Others Must See The Change In Us

Caribbean Conference

“Observe the significance of this moment, remember it,” advised Bishop Robert Rivas. The occasion was the first Caribbean conference of Couples for Christ (CFC).

It was appropriately held in the diocese of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, where Couples for Christ started in the Caribbean. Couples for Christ has established itself in seven different countries within the Caribbean, including Antigua and Barbuda, Jamaica, St. Kitts, St. Lucia, Aruba and Trinidad and Tobago.

Members of Couples for Christ in St. Vincent and the Grenadines confided that at first they were overwhelmed by the idea of hosting this historic event. “Our poor, small diocese!” they contended. But God really chooses the small and weak to confound the wise and learned. For indeed, the first Couples for Christ Caribbean Conference was in every sense a resounding success.

Members of the different CFC family ministries were present at the conference in addition to the couples - Singles for Christ (SFC), Youth for Christ (YFC), Kids for Christ (KFC), Handmaids of the Lord (HOLD) and Servants of the Lord (SOLD) were all in attendance. Trinidad and Tobago and St. Lucia had the largest contingents from the region, excluding the host country, each represented by over 40 members. The USA, which was also ably represented, followed closely on their heels.

Contingents from the different islands, as well as from the USA, began arriving in the island early in the week. “Vincie” hosts displayed tremendous generosity and hospitality from the time the plane touched down at the airport. A colorful banner welcoming all the Couples for Christ members was the first thing to greet us as we stepped off the plane, letting each of us know right away that we were expected.

As we exited the customs area, we were immediately greeted by the smiling faces of several CFC members, followed by their warm embrace. We were then whisked away in the cars or vans organized to transport us to our different destinations. Accommodation was all prearranged, most of us staying with families in their homes, others at the Pastoral Centre or the convent.

Throughout the time, the atmosphere was filled with growing friendship, love and fellowship. There was also lots of fun, especially for those who came across early and managed to catch the ferry to visit the island of Bequia. Some of the members even tried to evangelize the Prime Minister of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Mr. Mitchell, whom they met on the ferry.

In his welcoming address Bishop Rivas advised the audience that in order to be missionaries we need to be docile to the Holy Spirit, entrusting ourselves completely to God, so that God's will will be done. We must “be both the gentle wind and the blazing fire, people of contemplation and powerful action. There is no real action without contemplation,” he said.

He also warned that if we were to allow only 15% of our membership to be truly committed, Couples for Christ would become just another one of the many struggling groups within the Church. He challenged us, therefore, to go after our lapsed members, to find a strategy to solve this problem, “to bring back home those who have strayed.”

Each day began with praise and worship, led by the representatives from the different islands, and assisted by an impromptu choir of Singles for Christ members.

There were various talks given by the visiting leaders from the USA, followed by testimonies from the leaders and members of the different dioceses in the Caribbean.

While most of the leaders testified that originally they thought this responsibility of leadership would require time and talents which they did not think they possessed, it was obvious that they had taken the task well in hand. They admitted that they themselves had grown in their faith and trust in God from the experience. The men also confessed that they now took their role as husbands and fathers very seriously, knowing that God expects them to be spiritual leaders of their home and family.

On Saturday morning Joe Duran, Regional Head for the Caribbean, began the first session by announcing that Couples for Christ had received from the Pontifical Council for the Laity official recognition as a private international association of the faithful. This recognition gives CFC greater resolve to work for the Church in the various dioceses and parishes.

It was also heartening to hear him say that the CFC Council in the USA had recently decided to twin (or link) each of the various dioceses in the Caribbean with one of the US states, which will offer whatever assistance and support possible, sharing their resources, be it financial or human.

Jamaica was twinned with Chicago, St. Vincent and the Grenadines with Virginia, Antigua and Barbuda with New Jersey, Trinidad and Tobago with Florida. St. Kitts, St. Lucia and Aruba will soon be linked with a state.

Throughout the conference the different speakers constantly reminded us in various ways that our love must be visible and contagious. Our mission in Couples for Christ Families in the Holy Spirit renewing the Face of the Earth will only be accomplished if the love of Christ is visible in us. As one speaker put it, “Others must see the change in us, they must see the love, the joy … we cannot say, brother come and join us, see how grumpy I am!”

The open-air cultural evening and dinner on Saturday turned out to be relaxing and entertaining with lively presentations made by members from participating countries. One of the servers at table was none other than the bishop himself who impressed us with his humility and kind hospitality.

Our Sunday program concluded with a Praisefest followed by Mass of the Feast of Corpus Christi in the Cathedral of the Assumption. It was the special celebration for the children with the celebration of the First Holy Communion and a procession of the Blessed Sacrament through the streets of Kingstown. The procession stopped at the Magistrates Courts and the market to celebrate Benediction, and ended in the Cathedral itself.

With our hearts renewed, we returned home thankful for all the many blessings we had received, the warmth and hospitality of our “Vincie” family, and inspired and ready to take the task in hand to host the Couples for Christ Caribbean conference, right here in Trinidad and Tobago.

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