Communication in times of difficulty
Dear friends, with this fourth edition we are at the vigil of our Extraordinary Virtual Meeting with the International College, at the end of August.
Looking forward to these moments of fraternity, reflection and conviviality, even if only virtually, we invite you again to have a good and pleasant reading.
International Responsible Team
Next month, engaged in the Extraordinary Virtual Meeting, there will be no publication of communications by ERI.
Clarita & Edgardo BERNAL
International Responsible Couple
WHAT ATTITUDE DO WE BRING TO THE VIRTUAL MEETING?
"When we can no longer change a situation,
the challenge is to change ourselves”.
Dear family of the Teams of Our Lady:
This fourth issue of #farbutnear will be the last one before the coming Virtual Meeting, that the ERI plans to hold at the end of August, given the absence of an International College.
With regard to the coming meeting, we want to talk today about a word that represents the fruits of this new and unprecedented experience. That word is ATTITUDE. It is a noun that represents the will and intention we can freely adopt when we participate in a personal or social process, in this case, the Virtual Meeting.
Although we are addressing the members of the International College with the clear intention of sending them a preparatory message for the meeting, we are also expressing a message that concerns all of us. It is not only applicable to those who will participate in the meeting, but also those in any situation where there is a community built on the contribution of each of its members.
ATTITUDE is a chameleon that adopts many skins. Fortunately we can "clothe ourselves" using our own will, depending on the situations we are faced with or what we have been called to do. We can clothe ourselves with attitudes that are POSITIVE or NEGATIVE, PROACTIVE or REACTIVE, OPTIMISTIC or PESSIMISTIC, ENTHUSIASTIC or INDIFFERENT, CONSTRUCTIVE or DESTRUCTIVE, ASSOCIATIVE or DISSOCIATIVE, or as Father Caffarel said, of BUILDERS or TENANTS.
We have no doubt that from the mystique of mutual help that we live in the movement, in advance of this Virtual Meeting, we are all bearers of a "disposition" that brings together many of these "skins". This ends up being a characteristic seal that identifies us. It is this seal that shapes our ATTITUDE.
Although in general we are inclined to keep these positive attitudes, it is necessary to be aware of them in order to not let ourselves be affected by the external circumstances that may distract us, or even by sacrifices that we will surely have to make in order to attend and participate in this meeting. For example,
● the sacrifice of a week of longed-for holidays that we had planned after the Warsaw College and that are now interrupted by this virtual meeting;
● the sacrifice of managing my usual schedule to adapt to the time that is most convenient, taking into account the time zone of the more than 20 countries of the members of the College;
● the sacrifice of carrying out a face-to-face College and approaching a virtual meeting that will demand from me an effort and personal discipline to read the presentations and prepare for the Zone meetings, etc.
From a prison cell in Rome, the apostle Paul wrote about the attitude a Christian should have: “Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ.... (Philippians 1:27). "Whatever happens" was a reference Paul used when thinking about whether or not he could come to visit the Philippian community, “so that whether I come and see you or only hear about you in my absence, I know that you stand firm in the one spirit striving together as one for the faith of the gospel” (Philippians 1:27).
Today we are living in unexpected circumstances, and we do not know how long it will take to return to normal. Regardless of all the disruptions that have disturbed our plans and budgets, and regardless of the difficulties that may still be encountered on our way to our virtual meeting, "whatever happens" we must respond with a positive attitude in imitation of Christ just as the Apostle Paul asked us to do. We must arrive at the meeting with our hands full, dressed in Attitudes of humility and generosity, to both feed ourselves and help nourish the meeting. We must come with an attitude of prayer to allow the Spirit to open our hearts from the spiritual preparation in communion that we will carry out from the previous week, and with an attitude of hope to be sowers and not heralds of calamity.
When Paul, in his letter to the Philippians, asks us to behave in a way "worthy of the gospel of Christ," he summarizes it in two verses that involve self-denial, humility, and service: "Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests, but each of you to the interests of the others" (Philippians 2:3-4).
Dear International College family, let us remember three maxims that will help us to adopt the attitudes that the unprecedented circumstances of this Virtual Meeting pose for us:
✔ To be passive is to let others decide for you.
✔ To be aggressive is to want to decide for others.
✔ To be proactive is to decide for yourself.
The preparatory work for the Virtual Meeting has already been carried out by the ERI. Now all that remains is for it to be taken advantage of and enriched by our participation. Each one of us has the possibility to decide with what ATTITUDE we will approach this meeting. On this decision, will depend the fruits that we will obtain as individuals, as couples, as servers and as a movement.
We ask the Lord with His Spirit and our Mother Mary with her intercession, to guide and enlighten us so that we can carry out a true meeting of the Ecclesia, blessing the fruits that we can obtain from it for His glory and for the good of the entire movement.
May it be so
Word, Celebrations and Pandemic
Father Ricardo Londoño - International Spiritual Counselor
We have reached the fourth issue of our Pandemic and Quarantine Bulletin. This time, I am going to think more about the Spiritual Counsellors than about the couples.
The priestly ministry, like all activities and experiences, was inopportunely transformed by the virus. It was necessary to stop for a moment of reflection, discernment and questioning. We had to ask ourselves how we could continue our pastoral services when external circumstances prevented us from having direct contact with the faithful.
There are many who are involved directly in health ministries, and there are also many others who have dedicated their time and apostolate to the care of the sick through healthcare, hospital services, etc. However, most of us have continued our work through telecommunication networks, which have never been so highly regarded as they are now. Of course, there were fears created some time ago, based on negative views about interacting with others via non-conventional methods, but the pandemic has allowed us to rediscover the immense benefit of the internet and its applications.
The activities of exchange, of meeting, of celebration, of motivation, of formation, of prayer and of supplication have increased in a very strong way. Hardly anyone can deny that the confinement demanded by the pandemic, has forced an increase in the number of interpersonal contacts via the virtual world. And, at the different levels of the organization of the Teams of Our Lady, these events and activities have multiplied.
Where are we, the priests, and what have we done? Preaching, counseling, spiritual accompaniment, teaching, everything else related to the word. All these things can easily be done in the virtual world. But the liturgy, which has always been a shared, festive and participative celebration, lends itself to new interpretations and experiences. Hence the importance of making each celebration through the virtual world a true encounter with God and with the brothers. It is a challenge to creativity and to a search for solutions that do not trivialise what is being celebrated.
Some comments received lead me to consider what is happening: "Father, I did not connect the camera because I was in my pyjamas during the Mass"; "I was watching you while I was preparing lunch in the kitchen"; "While we were eating we were watching" ...And there are many other expressions which, in some way, would correspond to the "liquid" or "light" world of which the specialists in human sciences speak about today.
Therefore, it is good that, as ministers of the Word and the Sacraments, we should reflect on ourselves in our pastoral mission, in the midst of the difficulties of an unexpected pandemic, in the activities that we were not used to, or the activities we refused to take on. As has happened to all of humanity, we must question ourselves about the best way to live out our ministry, responding to the challenges of each particular circumstance in the most appropriate way.
I take this opportunity to summon the Spiritual Counsellors of the SR and RR, so that we can prepare ourselves for the days when we will have the Virtual Meeting with the members of the International College and the ERI. May our participation in this special event show our commitment and responsibility.
Many blessings and my permanent brotherhood and gratitude.
LIVING OUR FAITH WITH THE WHOLE CHURCH
HOLY CURÉ D'ARS - PATRON OF ALL PRIESTS
LETTER OF HIS HOLINESS POPE FRANCISCO PRIESTS
ON THE 160th ANNIVERSARY OF THE DEATH
OF THE HOLY CURÉ OF ARS, ST JOHN VIANNEY
On August 4 we celebrate in the whole Church the liturgical memorial of St. John Mary Vianney, universally known as the Curé of Ars, whom in April 1929 Pius XI proposed as patron of all the parish priests of the world.
Pope Francis, on the occasion of the 160th anniversary of the death of the Curé of Ars (4.8.2019), sent a letter to priests throughout the world, expressing his gratitude and encouraging them to faithfully live their vocation.
This August, in this fourth issue of our extraordinary bulletin, we want to pay a simple homage to all our Spiritual Counsellors, who, among the many activities they have, are always with us and bring us, through their presence, the joy of sharing the sacraments of Marriage and Order.
The Pope writes this letter as an older brother and father. Among other things, the Pope says:
(The paragraphs are a transcription of the pages of the Holy See:
“On this, his feast day, I write this letter not only to parish priests but to all of you, my brother priests, who have quietly “left all behind” in order to immerse yourselves in the daily life of your communities. Like the Curé of Ars, you serve “in the trenches”, bearing the burden of the day and the heat (cf. Mt 20:12), confronting an endless variety of situations in your effort to care for and accompany God’s people. I want to say a word to each of you who, often without fanfare and at personal cost, amid weariness, infirmity and sorrow, carry out your mission of service to God and to your people. Despite the hardships of the journey, you are writing the finest pages of the priestly life”. […]
Vocation, more than our own choice, is a response to the Lord’s unmerited call. We do well to return constantly to those passages of the Gospel where we see Jesus praying, choosing and calling others “to be with him, and to be sent out to proclaim the message” (Mk 3:14). […]
Thank you for the joy with which you have offered your lives, revealing a heart that over the years has refused to become closed and bitter, but has grown daily in love for God and his people. A heart that, like good wine, has not turned sour but become richer with age. “For his mercy endures forever”. […]
For our hearts to be encouraged, we should not neglect the dialectic that determines our identity. First, our relationship with Jesus. Whenever we turn away from Jesus or neglect our relationship with him, slowly but surely our commitment begins to fade and our lamps lose the oil needed to light up our lives (cf. Mt 25:1-13): “Abide in me as I abide in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me… because apart from me you can do nothing” (Jn 15:4-5). In this regard, I would encourage you not to neglect spiritual direction. Look for a brother with whom you can speak, reflect, discuss and discern, sharing with complete trust and openness your journey. A wise brother with whom to share the experience of discipleship. Find him, meet with him and enjoy his guidance, accompaniment and counsel. This is an indispensable aid to carrying out your ministry in obedience to the will of the Father (cf. Heb 10:9) and letting your heart beat with “the mind that was in Christ Jesus” (Phil 2:5). We can profit from the words of Ecclesiastes: “Two are better than one… One will lift up the other; but woe to the one who is alone and falls, and does not have another to help!” (4:9-10).
The other essential aspect of this dialectic is our relationship to our people. Foster that relationship and expand it. Do not withdraw from your people, your presbyterates and your communities, much less seek refuge in closed and elitist groups. Ultimately, this stifles and poisons the soul. A minister whose “heart is encouraged” is a minister always on the move. In our “going forth”, we walk “sometimes in front, sometimes in the middle and sometimes behind: in front, in order to guide the community; in the middle, in order to encourage and support, and at the back in order to keep it united, so that no one lags too far behind… There is another reason too: because our people have a “nose” for things. They sniff out, discover, new paths to take; they have the sensus fidei (cf. Lumen Gentium, 12) … What could be more beautiful than this?” Jesus himself is the model of this evangelizing option that leads us to the heart of our people. How good it is for us to see him in his attention to every person! The sacrifice of Jesus on the cross is nothing else but the culmination of that evangelizing style that marked his entire life. […]
How can we speak about gratitude and encouragement without looking to Mary? She, the woman whose heart was pierced (cf. Lk 2:35), teaches us the praise capable of lifting our gaze to the future and restoring hope to the present. Her entire life was contained in her song of praise (cf. Lk 1:46-55). We too are called to sing that song as a promise of future fulfilment. […]
To contemplate Mary is “to believe once again in the revolutionary nature of love and tenderness. In her, we see that humility and tenderness are not virtues of the weak but of the strong, who need not treat others poorly in order to feel important themselves”.
Perhaps at times our gaze can begin to harden, or we can feel that the seductive power of apathy or self-pity is about to take root in our heart. Or our sense of being a living and integral part of God’s People begins to weary us, and we feel tempted to a certain elitism. At those times, let us not be afraid to turn to Mary and to take up her song of praise. […]
Saint John Mary Vianney, pray for us!
PRAYER TO MARY, MOTHER OF SILENCE*
Mother of silence, who watches over the mystery of God,
Save us from the idolatry of the present time, to which those who forget are condemned.
Purify the eyes of Pastors with the eye-wash of memory:
Take us back to the freshness of the origins, for a prayerful, penitent Church.
Mother of the beauty that blossoms from faithfulness to daily work,
Lift us from the torpor of laziness, pettiness, and defeatism.
Clothe Pastors in the compassion that unifies, that makes whole; let us discover the joy of a humble, brotherly, serving Church.
Mother of tenderness who envelops us in patience and mercy,
Help us burn away the sadness, impatience and rigidity of those who do not know what it means to belong.
Intercede with your Son to obtain that our hands, our feet, our hearts be agile: let us build the Church with the Truth of love.
Mother, we shall be the People of God, pilgrims bound for the Kingdom. Amen.
*Prayer from Pope Francis to Mary after the Profession of Faith with the Bishops of the Italian Episcopal Conference (23 May 2013).
PREPARING FOR THE EXTRAORDINARY VIRTUAL MEETING
ERI is preparing with great love and affection the extraordinary virtual meeting, which will be held in place of the International College in Warsaw from August 30th to September 5th.
Clarita and Edgardo, in the EDITORIAL of this bulletin, talk about something especially important: ATTITUDE. It all starts there!
Although all of us, in these times of social isolation, are familiar with the use of digital platforms, ERI wishes to offer you some tips on how best to use digital platforms with a high number of participants, so that the extraordinary virtual meeting (the first to be held by ERI with the whole College) can take place without problems and with more objectivity and productivity.
As everyone knows, this virtual meeting has a great importance in the calendar of Teams of Our Lady. We are at the beginning of the team year in most of the SR and RR.
Therefore, this is not just any event. It will be necessary to have a very motivated spirit; a great desire to meet the brothers and sisters who carry out the same mission in the Movement; to understand the virtual meeting as a unique and joyful moment, which will be sustained on the following pillars: Prayer, Word of God, Coparticipation and Life Orientations.
Some important tips:
Overcome emotional fatigue
We know that many people are suffering from the process called "emotional fatigue", stress or tension, either because of their social isolation or the restrictive measures to which they are subjected, or because they have lost the prospect of overcoming this pandemic.
In any case, we, as Christians and team members with responsibilities in our Teams of Our Lady Movement, have to show faith and hope, and participate enthusiastically in this extraordinary virtual meeting.
Be very motivated
Motivation is an ingredient that everyone should bring to this virtual meeting, which means having your thought, your attention (focus) and your action focused on the goals proposed by ERI.
The motivation of each one will be this energy that will allow us to reach the objectives of the meeting, even in a virtual way, at a distance.
Check the equipment that will be used
Check in advance if your internet connection is working well, and if the device you will use in the videoconference accesses the digital platform indicated. Make sure the camera and sound on your computer, tablet or smartphone are working properly.
It is important to take a test before the scheduled time (at least 30 minutes in advance) as soon as the virtual meeting link is sent. This avoids delays, and these questions, which are one of the most common problems in virtual meetings: "Can you see me now?"; "Can you hear me now?".
Therefore, be careful with your internet connection, the quality of the audio, the video, the lighting of the place and its framing in the video.
Look for a comfortable position
Position your video conferencing device properly, so that you can sit in a comfortable position, as the meeting with all participants may take about 2 hours.
Also, make sure that the venue is not too noisy, as outside noises get in the way of what the other has to say.
Provide water, coffee and a small snack
Arrange water, coffee and a small snack for the videoconference time. As you know, it is particularly important to be well hydrated, especially in these times when we are naturally more apprehensive. Ah! And for those who like to chew (ha,ha,ha), remember to put nearby the traditional little candies that are always so affectionately distributed in our Colleges.
Organize to attend the meeting
The rule is the same for face-to-face meetings: organize yourself and prepare yourself as much as possible before the meeting. Virtual meetings need to be planned, not only by the person conducting it, but by each of the participants.
See the meeting agenda; read the documents that have been sent; have questions previously written to the participants or to your coordinator; write down the most relevant points.
Participate actively in the meeting. Be 100% present!
Prepare the Action Plan for your SR or RR's “team year”
This extraordinary virtual meeting takes place, for most SR and RR, at the beginning of the "team year". So be aware to elaborate or redo the action plan of your SR or RR as soon as you finish this virtual meeting.
The "life orientations" will be presented and discussed, as well as other relevant themes for the spiritual journey of each team member.
Finally, the ERI would like you to consider the following points, before and during the extraordinary virtual meeting:
✔ A good remote meeting begins with the willingness to join a "team", where the sense of community that comes together to celebrate life, the Word of God, missionary responsibilities is fundamental.
✔ A good remote meeting begins with the desire to meet with the other, to review the other, to listen to the other, to want to share experiences with the other.
✔ A good remote meeting requires the interest and commitment of each one in the topics that will be discussed.
✔ A good remote meeting needs the attention and involvement of each one with the needs and opinions that will be presented by each participant.
Dear SR/RR couples and Spiritual Counselors:
We need to understand that communication in this virtual meeting will not be one way; that is, where only one person speaks, and the others listen.
The interaction between all the participants will be of fundamental importance because it is in this interaction, exchange of ideas, sharing of experiences and life itself, that our Movement will be able to strengthen itself for another year of journey.
Finally, let us pray to God that, if it is his will, we may meet in person next year. And may Our Lady of Families cover us with her protective mantle.
TESTIMONIES: Emilia et Roger AGBOZOH
SR Africa Francophone
To serve in humility to live the mysteries of the Virgin Mary.
Everything was at stake, to dare to borrow this emblematic expression from Father Caffarel, this month of September 1998, the day after our invitation and participation in the Mass for the return of the Teams of Our Lady at the Sacred Heart Cathedral of Lomé in Togo. Naturally, it was a team couple, Cécile and Vincent KUNAKEY, allied with the family, who did us this honor to discern a movement that could help us to live our sacrament of marriage to the full.
We are Emilia and Roger AGBOZOH. We got married on February 18, 1995 and joined the Teams of Our Lady in November 1998. Our base team is Lomé 9, and at that time the movement had only one sector, with Denise and Arsène AYINOU as the leaders, with about ten teams in Lomé and a few isolated teams in the interior of the country. We live in Lomé, the capital of Togo, and had the grace of being parents of two children, a girl called Carmella, aged 25, and a boy called Prudencio, aged 20.
We both come from a Christian and polygamous family. I, Roger, had a bitter childhood due to the death of my father at the age of 12. I was later taken care of by my aunt, uncle and then my older brother, but without any major impact on my schooling because of God's plan for my humble self.
Emilia is a seamstress by profession and Roger is a training manager. We are self-employed and set up in our own businesses.
When we started our journey in the Teams, we were respectively a responsible couple of our base team, a secretary couple for the sector, a sector responsible couple, a corresponding couple to the pedagogy satellite team of the Africa Francophone Super Region, a regional couple and then a responsible couple for the Francophone Africa Super Region.
We benefited from an asset of the END, which is formation: to be trained and to train.
On Sunday 2 November 2014, against all expectations, we received from José and Maria Berta MOURA SOARES, the international responsible couple at the time, a letter with the following subject: "Invitation Letter to the responsible couples of the French-speaking Africa Super Region whose introduction retraced our deepest aspiration: During our life, especially after a few years of service .... we think that we have the right to rest a little .... but it is precisely in these moments that the Lord arrives".
Two things could balance us at that time: the rosary and sleep. Trust gave way to fear and emotion. We only regained hope two weeks later with our voluntary ‘yes’, thanks to the strength of prayer and the voice of the Lord found again in the Gospel according to Saint John chapter 15 verse 16: "I have chosen you and appointed you, that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should abide. Then whatever you ask the Father in my name, whatever you ask him in my name, he will give it to you”.
Following our sending on mission, on 5 September 2015, accompanied by our spiritual counsellor, Gervais Raoul N'SOUGAN, to Rome, we drew up a five-year action plan called: Francophone Africa Project 2016-2020 for our time of service with the main orientations of Bernadette and Sylvestre MINLEKIBE, the outgoing couple of the super region.
The strong heritage of our predecessor was thus summarised in August 2015 when they handed over the service to the super region: 16 countries, 570 base teams, 3123 couples, 404 spiritual counsellors, 49 sectors and 4 regions.
Humbly turning our gaze to the Lord, we laid at his feet our action plan whose ambition at the end of the execution of this project is to see the number of teams increase from 570 to 1000 or more. We also hope to have team members who are more dynamic and faithful to Christ and to the movement with this prayer taken from the Gospel of Saint Matthew in chapter 11 : "Father, Lord of heaven and earth, we praise you: what you have hidden from the wise and learned, we ask you to reveal it to the little ones".
We have been edified and built up by the greatness and richness of the Teams of Our Lady, thanks to the great international gatherings and Colleges in which we have had the opportunity to participate.
Two strong feelings animated us on each occasion: admiration and resemblance to the cardinals, bishops, priests’ spiritual counsellors, team couples by their dedication and clarity in the conferences, teachings, moving testimonies on the endeavours and married life.
Marvel and inspiration gradually transformed us to be up to the task of our mission to transmit and share with those who perhaps will not have the opportunity to experience some of the realities of our movement, but also to help French-speaking Africa to announce with new ardor and joy, the good news of Christian marriage, giving couples and families the means to live conjugal spirituality.
To achieve this, we have made ourselves available to serve with joy and humility, to be closer, to listen, to accompany, to have patience in bad times and to develop the spirit of collegiality within the service team and the super region.
We salute the availability of our spiritual counsellor Gervais Raoul N'SOUGAN for regular masses in honor of the Holy Spirit to strengthen our spirituality, peace and serenity in a team whose names cannot be concealed by our honesty: Jeanne and Vincent AMOUZOUGAN, Edith and Jérôme EKOUE KOVI, Clémence and Georges KOUDALO.
Thanks to their generous determination, the work was never overwhelming. The bravery of the Regional Couples, implementing the recommendations and resolutions of the annual Colleges is the sign of a good collaboration to achieve the expected objectives such as: formation, dissemination, information, and piloting for the expansion of the movement.
We better appreciate the results through the statistical data as of June 30, 2020: 18 countries, 8 regions, 992 teams, 5427 couples, 693 priests’ spiritual counsellors, 79 sectors and 3 provinces.
We give thanks to God for this performance and for reaching the door of our goal, 992 teams instead of reaching the 1000 teams desired 5 years ago.
The international expansion became a reality with the establishment of the Teams of our Lady in Ghana from Togo in the diocese of Ho in Hohoè, in Mauritania from Senegal and soon in Nigeria from Benin.
We hope that our service will have borne some fruits that will have allowed our super region to move forward in the right direction. We accomplished our mission with all the commitment it deserved, and the experience we lived was most enriching.
For our successor, Benedicta and Théophile GUENTANGUE, we wish them full fulfillment in their mission as much as we ourselves have found a true joy in serving.
In taking over, Benedicta and Théophile must continue to meet the challenges of the expansion of the movement in the countries identified but which, unfortunately, have eluded us during our time of service.
We were particularly marked by two events: the call to the Lord on January 26, 2020 of Emile DIOUF who assumed with Elisabeth the responsibility of West Sahelian Regional Couple ,and the cancellation of the ERI meeting as well as the first African gathering of the Teams in Togo in March 2020.
It is our hope that with the eradication or control of COVID-19, the ERI will revisit the Lomé decision to encourage and stimulate the efforts of the African team members.
As man is torn between evil and good, we apologize for our weaknesses and our inordinate behavior in the exercise of our responsibilities. Our infinite gratitude to the ERI, to the Super Region France-Luxembourg-Switzerland and to the Eurafrique zone for their proximity and solicitude towards the French-speaking Africa Super Region.
Finally, we leave you with this thought which expresses ours: "Life is a theatre, where everyone, after having played his role, passes behind the curtain".
May God bless you!
TESTIMONIES: Brigitte et Hubert WATTELET
We began our service in Rome on September 5, 2015, the date of Brigitte's birthday ... and a day of audience with Pope Francis with all the Regional Couples of the world.
Our first big challenge was the organization in April 2016 of a big national gathering, in which about 1/3 of the Belgian team members participated, including many young couples, to the great joy of the elders.
Our second big challenge was to give a soul to a brand-new national team. Fortunately, we were able to count on the help of the national SC at the time to help us forge this soul during our working meetings, nourished by prayer to Mary and the Holy Spirit.
Our whole mandate was also nourished by a phrase from John Paul II, "Do not be afraid", and "Evangelii Gaudium", that beautiful exhortation of Pope Francis inviting us to joy.
Thus, taking our pilgrim's staff, we travelled with enthusiasm through our Super Region to meet our team members in the activities of the Region or Sector. We also continued to provide or support various formation courses.
Throughout all these meetings, we were able to grasp a major difficulty in our secularized country: the difficulty of creating new teams. Fewer Christians = fewer Christian marriages = a poorer breeding ground in which to become "fishers of men".
Faced with this situation, several actions have been or are being carried out simultaneously:
✔ to make the Teams known in the North of Belgium and in Holland.
✔ an ESDAC approach (Spiritual Exercises of Apostolic Discernment in Common) in which all the teams are invited to participate, with the theme, Teams: a proposal for today?
✔ to propose TANDEM, but this has had little success so far, as the clergy have not responded to our urgent calls.
✔ contact with the Catholic media.
We draw the following conclusions from our mandate:
At the level of the movement: the team members are happy to be part of the movement, but few are willing to engage in service. As a result, we unfortunately still leave some sectors without responsible couples or liaison couples, despite our best efforts.
Many old teams disappear (death, illness ...) and not all of them are replaced, which reduces the number of teams.
At the level of the couple: a lot of joy lived during the meetings with all the responsible couples who came from all horizons during the Colleges, with all our team members, SC and SA, with our French and German-speaking neighbours, with the clergy of Belgium, with the leaders of the various Christian institutions...
We also derive a great conjugal benefit from it: all this work as a couple, all these exchanges nourished by conjugal prayer, have led to a sit down that we could never have imagined!
Fulfilling this mission was a real gift, and we keep our hope and motivation intact, ready to assume a new service within the Teams of Our Lady.
TESTIMONIES: Jorge et Noelia SOUSA
SR United States
We are truly blessed to have been part of the Teams leadership in the US SR, to have joined forces with amazing couples and Spiritual Counselors, both nationally and internationally and to have been part of the Mission of “conjugal spirituality.”
As we started as the US SR Responsible Couple in 2015 we had specific concerns we wanted to address and to set in place interventions to make the Teams of Our Lady grow and become stronger. The overarching goal was fidelity to the Movement and the “Return to the Roots.”
The Sector structure had been dismantled in the US SR. We believe the Sector is the most important level of Teams and that no Sector Couple should ever “walk alone”: The Sector Team and Liaison Couple system was re-introduced. We asked all the Provincial and Regional Couples to be “the face of Teams” in all the Teams events and activities in their area as a form of accompaniment and the New Teams Welcome Celebration was introduced.
To lay a solid foundation for new teams and help each couple learn and assimilate the Teams’ pedagogy and processes, the Piloting period was changed from five months and intermittent contact with the Piloting Couple to 12 continuous months of piloting.
Team members were asked to accept and follow the Study Topic put out by the International Movement. This way, all teams are united in the teaching and message that the International leadership wants for all Teams’ members and, ultimately, it also connects everyone to the preceding and the next International Gathering.
One can hardly be faithful to the Movement if one does not know the teaching and thought of the founder, in this case, Fr. Henri Caffarel, and if one does not study the documents of the Movement. Much effort, time and finances were focused on updating the US SR documents and making those and ERI documents available. Thousand of copies have been printed and mailed out to Teams members. Documents have been made available in the new, updated US SR website which was also a goal. Special focus on the website has been to make Fr. Caffarel’s books and writings available. A Facebook page was created, <https://www.facebook.com/teamsofourladyUSA>, to keep members informed and connected.
SR Newsletter, Magnificat, was only made available online and by email is now also mailed out three times per year. Our National Conference is now scheduled every three and the US SR had a record participation (209 members) in the 2018 International Gathering in Fatima, Portugal.
Contributions have significantly increased both monetarily and in member participation. Our tithe to the ERI is up to date and paid in full every year.
Of course, all was done with the strong collaboration of the SR Team, especially the Spiritual Counselor, Fr. Manuel F. Sousa, the College, Teams members and our Zone Couples. We are especially indebted to the Portuguese-language sectors in the SR who remained staunchly faithful to the structure and processes of the founding charism.
TESTIMONIES: Dzidzia et Piotr CHODZKO-ZJKO
The Transatlantic Super Region encompasses a diversity of cultures - Great Britain, Ireland, Trinidad and Tobago, South Africa, Malawi, Zambia and Ghana.
Agreeing to take on the role after much discussion, prayer and dialogue we felt excited yet slightly daunted. Are we suitable? What have we got to offer? However, with the support of our Teams, our chaplains and much prayer we embarked on a five-year spiritual journey. Faced with the challenge of living in a multi-cultural secular society, fewer weddings, “mixed marriages” of Catholics with non-Catholics. How do you make Teams relevant in such an atmosphere?
Plunging into the deep, one of our first visits was to Trinidad and Tobago, where we were made to feel part of a vibrant, loving, deeply spiritual and joyful community. We had a live press interview about the support Teams can offer couples in marriage, appeared as guest speakers on the local Catholic Television, presented at a Teams’ retreat and were part of a panel answering intimate questions about marriage. Challenging but achievable with support from each other, faith in what we were doing and prayer.
This trip was one of many to ensure we supported all areas of our Super Region. Each region has its particular flavour and has differing needs – so preparation for gatherings and retreats takes time, prayer and dialogue.
Highly recommended for a couple, the role has definitely deepened our faith and relationship. Having to recognise each other’s strengths and weaknesses so you can best serve your team members and offer the most appropriate support. Preparing presentations. Public speaking. Endeavours – having to recommend them to others means you are more focussed on them yourselves.
We have faced several personal challenges in which we have greatly valued the support, prayer and friendship of Teams.
Redundancy just before a College worrying but gave time to focus on the college which was in England that year and also more time for visiting our regions.
In our second year, Piotr was diagnosed with heart disease and had a triple by-pass! The prayers from Teams all around the world were uplifting and carried us through this difficult time.
Last year, during our visit to South Africa, Piotr’s brother died, totally unexpectedly. We were faced with the dilemma of whether to continue or to cancel the visit to Malawi. We decided to continue and found immense inner strength to support each other and also great solace in the prayerful support of our hosts.
We are greatly saddened that we had to cancel a visit to Ghana this year, where Teams are enthusiastically developing, and also that we will not be able to say goodbye in person to all the members of the college this year due to the pandemic.
We leave a growing Super Region, with a new website, close links with other Catholic Marriage organisations and enthusiastic, dedicated Team members whom we are proud to have been able to serve and support.
WHAT IS ERI DOING?
The Lord has done wonders in me, holy is His Name!
Mariola & Elizeu Calsing
Couple Responsible for the Satellite Teams
The Lord has done wonders in me, holy is His Name!
In the prayer of the Magnificat, which identifies our Movement of the Teams of Our Lady, a prayer that we pray every day and which invites us to open our hearts to the Lord's call, as Mary did, we find the necessary strength, the hope and the joy to live what life presents to us each day in these new times.
And this practice has been very valuable in the present context through which humanity is passing, because it makes us trust even more in God's love, which is greater than any evil existing in the world.
In fact, since the beginning of March this year, almost five months ago, many regular activities had to cease or slow down. We had to change the way we carried out our activities.
The world stopped, in a way, so that we took more care of each other. And, even today, everything works slowly, little by little. We are “convalescing from the virus” that still infects and causes so much loss of human life.
This state of stupor that has made us half dizzy, has also affected the work done in our Movement and, in what matters here, the work of the Satellite Teams.
As you all know, in response to requests from the Super Regions and Regions attached to the ERI, four Satellite Teams have been formed. Here are some of the activities already developed or under development:
a) The Pedagogy ST has already promoted a broad survey with all the SR and RR, in order to know better how Piloting is carried out, the materials used, its duration, role of the Pilot Couples, strengths and difficulties. All this with the purpose of promoting a review of Piloting in the Movement, and offering new manuals for Piloting and the Pilot Couple.
b) The Research and Reflection ST is still concluding their work plan, but it is making progress in proposing some tools and timetables for the collection of information about the Movement in the various countries, and in proposing research with the team couples, following the example of what Father Caffarel did, on an ongoing basis, aiming to better understand what is happening in the base teams and in the Movement.
c) The Young Couples ST has already made a broad survey of programs of preparation for marriage, and programs that the Movement of Teams of Our Lady can suggest to couples who dedicate themselves to this pastoral work or who come to have an interest in this type of work, as the document "Vocation and Mission" recommends and encourages us. It has also collected documents offered by Tandem from SR France, to use as inspiration in the work that is to be conceived and developed for use in pastoral work with young couples.
d) The Couples in Second Union ST has already made a broad survey, in various countries, of documents and meeting outlines for pastoral work with couples living in a second union. At the moment they are working on a document which shows the very diverse canonical and ecclesial reality lived by couples in a second union. This document will have some objectives, especially that of sensitising team members to the pastoral work with these couples, as recommended by Pope Francis in the Apostolic Exhortation Amoris Laetitia. At the end of its work, it is planned that this Satellite Team will draw up programmes/meetings for the accompaniment of couples in second unions, which can be animated and accompanied by couples of Teams of Our Lady in parishes or dioceses which do not have these programmes, and who wish to use this material.
Here is a table with the makeup of the four Satellite Teams:
(Zone Amérique et Centre-Europe)
COORDINATEUR - Sílvia et Chico PONTES (Bresil) ;
MEMEBRES - Rozenn et Frédéric TIBERGHIEN (France) ; Souad et Edouard BORGI (Liban) ; Lucyna et Krzysztof WYSOCCY (Pologne)
RÉFLEXION ET RECHERCHE
(Zone Amérique et Eurafrique)
COORDINATEUR - Fernanda et Antônio MARTINI (Bresil) ;
MEMEBRES - Carlota et Raúl GALAN (Espagne) ;Mari et Luís MELO (Portugal) ; Gesella et Victor ALMEIDA (Équateur)
(Zone Amérique, Centre-Europe, Eurafrique)
COORDINATEUR - Nathalie et Christian MIGNONAT (France)
MEMEBRES - Teresa et Gianni ANDREOLI (Italie) ; Claudia et Orlando VELLEZ HOYOS (Colombie) ; Maria da Graça et Juarez PEREIRA NETTO (Bresil)
(Zone Centre-Europe et Eurafrique)
COORDINATEUR - Mercedes et Alberto PEREZ (Espagna) ;
MEMEBRES - Florence et Bertrand DUREUIL (France) ; Maria Carmen et Ricardo RODRÍGUEZ (Espagna) ; Izabel et Paulo AMARAL (Portugal)
At first, although all four Satellite Teams had already started their work, which was in full swing, there was an understandable slowdown, if not a pause.
However, after this initial time, the work progressed and we can say that everything is going well, with the elaboration of the work plans and the first documents, as we saw above.
The Satellite Teams are working, as is the case throughout the Movement, with virtual communications - emails, WhatsApp, videoconferences, etc.
With each communication we make with the coordinators of the ST, it is possible to feel the commitment, the care, the seriousness, the responsibility, and the joy of all couples with the mission that has been entrusted to them. It is very edifying to see so much effort and dedication, even at such a difficult time as we are living.
And all this without losing the human warmth, without losing the pleasure of listening to and seeing their colleagues, knowing that they are well.
But not everything has gone smoothly, because there have been sufferings during this period among the team members involved with the Satellite Teams.
There was one team member who became seriously ill, at risk of his life, because he contracted the Coronavirus. Another who, because of his profession, worked long, long hours in the care of the sick. Others who took care of their grandchildren...
Finally, there are so many situations that, surely, everyone can imagine from their own experiences and experiences within their families and communities.
Nothing, however, that could not be overcome so that the work entrusted to them could continue. Everyone is encouraged by a great spirit of service, and by wanting to implement some of the proposals contained in the document Vocation and Mission, presented at the International Meeting of Fatima - 2018.
As the ERI couple - responsible for the Satellite Teams, we are in permanent contact with the four couples who coordinate the Satellite Teams and with our spiritual counsellor, Father Paulo Renato, who supports us. He also advises us about the work or "products" which must be delivered at the end of the period of this current ERI.
The spirit that animates us, therefore, is the spirit of service. Everyone has in mind that, like Mary, we are servants of the Lord (Here is the servant of the Lord!). Because of this, the spirit of teamwork and sharing helps us to overcome the natural difficulties of language, culture, opinions, points of view.
Humility and patience are attitudes that have enriched the work of the four satellite teams. And everything is permeated with great joy.
Like Mary, we can only sing: The Lord does wonders in us, holy is his Name!