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Basic Ecclesial Communities – Part 2

What Is Couples For Christ?

COUPLES FOR CHRIST is an international Catholic community committed to the work of global evangelization and renewal, with the goal of winning the world for Jesus Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit. It started in June 1981 in Manila, Philippines, where its international headquarter is presently based.

COUPLES FOR CHRIST is a missionary body with one aim: to be “Families in the Holy Spirit, Renewing the face of the earth.” It sees the family as the basis of all community or society. It however, recognizes that the family is under threat, attacked very often by the very people or institutions called to safeguard it.

COUPLES FOR CHRIST see its work not so much as offering certain services or providing certain opportunities for service in the church. Rather, it is very clear that CFC sees its work as establishing and furthering the kingdom of God through a network of family-based communities: Communion and Mission.

What Does Couples For Christ Offer Dioceses/Parishes?

Introducing COUPLES FOR CHRIST in a diocese or parish as part of the pastoral plan/initiative does offer very real benefits.

Its canned set-up apparatus

COUPLES FOR CHRIST has been tried and tested in a variety of environments virtually every possible scenario. It works. It has a uniform set-up apparatus involving three stages:

1) The Christian Life Program: While the 12+1 “two hour per session” program is the same, the manner in which it is given can be adapted to suit virtually any pastoral condition.

  • Thirteen consecutive weeks
  • Thirteen consecutive evenings (or mornings or afternoons or nights)
  • Mission style involving ten evenings
  • 3 day Live-in Retreat (e.g. Friday evening to Sunday evening)
  • 4 day Non-Residential Retreat (e.g. Sunday 9 am to 6 pm)
  • a combination or adaptions of the above

2) Identification and Training of Leaders

3) Setting-up of Household structures (and if necessary Unit structures) to support:

  • life of the members
  • equipping members for mission

All the above make the program much easier to implement.

Its support structure for ongoing life-formation and pastoral training

Almost all inputs are standardized and manualized leaving little room for deviation from Catholic Christian content. This also makes the training of personnel to conduct these programs easier.

It is a voluntary laity based program

Accordingly, the program requires minimum investment of time by the already over-burdened parish priests and continues to operate irrespective of transfer of parish priests.

In particular it looks to its (arch)bishops and priests to provide spiritual formation in the following ways:

  • Retreats and recollections for its leaders and members.
  • Instruction on Catholic and theological doctrines.
  • Updates on the Church stand on various important issues.
  • Consultation on moral and theological issues that come up.
  • The provision of the sacraments

The high degree of motivation of the couples who have voluntarily chosen to continue in the program means that priests in the parish are not chasing after members to be faithful in continuing the program.

It is a self-funding program

COUPLES FOR CHRIST is a self- funding program. Besides contributing to the upkeep of their priests and to meet other parish/diocesan obligations, members are encouraged and motivated to invest their time, energy and material resources in the task of building the kingdom of God through the work of community building and evangelization.

Members who invest their time, energy and money in their mission remain highly motivated to continuing the work they have begun.

Thus the program does not usually require parish funding.

It already has a network established in some (arch)dioceses/parishes

Every new grouping is immediately linked in some concrete way with an existing

network either in the (arch)diocese or a neighboring (arch)diocese. This linkage provides the new grouping with couple support and direction besides resources for training of personnel.

It serves as a nucleus for a variety of family-based and community-oriented ministries

Once the group attains sufficient maturity and achieves a critical mass, it is possible to establish a variety of family-based and community-oriented ministries. What makes these initiatives exciting is that they do not operate as independent services but are rather integrated into the very life of the community.

COUPLES FOR CHRIST's preferential option for the poor had now grown into an integrated community development program. Its strong pastoral formation track combines with creative evangelization to give the marginalized a sense of dignity and self-appreciation. Integrated into the community, they experience the power of redemptive love. The development track then provides educational, health and livelihood (socio-economic) interventions that are needed to address the effects of poverty.

Conclusions

A quote from Rev. O'Halloran might be appropriate: “There is no blueprint for the establishment of small communities, no one methodology, no one structure and no one way. So we must be open to diversity and allow for flexibility. If there is a method that helps me, well and good, but I cannot presume that it has to be the path for everyone. ”

COUPLES FOR CHRIST will not be the way for everyone. But it could well be the path for most, that the over 300 households operating in about 30 parishes in Goa, and about 30 households or so in Bombay/Vasai demonstrate.

I have, successfully I hope, made out a case to consider COUPLES FOR CHRIST as yet another expression of Small Christian Community. It is my plea that (archbishops, priests and lay persons keen to establish small Christian communities consider this possibility. It may even be possible to have in a diocese or perhaps even in a parish more than one model operating. I believe it will be challenging to co-ordinate such diversity. But for this is given the promise of God's grace.

Back to Part 1

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