09/23/2016, 15.50
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"Couples for Christ", from the Philippines to Odisha give strength to Catholic families

by p. Purushottam Nayak*

A retreat for the enrichment of marriage was held in Bhubaneshwar. Five members of ‘Couples for Christ from the Philippines and two from Bangalore, Karnataka, led the event. The lay movement was established in Manila in 1981. It obtained Vatican recognition in 2005 as a private international association for lay faithful.

Cuttack-Bhubaneshwar (AsiaNews) – Evangelization, renewal of families and care of the poor are part of the mission of a Filipino lay group called Couples for Christ (CFC) that visited Odisha, eastern Indai, from 13 to 18 September.

The Couples for Christ team consisted of Bro. Steven Maningat, Sr. Natividad Minerva, country coordinator, Bro. Bernard, Piedad Provincial Area Director of Isabella Province and Sr. Belinda Piedad, Bro. Luis Dela Cruz, Provincial Area Head of Capiz Province; all from the Philippines, as well as Bro. Hector Poppen, Country Head, and Sr. Garnet Poppen (Bangalore) from India.  

Couples for Christ is a Catholic lay movement which focuses on evangelization, renewal of families and caring for the poor. It was started in Manila, Philippines in June 1981 and is now functioning in over 100 countries. Though the movement was started for strengthening couple relationship, the need for empowering all members of families was felt in order to build up strong families. Accordingly, family ministries were launched in 1993. This includes Kids for Christ (KFC - 4 to 12 years), Youth for Christ (YFC - 13 to 21 years), Singles for Christ (SFC – 21 to 40 years), Servants of the Lord (SOLD - Single men above 40 years) and Handmaids of the Lord (HOLD – Single women over 40 years).

As a truly Christian mission, CFC metamorphosed from a family renewal movement into a force for social renewal giving birth to ANCOP (Answering the Cry of the Poor), with Social ministries to reach out to different sectors of society with programmes on education, health, housing and food-sufficiency.

In 1995, the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) approved CFC as a national private association of lay faithful. In 2000 the Holy See granted provisional approval and in 2005 it granted permanent approval to CFC as an International Private Association of Lay Faithful under relevant Canon Laws.

In India there are two branches of Couples for Christ, one operating mainly in the metropolises and one in more rural areas. CFC was introduced to Odisha state in November 2012 starting with Bhubaneswar and later in 2013 spreading to the Kandhamal region, which has a larger density of Catholics.  

The introductory programme of bringing couples to a closer relationship with God and with each other was conducted by members of CFC Canada. Subsequent programmes for inculcating strong marriage bonds, God given roles of Christian husband and wife, responsible parenthood and empowering members to lead a spiritual life and to evangelize other couples were conducted by CFC teams from Manila and India.

It is a matter of great pride that thanks to the blessings and unstinted support of Most Rev. John Barwa, Archbishop of Cuttack-Bhubaneswar, CFC Odisha has over 350 couples, 300 SOLD and 200 HOLD members and the majority of them are in the Kandhamal region.

Though language is a barrier, as most members in Kandhamal speak only their native tribal dialect, this has been overcome with the help of members who are bilingual in English and native languages. The process of translating the teaching from English into Odiya language is in progress so that the programme can be extended to remotest parts.

Archbishop John Barwa, Fr. Prasan Kumar Pradhan and Fr. Mukund attended the 35th CFC Anniversary in Manila in June 2016 and have got to know in detail functioning of this world-wide movement and hence are rendering all support to strengthen the movement in Odisha so as to re-build strong Christ-centred families.

A marriage enrichment retreat (MER) for member couples was conducted at the St. Vincent’s Pro-Cathedral Bhubaneswar on 17th and 18th September by a team consisting of 5 CFC members from the Philippines and 2 members from Bangalore. Eight couples from Bhubaneswar participated. The programme consisted of teachings and intense personal sharing between couples and was highly appreciated by the participants as it gave them a true perspective of a Christian marriage and the great responsibility on the shoulders of couples and parents in building strong Christian families. The two-member team from Bangalore will be conducting marriage enrichment retreats in Baliguda, Raikia and Daringbadi, Kandhamal region, in the coming weeks.

The social aspect of the movement has been introduced in Odisha with educational sponsorship for 240 students, financed by CFC Canada. The number of students being sponsored will be gradually increased in the coming years.

* Secretary of Mgr. John Barwa, archbishop of Cuttack-Bhubaneswar

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