Communication in times of difficulty
Dear friends, we want to continue to cultivate our proximity as couples who walk in the Church and in the world.
We present to you this second moment of sharing which we hope will be an opportunity for all to feel united in these difficult times. Happy reading!
International Responsible Team
Clarita & Edgardo BERNAL
International Responsible Couple
Dear members of the International College: Today you receive the second issue of this extraordinary bulletin in these times of difficulty. As its name suggests, we are geographically #farbutnear, in spirit and heart. This initiative has been very well received by the International College. We have received generous and affectionate messages of congratulations and encouragement. This makes us see how important it is that those of us with responsibilities in the Movement, promote today more than ever, opportunities of accompaniment which can take us out of our physical isolation and lead us to participate in the feast of spiritual unity and creativity which breathes life.
In the last bulletin we spoke of the importance of Being Community. In this one we want to speak about being an active member of a community who not only draws nourishment from it, but is concerned with nourishing those who share in it. It is the difference between being a passive spectator or an agent of change.
It is surprising how quickly people adapt to new circumstances, no matter how adverse these circumstances may be, and how the capacity for resilience through faith emerges. It is a positive catalyst that empowers them. We cannot cease to be impressed when we look at the initiatives that we have seen emerge in our Movement. We have seen how Super Regions and Regions, together with their responsible couples and support teams, have overnight become skilled distance educators, with PhD-level expertise in virtual platforms, such as Zoom, Cisco, Meet, StreamYard, WhatsApp. This has brought them closer than usual to the base team members, celebrating Eucharists, scheduling meetings, organizing forums, pilgrimages, interviews, etc. It is the creativity of mutual aid in all its expression where skills and capabilities are put at the service of others!
In this issue, our fellow Team members and Zone liaison couples will share with us some of these experiences in their animation, as well as the testimonies given by Gianni and Clelia (Super Regional Couple of Italy), Alex and Susy (Regional Couple of India), and Helena and Pawel (Super Regional Couple of Poland).
In a world where, at least before COVID19, selfishness and greed prevailed, a simple oriental children's tale is illustrative. We feel it is appropriate to tell this story as a reminder of what we have lived and as a lesson to overcome these dark times.
Regarding the use of children's tales to understand our realities, José Saramago said: What if children's tales were compulsory reading for adults? Would we really be able to learn what we have been teaching for so long? Much wisdom is hidden in this reflection, since the theology of simplicity, as Pope Francis calls it, is almost always more powerful and more transformative than the learned discourses that are first filtered by reason before reaching the heart.
Let us see what lesson this tale leaves us in this age where sharing is synonymous with life, and taking advantage of it in a selfish way, is synonymous with death:
HEAVEN AND HELL
In a far eastern kingdom, there were two friends who had the curiosity and the desire to know about Good and Evil. One day they came to the cabin of the Sage, Lang, to ask him some questions. Once inside they asked him:
- "Old man, tell us, what is the difference between heaven and hell?
The wise man answered:
- I see a mountain of freshly cooked rice. It is still smoking. Around it there are many men and women who are very hungry. The sticks they use to eat are longer than their arms. That is why when they take the rice, they cannot get it into their mouths. Anxiety and frustration are growing.
Later, the wise man continued:
- I see another mountain of freshly cooked rice, still smoking. All around it there are many happy people smiling with satisfaction. Their sticks are also longer than their arms. Instead, they have decided to feed each other.
Dear friends, let us never cease to feed one another, nor let our own needs cloud our ability to share.
We applaud, from the publishing desk of #farbutnear, all the servants of the Teams of Our Lady who, with generosity and creativity in this time of darkness, have been a source of food and light in our homes to nourish, illuminate and accompany us on our journey. We invite all the Super Regions to allow themselves to be infected by these initiatives which, unlike COVID19, will strengthen us and make us grow.
On this Day of Pentecost which we have just celebrated, we ask our Lord with all our heart that this pandemic may soon cease and that, with the action of His Spirit on all the members of our beloved Teams of our Lady Movement, we may come out of it with an ability to be ever more merciful to others and more aware of the need to care for our common home.
May it be so
PS.: Last May, our friends Lu and Nelson, responsible couple for SR Brazil, invited us to celebrate, in a virtual way as necessary at this time, the 70 years of life of the Good News of Teams of Our Lady in this blessed land. From this bulletin, we want to express our feeling of joy and offer our most affectionate congratulations to all the Brazilian team members. It is moving to note that, like the yeast in the dough, the inspiration that motivated Pedro Moncau to write to Father Caffarel in 1949, finding out about the young movement that the publication l'Anneau d'Or spoke of and that came into his hands, has since multiplied in this fertile land on the other side of the ocean. It has borne fruit in abundance, the fruit that today is shared by the members of the almost 4,600 "Equipes de Nossa Senhora da Super-Região Brasil".
Eucharistic life in the time of Coronavirus
Father Ricardo Londono - International Spiritual Counselor
We have faced a series of unprecedented situations in recent months. It was unthinkable a few weeks ago that temples and churches would be closed and entry to these buildings prevented. The community celebration of the Eucharist was suspended and we had to fast from communion with the Bread of Life. In any case, what could not be imagined, has become a reality. Literary critics say that reality is stranger than fiction.
Many questions arose for the communities of the Catholic faithful: How to live the Eucharistic dimension at the time of Covid 19? How to maintain communion with our brothers and sisters in Christ? Is virtual communication a new form of participation? And there are many other questions. Much has been written about it by theologians, pastors, sociologists, etc.
It is a time of signs and there are many signs of the times.
While it is true that we do not celebrate Mass in community, online networks are flooded with religious offerings. Many ways have been found to congregate without being present. We devised ways of creating proximity from a distance. There is a presence in the midst of absence. We invented ways and means of not being disconnected. We have been participating in numerous meetings via networking platforms. In other words, we put communication technology at the service of the community, the gathering and the celebration.
It is true we need Eucharistic communion. But we have strengthened the table of the Word. It is our permanent food. Prayer has acquired new channels and forms. Religious, spiritual and formative offerings have multiplied. The buildings are empty, but the hearts are full of new things.
In the midst of concern about the disaster caused by the virus, is the Lord not inviting us to look at the signs of the times? Is it not an opportunity to listen to Pope Francis, who insists that we must lose our self-referentiality? Is it not a new call to give greater meaning to dialogue in communities, so that we allow discernment and truth to emerge with greater force?
It is good that we can learn new paths or ways of evangelization from what we have experienced. May we strengthen the common priesthood of the baptized and become sacraments of new life, realities that were once hidden.
If the Eucharist is about surrender and detachment, if it is about breaking and giving, then surely the Lord calls us to make it about life beyond the rite and the ceremony.
LIVING OUR FAITH WITH THE WHOLE CHURCH
LAUDATO SI WEEK: BUILDING A BETTER WORLD TOGETHER
Laudato si' week began on May 16, an initiative promoted by the Vatican and concluded on May 24 at noon in Rome with a World Day of Prayer. This week, Catholics were invited to participate in on-line, interactive and collaborative formation seminars, and Pope Francis encouraged the faithful to participate and to think about the future of our common House.
Laudato si' week was part of a global campaign on the occasion of the 5th anniversary of the Encyclical on the Care of the Common House. The theme of the week was: "Everything is connected".
"What kind of world do we want to leave for those who come after us, for the children who are growing up?"
From this question, the Pope renewed his "urgent call to respond to the ecological crisis, the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor who can no longer wait. Let us care for creation, a gift from our good Creator God".
The Encyclical Letter Laudato si' offers the vision of building a more just and sustainable world, of an integral human development that leaves no one behind. It calls not only for a change of attitude, but also for a new way of thinking.
Throughout the world, from the Episcopal Conferences, Dioceses and Parishes, various initiatives have been developed for this moment of celebration of the Encyclical, which invites us to ponder on the future of our planet, from a perspective of integral ecology, where everything is interconnected.
From now on, the Pope invites us to celebrate the year dedicated to the Encyclical, which represents a kind of verification to collect initiatives, ideas, experiences and good practices; a way of sharing what the document has raised up in communities, territories and throughout the world; an occasion to reflect on its actuality at the present time, as the whole world struggles against the Covid-19 pandemic.
"O God, allow me to cultivate ecological virtues", is the prayer we must make.
We have just celebrated the Solemnity of Pentecost with the Church.
Pentecost is considered one of the most important solemnities for the Catholic Church, because it marks the coming of the Holy Spirit upon the apostles of Jesus and the Virgin Mary. From this moment on, everyone was blessed and began to speak aloud and preach the teachings of Christ with the languages that were spoken around the world.
This feast is remembered every year 50 days after Easter Sunday and some catechesis also call it the "anniversary of the Catholic Church".
Jesus, having risen and ascended into heaven, sends his Spirit to the Church so that every Christian may participate in his own divine life and become its witness in the world.
Says Pope Francis:
"For this reason, Jesus, meeting His own, repeats: "Peace be with you" (Jn 20:19,21) and gives the Spirit. Peace does not consist in solving problems from the outside - God does not take away the tribulations and persecutions from His own - but in receiving the Holy Spirit. In this is peace, that peace given to the Apostles, that peace which does not free them from problems, but in problems, peace is offered to each one of us.
It is a peace that makes the heart like the deep sea: it remains tranquil, even when the waves are rising on the surface. It is such a deep harmony that it can even transform persecutions into blessedness.
But instead, how often we remain on the surface! Instead of seeking the Spirit, we try to act, thinking that all will be well if a certain problem passes, if we no longer see such a person, if we improve that situation. But that is to remain on the surface: one problem will be overcome, another will arrive; and the anxiety will return. It is not by moving away from those who think differently from us that we will be reassured; it is not by solving the present problem that we will be at peace.
The point of change is the peace of Jesus, it is the harmony of the Spirit.
MONTH OF JUNE: Sacred Heart of Jesus
The month of June is traditionally dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, the highest human expression of divine love. The Solemnity of the Heart of Jesus, which will be celebrated on the 19th, is a feast that gives harmony to the whole month.
The Heart of Jesus, in popular piety, is the symbol par excellence of God's mercy. But, as Pope Francis states, "it is not an imaginary symbol, but a real symbol, representing the centre, the source from which the salvation of all humanity flows.
In the Gospels we find various references to the Heart of Jesus. For example, in the passage where Christ himself says: "Come to me, all you who are weary and oppressed, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, who am gentle and humble of heart" (Mt 11:28-29).
On 20 June, we celebrated the Immaculate Heart of Mary: her immaculate heart, the heart of a mother, shared to the full this compassion of God, especially at the hour of the Passion and Death of Jesus.
May Mary help us to be meek, humble and merciful to our brothers and sisters!
Virtual Meetings: how to participate in a fruitful way?
Jesus said to them again: "Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you." And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them: "Receive the holy Spirit”. (Jn 20:21-22)
Dear SR and RR responsible couples:
All of humanity is experiencing a difficult time. The opportunities for face-to-face encounters are still quite reduced, because these cannot occur without observing limits to the number of people, guarantees of social distancing, as well as the observance of cleanliness procedures to avoid infection and the transmission of Coronavirus.
For these very practical reasons, different methods of communication are emerging. In order not to lose their dynamics, virtual meetings are becoming popular using the available technologies. These have proven to be profitable, effective and productive.
Since it is now impossible for the Movement to hold its annual meeting of the International College in Warsaw in July-August, we must address the great challenge of bringing participants together by means of an extraordinary virtual meeting. It cannot have the richness of the International College, and this is why we prefer to call it an Extraordinary Virtual Meeting. However, it can be a time for meeting together, for mutual support, for shared reflection and for prayer. It can still provide us with the necessary tools to preserve our unity, to walk together, and to help each other. Nonetheless, it will still be a significant challenge because we greatly value the opportunities for prayer together, the contacts we establish and the exchanges of experiences we make in person.
We need to overcome the difficulties inherent in this type of virtual meeting.
We have certainly become used to virtual meetings in the last 2-3 months, either in our Base Teams, or participating in online Masses, or many other social, religious, and professional events. We are also getting used to using Skype, WhatsApp, Zoom, Meet, etc.
Therefore, we believe that all of you, as SR and RR responsible couples, will have some familiarity with these virtual technologies. So we believe we will successfully conduct our virtual meeting, and achieve the goals that are proposed for the Movement in the coming year (2020-2021).
The ERI is still working on the setting up of the virtual meeting PROGRAM. But, we are already convinced that the strategies for this meeting will allow everyone to participate actively, clarify their doubts, exchange experiences, and successfully manage the year ahead.
All the information and documents of the extraordinary virtual meeting will be available at a specific internet address, which we will forward to you at the appropriate time. After the meeting, we will send you all a "reminder" of the main points treated.
At this time, in addition to being prophets of hope, our message must be to build a Church and a Movement that welcomes people in need; that cultivates fraternity and hospitality; and contributes to a more just and sustainable society.
We ask you, dear Responsible Couples, together with your Spiritual Counsellors, to begin preparation for the spiritual character of the meeting - from now on, praying and asking the Lord, our God and loving Father, to guide us and encourage us in our mission in the Teams of Our Lady, so that this meeting may reach the fruits that the Holy Spirit inspires in us.
We are sure that all of us will emerge from this extraordinary virtual meeting, better than when we entered, and with more clarity of our mission at this time of difficulty, so that we can contribute, through the charism of Teams of Our Lady, to the building up of the Kingdom of God.
TESTIMONY OF HELENA ET PAWEL KUKUŁOWICZ
Responsible Couple of SR Poland
After College cancellation
The time until the outbreak of the pandemic was very busy for us. In fact, every weekend was busy with meetings, trips, and conversations about the College. At the beginning of the week, in which severe restrictions were introduced in Poland, we had a meeting with two married couples who were to be involved in organizing the Saturday meeting with the ERI. Then there was only silence and waiting. To be honest, our thoughts revolved primarily around the situation in Poland and other countries, especially in Italy.
The topic of the College came up only once in a while. Will it take place or not? In our daily prayer, we entrusted to God the sick, those who lost their loved ones, and asked for protection for those who fought the coronavirus.
The awareness that the College would not take place knocked harder on our hearts. After cancelling international flights for an indefinite period, we had no hope that the College in Warsaw could take place in July. We were not surprised by the official information: the College is cancelled… We felt regret, but we were also relieved. It may sound silly, but one of the thoughts was: now we can have a vacation!
Then we began to prepare a letter of thanks for all those who were involved in the preparation of the meeting. It was not easy. It turned out that there were so many people, not only from Poland. We have understood that these are the fruits of the College that even a pandemic cannot take away.
When we think about the College, we feel particularly sorry for two things. We were so glad that Christ would be with us in the chapel in Borzęcin all the time, and from the fact that we could kneel at any time before the Blessed Sacrament. Our joy was strengthened by the beauty of the chapel, designed like an African hut. We thought it was a sign for our international Movement and that we would please the couples from Africa. We were also waiting to meet with Dzidzia and Piotr Chodzko-Zajko, who finish their responsibility this year. We did not meet them in Valencia, and they are so close to us. We also thought about Magda, who with such effort designed the logo and other graphic elements of the College. She put so much effort into this work. Thank you, Magda.
However, we trust that the College will one day be held in our Super Region, and that SR Poland will enjoy the presence of couples from around the world.
Meanwhile, we remain in prayer with you all. Magnificat!
TESTIMONY OF CLELIA AND GIANNI PASSONI
Responsible Couple of SR Italy
In the last days of February, we were greeted by Roger and Emilia AGBOZOH and Bernadette and Sylvestre MINLEKIBE, for our meeting of the Eurafrica Zone in Lomé, Togo, planned since last year. The responsible couple of the Spanish Super Region and their spiritual counsellor also attended. Unfortunately, for work reasons, our Portuguese friends were not able to be with us.
We, Clelia and Gianni (responsible for the Italian Super Region), together with Father Martino (national spiritual counsellor), were able to experience the great gift of the Zone meeting in Lomé. Meanwhile, in Italy, several commitments with the teams were already being suspended because of the first signs of this pandemic (COVID-19), which was spreading especially in the north of the country.
At first, we honestly could not understand the gravity of the situation and how it would be experienced.
Day by day, more news was being added, but above all, government decisions and decrees were taking shape. Our souls were full of doubt, as we felt uncertainty and powerlessness in the face of this event where we could not understand how serious it was.
As those responsible for the SR, together with all those responsible in our Regions, we realized that we had to stop, reflect and pray. At the same time we had to understand how to carry out our activities, and listen to the various and new situations of the team members.
First of all, we asked ourselves how we could be close to them, without creating additional fear or alarm, but to bring comfort and affection. Therefore, we prudently adhered to national restrictions, reminding the members of the Movement that we are primarily citizens responsible for each other.
Our first attitude was (and still is) not to lose hope and to carry out collegial discernment. We asked for the gift of the Spirit, before taking steps and making choices to continue to walk together in the search for God in our lives.
We left open the possibility of national meetings to be held in April and May. Then, given the reality that was becoming more and more complicated, we asked ourselves if we should also offer an opportunity for formation. Together with the national team, we "built" the National Session: "Unbalanced towards the other". "Do not despise what has been created by the Lord who loves life". 
We maintained two events we had already planned with a priest and a theologian, and then we offered the opportunity for a Sit-down, the Eucharist, prayer, and ideas for the base teams. All this, of course, was delivered through the web, both with direct Facebook and some previously made recordings .
In order to give a sense of participation, a private group registration was requested for the protection of privacy. At the same time, for those who were not able to access Facebook, all the links were published on the national website (www.equipes-notre-dame.it - national sessions) to offer all team members this opportunity. This "session" was held on May 1, 2 and 3 with the participation of over 600 couples.
Prior to the event, we were mindful of the need to always keep the journey of Team members alive, and we also noted that "every year, during this same period, the Italian Church prayed in churches continuously for a whole day - 24 hours for the Lord". As a result, our Spiritual Counsellor Father Martino, proposed a Prayer Vigil reminding us that one of the changes in the early Church was to change the places of worship: the passage from the temple to the house.
Thus, was born an experience every 15th and 30th day of the month, which still continues to this day. It begins at 7:00pm and ends at 7:00am the next morning. Each time, Father Martino prepares a script with prayer suggestions and reflections that couples can use to keep vigil. The family becomes the "little domestic church".
"Your house will bear even more explicit witness to God if it is the union of two seekers of God, according to the admirable expression of the Psalms. Two seekers, whose minds and hearts are eager to know, to find God, to be united to Him, because they have understood that God is the great reality, because God interests them more than anything else. [...]
Such a house is a place of worship. Not only in the sense that spouses are their worshippers in spirit and in truth, that their children have grown up to be worshippers themselves, but also in the sense that this impulse to worship guides their hearts and all their tasks during the day.
The Christian home is that little community of which St. John Chrysostom spoke. ...] If all other places of worship were closed, abandoned, destroyed, as in some parts of the world, the Christian family would continue to be the dwelling place of God among men. And since God dwells there, it is a place where God acts. ...] The existence of a Christian home is a holy history, because it is a history guided by God. 
Another event at a national level, was the Sunday Eucharist, always celebrated live by the National Spiritual Counsellor.
Each Regional Couple was called to approach the Sectors Couples. Video calls and chats are being used to make people feel close, but also for the continuity of the journey, to keep alive the Spirit of communion and fraternity.
Several sectors have proposed and organized a Retreat or Sector Day via the web. We also know that base Teams have taken steps to use these tools for their monthly meeting.
This time of confinement gave rise to a desire to pray together more often and to "see one another," especially to ensure Spiritual Counsellors were not left alone.
Regional Teams continue to meet virtually. The suspended sessions have already been rescheduled for next year. A gradual recovery is expected in the near future. Local activities will (perhaps) permit the involvement of a smaller number of people.
The desire to meet again is very strong and felt by all.
This is a time that is so new, so uncertain, and so outside our usual experience. We are asked to reflect and rethink our way of life, and how we can be an outgoing Church that is more and more faithful to the Gospel.
Many times, in these last months, we have heard and said to ourselves: "not everything will be as before".
Now that we have passed the first stage of this new time, we ask ourselves many questions about the future. Only together, walking day by day with humility, with eyes and heart open to listen to the Spirit, can we experience new ways, overcome the fears that live in us, approach our brothers and sisters to make gestures and steps that will build a more just and respectful world.
 “Squilibrati verso l’alt(r)o”. “Nulla disprezzi di quanto hai creato Signore che ami la vita”.
 Henri CAFFAREL, "Teams of Our Lady in the face of atheism", Rome, May 5, 1970.
TESTIMONY OF SUSY ET ALEX ANTHRAPER
Responsible Couple of Region India
Responsible Couple of Region India
The pandemic is having its impact in India too, though not to the extent of Europe and US. We are under lockdown for the past 2 months. Hope and pray that the troubled times will pass over soon.
The Team members in India Region are safe and well, though most of them are in the vulnerable age group. We have been in constant touch with the Sector Responsible couples inquiring about the well-being of the Team members.
The Teams have been advised to use Zoom and Google Duo to conduct the meetings. This method is popular aiming the young groups. But the fact is that the elderly members are not so computer savvy and are finding it difficult to participate. They have been advised to make phone calls frequently among their Team members and partake in the prayers and pooling.
A plus point of the lockdown is that we all find more time to spend with our spouse and children and are making the most of it.
Let us all join in prayer and love.
WHAT IS ERI DOING?
Discovering online opportunities during lockdown
Faye and Kevin Noonan
Eurasia Zone Liaison Couple
Eurasia Zone Liaison Couple
In just a short time, Coronavirus has fundamentally changed many aspects of our life. Activities that we thought were ordinary and routine in the past, have now become difficult or sometimes impossible. We yearn for a time when we can meet with our own Team members again in their home, share a meal, and feel their embrace.
However, there are still many things we can do, and there are even some activities that we can now do better than before. It is a time to be innovative and to have the courage to try new ideas. Our own journey in recent months has been one of discovery, and we have been amazed by the ingenuity of some teams during a time of adversity.
Our first experience of the Coronavirus outbreak happened while we were on our way to an ERI meeting in Togo, followed by a large gathering with the Teams of French-speaking Africa. After the meetings in Togo, we planned to spend the next week in Ghana, part of the Eurasia Zone, visiting the Teams in Techiman. We were excited at the prospect of meeting them for the first time. So much work had gone into preparation for the meetings in both countries, and we were very disappointed when they both had to be cancelled.
As we returned to Australia and into mandatory isolation, we hoped that one day we might finally meet the Teams in Ghana. We were delighted to receive an invitation to join a WhatsApp group called “Teams of Our Lady in Techiman”. This is a very active group and includes daily scripture readings and reflections, as well as the prayers and hymns for Sunday Mass. It is also an important link between team members and local clergy, as well as contacts in Great Britain. It is wonderful to see how the couple who brought Teams to Ghana, (Mary and Robert Jones from England), continue to remain in close contact. In a country where internet access is slow, they already had a well-functioning online community where distance was irrelevant. The online aspects of their Teams life prepared the Teams in Techiman well for the Coronavirus challenges that lay ahead. We are touched to have been invited into this community and inspired by their faith.
Encouraged by these simple, practical initiatives, we began to look for other opportunities where technology could improve contact with Teams members, rather than just be a poor substitute during difficult times.
We started with our own Zone meetings with SR/RR couples. These meetings are typically held once a year at the International College. Using Zoom, we are now holding frequent Zone meetings (currently monthly), and this has deepened our relationship as a team. Through more frequent contact, we have been able to share ideas and develop joint initiatives, so that duplicated effort is reduced across the Zone.
For the next Eurasia Zone initiative, we worked with the SR/RR couples to hold regular online English-language Masses during May and June. These Masses are open to all Teams members around the world and have been much appreciated. The Masses are being celebrated by Spiritual Counsellors from different countries in Eurasia, so that each country can bring a little of its own culture to the celebration of Mass. Already we have celebrated Masses from New Zealand, Great Britain and India, with future Masses scheduled from Australia and Ireland.
We were delighted that Bishop Steve Lowe, from New Zealand, agreed to celebrate the first of these Masses. In 2018, Bishop Steve invited Teams into his Diocese and agreed to be the Spiritual Counsellor for one of the newly formed Teams of young couples. We piloted this Team in 2019 from Australia using Skype, and the experience was very successful. We learned many valuable lessons about the challenges of holding Team meetings over the internet, and we drew heavily on this practical experience during the Coronavirus lockdowns.
It is clear to us, that WhatsApp, Zoom and Skype have created new opportunities for us to provide better liaison. However, we also clearly understand that these online tools are not a replacement for personal interaction. There can be no better way to understand the realities of life for couples in any country, than to meet with them in their home, to embrace them, to walk in their footsteps, and to feel their joy and their pain. Online encounters can never deliver the deep insights gained through close and personal interaction, but they can create new and innovative ways of communicating with each other.
During the lockdowns in March, for example, we were invited to join an online meeting of the Oceania Super Regional Team for a short time using Zoom. In the past, this would have been a major logistical challenge, requiring travel for more than 1000 kilometres. Reflecting on the success of this meeting, we can now see there is an opportunity for us to work more closely with Regional and Super Regional teams in other countries through simple online visits. Sometimes the best ideas are just simple ideas that are easy to implement!
Of course, END does not operate separately from other parts of the Catholic Church, and the Church is also changing in its use of online technologies. For example, our own parish has been sustained and enlivened by online technology during the Coronavirus period, and the transition has been surprisingly easy. Each week, we now have a full schedule of online activities, including online Mass, scripture study, and a bible discussion, and we also mentor a young married couple. All this is accomplished without leaving our home!
Coronavirus will have an enduring impact on the world, and we can only hope the enduring message will be for the good of humanity. Our own experience of Teams during this crisis has been one of concern and mutual support for the welfare of others, together with a deep faith in the guiding hand of God in times of adversity. We hope the innovative ideas developed by Teams to communicate through necessity during the Coronavirus pandemic, will continue to be developed and nurtured long after the virus has gone.
The Zone Eurafrica in the time of lockdown
Bernadette and Sylvestre Minlekibe
Eurafrica Zone Liaison Couple
Eurafrica Zone Liaison Couple
The essential mission of the zone liaison couple consists in maintaining and revitalizing the links of the Super Regions (SR) and Attached Regions (RR) for which it is responsible with the Teams of Our Lady movement, represented by the International Leading Team (ERI), with its responsible couple and its Spiritual Counsellor (CS).
During our meetings within the ERI, we report on this mission, and when we initiate meetings with the responsible couples of the SR and RR, it is often to listen to them and to encourage the dynamism of the movement in the different regions of the world. It is also an opportunity for us to transmit the orientations and recommendations of the ERI, and to gather in return the requests or questions that each responsible couple faces in their country.
The visit of the zone liaison couple in the different countries of their zone allows them to touch the reality of the movement and to go and meet the base team members and the hierarchy of the local churches.
At the last international College in July 2019 in Valencia, Spain, we drew up a calendar of meetings including meetings at the international Colleges and visits to each SR.
The first meeting scheduled for the year 2020 was the Lomé zone meeting, from 27 February to 1 March 2020.
We thank God that we were able to hold it, because that was the deadline before the restrictions of the coronavirus. The following week, Italy isolated the region of Milan, the region of origin of the couple responsible for SR Italy.
Only SR Portugal was unable to make the trip to Lomé, but we listened to them together by videoconference.
It was a very enriching meeting during which we were able to see the progress and difficulties of the Teams of our Lady in our zone.
The zone is growing well overall, especially in French-speaking Africa and in SR Portugal. In the Spanish and Italian SRs, growth is less sustained, but a work of diffusion is being done to compensate for the decrease in marriages and the number of potential team members that this may entail.
Specific formation is given in all the SRs in the area, and permanent formation is already provided (SR Portugal and SR Spain), envisaged in the future (SR Italy), or scheduled (SR AF).
Solidarity is effective in the area and less well-off SRs are supported.
The leaders of SR AF and SR Portugal for Lusophone Africa are called upon to encourage their team members to donate to the movement.
After the Lomé meeting, we continued our exchanges by e-mail, relaying news from the ERI and receiving feedback from the SRs.
Informed of the cancellation of the Warsaw college, we initiated a zone meeting by videoconference on May 16, 2020, in order to get news from each other, as families and couples working as a team, but also to examine the functioning of our movement, in this unexpected context of the coronavirus pandemic.
The presence of all the couples comforted us and the spiritual counsellors supported us by alternately leading the prayer.
We were then able to exchange news about each of our families, which was generally good. We prayed together when we heard the news about the death on 28 March of Michela Valsecchi, mother of Clelia, wife of Gianni (responsible for SR Italy).
We joyfully welcomed Father Nuno Rocha, SC of SR Portugal.
As we shared the news, we noticed that the confinement had brought families closer together, and had given the opportunity to pray much more regularly in the family, making it a true domestic church.
The enriching exchanges on the teams focused on how we keep the links between us as base and service teams during this period of the coronavirus pandemic.
We were pleasantly encouraged by the dynamism and creativity of the team members in our zone. As soon as the restrictions imposing confinement and making meetings difficult or even impossible were confirmed, many base teams began to use internet communication technologies to communicate (WhatsApp, Skype, Zoom, Meet, etc.). The most technological teams had interactive video conferences instead of face-to-face meetings. Even in Africa, where there is a lack of telecom infrastructure, mobile internet has made it possible to hold virtual meetings.
Regarding service teams, we found that overall, the implementation of restrictions led responsible couples to use technology to circumvent these difficulties, to ensure the programs initially established were maintained.
SR Italy held its national session on 1, 2 and 3 May 2020 by videoconference, with more than six hundred couples. It holds a prayer vigil on the 15th and 30th of each month from 7:00pm to 7:00am, with prayers offered by the Spiritual Counsellor.
On 30 May 2020, SR Portugal will hold formation for Sector Couples by videoconference. It is also considering holding the November national meeting by videoconference in case there are problems in holding it in Fatima. It also relayed to the team members all the proposals for spiritual activities of the church in Portugal.
SR Spain has replaced all face-to-face sessions with virtual sessions using internet tools.
Francophone Africa is beginning to practice the use of technology at the SR team level, but some of its core teams are well ahead in its use.
Overall, all the SRs in the Eurafrique zone are trying to maintain their programs of activities, replacing face-to-face sessions with virtual sessions. However, the coronavirus restrictions have had a negative impact on the income of the team members, which could be felt in contributions and solidarity.
Containment constraints have therefore been a source of creativity to continue to keep the liaison between team members on the one hand, and between team members and the movement on the other hand.
This is the place to confirm this shared presentiment that after this coronavirus pandemic, nothing will be the same as before.
We will certainly review our way of living and thinking, to devote a little more time to what is essential: to walk in humility by listening to the Holy Spirit and henceforth free of all our fears; to go towards our brothers and sisters in respect and trust; to propose Jesus Christ to them, he who is "the way, the truth and the life".
Animation of the Central-European Zone during the Covid-19 crisis
Thérèse and Antoine Leclerc
Centre-Europe Zone Liaison Couple
Centre-Europe Zone Liaison Couple
The pandemic spread so rapidly throughout the world, imposing a confinement on us at great speed, taking us all by surprise. It shook up all the programs and activities we had planned. We felt a little bit knocked out and stunned. We had to take the blow, get over it with reason and wisdom, and manage the stress it caused. Somehow the momentum was lost, and the horizon had narrowed.
This was also an opportunity to take a step back, to take some time to discern what is essential at the heart of this crisis. When we are caught up in a whirlwind of activities, meetings, and gatherings to organize, there is always the risk of paying insufficient attention to the animation from a group, a zone, an RR or SR, reducing it to a set of activities. The essential thing is not just in doing it, but in the animation - that is to say, to give it a soul - we can say allowing the Holy Spirit to breathe. In fact, it is He who acts in each one of us; we are only instruments to allow Him to act.
Many activities were no longer possible and had to be cancelled; but of course, this does not mean that the Holy Spirit is no longer present at our side. We were therefore invited, and we are always invited to reflect on what form and through what realities God is present. The first consequence of this confinement and of these new conditions was a strengthening of prayer: to listen to God, to listen to others too, to be attentive to what the teams live.
What are their difficulties, their needs, their distress in this period of confinement? What new needs are emerging?
For some countries, the pandemic had already aggravated a very precarious situation. Let us think of Syria, which is in a state of war. Let's think of Lebanon which is going through a very serious economic and political crisis. With Covid 19, nearly half of the population is now living below the poverty line.
Below are some examples of what has been implemented in the SR and RR, we are far from being exhaustive. These examples are intended to show the creativity of the team members. We find the "Let us seek together", dear to Father Caffarel.
The SR France-Luxembourg-Switzerland has proposed a Sit-down to reflect on the consequences of confinement on the life of a couple. And another has been proposed to reflect on life as a family.
Syria organized financial solidarity to help families weakened by the loss of their jobs.
Belgium proposed celebrations to experience as a family during Holy Week when Masses with the faithful were suppressed.
Lebanon organized an online retreat for team members with a record participation, because God is always present, and everyone needs to meet Him.
In France, the Massabielle house, the house of the Teams where many formations, retreats and Teams sessions are organized, had to close its doors to respect the rules of confinement. It has been reopened and made available to house caregivers who have come as reinforcements in overcrowded hospitals in the Paris region.
In this particular context, what has been the animation of the Central-European Zone?
First of all, listening to what is happening here and there; through emails, phone calls, WhatsApp discussions; being attentive to the difficulties and situations of each RR or SR. Then allow the responsible couples responsible for RR and SR to share what they are experiencing, their difficulties, and also their initiatives.
And we had an incredibly beautiful Video Conference where we were able to tell each other that God was present in all this, that He was at our side. Each responsible couple was able to say how they personally lived this time of confinement, as a couple and as a family, and then in a second round what consequences this had on the animation of the Teams.
America Zone in the Pandemic
Marcia and Paulo Faria
America Zone Liaison Couple
America Zone Liaison Couple
We are always reminded that our Movement was born from a search that Father Caffarel made together with some couples to meet their aspirations. We add to this the observation made, also by Father Caffarel, that the Movement would need to be always attentive and adjust to the changes in the world.
We never imagined that one day we would have to search together for new, creative and original ways to stay close while having to stay physically apart.
We see that this challenge has become lighter and more fruitful by the strength, above all, of love. We are able to overcome so many difficulties and some sadness, through the love for God, for Teams, for our brothers and sisters, and for service.
The America Zone remains active and enthusiastic, carrying out as many activities as possible. This is due to its many cultural and religious characteristics, its love for Teams of Our Lady, and thanks to the tireless and fruitful dedication of the SR and RR Responsible Couples and their Spiritual Counsellors.
We see in SR Hispano America North ( Mexico, Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panama, Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic) a Mass being celebrated every week by a different Region, as well as the one celebrated by the SR. Virtual meetings are held by both the responsible teams and the base teams. A Vigil was divided between countries, with excellent attendance. There are several testimonies of the importance for team members to continue to feel united and close to all their brothers and sisters.
We follow the richness of gestures in SR Colombia, from the creation of masks with the logo of the Teams of Our Lady, to the gathering of teams to offer donations to priests and families in need. They organized vigils and Adoration that brought together many team members. In the same way, the meetings did not fail to take place, either in the base teams or in the service teams.
As we look at SR Hispano América South ( Ecuador, Argentina, Peru, Paraguay, Chile, Uruguay), in addition to numerous meetings of the service and base teams, we have already seen Formation being held with virtual resources and moments of prayer, like the rosary, uniting everyone.
The Collége of SR United States has not stopped holding its meetings, just as the base teams continue to meet virtually. In order to continue the formation processes, videos are being prepared. Every week there is a Mass celebrated for the Teams of Our Lady, and those who have difficulties with technology are constantly contacted by telephone.
SR Brazil, always very active, was already developing a project with a rich program of Lives and videos that, especially at this time, promote strong union in the SR. Several activities are carried out through the YouTube channel, highlighting the commemorative activities of the 70 years of Teams of Our Lady in Brazil. The report of the countless activities were included in the previous newsletter.
In the same way, in RR Canada, the meetings of the base teams have not stopped happening, nor have the service teams stopped meeting. Toronto held an Information meeting virtually, to keep the process of diffusion and expansion active. Training for couples is scheduled using virtual resources that provide parallel activities for children, with material that will be sent in advance to the younger ones. Even the teams that are still being piloted have continued their process by holding their meetings with the same frequency as before.
The activities are being announced and open to all members of the Zone.
The Liaison Couple of the Zone and the Super Region and Region Responsible Couples are also connected through interaction and integration of each other's activities and events. Virtual meetings and WhatsApp, in particular, greatly assist in more immediate, close and warm communication. For the next meeting, the future Super Regional Couple for the United States is invited to meet the other couples and be welcomed by all.
We were thrilled by the testimony of the Responsible Couple for SR Hispano America South, which described the suffering they both went through as a result of having Covid19. To see them well and keeping the SR lively is for all a grace and immense joy.
We therefore accompany the America Zone growing in a spirituality with open eyes, which perceives in the new situations that the world presents, ways to be together, to share and to deepen. We feel the lifeblood, the energy of the Movement flowing, nourishing and comforting all the couples and priests who belong to it.
We are aware that the spirit that generates so much creativity in us is the spirit of love and of openness of heart, and we believe in it there is no risk of dispersion or discouragement!
The Lord continues to work wonders in us!
FAMILY RESILIENCE IN TIMES OF CRISIS DUE TO COVID-19
Germán and Maria Stella Mahecha Rodríguez
Resilience is a theoretical and practical paradigm that helps us to see human reality with different eyes. It allows us to understand that it is possible to overcome suffering and come out of it improved and strengthened. It is a process possible for all human beings, however, resilience does require some basic elements to allow it to develop.
What is resilience?
Resilience is an action word; it comes from the Latin word RESILIO, which when translated into Spanish (the language in which this text was written – the authors are Colombians) would be the action of taking the impulse to jump forward. It is not a thing that some have, and others do not. It is something that is put into action in moments of crisis, of suffering, of trauma, in great adversity. Perhaps the image of a hole opening up in front of us, could help us understand. To continue on our way, all that remains is to jump over it. Of course, there are those who decide to give up and do not manage to overcome adversity.
Wounds, physical or emotional, leave us scarred. We cannot pretend to pass through this world without suffering wounds, and these scars are reminders of our battles. Resilience helps us to close the wounds without forgetting what we have experienced, to avoid being hurt again or hurting others. It is a process of strengthening, learning, and personal and community transformation that leads us to overcome great suffering. It implies, therefore, new ways of thinking about life. We NEVER achieve this alone; we ALWAYS need others. It is the fruit of healing bonds of affection and support networks that sustain and strengthen us.
What do we need to build resilience?
We all need resilience tutors, and they are not necessarily professionals in psychology or psychiatry. Our family, friends, and counsellors can also be tutors. For adults, a resilience tutor might be an interesting activity, a good book that gives us a new perspective, a work of art, even our pets, like dogs or cats. That is how or why we understand that a resilience tutor causes the awakening and strengthening of psychic life after a painful or traumatic reality.
All our abilities and capacities come into play during this process, as we need creativity and initiative to generate new responses to unexpected situations that arise as a challenge to our lives. It also implies learning new skills for life, which requires openness and mental flexibility. A sense of humour plays a fundamental role, as it helps us to become more flexible and allows for cohesion and collaboration by all. Furthermore, we can minimize the impact of tragedy, or at least not see it as a giant that crushes us, because we can continue to laugh together.
We need reflection, awareness, and introspection to realize what is happening inside us and what vital tasks come with this tragedy. Perhaps it is a call for a change of attitude, perhaps a reconciliation, perhaps a spiritual approach, a conversion. Our scale of values is put to the test in borderline situations, and the family, responsibility, life, solidarity, truth, and goodness will be the springboard for overcoming these obstacles. Not only will these values take root, but we will also be able to invite others into our lives. Today, there are those who place greater value on the very things that are now limited by the reality of the pandemic, such as freedom, health, friendship, work, among others.
From the theology of resilience, we affirm that God resiles all things; he is the God of life. God acts from within each one of us, like the potter who remakes the vessel in his hands. We are not at the end of the world, but in a new rebirth of the world, for those who want to accept this action of a continuous creator God. Jesus is the tutor of resilience. He raised the woman who was bent over by suffering. He restored sight to the blind and allowed the deaf to hear again. He raised the paralytic and invited him to walk on his own. He strengthened the faith of his disciples, understanding their fear and weakness. He overcame death. The resurrection is the clearest expression of God's resilience and resilient action in our lives.
Importance of the family
Family life is the most promising context for the formation of the spiritual sensitivity of all its members. It is a place where we are called to express the fundamental values for the essential development of all. These values include care for others (that is, solidarity), responsibility, joy, and gratitude. When children see generous, responsible, and joyful parents they have the best model for developing a vital understanding of what a person’s fundamental relationship with God can be. "God is like that father or mother who generously cares for me”. Like those parents who strive every day to give their children the best.
The belief system that the family builds, defines the possibility of developing processes of resilience. Therefore, the people within the family unit receive and give to future generations very elaborate forms of beliefs. Some are linked to the religious, others to the magical and others to what we could call the profane. In any case, it is in this sphere of belief that the processes of family resilience are crystallized. Well, from these systems of belief, the ways are defined for resignation or coping with the suffering that everyday existence brings.
Every family is built on a system of beliefs, which helps explain or make sense of the events that come with daily life: death, disease, pandemics, success, or failure. All this brings its own questions. Some of these do not help at all to give that transcendent meaning to traumatic situations. For example, when it is believed that what is happening is direct punishment from God for something bad that has been done by the members of a family, or that we are close to the end of the world and a terrifying judgment awaits us.
Importance of a Spirituality of Resilience
Spirituality helps to see beyond, to join forces, to fill life with hope and optimism, but above all a resilient spirituality does not hide suffering. It assumes it as part of life and draws vital learning from it. It makes the family more supportive and humane.
This is what we find with great joy in the couples of the Teams of Our Lady. Throughout the world, men and women of faith are committed to renewing the belief systems in families. A spirituality of resilience is anchored in absolute trust in the mercy of God the Father-Mother. Jesus' trust in God shows us his resilient attitude.
Germán and Maria Stella Mahecha Rodríguez are part of Team number 129 - Sector 3, Center Colombia Region. At present, they are the responsible couple of Sector 11 of Bogotá. Professors of the Theology College of the Pontificia Universidad Javeriana, Bogotá - Colombia.
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