Communication in times of difficulty
Dear friends, the new year has begun and the time of Lent is about to begin, a journey that will lead us towards the Easter of the Lord.
May the prayer accompany this strong time of our faith, grateful to our community of Teams our Lady, of which this seventh issue of the bulletin is a voice.
International Leading Team
Clarita & Edgardo BERNAL
International Responsible Couple
EDITORIAL N° 7
RAISE OUR EYES TO THE HORIZON
"Optimism is a strategy to create a better future.
Unless you believe that the future can be better,
you are unlikely to take responsibility for building it".
Dear friends, couples, priests and spiritual companions of the Teams of Our Lady: It is a great joy to be able to address you all at the beginning of this year, when in the dynamics that the pandemic has imposed, we must necessarily continue to communicate in a virtual way.
We had set out to leave behind in our messages the recurring theme of the pandemic that has conditioned our lives in the last year. Despite our intention, it is inevitable not to do so. Much to our regret, it continues to be the axis around which all our decisions revolve, and these decisions cannot be unrelated to this relentless and invasive reality.
A few days ago, in a video that we sent to SR Spain, at the request of Pedro and Rocio, the couple responsible for the Super Region, we confessed that we had ambivalent feelings about the virtuality that has necessarily become the new language of communication. We also thought that, even if the fearsome virus was controlled, it would continue to prevail quite strongly in our daily lives.
On one hand, we thank God for having been able to count on this wonderful tool that has been a bridge of closeness in the difficult moments of isolation that we have all experienced. It has even become a window to continue feeding us with the Eucharistic celebration at a distance, and a tool to keep alive the fire of animation and unity in our movement. On the other hand, we cannot deny that we feel tired of being confined behind the cold screen of a computer. It enslaves and routinizes us and mercilessly, restricts our sensory perception to only two senses, that of sight and that of hearing. It leaves aside the irreplaceable warmth of physical contact, which is so necessary for us, especially in contexts such as ours. Because of the fraternity, affection and faith that unites us, we are prone to hugs, laughter and celebrations.
Fortunately, without ignoring the gravity of all we have experienced, we are already beginning to perceive light at the end of this long tunnel. It is not as soon as we would like, and there are still several obstacles along the way that we will only overcome from the point of view of faith. The pain of the losses of all kinds that we have suffered, personal, family, and collective, have also left lessons that have made us grow and perhaps see life with a perspective focused on "gratitude" . What is truly important and essential has been able to regain the place that the ephemeral had been taking from it.
The animation of the movement and particularly our animation in the ERI, has not been immune to these ups and downs. Our plans have been disrupted time and time again. We have repeated and failed, not once, but many times during these last 10 months, the course of "humility and patience", in which a great lesson has been indelibly marked. Our attention should not be on living life by carrying out our plans but on living it by seeking God's will in each of our actions, as the prophet Jeremiah says in 10:23: I know, O Lord, that it is not for man to determine his way, nor for him to direct his steps.
To begin the year, in the next few days we will have our first virtual ERI meeting where we must address many issues. Among them are those related to the holding of our scheduled face-to-face ERI meeting in March and the Warsaw College, which had already been suspended last year. A year later, it is not clear that it can be held, not only because of the specific situation that Poland may experience regarding the pandemic, but also because our view must encompass the situation in each and every one of the more than twenty-one countries where the members of the international College live. Since we are a community where everyone is responsible for everyone, there is no collective well-being if it does not reach all of its members.
We have heard recurring talk of the "new normal" where there are voices of criers of fatalities that disturb and do not build. There are also the dreamers who over and over again in the form of a "mantra", repeat that everything will return to the way it was before. This is in order to calm their own anxieties and numb their worries in a phenomenon that specialists call the effect of illusory truth. Regardless of people's cognitive abilities, they are predisposed to qualify some arguments as true, insofar as they are previously and recurrently exposed to them, regardless of their inherent logic. Both extremes are harmful and sooner or later they trigger a boomerang effect, where we are the ones who are harmed.
In the family break that we were able to have at the end of last year and the beginning of 2021, we had the opportunity to read one of the always edifying and comforting homilies of Pope Francis. On this occasion, it was the one on the Eucharist of the solemnity of the Epiphany of the Lord last year. We are sharing with you in this first editorial of the year of #farbutnear, this homily where we find many lights and answers to continue our journey and raise our eyes to the horizon.
Emulating the words of Pope Francis, at the beginning of this year and in the midst of the difficulties that we are still experiencing, we encourage you: not to lose heart in spite of fatigue; not to be sowers of anxiety in spite of the complex reality; but to be proclaimers of hope, giving testimony of coherence and confidence in the good news that the child Jesus brings to renew our hearts.
In the face of the "new reality", without being slaves to our plans and budgets, and guided by the star that marks the route to contemplation of the newborn Jesus, we can assume the three attitudes highlighted by the Holy Father: "to raise our eyes", "to set out" and "to see".
Raise our eyes, so that without denying reality, we do not get bogged down in laments about the problems and difficulties we have experienced. We must act without thinking about what we have not been able to do, but rather in gratitude for what we can do.
To set out, assuming the changes and lessons that this pandemic has left, driven by the strength of feeling accompanied by the dynamics of this wonderful church community of the TEAMS OF OUR LADY
And finally, to SEE beyond the visible. The visible can often become deceptive. We are sure that behind all this frustration we have experienced in this last year, on a personal, work, family and movement level, in which time apparently stopped, making us lose valuable days of our existence and our animation, there is hidden an immense treasure. Each one of us has gradually discovered this, and without a doubt it has made us grow and mature in our faith.
With this attitude, we wish you in 2021, a year abundant in fruits and blessings in your personal and family life and in the animation of the movement. We will be accompanying you with our love and our prayers.
May the newborn Jesus and his mother, who is also ours, bless you today and forever.
Father Ricardo Londoño
Throughout our lives we have lived many Lenten seasons. We have heard, year after year, the invitation to prepare ourselves for the celebration of the Paschal Mystery. Now, once again, the call to conversion comes into our lives.
Most probably, we remember what we experienced in Lent 2020, when the initial presence of Covid 19 began to make its mark. Surprise, uncertainty and conjecture were mixed with the illusion that this inconvenience would pass and we would soon return to "normality". But weeks and months went by: The number of positive cases were counted in hundreds of thousands and millions, and the deaths were increasing day by day... In short, this is what we have experienced.
We already know that we do not dominate the cosmos. Even if we imagined it, we have not conquered nature. Our apparent greatness has been made to look foolish by a microscopic virus. Our fragility is significant and our vulnerability still accompanies us. The presence of the virus forced us to accept many things that we did not know or did not like, but we have had to live with them. What happened inside us? Has the 2020 experience made me change? In what way?
At the beginning, there were many reflections, songs by Spanish artists (Resistiré), videos, conferences, and applause for heroes... And, time went by. Communication technologies led us to new worlds and new ways of interacting; we got used to virtual realities and to celebrations with microphones and cameras; the liturgy was transformed; and face-to face meetings became scarce.
Now, as the vaccines begin to generate new hope, we are facing this Lent. Once again we are called to change, to "metanoia". And, it is good to ask ourselves again: What am I willing to do?
The invitation is once again concrete: before us are our brothers and sisters who suffer and are needy; there is God who calls and challenges; and each one of us is faced with our own reality. This is how the Lenten journey begins: the Church presents us with almsgiving, prayer and fasting as external signs of transcendent relationships.
Relationship with others requires authentic renewal. I must become a neighbour to those who suffer and live merciful compassion in the face of so much suffering. I must draw closer to the Father to listen to him, to know his desire and his plan for me and to know that I am his child. My personal life is called to be more in line with righteousness and truth.
Each one of us, as a team member, must feel a special call so that Lent 2021 will leave a deep mark on us.
"You cannot believe with impunity," I read as a teenager, and today that expression comes to mind.
Because, truly, our world needs the demanding commitment of those of us who know ourselves to be believers in Jesus Christ. Let us live this challenging time in depth.
God bless you all.
LIVING OUR FAITH WITH THE WHOLE CHURCH
Message of Pope Francis
FOR THE CELEBRATION OF THE
54th WORLD DAY OF PEACE
1 JANUARY 2021
1. At the dawn of a new year, I extend cordial greetings to Heads of State and Government, leaders of International Organizations, spiritual leaders and followers of the different religions, and to men and women of good will. To all I offer my best wishes that the coming year will enable humanity to advance on the path of fraternity, justice and peace between individuals, communities, peoples and nations.
The year 2020 was marked by the massive Covid-19 health crisis, which became a global phenomenon cutting across boundaries, aggravating deeply interrelated crises like those of the climate, food, the economy and migration, and causing great suffering and hardship. I think especially of all those who lost family members or loved ones, and all who lost their jobs. I think too of physicians and nurses, pharmacists, researchers, volunteers, chaplains and the personnel of hospitals and healthcare centres. They have made, and are continuing to make, great sacrifices to be present to the sick, to alleviate their sufferings and to save their lives; indeed, many of them have died in the process. In paying tribute to them, I renew my appeal to political leaders and the private sector to spare no effort to ensure access to Covid-19 vaccines and to the essential technologies needed to care for the sick, the poor and those who are most vulnerable.
Sad to say, alongside all these testimonies of love and solidarity, we have also seen a surge in various forms of nationalism, racism and xenophobia, and wars and conflicts that bring only death and destruction in their wake.
These and other events that marked humanity’s path this past year have taught us how important it is to care for one another and for creation in our efforts to build a more fraternal society. That is why I have chosen as the title of this year’s Message, A Culture of Care as a Path to Peace. A culture of care as a way to combat the culture of indifference, waste and confrontation so prevalent in our time.
2. God the Creator, the source of our human vocation to care
Many religious traditions have accounts of the origin of human beings and their relationship with the Creator, with nature and with their fellow men and women. In the Bible, the Book of Genesis shows from its very first pages the importance of care or protection in God’s plan for humanity. It highlights the relationship between man (’adam) and the earth (’adamah), and among ourselves as brothers and sisters. In the biblical account of creation, God entrusts the garden “planted in Eden” (cf. Gen 2:8) to Adam’s care, to “till it and keep it” (Gen 2:15). This entails making the earth productive, while at the same time protecting it and preserving its capacity to support life. The verbs “till” and “keep” describe Adam’s relationship to his garden home, but also the trust God placed in him by making him master and guardian of all creation.
The birth of Cain and Abel begins a history of brothers and sisters, whose relationship is understood – even by Cain, however mistakenly – in terms of protection or “keeping”. After killing his brother Abel, Cain answers God’s question by saying: “Am I my brother’s keeper?” (Gen 4:9). Cain, like all of us, was called to be “his brother’s keeper”. “These ancient stories, full of symbolism, bear witness to a conviction which we today share, that everything is interconnected, and that genuine care for our own lives and our relationship with nature is inseparable from fraternity, justice and faithfulness to others”.
3. God the Creator, a model of care
Sacred Scripture presents God not only as Creator, but also as one who cares for his creatures, especially Adam, Eve and their offspring. Albeit cursed for the crime he committed, Cain was given a mark of protection by the Creator, so that his life could be spared (cf. Gen 4:15). While confirming the inviolable dignity of the person created in God’s image and likeness, this was also a sign of God’s plan to preserve the harmony of his creation, since “peace and violence cannot dwell together”.
Care for creation was at the heart of the institution of the Sabbath, which, in addition to ordering divine worship, aimed at the restoration of the social order and concern for the poor (cf. Gen 1:1-3; Lev 25:4). The celebration of the Jubilee every seventh sabbatical year provided a respite for the land, for slaves and for those in debt. In that year of grace, those in greatest need were cared for and given a new chance in life, so that there would be no poor among the people (cf. Deut 15:4).
In the prophetic tradition, the biblical understanding of justice found its highest expression in the way a community treats its weakest members. Amos (cf. 2:6-8; 8) and Isaiah (cf. 58), in particular, insistently demand justice for the poor, who, in their vulnerability and powerlessness, cry out and are heard by God, who watches over them (cf. Ps 34:7; 113:7-8).
4. Care in the ministry of Jesus
Jesus’ life and ministry represent the supreme revelation of the Father’s love for humanity (cf. Jn 3:16). In the synagogue at Nazareth, Jesus showed himself to be the one consecrated by the Lord and “sent to preach good news to the poor, to proclaim release to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed” (Lk 4:18). These messianic actions, associated with the Jubilee year, bear eloquent witness to the mission he received from the Father. In his compassion, Christ drew near to the sick in body and spirit, and brought them healing; he pardoned sinners and gave them new life. Jesus is the Good Shepherd who cares for his sheep (cf. Jn 10:11-18; Ezek 34:1-31). He is the Good Samaritan who stoops to help the injured man, binds his wounds and cares for him (cf. Lk 10:30-37).
At the culmination of his mission, Jesus gave the ultimate proof of his care for us by offering himself on the cross to set us free from the slavery of sin and death. By the sacrificial gift of his life, he opened for us the path of love. To each of us he says, “Follow me; go and do likewise” (cf. Lk 10:37).
5. A culture of care in the life of Jesus’ followers
The spiritual and corporal works of mercy were at the heart of charity as practised by the early Church. The first generation of Christians shared what they had, so that no one among them would be in need (cf. Acts 4:34-35). They strove to make their community a welcoming home, concerned for every human need and ready to care for those most in need. It became customary to make voluntary offerings in order to feed the poor, bury the dead and care for orphans, the elderly and victims of disasters like shipwrecks. In later times, when the generosity of Christians had lost its initial fervour, some Fathers of the Church insisted that property was meant by God for the common good. For Saint Ambrose, “nature poured out all things for the common use of all… and thus produced a common right for all, but greed has made it a right for only a few”. After the persecutions of the first centuries, the Church used her newfound freedom to inspire society and its culture. “The needs of the times called forth new efforts in the service of Christian charity. History records innumerable examples of practical works of mercy… The Church’s work among the poor was to a great extent highly organized. There arose many institutions for the relief of every human need: hospitals, poor houses, orphanages, foundling homes, shelters for travelers ...”
8. Educating for a culture of care
Promoting a culture of care calls for a process of education. The “compass” of social principles can prove useful and reliable in a variety of interrelated contexts. Let me offer a few examples:
- Educating people to care begins in the family, the natural and fundamental nucleus of society, in which we learn how to live and relate to others in a spirit of mutual respect. Yet families need to be empowered to carry out this vital and indispensable task.
- Together with the family, schools and universities – and, in some respects, the communications media – are also responsible for education. They are called to pass on a system of values based on the recognition of the dignity of each person, each linguistic, ethnic and religious community and each people, as well as the fundamental rights arising from that recognition. Education is one of the pillars of a more just and fraternal society.
- Religions in general, and religious leaders in particular, can play an indispensable role in handing on to their followers, and to society at large, the values of solidarity, respect for differences, and concern for our brothers and sisters in need. Here I think of the words spoken in 1969 by Pope Paul VI to the Ugandan Parliament: “Have no fear of the Church; she honours you, she educates honest and loyal citizens for you, she does not foment rivalries and divisions, she seeks to promote healthy liberty, social justice, and peace. If she has any preference at all, it is for the poor, for the education of little ones and of the people, for the care of the suffering and abandoned”.
- Once more I encourage all those engaged in public service and in international organizations, both governmental and non-governmental, and all those others who in various ways are involved in the areas of education and research, to work towards the goal of a “more open and inclusive education, involving patient listening, constructive dialogue and better mutual understanding”. It is my hope that this appeal, made in the context of the Global Compact on Education, will be broadly acknowledged and accepted.
9. There can be no peace without a culture of care
The culture of care thus calls for a common, supportive and inclusive commitment to protecting and promoting the dignity and good of all, a willingness to show care and compassion, to work for reconciliation and healing, and to advance mutual respect and acceptance. As such, it represents a privileged path to peace. “In many parts of the world, there is a need for paths of peace to heal open wounds. There is also a need for peacemakers, men and women prepared to work boldly and creatively to initiate processes of healing and renewed encounter”.
At a time like this, when the barque of humanity, tossed by the storm of the current crisis, struggles to advance towards a calmer and more serene horizon, the “rudder” of human dignity and the “compass” of fundamental social principles can enable us together to steer a sure course. As Christians, we should always look to Our Lady, Star of the Sea and Mother of Hope. May we work together to advance towards a new horizon of love and peace, of fraternity and solidarity, of mutual support and acceptance. May we never yield to the temptation to disregard others, especially those in greatest need, and to look the other way; instead, may we strive daily, in concrete and practical ways, “to form a community composed of brothers and sisters who accept and care for one another”.
From the Vatican, 8 December 2020
1960 – 2020
60th Anniversary of the Intercessors
60th Anniversary of the Intercessors
Aude & Olivier de la Motte
Couple in Charge of the International Intercessors Animation Team
Couple in Charge of the International Intercessors Animation Team
On 8 December 2020, in the heart of the covid-19 pandemic, the Intercessors celebrated 60 years of intercession!
Father Caffarel's appeal, launched in March 1960, asked for volunteers to pray (as a couple, at night...) for marriage, for couples in difficulty, for the family, for the Church. His call was heard, and it still resounds today on every continent. For 60 years, men and women have responded and have committed themselves to living intercession in a special way, to bring before the Lord the prayer intentions entrusted to them.
On the occasion of the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, dear to the heart of Father Caffarel and the Teams of Our Lady, the Intercessors celebrated a Mass of Thanksgiving and were united with one heart for a Night of Prayer. All the regions of the world participated where the Intercessors are present.
One heart, one Lord, one faith, beyond borders: United States, Canada, South America, Africa, Europe, Middle East, Asia, Oceania. Numerous fruits have sprung from this great time, as Lebanon shows us:
"Yes, you are that soft, warm light that gushes out, continuously, from behind that window. This little lighted lamp that pierces the darkness, that spreads everywhere... we have perceived it! It was a strong call to unite ourselves to you in prayer, joining the great team of intercessors, thanks to God and to our Heavenly Mother, Holy Mary. Thank you Lord! We felt the taste of a more fraternal union between the intercessors, who were able to join together in the same common prayer event.
A deep bond was forged between all the participants during this event, thanks to the Immaculate Conception and in God. We dared to draw from the Source of Life priceless divine graces. In the communion of saints we confidently brought to the Lord the prayer intentions of the members of Teams of Our Lady and the intercessors.
Many new couples have made it a rule of life to choose a fixed date and time at night to watch and pray for others. And many have joined the intercessor prayer groups on WhatsApp to pray for the proposed and broadcast intentions. In friendship, many couples simply got to know new members of the TOL. »
Intercessors yesterday and today.
Intercessory prayer is present in the history of God's people. It is a biblical prayer. It exists fundamentally in the heart of every man, woman and Christian.
The commitment of the Intercessors is part of this vocation and this openness of heart, putting the prayer of all in the Lord's Prayer, in the spirit of Father Caffarel's call: "They bring to God the great intentions of the Church. They will intercede for the whole of humanity" (Father Caffarel). Following in the footsteps of the spiritual counsellors of successive Intercessors, Father Paul Dominique Marcovits, o.p., continues to nourish and maintain fidelity to this "spirit of intercession" within the movement.
More and more intercessors commit themselves to pray for the intentions entrusted to them by choosing :
● one hour of prayer per month, if possible at night ;
● one day of fasting per month ;
● or the offering of their lives, their trials, their limits ...
The quarterly Newsletter unites the Intercessors with each other. It is written by the couples of the EIAI: Equipe Internationale d'Animation des Intercesseurs, each couple being responsible for a Zone, in connection with the ERI, thanks to the liaison couple.
The Intercessors: what's new?
For many years, the Intercessors have spread as the commitment of teams has expanded. In recent years, as they have participated in gatherings, the Intercessors have noticed a strong interest in the project they present during these days.
They are present today in every Region and Super-Region. A couple, responsible for the Intercessors, carries the mission of making known the prayer of intercession and of creating a link between the Intercessors and the Teams of Our Lady. This is in order to pray for the intentions of all, especially those of the team members.
The gathering of the Teams of Our Lady in 2018 in Fatima marked an important turning point for the Intercessors:
➢ International dimension of Intercessors now organised (creation of EIAI)
➢ Willingness to live the mission of Intercession in conjunction with the Teams of Our Lady (thanks to the presence of an ERI liaison couple in the EIAI: Giovanni and Paola Cecchini Manara)
➢ New impetus in the field thanks to the 18 couples responsible for Intercessors in the Regions and Super-Regions (in conjunction with the couples responsible for TOL).
"Yes, there is something new for us. It is the very concrete experience of the communion of the Church which is expressed by the internationality of the Intercessors: they are present everywhere in the world, they give life to the Movement 'The Intercessors'.
Father Paul-Dominique Marcovits, o.p., Spiritual Counselor to Intercessors.
And good news! The year 2020 was an opportunity to take stock. A history of Intercessors was written: "1960 - 2020 Dare to Intercede - The History of the Watchers and of the Intercessors founded by Father Henri Caffarel". This document is dedicated to the celebration of the 60th anniversary of Father Caffarel's appeal. It gives an overview of the stages of this movement since its origin in 1960, and tells the story of its extension across all the continents.
This book is available on request in French and soon in Portuguese, Spanish, Italian, German, English, Arabic: contact firstname.lastname@example.org
In communion, dear friends,
May Father Caffarel unite and inspire us.
May intercession dwell in us for a greater fraternity in the communion of saints.
Annette and Paul O'Beirne
Annette and Paul O'Beirne
TEAMS OF OUR LADY in Africa in the Transatlantic Region
In Africa there are Teams in Ghana, Malawi, Zambia and South Africa!
Here is a taste of what Teams life is like in these countries.
South Africa is a beautiful country with a diverse population. According to statistics from the last census, there is a total population of 58,8 million people. 79% of population is Christian and there are about 4 million Catholics.
The Movement has been rooted in South Africa for around thirty years. Currently in the Teams of Our Lady Movement in South Africa there are two sectors: one which is based in Durban and one in Johannesburg. Johannesburg currently has five teams with each team consisting of about five couples and Durban has four Teams.
Teams has yielded some fruits in that YTOL (Youth Teams of Our Lady) movement was officially launched in August last year in Johannesburg and has been growing well with currently about forty-five members who are mostly sons and daughters of current Teams couples. This movement is split into three groups and each group has a spiritual leader (priest) and one Teams couple. The meetings are held monthly and are structured with a theme in the same manner as the married couple’s meetings.
The youth movement group plan, organize and run their own meetings. The YTOL movement also showcases the “Rainbow Nation” as members are from different race groups. The hopes are that they will help transform the movement in the future to become truly representative of a diverse population.
Living in South Africa has its challenges as it has one of the most unequal societies and has a high level of poverty: crime is a major concern for all in South Africa. Many who live in the suburbs are surrounded by high walls, electric fences, alarms etc.
There is a native South African word “Ubuntu” meaning qualities that include human virtues and compassion and refers to communities coming together to help one another. Movements like Teams of Our Lady lend support to couples and their families.
The region of Malaza is made up of Malawi and Zambia. Piotr and Dzidzia, former Transatlantic responsible couple, travelled a total of 2,000km to visit the Teams in Malawi and Zambia. Teams have existed in Malawi since 2005, starting off in the region of Zomba. In 2004 Peter Chandler (RIP) and his wife Anna from Southern UK, piloted the first Team in Malawi (Zomba 1) by post as a result of an article they wrote about Teams in The Tablet. Piloting was done remotely with materials being translated into the local language of Chichewa. They remained in touch with members of Teams in Malawi over the years and links were also forged with Irish Team. 16 years later in Malawi there are now Teams in Mzuzu, Ntcheu, Dedza and Mangochi districts as well as in Zomba …Currently 60 Teams with 352 couples!!!
Malawi is a landlocked country in south-eastern Africa, geographically it has an enormous lake -Lake Malawi. Zambia is on its western border. It has the fourth highest percentage of people living in extreme poverty in the world with more than two-thirds of the population in that situation, almost all of whom rely on small-scale farming for their livelihoods.
Malawi is a majority Christian country (87%) with a minority 11.6% Islamic population. 19% of Malawians are Catholic which is the largest Christian group. Malawi is divided up into Central, Northern and Southern regions and each of these into districts. Teams are mainly in the Southern part of the country bordering Zambia and Mozambique. People in Malawi live in large extended families and meetings are often held after Mass outside in family groups. They make a big commitment to Teams as they often travel long distances to retreats and meetings. The Guide to teams and the Charter have been translated into the main language Chichewa as a way of helping those who do not speak English to better understand the Teams method and to be able to participate more fully. The society is still very traditionally segregated, even amongst the younger couples, with traditional, fixed roles for men and women.
Father Gerard Bwemba, a Team chaplain, commented that he has seen the fruits of Teams, with more couples coming to church to have their marriages blessed. He said that lay people have a part to play in the church and need to share responsibility for supporting families with problems. His parish is very active with 124 children for First Communion and 64 Baptisms. Team couples are very focussed on family, vocation and mission.
Zambia, in southern Africa, is a landlocked country of rugged terrain and diverse wildlife, with many parks and safari areas. On its border with Zimbabwe is the famed Victoria Falls. Piotr and Dzidzia met the Zambian Teams in Kalichero with Father Banyangandora who has worked with the Teams since January 2019. The teams meet in each other’s homes and once a month at the parish. Some teams live 50 kilometres away from the parish. The parish is also supported by Father James and brother Lucas.
The Parish set up is: Parish > outstations> Christian communities>sections>families. Several smaller sections meet as one team. There are 13 outstations and Teams are spreading to these in a similar way as they did in Malawi creating the Pre-sector of Zambia. The meetings are run following the pattern of meetings received from Malawi. Father always attends the parish meeting and the smaller team meetings have a catechist fulfilling the role of chaplain.
Ghana is a country along the Gulf of Guinea and the Atlantic Ocean, in the subregion of West Africa. Teams in Ghana were started in 2016 through a link between Prinknash Abbey in England and Kristobuase in Ghana. Kristobuase Monastery came to be built through support from the Benedictine community in England. Mary and Robert Jones from Prinknash introduced Teams to Ghana in 2016 and have visited on at least 3 occasions.
Teams have grown well and currently there are 4 Teams in Tuobodom and 5 Teams in Piloting in Tanobuase with 63 couples in total. Robert and Mary are liaison couple to the Teams in Tuobodom and are supporting the Spiritual Counsellor with piloting in Tanobuase. Communication is mainly through Whatsapp as the internet can be poor. Teams are being “advertised” and arousing interest their shirts have the logo on the front saying “Teams Ghana” and the Teams icon on their backs.
SR SRHS - Marilú and Chárbel Saab
THE SOUTH AMERICAN SUPER-REGION
Who we are
In the years up to 2018, the South American Super Region “Hispano-America” included almost all the countries of Latin America, except Brazil and those not yet reached by the Movement, and was organised into three provinces, North, Central and South.
The accelerated growth in the number of teams and sectors, the great distances, the economic and political crisis in some regions, etc., made it very difficult to animate and encourage them on site, and also complicated life for many team members who found it difficult to attend training events.
Given these difficulties, Constanza and Fabio López, the couple responsible for the SR at the time, presented the project for the reorganisation of the Super-Region to the ERI. After deep and thorough discernment, the ERI decided to reorganize the Hispano-America Super Region into three super regions: SR Hispano-America North, SR Colombia and SR Hispano-America South.
In July 2018, at the ERI College in Fatima, we assumed responsibility for the SRHA and with it the commitment to implement the new project. For a year we animated the SRHA and simultaneously coordinated the connections between the new super regional couples and the outgoing provincial couples, until July 2019, at the ERI College of Valencia, where the official multiplication and birth of the three new super regions took place, with Sofia and Gustavo Hernandez from Mexico, SRHA-North, Mabel and Juan Guillermo Ramirez from Pereira, SR Colombia and we continued the service in SRHA-South.
The Hispano-America-South Super Region has 279 teams and 1479 couples, corresponding to the regions of North Ecuador, South Ecuador, Peru, Paraguay and Argentina; two sectors from Chile and two teams from Uruguay.
Among its greatest riches, we find a great disposition to service, the desire to be formed spiritually and in the orientations of the Movement and the diversity of existing idiosyncrasies.
With regard to the difficulties, we can mention the great geographical distances, mainly in Argentina, Peru and Chile, the economic and political crises that some countries are living, the high level of laicism in Uruguay and the crisis of the clergy in Chile, which have prevented the expansion of the Movement, luckily without a decline in enthusiasm to continue in this task.
We had the opportunity to hold the First SRHAS College in October 2019 in Guayaquil, where we personally met all the regional couples, liaison couples and their councillors. We drew up the work plan for 2020, based on the most relevant needs encountered, which are training and expansion, without neglecting the other aspects of the Movement.
Since March 2020, the Hispan-America South Super-Region has been affected, like the rest of the world, by the ravages of the coronavirus pandemic. During the first two months or so of the quarantine, activity came to an almost complete halt, except for the Eucharistic celebrations, the prayer of the Rosary and the profound experience of Lent, with the collaboration of the Priests Counsellors, all by virtual meetings.
We were a little anxious about how to accompany the team members, to give them hope, to encourage them not to lose faith, to support them in their conjugal spirituality and team life. With the grace of the Holy Spirit, we found in the regional couples, liaison couples and all the members, the enthusiasm, the stimulus, the immense commitment and support to continue this mission.
From then on, we met virtually with all the regional and liaison couples and encouraged them to use the various meeting platforms to continue with the activities planned for 2020, starting by encouraging the monthly team meetings and the care for the counsellors, especially the parish priests.
Everybody reacted positively and started to meet with their support teams and sector couples to motivate them and organize the implementation of events. There was a noticeable improvement in communication with the team members and the counsellors and an exceptional participation in the activities they proposed, especially by those couples and counsellors who are geographically distant and who normally have difficulties to travel and participate in the activities in their regions. The team members from Chile and Uruguay took the opportunity to participate in various activities in other regions, which were announced in the WhatsApp group of the SR and then transmitted to all the regions and liaison couples.
The monthly meetings of the base teams have almost fully resumed. Some team members and counsellors, who don’t have a computer or lack computer expertise, began to participate via their mobile phones or personally met with team mates sharing their computer. They also had virtual social meetings that permitted them to relax from quarantine confinement.
All the scheduled meetings were held, including formation and counsellor meetings, dissemination meetings, piloting meetings, EDIP-C meetings and spiritual retreats, that we call reflection or prayer meetings.
In October we organized the SRHAS College "Virtual Meeting of the SRHS College". During the first two weekends of December we held the "SRHS Formators Meeting", supported by the team of formators of the Super Region Colombia, with the participation of 100 couples from all countries, a number that would not be possible in person for logistical and economic reasons.
We are deeply grateful to our Father God, because He was guiding us according to His plans in the animation and accompaniment of our super-region; and to the Holy Spirit, who enlightened all of us who had to familiarize ourselves with the handling of the virtual platforms, technology that became the ideal tool to keep us in close communication and easily connected.
Nevertheless, we have recommended to our regional and liaison couples that they take advantage of this virtual connection means just for the duration of the confinement measures, and then return to the face-to-face meetings, because nothing can replace the warmth of the meeting and the embrace.
Hope for the end of the pandemic and a return to face-to-face meetings.
To continue for the 2020 objectives.
That the ERI and SRHAS College can be held in person.
The change of four regional couples at the end of the year.
SR Syria - Joceline and Toni ZERBE
"Let's search together"
Spiritual counsellor: Father Sami Hallak S.J.
The Responsible Team is composed of 7 couples and a spiritual counsellor.
The Teams of Our Lady was founded in Syria in 1972. The movement is currently located in the main cities of the country: Latakia, Damascus, Aleppo and Homs. There are six sectors, three of which are in the city of Aleppo. In 2011 (at the beginning of the war in Syria), there were 57 teams with about 270 couples. We are currently 44 teams (215 couples, 19 widows, and 30 priest spiritual counsellors). The number has decreased as a result of emigration due to the war.
In 2020, following the confinement, the meetings stopped for a while. It was there that the couples discovered how vital these meetings were for their spiritual lives, individually and as a couple. Many contacted each other through the means of social communication to pray the rosary together. Others exchanged prayers, meditations and testimonies through our website.
As soon as the measures of confinement were eased, 90% of the couples resumed the rhythm of meetings with the necessary sanitizing measures. These included a single monthly meeting of spiritual mutual aid, meeting in large places if the house of the host couple was small, etc. The sectors have even organised meetings or masses following the wishes of the majority of the members.
Unfortunately, we were unable to organise spiritual retreats because the risk was great. Each sector made an effort to organise a high point instead of retreats.
Confinement, coupled with a war-ravaged society in a country without social insurance, has affected many households financially. The Syrian Responsible Couple found a little way to help the teams. It was a little push that carried the title: The widow's drachma. This gesture was highly appreciated, and the couples showed great solidarity.
The virtual meeting of the "Far but Near" College on Zoom gave us a great idea. On Zoom, and in circumventing the international embargo against Syria, we did a training session for the responsible couples for the sectors in Syria. Four sessions, during four evenings, in four days. It was great. The embargo made us clever: We were entitled to the free 45 minutes offered by Zoom. Then, we resumed our meeting ten minutes later with a new reservation on Zoom. Each couple in charge had a battery to have internet if the electricity was cut off, and it was cut off several times, and the team continued the meeting with the battery torch. The spiritual counsellor, Fr. Sami Hallak s.j. also participated from Lebanon.
The theme of our Zoom meeting was Fr. Caffarel's phrase: "Let's search together". Father Sami asked those in charge of the sectors to be creative in these exceptional times. We have set the essential in our activities. An effort must be made to maintain the essential, and the contingent is left to circumstances.
This year, training and information sessions have resumed in all the towns, new teams are being prepared, occasional meetings are being organised, and the monthly meetings have resumed. This year, we have three teams in piloting. They are accompanied by a couple for one year.
The knowledge of the movement and its spirit and methods are progressively explained as well as the different stages of its pedagogical methodology and the theme of study during this year (Gathered in the name of Christ).
We believe that this epidemic will end one day. We will resume our pace, strengthened by the power of the Cross of Jesus Christ. Our Mother, the Virgin Mary, sees our efforts and our anxieties for the Kingdom of God. She will present us before the heavenly court and will say, joyful and radiant: "These came out of the great trial". They remained faithful to the Lamb (Rev. 7, 14-15). This is why they deserve a special grace to comfort them.
SR Spain -Rocío Yñiguez and Pedro Ruiz-Berdejo
LEARNING TO FIGHT THE PANDEMIC TOOTH AND NAIL
This pandemic is hitting society hard as a whole and many individuals and families in particular. This has unfortunately been our case. On 4th November 2020, we buried Fernando, Rocío's father. He died a victim of COVID at the age of 98, in his home and in the care of his children. The death of a father is always sad, very sad, but in this case it was especially painful. Of the seven siblings, only three were able to attend the funeral in person because one of the four had been in hospital for three weeks with a serious intestinal disease and the other three, including Rocio, were confined to their homes because they had tested positive for COVID and had become infected while caring for their father. This situation made us reflect and see that at that moment of Calvary, Rocio, besides the suffering of the Cross of losing a father, also had another pain. Like the crown of thorns the Lord wore for all of us, Rocio felt the pain of not being able to go to her father's funeral because she too was confined by this terrible virus.
However, the Lord is always merciful and relieves us in our suffering. Thanks to the tenacity and strength of our daughter Rocio, who did not give up. She transmitted the funeral of her grandfather to her mother and her three uncles who could not be present due to the illness, by means of a video conference, making sure that the whole family was present at her father's funeral.
Our daughter Rocio was very clear that she was not going to remain with her arms folded during her mother's situation of powerlessness and suffering, because she could not attend her father's funeral. That is why at that dramatic moment, with our eyes full of tears, we thanked God for our daughter Rocio, who taught us that COVID cannot break us and that we have to fight against it tooth and nail.
Our daughter Rocio's reaction will serve to teach all of us in Teams what our attitude should be in the face of the difficulties of this pandemic. The limitation of people who can meet under the same roof affects not only team meetings but also the common acts of the movement: welcome, training days etc. But just as we say this, we also have to say that we are very proud of each and every one of the team members, who like our daughter Rocio, are fighting against these difficulties tooth and nail, giving the best of themselves, using their imagination and above all giving LOVE, much much LOVE. We have learned to adapt formats, virtual meetings have proliferated, or we have met in open spaces or in parish halls. Thank you to all the members of the Super Region of Spain for being so generous and welcoming to the TOL family by offering their churches and parishes!
We too, as Responsible Couple for the Super Region, in communion with our Super Region College, have learned to live with this strange and difficult situation: changing the objectives set a priori, placing the care of the Movement as the first priority, fighting tooth and nail for each of the team members, especially the older ones, who are more alone and need more care.
In these times we have to learn to love each other more. As Pope Francis asks us in his new encyclical FratelliTutti, we have to spread hope from heart to heart, trusting in God's love. We are convinced that this is a time of opportunity, in which we are going to learn a lot, and for this reason we have launched activities that have never been done before at a Super Regional level. Some of these are:
● community prayer on the first Saturday of the month, which we broadcast through the YouTube channel of the Super Region,
● the Super Regional Mixed Teams Meeting that met virtually simultaneously on 28 November to work on the Pope’s Fratelli Tutti encyclical. More than 400 couples from the nine Regions that make up the Super Region of Spain participated. This made it possible to form 60 mixed teams with couples from all over Spain.
It was a unique and very enriching experience and many couples have asked us to repeat the experience. So, we already have a second edition of this Mixed Teams Meeting underway for the spring of 2021, to which we also want to invite couples from other Spanish speaking countries, so that they can experience the universality of our Movement.
We are united in prayer and convinced that Our Lady of the Home, through the intercession of Father Caffarel, is helping and enlightening us from Heaven, by sending us the strength of the Holy Spirit to continue to fight tooth and nail in these difficult times. So be it!
WHAT IS ERI DOING?
Mercedes Gómez-Ferrer and Alberto Pérez
Couple Responsible for Communication
Knowing the love we have for each other in the Teams of Our Lady and with the welcome we always try to give to everyone who approaches us, we present ourselves as the new couple responsible for Communication in the ERI. Knowing that we are loved by all and above all by God, helps us to welcome this call with hope, even though our weakness also poses uncertainties. But this is how we are as people, strong and fragile, confident and afraid, full of contradictions; and this is also our reality.
We are Alberto Pérez and Mercedes Gómez-Ferrer. We got married almost 30 years ago and we live in Valencia. We have three sons; the two eldest already work and live away from home, and the youngest is the only one still living with us. We also work here, Alberto as a high school music teacher and Mercedes as an Art History teacher at the University. We share many things that we like to do together: culture, travel, sports, and excursions which we enjoy extraordinarily. We thank our children for the understanding and support they have always given us in everything we do.
We can say that we have been part of Teams almost all our lives, as we consider the first team to be that of Mercedes' parents, Alvaro and Mercedes. It is an important part of our history, because living what they lived and recognizing the need not to be alone, we decided to join the Teams as soon as we got married. Since then, and for many years, we have been part of Valencia 101. It is a team we love, that supports us, and to which we owe so much. Together we have been charting a path, which passes through very different stages. It is a true path of faith and growth in love. We believe that having persevered in fidelity to the movement from our base team, has allowed us to go on living this path of conversion. This is Teams in the deepest sense of the term. It has allowed us to "revise the focus of our life" and "readjust the perspective".
Little by little, various invitations for serving the movement emerged, to which we have said “yes”. First, as a responsible couple for a sector, also taking on other tasks such as piloting or giving training sessions. Later as responsible couple for the Levante Region of SR Spain, and most recently as coordinators of the Satellite Team for young couples. We have also had the great fortune of looking beyond our team and getting to know the Movement from other perspectives. We participated in the International Gathering of Fatima in 1994, also in Brasilia 2012, and in the most recent one in Fatima 2018. We also participated in the Regional Gatherings in Rome 2009 and 2015, and in so many International Colleges that have been for us an open door to the world. We cannot forget such emotional moments as the sit-downs in the esplanade of Fatima or our participation in the choir. All of this has helped us to get to know many people, to constantly review the pedagogy of Teams, to try to get to the heart of what they propose to us. It has allowed us to share days with many spiritual counsellors who have accompanied us with extraordinary affection, and with people from many places who have taught us a lot about how Teams are experienced on a daily basis.
Really, if we can say anything, it is that we love Teams and we believe that they are a grace from God. This call to service is for us a call to live, in truth and depth, the charism that Father Caffarel intuited in his day and which remains fully valid. We choose again, as we did when we were responsible for our Region and Super-Region, the words of Father Caffarel to the team leaders in the letter of April-May 1957:
"You are in charge of your team members. You feel, and you want to be responsible for their human and Christian development, all you have to do is work. Give to them. Give yourselves.
Even if you are the least capable, you have infinite things to offer, because what they need, in the first place, is not your goods but yourselves. And this is the most difficult thing to do. To give yourself, to always be available for others is difficult and tiring. To be available, without a doubt, to give material service, but above all, a much higher service, which consists of offering an attentive, understanding and motivating heart that conveys confidence, that knows how to tell the truth, that dares to demand. »
P. Henri Caffarel 1957
This is a call that motivates us and makes us come out of ourselves. It encourages us despite the difficulty, it encourages us and drives us. It is a call that makes us recognize our reality and our infinite need for others and for God. It is a proposal to pray together and it is an open opportunity for conversion of heart. We can only respond with love, to all the love received and lived.
This call to a greater love, which is service, in our case has translated into accepting the responsibility for communication in the ERI. It is something that has come about in a very unexpected way, having to replace Joao and Dora, whom we thank for their dedication during this time. We would also like to thank Edgardo and Clarita for the trust and warm welcome that they and the whole ERI have given us. It is a responsibility assumed and shared as a couple, with the help of the Holy Spirit, a support team and the International Leading Team, of which we already feel a part. Some people who have already worked with us also accompany us in this service. Our thanks to Miguel and Isa, Ricardo and Carmen, and Hildo and Sandra. With them we have started a journey to revise some aspects of communication that we can continue and apply at an international level. It has multiple faces like a kaleidoscope. Perhaps the most visible today due to the circumstances we are living in, are those referring to new technologies: presence on the net, websites, social networks, YouTube channels, connection platforms... We are living it and in an increasingly evident way we recognise its usefulness in these times in which presence has become a treasure. But we cannot forget many other faces of communication. How are our texts, how do we say things to each other, how do we bear witness, how do we make ourselves visible to the world, what style do we have of expressing ourselves, of making ourselves understood, of transmitting the hope that the life of the Teams offers us? All these aspects and many more will be addressed with the help of everyone in order to continue to make Teams a place where we can live our Christian marriage in the 21st century.
Making our own the words of the song, "may your Spirit embrace our whole being, make us docile to your voice, transform our whole life", grateful in advance for your welcome and asking for your prayer, we send you a big hug