get people on the track of healing--it may work well enough to show some parents that Cenacolo is a place blessed by God. It's an incredibly long story that took 18 months before I did my experience, but I will try to shorten it as much as possible.

I was coming off the heels of a divorce (from a civil marriage) in 2005. That had put a lot of strain on my family, and I think helped fuel my brother's cocaine addiction because he was a private investigator helping me but it was so personal to all of us that we were strained to the limit. Still, after it was over I thought things were on the right track. My mother said over the summer that she thought there was something wrong with him, but I thought she was being paranoid.

One day in front of the Blessed Sacrament I felt God tell me to tell him that God loved him. I did this, but I didn't understand why because I thought he was OK. Three weeks later I learned he had a cocaine addiction.

A few months later Ivan Dragicevich from Medjugorje was coming to L.A. for another round of his talks at local churches. He'd done this many times before, but this was the first time he was doing it at my home church. It just so happened that his trip coincided with my brother's coming into town from North Carolina. I invited him to go because I thought it would do him good. In 1989 and 1990 I had been to Medjugorje to seek forgiveness for my own addictions, and I had an experience in nearby Tijhalina where Mary let me know everything was going to be OK.

So my brother went but days later was caught smoking pot. A big argument ensued, but we made up before he went back to NC. Then a friend of mine and I caught another of Ivan's talks, and at this church the pastor spoke about a community in Medjugorje called Campo della Vita, or "Field of Life". It was a community of recovering drug addicts. I began to believe God was connecting Medjugorje to my brother's drug problem, that maybe he was being called to go there.

I asked the priest after for more information but we didn't have a paper or pen to write anything down on. I needed to know the name again of the place. I told him I would call and ask for it later, but a month passed and I hadn't.

This was in early 2006. I need to set the clock back again to December 2005, to when I was invited to a Catholic talk on St. Don Bosco at a house near San Juan Capistrano. I saw in town a tremendous antique shop. As a history teacher I was always looking for new stuff for the classroom, so I vowed to return to buy some things in the future. So stepping forward in time again a few months, I went a few hours early to try to go to the shop before I attended the meeting. But I ended up arriving only when they were closing. I took a walk around Capistrano instead. I wound up at the modern basilica, where I prayed for my family for a few minutes. Upon leaving I saw a brochure for a Medjugorje trip that had some interesting quotes on it. It was only three weeks away--too late for my brother to go--but I wanted to keep it. I put it in my car, went to a coffee shop to kill some time, then went to the meeting.

A couple hours later I returned home and took another look at the flyer while still in my car in our garage. I noticed there was an itinerary list on the back, the last part of which stated "We will visit the drug rehab center Campo della Vita".

I must have looked white as a ghost. I had just driven 120 miles round trip, been to a church I'd never been in before, picked up a flyer I'd never seen before that was put there by someone I didn't know, all to find again the name of a place I desperately needed that was on the other side of the world and advertised nowhere in southern California, and on a trip down south which had nothing to do with it. I actually looked in my rear view mirror to see if the face of an angel might be staring at me, as this was typical of how God would answer my prayers--with complete surprise.

I staggered into the house and fired up the computer. I found a website for the location with an English page, but was left only with more questions. The people at this place were half my brother's age. It talked about parents sending their kids there. He was a parent himself. How could they help him?

After this I opened up with my family about it. But of course it was rejected.

Over the next several months, through another "coincidence" that bore a similarity to this one, I found out that Campo della Vita was not a single location, but a part of the worldwide Comunita Cenacolo, and that they had two houses in Florida. The very location was phenomenal. My sister-in-law's family were scattered throughout the region from South Carolina to Miami. She even had a distant relative in St. Augustine itself. God was not calling my brother to Medjugorje. He was calling him to a place that was in his wife's family's geographic backyard! He was opening up to him a place where he could go that, once he had been in it long enough, could be visited by short plane trips in all directions.

I opened up about this to my family. Still it was rejected. And the fighting got worse and worse.

Finally one day I went to a local church and poured out my emotions, saying that if God would allow it, I would take on my brother's suffering. I asked for a suffering that he might be relieved of his. My only requests were that it would be physical (from my own addictions and other problems I had had enough of emotional difficulties), and that it would be something new so that when it came I would know it was from God.

Less than two weeks later I came down with conjunctivitis (pink eye). Along with the physical illness, which lasted a few weeks, it nearly destroyed my new job working as a teacher at Edison Middle School. Since it was the beginning of the school year and I was new, I was especially susceptible to problems caused by a long-term absence. I found out that none of the sub teachers had followed my lesson plans, so any plans for spending time on discipline in the first few days I was back went up in smoke. I suffered from out of control classrooms for the entire year as I feared for my job because a nuclear bomb went off over my discipline plan. In other words, I experienced the perfect level of physical suffering that I had asked for, strong enough to be felt yet not strong enough to destroy us. And of course it was completely new, just like I'd asked. I told the Lord when I prayed for the suffering that if He granted it I would return to the church and give thanks. I returned while still sick, completely freaked out, bowing with head to the floor and wondering what the heck was going on. I'd only read about stuff like this happening to people, not actually experienced it.

I went to my brother and told him about this. He completely misunderstood. He didn't understand that if this was from God then why was he still suffering. I told him this was to show him that what was being brought to us--Cenacolo--wasn't a figment of my imagination but something actually from God. My prayer for suffering being answered was proof of that. If he went into Cenacolo he would receive healing, and that would be how my suffering would alleviate his.

But still, deaf ears. In the meantime I contacted Cenacolo myself. I hadn't before because I wanted my brother to do it, but it became clear that would never happen. I was invited then to the Festival of Life.

So this is the latter half of 2006. Sometime around then I had prayed for God to show me in a dream whether or not this was truly an answer to our problem. That night I had a dream I was in a small town in the Arctic. The people were Christians, but not of the Catholic Church. They depended entirely on a train arriving every day to give them all their goods. This is going to sound funny, but I stood inside one of their houses hiding behind some drapes because I had no clothes. Yet it didn’t matter to them. Everyone from the town was coming in with the goods and smiling, talking, and laughing.

The symbolism was clearly evident. The people were the people of Cenacolo, who were of a different "branch" of the Catholic faith, focusing on a different issue than the pro-life one I have been involved with for half my life. The Arctic represented the radical departure from living in Los Angeles that Florida would bring. My nakedness stood for my sins, and the train and goods were the providence Community receives.

So in late 2006 I went to my first Festival of Life. It was so surreal. This was my "Arctic" community come to life. What would this place I had a vision of in my dreams be like? Why had God been leading me there for a year? Who were these people?

Before the event I went to Mass across the street at Our Lady of Good Counsel. At one point in the Mass I felt a tremendous presence from the Holy Spirit fall upon me, telling me that if my family were to join Cenacolo, everything with us would be healed and there would be tremendous peace. But little would I know still more miracles were coming.

My contact introduced me to a priest to whom I told my story. I told him this must be from God. He suddenly sat up and bluntly said, "Of course it is!" This priest was the former pastor of the Basilica of San Juan Capistrano. You got that right. I ended up flying thousands of miles across a continent to tell a story of what happened to me at that church, and the person hearing it and confirming it was from God was that same church's former pastor. That's well over 2000 miles and tens of thousands of parishes in the country we are talking about here.

I met Bishop Baker. Later that December I emailed him the story and asking if he could say a Mass for my brother. A month later on January 26th he responded. He said he would say the Mass the next day. He didn't know how that day was special. It happened to be my brother's birthday. The bishop of the entire Catholic Church in South Carolina, some 110 parishes in all, was going to say a Mass for my brother and it happened to fall on his birthday. God, of course, knew that. He timed it well.

Soon I was to get the idea that there might be something for me in this Cenacolo thing as well. Since my civil divorce I had been entertaining the idea of going back to my original childhood dream--the priesthood. I felt that God had for well over a year been playing me like a rag doll with Cenacolo, but maybe there was a reason for it. So I returned in April and met leaders like Albino for the first time. Later in September I began my experience.

I also had the reason of wanting to see if my brother would follow. He is strong in a lot of things but for something like this he needed someone to show it could be done. I gave it my best effort, but I faced some things I wasn't prepared for. People think that guys playing jokes on me and treating me badly was the worst of it for me, but while that was difficult it wasn't the worst pain that occupied my mind daily. The worst was that I couldn't tell what I was, someone who had come from a broken life just like everyone else. I wanted to but there were risks because my addictions weren't drugs and in Cenacolo that is the common background of most of the guys. The ones that I had would have been the subject of jokes, and for that reason I was told by the Cenacolo leadership not to reveal them. I could say that I had been to Medjugorje, but I couldn't say why. I couldn't say it was for the reasons these guys go, that I'd visited Medjugorje for the same reasons when I was their age. As a result I was often nervous, feeling lost in an environment that, on top of things, was completely alien to the urban sprawl I am used to in L.A. But looking back I realize that for whatever reasons that's probably how most guys in Cenacolo feel, lost and misunderstood. The need to feel understood is very powerful. What guys in Cenacolo learn more is how to understand.

Then came the explosive ending at Lourdes which changed everything. Imagine if God were to take your whole life as you knew it away from you for a year, only to end the experience by fulfilling your greatest desires to a degree you could never imagine. Fusing my loves of history and religion was the most incredible experience of my life. July 16th, 2008--the 150th anniversary of the last apparition at Lourdes--a spiritual birthday I now celebrate every year as well as my physical one. It was the greatest night of my life, like the finale of a July 4th fireworks festival. It was the Resurrection brought in a way I had never seen or experienced before.

I no longer worry about my family. God gave me assurance while I was in Cenacolo that they would be OK in the end, even if my brother didn't enter. Now I am here at a novitiate of a different order, and plans are to move into the postulancy phase in about two months, where I will no longer be able to be on the Internet.

Being someone who strongly believes in logic and facts, I once did my best to calculate the variables of the story I experienced happening by chance. I found I could figure the variables for only half of all the events, but when combined they made for a chance of 1 in 70 million x all the known stars in the Universe. Some people, those who didn't live it, might say that this is all "nonsense", that there was nothing "mystical" about it. With figures like the above I beg to differ.

When all this ended I asked the Lord to again appear to me in a dream and tell me where to go from there. I used to do this as a kid, when I had a much stronger faith than I do today, and He would usually use the home church as the setting to tell me whatever He wanted. True to form this happened again. I was in the robes as a postulant of an unidentified order and a special celebration was going on. My friends from Cenacolo had flown all the way from Florida to participate in it. They jumped out of a car and we all marched into the church together, singing "Ama tuo il Signor, con tutto cuore, con tutto l'anima de la mente, e la forza tue" (forgive if my Italian is incorrect!). "Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength". Entering the church with my Cenacolo brothers symbolized the passing from one stage of God's plan for me to another, from one Catholic institution to the next.

I thank God for the benefit of having had such a powerful experience with such wonderful people. I thank Him for the bad times that made me strong, and for the good times that gave me consolation. I thank Him for the strong persecutions which prepared me for lesser persecutions I have felt in my current order. I thank Him for my Cenacolo friends who have supported me during my time with this order. I thank Him for the many times that I have been able to be back and visit, as well as in advance for the times I hope to return in the future. I know I fall far short of being worthy of any of these gifts, but He showers His love anyways.

I thank Him for my entire life.

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Re: Drug Rehab Cult Comunita Cenacolo
Posted by: Nibsy ()
Date: November 29, 2015 06:27AM

For 9 months from January to October of this year I lived on Cenacolo's main American campus in St. Augustine Florida. These people - Community Cenacolo as a whole, Our Lady of Hope, and the leadership of Our Lady of Hope - are no good. They stole things and money from me and my family; they lied to me and my family. And I have a host of other complaints to make against them.

Over the course of my time at one of their two communes in Florida, I became increasingly disgusted with the leadership. Marco, the 35 year-old Italian consecrated with about 12 years in Community who last year came to be in charge of Community America along with Albino and Joyce, on several occasions inappropriately grabbed Juno, a 19 year-old young man for whom he had come to have an intense, creepy obsession, in the testicles and other private areas. Marco had Juno sleeping in the same room. He ensured that Juno was working with him virtually all day every day. On occasion Marco had very strange private conversations with the young man, telling him that they would be priests together in Community forever. (Juno was obviously very much "weirded out" by these talks.)

Eventually, the object of Marco's deep and strange affection was transferred to Our Lady of Joyful Hope in Alabama; the consecrated shortly afterward saying in "Revision of Life" that Juno's absence made him feel as if his own "heart had been torn out." But I'm not sure why Marco was so upset considering that, wouldn't you know, it turned out that Marco had planned to himself transfer to Alabama a few weeks following Juno's move. At Our Lady of Joyful Hope, Marco continued to keep Juno close to him and to grant him special favors, even allowing Juno to use a computer to check Facebook and print pictures of girls the young man had known in the outside world. (Communication with the outside world, apart from very infrequent trips into town and to other houses, is almost non-existent for the typical American member of Community; when it does happen it is tightly controlled and monitored, and would certainly never involve electronic means of communication. Facebook is a huge no-no.). This extremely liberal allowance and incredible bending of the rules was made by the same man who had screamed at the entire house after a radio had been discovered in someone's possessions.

The "responsibles" - that is, the top leaders of the particular community in which I lived - Chris Felix and Jeremy Reiser were guilty of killing wildlife and feral cats and kittens in the area in cruel and heinous ways. These two could be real bullies, at one point taking me alone deep into the woods to intimidate and scream at me. If it's necessary to pick which responsible is worse, the choice is decidedly Jeremy Rieser. A tall and bulky 38 year-old man, Jeremy is a violent and mentally unstable bully. He takes out his anger and aggression in unhealthy, damaging, and sometimes shocking ways. For instance, he once remarked in casual conversation about a fantasy he had had to rape and do violent things to a girl of 16 he had seen at the beach. One morning while in a terrible mood he vented his anger and frustration by chewing out a 17 year-old boy (Pick on someone your own size!). Jeremy will often speak in a threatening way towards someone who has especially angered him, threatening to or expressing the desire to smash in the head of the person he is addressing. In his treatment of animal life he is, to say the least, extremely rough and violent; and, considering the bullying and the rape fantasy, I get the idea that he takes pleasure in engaging in this sort of behavior. I already mentioned that he and Chris killed feral cats and kittens, but he also has smashed a baby bird with a hoe and has been engaged in an ongoing obsessive crusade against the snakes on the property, nailing them to trees and smashing their heads into pavement. (I have no problem with the necessary eradication of venomous snakes, and I understand that killing a snake is a less serious matter than killing a large mammal. But Jeremy's behavior is childish; and both the pleasure he takes in killing snakes and the way in which he kills them are disturbing.).

As you can see, when I call Jeremy "mentally unstable", I mean it quite literally. But this insanity is more than extreme aggression. He talks about demons - literal evil spiritual intelligences - which he encounters and which torment him. For Jeremy, everything in his surroundings and immediate experience is full of meaning and signs of the working of intelligent, incorporeal forces. (For instance: "I looked at the window and could see the outline of the shield of St. Michael." and "That was the devil speaking through you!"). Among the many ways he putts off and alarms guests are the descriptions he gives to them of his encounters with angels and demons. It is nothing short of amazing that Mr. Rieser was given a position of trust, and that he is likely to be the next head responsible of Our Lady of Hope. For him to be in the position he holds, several people are guilty of serious lapses of judgement.

Marco, Chris Felix, and Jeremy Reiser are not isolated cases. In the past, responsibles of the two male communities in Florida have been guilty of purchasing drugs with money stolen from a house budget, using drugs at Our Lady of Hope and Mary Immaculate, using inhalants (I've seen "older guys" doing this.), torturing wildlife, giving to themselves limited slots available for religious pilgrimages, and taking advantage of their access to vehicles to sneak off in the middle of the night and have sex with girls from Maria Gorretti.

A mean and rude person, Albino is, in my opinion, himself unfit for leadership. One gets the impression that he has contempt for the young men in the program. For those in Community he has nothing but insults, belittling words, and barked orders. He disregards the rules and procedures of Community life and functioning, speaking and using his smart phone during rosaries and interrupting people "maintaining their commitments" to make frivolous and unserious remarks. Moreover, I have seen him mock a mentally challenged individual before the house. These sorts of behavior show disrespect for those struggling with the difficulties of living Community life.
How can the American Community leadership be so consistently horrible? Clearly there is some sort of systematic issue.

There are other problems with Community Cenacolo besides the obvious bad qualities of much of its leadership. I think it's a sort of cult; it at least has many cultish qualities, and life in a Cenacolo community is much like one would picture life in a cult. It is communal life, and life in which the leadership controls and monitors all access and interaction with the outside world, as rare as such access and interaction occurs. All letters coming in or out of the community, including letters to or from parents, are read by some member of the leadership (Not merely checking the insides of envelopes and packages for contraband, which would be understandable, but reading the entire text of letters.). According to Chris Felix, the leadership used to alter the text of some letters sent from members to parents before those letters were sent out.

Communication between members of an individual commune is tightly controlled as well. "Young guys", people with less than six months in Community, are not allowed to be alone with, or even speak to, each other.

Ex-members who have left without Community's or Albino's blessing, who have "left too early", are vilified or said to have been clearly in the wrong.

There is an intense devotion to Mother Elvira, the founder of Community Cenacolo. Her picture is displayed prominently in Cenacolo dining halls, sometimes surrounded by rays of sunlight. Often when viewing videos of the nun, "older guys" will openly weep. Stories are told of her visiting members in dreams. "She will be a saint!" it is said.

Community Cenacolo America caters to the rich and the extremely wealthy. This is a complaint that has been made by many current and past members. Community is close to wealthy families in Florida and to a group of wealthy "doomsday preppers" in Alabama. (The latter donated the property - which had been intended to be a safe haven after Y2K - on which Our Lady of Joyful Hope is situated.). A good proportion of the young men living in the houses in Florida and Alabama come from families in high socio-economic groups. From my experience and from what I've seen, special favors - quick transfers to better houses and to Europe, soft treatment, being dispensed from certain rules, leadership positions, etc. - are granted to members with rich families.

I have said that the organization is not above lying. This was case with their summer newsletter of this year. Contained in the newsletter was a single article, a supposed "testimony" given by Erica, a Cenacolo missionary. But Erica complained that she had never given the testimony, that the words within the testimony that were hers were taken from an application essay she had written for college, and that she had no idea how anyone from Community Cenacolo had gotten a hold of her essay. One wonders who was responsible for putting words in the missionary's mouth, and if the guilty party may have been Joyce, Albino, or both.

Community is very careful about members' access to and interaction with guests. I have seen people advised to lie to and withhold information from young men at Community for the "working days" period - an orientation phase intended to allow the potential Community entry to discern if he wants to join. Before I left, it was discovered that someone had told a person on orientation that Community "sucked", and that this comment had played an important role in convincing that person not to join. For this reason, the entire house received a stern, angry lecture and stream of insults from Albino: "You are losers. You were on the bottom of the society outside." No "safe", normal group would react to derogatory remarks against it and dissent in such an angry and dramatic way.

I'd rather be on the bottom of normal society than a member of any sort in Community Cenacolo.

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Re: Drug Rehab Cult Comunita Cenacolo
Posted by: jmoore2141 ()
Date: January 07, 2016 12:25PM

Glad to see this thread is still active and sorry to hear the work camp is still operating. It seems like just a lifetime ago that I was expelled several weeks prior to parents day weekend for conspiring to organize a demonstration "so vile" that Albino would have been left with the choice of allowing his check writing lifeblood to be scandalized beyond repair or grant his unequivocal blessing and full confidence that myself and my closest buddies were truly redeemed and free to leave his hell hole should we so choose. After digesting the dynamic it was worth a shot and I felt alive! I knew the bastard wasn't sending out my letters and so, after several months of no contact, I went ninja. I jimmied a lock in the electrical room borrowing some speaker wire and a old landline phone. The phone sat hidden for a day until I was able to sneak out on another night sortie and tap into the the outside phone service of the neighboring Baptist Church. That dial-tone confirmed that Albino was lying to me and I knew that anything had to be better than staying put. That decision worked to my advantage because I was soon attacked by 8-10 young adults and I knew I would never place myself in such a powerless position again. There is no hope in Comunita Cencaolo and I'd recommend never letting them drop you in Jacksonville when St. Augustine is within walking distance. I helped a selfless recovering addict repair homes for a week and sold sunglasses in the historic depot over 4th of July (2004) weekend in order to earn cash for a bus ticket back "home". Family is family but I never again took a dime or favor from the people who placed me there. The Community is a very dark place that claims to follow the "Light". I wish them all they deserve but am happy to think of them less and less each year.

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Re: Drug Rehab Cult Comunita Cenacolo
Posted by: Jay ()
Date: February 21, 2016 12:16PM

Wow, I never thought I would be posting to this thread again. But I was about to look at the Cenacolo website again, as I hadn't after a while, and on Yahoo I saw this site again so out of curiosity I checked it out as I hadn't been here in a while either.

It's been a few years almost since I last posted and I have now been in another religious community, this one devoted to education, for nearly four years. Given that I spent less than a year in Community my experience is not the most expensive, but I do wish to say this. In terms of its daily activities and what goes on with the program, the Community did not invent a lot of things. Sister Elvira borrowed a lot from the ways that religious communities have operated for centuries.

For example, the idea of being cut off from the outside world for a time is nothing new. In formation in my community you cannot read a newspaper and are not allowed Internet and there is certainly no contact with family for at least a year. Getting chewed out by the leadership wasn't invented by Cenacolo either. The novice masters of many a religious community over the past 2000 years have done this. I got it in Cenacolo and I've gotten it here. True, it was to a greater degree in Cenacolo, but then Cenacolo is overall more strict (though I would have to say my current experience has been even more challenging, though that is largely due to things that happened in the past four years outside of it that influenced the inside).

And you don't have to enter another community to find out Cenacolo didn't invent this stuff. All you have to do is read the Diary of St. Faustina. In it she describes an incident in which she washed dishes for the community, but some sisters were out for an event that evening and came home later, eating dinner after the others. They left their plates in the sink, and another sister noticed and scolded St. Faustina. She also made St. Faustina sit on a table and stay in silence as she washed the dishes, so that whenever another sister came by and saw St. Faustina not helping she scolded her too. She got a full round by the whole house this way. So you see, the Community never invented giving "help" or staying in silence. This is a way of community life that was borrowed from a history of strict Catholic religious life.

There are other, less challenging similarities between my current status and former time in Cenacolo, such as doing Giro Casa--four years straight (will it ever end??? Ha-ha!).

Virtually all of the labor aspects of Community come from centuries of monastic life. How did monks for centuries live but through daily hard labor and prayer?

Finally, while Cenacolo does borrow on the monastic lifestyle no one should expect to find a group of highly spiritual, loving, selfless monks living there. Everyone living in Cenacolo (and I do mean EVERYONE, which included myself) comes from broken homes and/or broken lives. Now I did not see anyone there ever abuse any animals, and the only ones that were killed were pigs killed by farmer Allen, and if I remember correctly one of our birds was once killed for its meat. Oh, and one rat because we had cats too wimpy to take him out. Now I am not at all saying that abuse wasn't done. I have no reason to doubt anyone's stories here, especially since we are talking about different people versus those who were there eight years ago. All I know is I never anything other than the above.

Some Community members have been to places like prison before, and they can bring that mentality with them. And that's what produces the things like what some of the people here experienced and I experienced. But the program is itself thoroughly monastic and Catholic in character. Not the modern, liberal, feel-good Catholicism that we sadly have today in so much of the Church, but the hard scrabble, radical reliance on God type of Catholicism that the Church so desperately needs today.

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Re: Drug Rehab Cult Comunita Cenacolo
Posted by: Jay ()
Date: February 27, 2016 12:01PM

A few more things I have thought to write about.

First, in reference to any assault of a sexual nature, or really any kind of assault, that might happen in a religious community obviously needs to be dealt with. I should say this. There was a case of a man who quite possibly had the shortest time in Community that ever was when I was there. He was in it only two or three hours when he touched another guy inappropriately and said "You're cute!" He was promptly thrown out. I heard that he had then been put in a mental hospital. This is why there was traditionally a ban on homosexuals in the Community. The guys there had enough on their plate to deal with already. Now I am not saying any individual mentioned on this board is guilty of inappropriate behavior. I have no idea. I can say with certainty, however, that during my time nearly ten years ago such behavior would have been considered unthinkable and strange among just about every member, from the responsibles on down.

Also, regarding leaving the Rosary to speak on the phone with someone, well, that just happened with one of my superiors in my community tonight. Again, not judging anyone one way or the other. Just pointing out it happens with leaders of other religious communities, and this person is a consecrated religious with some 40 or more years of experience.

Every human-run institution is going to have its failings. Even Christ Himself could not (or perhaps better said CHOSE not) to keep evil from entering the hearts of His closest followers. Satan was where Christ was in the Bible, so Satan is going to be in Cenacolo as well. Yet we error if we blame the Church as established by Christ for the evils committed by its members. In the Church there are only two things perfect--the Blessed Virgin and Jesus, the latter manifested to us in the Eucharist. And the Eucharist, in the Blessed Sacrament, is at the core of our faith. It is so because it alone is both perfect and divine.

So if someone in Cenacolo sees someone, even someone in charge, breaking the rules, my answer to that would be for that person to all the more rely on the Blessed Sacrament. Because they are there for Jesus, not for anyone else. If anybody buys drugs while in Community, let the person who witnesses confront them if they feel so inclined, but let them also rely on the Eucharist for strength.

Finally, it has been my witness through my own family that the best recovery programs out there are the ones that are tough. Having watched as a family member got deeply involved in drugs, I saw the deterioration of their life that occurred as they steadfastly refused all difficult programs, opting instead for one that was outpatient and gave them maximum freedom. The problem with this approach was that it didn't work. It didn't work because the solutions to problems in life that are easiest are rarely the ones that yield great fruits. It is tough conditions that make us strong. My family member could have chosen Community. Had they done so they would have been out for years by now and their marriage may have survived. But they could not be forced to enter, and today they live alone in our family home, slowly destroying it because of a compulsive hoarding condition that began nearly ten years ago. I love this family member dearly, enough that I entered Community myself to show them it could be done, but they made the choice and today remain with a lot of difficulties (though I think the drug abuse has finally gotten better).

I hope that someday things work out for them. I hope that everyone on this board is doing well as well. Keep the Eucharist at the center. We are all screwed up by sin, our institutions of all kinds everywhere are screwed up by sin. Nothing is even remotely perfect save God. And yet I know through my experience in Lourdes that he can bring such blessings and miracles to even the most difficult situations.

God bless to all.

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Re: Drug Rehab Cult Comunita Cenacolo
Posted by: Nibsy ()
Date: February 27, 2016 08:57PM

Yes, Jay's point is very important. As I have pointed out before, one Cenacolo commune is never exactly the same as another (Strongly pro-Cenacolo parents who attend mass at my old church and have a son currently living in a "house" in Italy even denounce Our Lady of Hope in Florida as a particularly "raunchy" and horrible place, but - wrongly in my opinion - believe plenty of other communes are just great.), and its leadership - at least the part of its leadership consisting of members actually living the Community life, the parts of its leadership composed of "older guys" - changes over the years. I hope that shortly after I was expelled Chris - who has since left Community - and Jeremy were severely chastised for their blatantly inhumane actions, removed from their positions of trust, and permanently kept from any major leadership positions or duties. Though Joyce, to her credit, was very likely not thrilled by what took place, I highly doubt that Chris and Jeremy experienced all the consequences that they ought to have.

But while its true that individual Community communes can be wildly different from one another, I criticize Community Cenacolo as a whole. My bad experience involved in large part bad ideas, practices, and set-ups that belong to the organization as a whole and which are common to all "houses." Not the least of which is the problem to which Jay alluded but would probably not see entirely in the same light as I do - former hardened drug addicts and criminals, not professionals or medical staff or trained counselors or clergymen, have a good deal of power and control. This has lead consistenly through the years to all sorts of issues and terrible consequences. Many of the examples I gave earlier - drug use, theft, negligence, animal abuse - did not just happen at Our Lady of Hope and/or during the time I was in Community, but at other communes and years in the past as well. For instance, relatively shortly before I entered, Our Lady of Hope was in complete disarray. Nobody did anything constructive and members of the leadership took turns taking vehicles out into the town at night for a spin. People would repeatedly half-drown and revive raccoons in the lake before finally killing them, and one older-guy of about seven years in Community even tried to convince others to allow him to crucify one of the creatures alive. In Ireland, a responsible stole a car, some money, and never returned. Several people in this thread have pointed out that there us a pattern of leadership physically assaulting "younger guys." There is little oversight or accountability for "older guys", something that was certainly the case with Chris and Jeremy. As I said earlier, in order for a troubled, sick, and - frankly - deranged person like Jeremy to have been made second responsible - possibly now responsible - several people have been guilty of serious lapses in judgment. And Joyce and Albino -among others in Community - have consistently not been responsible or ensuring proper oversight.

I have other problems with the organization as a whole.

For instance, in all "houses" it is required of the individual to stand before everyone once or twice a week and confess to all his or her "sins" and rule-breaking (What were called "compromises."). I seriously considered being a smart aleck and confessing to "thought-crime, secretly reading 'The Theory and Practice of Oligarchical Collectivism', poisoning the water-supply, and having sexual intercourse with both male and female party members".

Additionally, a Community member is constantly having drilled into his head the notion of "shut up and obey", a way of behaving deemed virtuous by the organization. They wish to stifle in all members individuality, free-thinking, and any questioning attitude. A large and important part of the life is what Community very tellingly calls "breaking" - harsh, often barked, correction and/or insults delivered in most cases from an "older guy" to a "newer guy." "Breaking" can be down for anything from forgetting to wash one's hands to secretly smoking cigarettes to what they considered a bad quality or pattern of behavior.

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Re: Drug Rehab Cult Comunita Cenacolo
Posted by: Jay ()
Date: February 28, 2016 06:47AM


Thank you for responding. On the subject of who should run the houses, you and I are not as much in disagreement as you might think. I know that when we had religious even just visiting, the atmosphere of the house changed. Everybody took things more seriously. I always thought it would be better to have religious priests run the houses. But the problem with that is simply the numbers. The fact is they don't have enough priests to run each house.

I spent roughly the same amount of time in Community as you did and in what I am guessing were the same houses. I have no reason to doubt you on the raccoons as I have no empirical evidence otherwise, though I admit I have a bit of trouble imagining it knowing the damage that at least an adult raccoon can do to a human. Other than the rat, the most I ever saw personally anyone do anything to an animal was when guys followed the armadillo around at Mary Immaculate. Back then we had a path to the chapel made of wood boards. Of course, the armadillo always won. All it had to do was stay under the boards. And the guys had no plans to do anything with it in case they caught it so the whole thing was kind of pointless. But some always wanted to chase it for some reason.

Again, I am not at all saying you are not telling the truth. I wasn't there with those people. I'm just saying with the people I was with there wasn't any animal abuse.

That is not to say I didn't see things I disagreed with or endured things I thought were unjust. I was given Community help sometimes as many as five times a day. I will tell you the most difficult time I had in Community and let you and other readers make a judgment on its outcome.

When I was a teenager I struggled with habitual sins other than drugs that nearly destroyed my life. I wish back then I'd had a place like Cenacolo to go to because going it largely alone is even harder than Community. Twenty years later I entered Cenacolo for other reasons but made sure at least one person in the leadership knew out of fairness to them. I was advised not to reveal it, but eventually I did tell a couple people.

One night I decided to arrange and clean up under a bathroom sink so I didn't have to do it the next morning as I was on housecleaning. There was a broken tile that appeared out of place (the kitchen was being remodeled at the time and this likely came from that work). I removed the tile and found contraband that was related to the sins I had been immersed in 20 years before.

My history with this caused me to get angry inside, wondering why someone was living a double life, not understanding the poison they were allowing for themselves. I resolved to confiscate it and report it to the leadership.

Unbeknownst to me someone else had seen me and, not knowing my history, misinterpreted what they saw. They reported what they saw before I got to reporting it.

The result was that I was accused by the responsibles of its possession. I guess looking back I can't really blame them. Everything looked a certain way. At one point I stupidly had the item in my pocket, and I had a history of using it.

So I was interrogated for two days. I was told to tell the truth. I was told that Community forgives. I was even told that my family would be told if I didn't confess. But I didn't acquiesce because I knew that my family would think there was something wrong with the story and I could tell them later what had happened.

At one point I went into the chapel alone and cried out to God. I said, "Lord, you know my innocence! I have been guilty of this in the past but not now! Why are you allowing this?"

I was ordered to keep unite about it. In the meantime, an investigation resulted in everyone in the Community knowing about it.

I was emotionally destroyed. We had a picnic on one of those days and I remember eating hot dogs with some Community supporters but I was mentally gone and looked it.

After two days I was allowed to speak to Albino about it. He believed, and the matter was dropped.

Now, there is something I must make abundantly clear. If I had the chance to go back in time and warn myself and change all of this, would I do it? ABSOLUTELY NOT. Why? Because when I went to Lourdes a few months later it magnified the experience.

All of my experience in Community was the Passion, death, and Resurrection of Christ taught to me in a way I had never seen or understood before. I thank the Community for the above experience. I thank them for the way I was treated, both in the good times and the bad. I would not change one iota of my own experience. If I did, it would have made Lourdes all the less joyous. And yet I will never forget that moment when I came out of the tub and I walked outside and I looked up in the sky and saw in my mind the face of Our Lady looking down upon me. The mental image covered the entire sky, and I thought of all the difficulties of the past year, including this one, and they were a million miles away.

Two months later I came back for a visit and got into the dirt alongside the guys and laughed as it fell through my fingers. I even was glad for the bugs, whose presence previously had been the bane of my existence. And the people who had accused me in the above experience? I'm not saying I deserved it, I didn't deserve it at all. But one wiped my seat for a movie and the other, after he exited and was living in town, offered me a couch in his place so I wouldn't have to pay for a hotel. I haven't seen them in some years, but I would definitely count them as friends if I did.

Lourdes took all of my negative experiences and turned them around into positive ones, or at least ones with a positive purpose, because I learned what the Resurrection was really all about.

I never did a testimony, but if I did it would be about Lourdes. My background is in teaching history, and God appealed to that in the end. He came down from Heaven and spoke to me in my language, appealing to my heart with what I loved when we arrived there without planning on the 150th anniversary of the last apparition. I later calculated that to be a 1 in 25-30 billion chance.

So I am not angry at the responsibles at the time nor Albino or Joyce or anyone else. It was God's will for me to go through it, and I understand all the reasons now and am actually happy it happened.

I've since been able to use this story as part of prolife work that I do. I tell it to women who are in crisis pregnancy situation who are facing a rough ride ahead and need to hear about how God can be at their side in difficult circumstances.

Is Community perfect? No, not by a long shot. But the Eucharist is, and it is at the center of all Catholic religious life. And when faced with things wrong in the Community houses the members should not hesitate to go to God in Adoration and trust that He is both at their side and will heal their wounds.

You know from this exchange I'm going to pray more than I have for all this guys. Whether or not I know them I do want to support them. I would invite others to do so as well.

God bless

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Re: Drug Rehab Cult Comunita Cenacolo
Posted by: Jay ()
Date: December 01, 2017 04:50PM

I guess nobody has written here for a while, as I see no response to my last post. It is just as well. I generally don’t like going on this site but when I come across new information that might be helpful to others I feel compelled.

As I have previously written, I was a member of Cenacolo now about 10 years ago. What I did not know then, what I think many members and former members do not know, is that the formula Cenacolo uses—hard prayer, sports, and work—is NOT something Cenacolo invented.

I have since joined another religious community, one devoted to education. I joined it because, at least in terms of its physical surroundings it looked like it MIGHT be a bit like what I previously experienced. Sadly, at least in America that turned out to be not a lot true. But it is enough that I am staying with them.

I am actually posting this from India, where I am staying with the congregation’s Indian branch for a few months. This branch is VERY different from my home one. It is a near carbon copy of Cenacolo. All the guys here—and most are very young—are studying to become permanent brothers and teachers. And in their postulancy and novitiate training—a combined three years—they are living nearly EXACTLY as people in Cenacolo are.

How is this possible? Because they share a common European Christian root. Sr. Elvira didn’t invent ANY of the Cenacolo program. She merely took from what was done before. And this is being done not only by my community here in India, but by ALL of the religious communities here, some more than others.

I have learned here that this style goes back to the Rule of St. Basil, who lived over 1000 years ago. What people with little or no experience or education see as weird or cultic in Cenacolo is nothing more than a millennium of Catholic monastic life.

Everything here (Bengaluru, India) with our novitiate brothers, right on down to the communal prayer, sports, even the type of movies watched, is all the same. And it is a tropical environment, meaning even the plants are the same.

People who are considering sending someone in their family there, this isn’t a cult. It’s monastic life.

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Re: Drug Rehab Cult Comunita Cenacolo
Posted by: Siv ()
Date: July 07, 2018 03:05AM

I would recommend sending your son to another place. It sounds like you have your suspicions about it, and your gut is probably right. There are places that treat addiction with real medicine, so why risk it? In the meantime, try out this site Hopetracker. Its a great resource for parents that need help understanding the disease, and its free.

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