– holiday and other pastoral initiatives focusing on the family
The beautifully located coastal town of Benicassim in Spain has a lot to offer its residents, as well as those who come here for their vacations. Is there anything else that can be added to the wide range of summer opportunities? Trying to live our charism every day, and also following the thought of Pope Francis who invited us to live the Year of the Family in the Church, we decided to prepare holiday meetings for married couples. We chose four Thursday evenings in August. The meetings had a common theme: See yourself and your spouse through the eyes of God. Each meeting included:
- A conference prepared mainly on the basis of the teaching of St. John Paul II on marriage and the family,
- Group work (discussion on topics heard during the conference, testimonies),
- Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, ending with an individual blessing of each married couple,
The conferences were prepared successively by: Sr. Katarzyna Nowak, Fr. Luis Olivier (responsible in the diocese for the pastoral care of families), Paz Ferrin (wife and mother, responsible for the evangelization community Emmaus) and Sr. Jana Zawieja.
A somewhat risky proposition. Some of the more skeptical asked who would come on a summer evening (7 to 9 p.m.) for such a serious meeting? Others suggested changing the month. We decided to take a chance without looking at the numbers. Even if one married couple came, it is worth dreaming! We prepared posters that were hung in various places in Benicassim. Information was also sent to the diocese and posted on various internet platforms. We embraced the whole project with prayer. To our great joy and surprise, more than 50 people, married and engaged couples came to the first meeting. Among those who came were people from our parish, but also from various other places in our diocese, as well as tourists from more distant places, such as Madrid. It was the same for the following evenings. Some couples attended all the meetings, some attended two, three or one. And as some were heading home after their vacation, new faces were appearing.
What captivates about the Spanish people is their spontaneity and readiness to actively participate in the offered meetings. The content of the conferences was received with openness. The group work was very lively and the fruits of the sharing presented at the end were enriching for all of us. The silence during adoration, interrupted only by the quiet singing of the canons, was moving. At the end, when the spouses and fiancées came up for their individual blessing, many were touched. A simple agape at the end allowed the conversations to continue, in a more relaxed style. And since the Spanish like to talk, the last participants were leaving around 10 pm.
Several married couples from Benicassim and the surrounding area have expressed a desire to continue their marriage formation by meeting more regularly with each other (perhaps twice a month). We will gladly respond to this invitation! The more so because last year one couple asked for such spiritual accompaniment. The meetings were prepared by Sr. Katarzyna and Fr. Luis. Now the group of participants will grow significantly, and Sr. Jana will join the leaders. Many people also asked to continue the idea of summer meetings in some way. So, August was not such a bad idea and it is already worth thinking about the next year.
Our suggestions for married and engaged couples do not end here. Starting in September we will begin a series of biblical formation meetings (one meeting per month), and the protagonists of the next meetings will be married couples of the Old and New Testament. Sister Katarzyna, Sister Jana and Fr. Luis are responsible for the whole event and for some of the conferences. This time we have also invited many other people as speakers, among them priests and lay people.
We are very happy that the tiny seeds thrown timidly (for instance because of language and cultural challenges) are bearing fruit. Just like the many interesting initiatives for children and youth for which Sr. Michalina and Sr. Karolina are responsible. With faith and hope, we constantly put into the hands of Jesus our five loaves and two fish, and He blesses, distributes and provides enough for everyone!
Prepared by Sr. Jana Zawieja