Communication in times of difficulty
Dear friends, we are happy to reach you at this very special time. With this initiative we at ERI want to be close to you and offer you a quick and easy way to reflect and share some of the thoughts and activities of this period.
We ask you to be patient if the translations are not perfect, because trying to be fast we will not be able to take all the necessary steps. We will try to be as rigorous as possible. Happy reading!
International Responsible Team
Clarita & Edgardo BERNAL
International Responsible Couple
BEING A COMMUNITY
Dear couples and members of the International College of the Teams of Our Lady:
On behalf of the ERI, it is with great joy that we address each one of you to express our solidarity, our affection and our desire to be very close to you, in this time of uncertainty and fear. We have been led here in an untimely manner by a virus whose acronym was unknown only a few months ago and which today forms part of our daily life, COVID-19.
Today more than ever, as a community of faith, we must stay very close. We draw strength from mutual help, the fundamental pillar of our mystique, to accompany us, to pray together, to help us spiritually and materially. We need to be sowers of hope in our environment, at a time when a large part of the world has realized how fragile and powerless we are. Leaving aside arrogance and self-sufficiency, eyes are turning to the Supreme Creator, to ask him to take control of the freedom we have squandered.
Inevitably, we are reminded of the image of the prodigal son who squandered the inheritance the Father gave him without restriction, in the freedom that only love can give. He returns repentant, seeking forgiveness and the security of his parental home. If something positive can be said about this virus, it is that without distinction of race, creed, economic status or social condition, it has made us reflect in a deeper way by stripping us of our securities, to perhaps focus our attention on what is more essential and transcendent.
In order to nourish our sense of community in the midst of this pandemic, after the quarantine measures forced the closure of the churches, the ERI decided to hold a weekly virtual Eucharist presided by Father Ricardo, our Spiritual Counsellor. Its purpose was to unite us as a movement and to live the strength of shared faith from our own homes. Thousands of team members from all continents joined this initiative that concluded on Easter Sunday. We know that each Super Region is also celebrating a virtual Eucharist and that in some countries, keeping in mind the measures of biosecurity, some churches are already beginning to open. This is why we decided to suspend this virtual celebration for the moment. We will take this up again to celebrate together some feasts of the Church during this year. How much we wish we could receive communion physically and live our faith in the strength of the community in attendance!
As Pope Francis said in his homily on April 17 in the house of Saint Martha, if the Eucharist that he and many priests celebrate in a virtual way is an extraordinary means that has helped us a lot in our life of faith in this time of confinement, and has even made the presence of the Risen One in the house more "familiar", this familiarity cannot leave the community aside. Without it "(...) without the Church, without the Sacraments, it is dangerous and can become a Gnostic familiarity, separated from the people of God. (...) It is a difficult situation in which the faithful cannot participate in the celebrations and can only make spiritual communion. We have to get out of this tunnel to be together again because this is not the Church, but a Church that risks being "viralized". May the Lord teach us this concrete familiarity, this intimacy with Him, but in the Church, with the Sacraments and with the holy faithful people of God".
This pandemic, that has affected us all directly or indirectly, has been full of uplifting examples of mercy and surrender, and it has awakened an exciting sense of co-responsibility outside and within the movement. There are many team members who have been infected by this virus (Clarita and I were infected. Today, by the grace of God, we are totally recovered). Some have been in intensive care units on the verge of death and happily they have been able to recover, and others unfortunately could not overcome the illness. Today they are with the Father, leaving a great emptiness and immense pain in their family, their friends, in their teams, in the community. To all the team members, their families and friends, who have lived through this hard trial, our voice of encouragement, our communion and our company are with you in spirit and prayer.
Confinement has exacerbated the activity of the media and social networks, filling us with an avalanche of information, constructive in some cases and destructive, banal or unimportant in others. In the discernment the ERI has carried out in our periodic virtual meetings in recent days, we have considered that in this historic time that will undoubtedly establish a milestone in our life as a reference of a before and after, it is necessary that we strengthen links between the International Responsible Team and the responsible couples for the SR and RR, to face this crisis together. That is why, from now on, we will be sending a number of extraordinary bulletins or Newsletters more frequently than usual. This will take advantage of electronic communications in real time, in which we will be sending to the College, news, reflections, life of the movement, testimonies of the team members in a time of COVID-19, news of the Church, orientations, etc. This also creates a space so that the Super Regions and RR can share their experiences with the College. These will be a source of richness and nourishment for the whole movement. It is our wish that these extraordinary issues of the newsletter, if you consider it so, may also reach all the team members that you animate. In this way, today more than ever, we have a sense of unity, identity and community that strengthens us in spirit and action as a movement, and as the Church that we are.
We pray to Our Lord, through the intercession of Our Mother Mary, that under His protection He will fill us with His Spirit to be sowers of hope and positive agents of change in these times, when all our capacity for resilience and our co-responsibility is being tested in order to emerge strengthened from this crisis.
May it be so.
Faith, Spirituality and the Home in times of Covid-19
Father Riccardo Londoño - International Spiritual Counselor
How different is our reality in 2020! How many things have changed! Everything will be different! What will happen to us? Will we go back to the past that kept us at ease? Expressions like these appear moment by moment and trigger different feelings and emotions in each of us.
The pandemic has disrupted all of human existence. But how good it is to be able to face a situation we cannot handle and to make the most of what is in our hands; to turn what is presented to us as a great obstacle into an opportunity for growth.
For us, as members of the Teams of Our Lady, to grow on the path of holiness, which is the existential goal, appears as an invitation that can be accepted. It is up to us to give our faith and our spirituality a new shape. Our spiritual life, our prayer, our listening to the Word, our sit-down and our living within the walls of our homes, without neglecting service, must become the new way of responding to the moment.
We cannot stop loving, we cannot stop relating with one another, we cannot stop serving, we cannot close ourselves off from suffering, but today we can do all this in a different way. There are new challenges, and new ways of acting. Each person, each couple, each family, will find a way to grow in these days.
May the Lord's mercy, which is always present, allow us to face the new paths to which the situation leads us. If everything will be different in the future, so will our ways.
Let us not stop being creative, but let us keep as a foundation, being compassionate and merciful. Only in this way will we be able to respond to the reality that challenges us.
LIVING OUR FAITH WITH THE WHOLE CHURCH
As we are still in Easter time, it is worth reading and meditating deeply on Pope Francis' Urbi et Orbi Message - Easter 2020, which gives us a special encouragement at this very difficult time for all humanity. So says the Pope !
Dear brothers and sisters, Happy Easter!
Today the Church’s proclamation echoes throughout the world: “Jesus Christ is risen!” – “He is truly risen!”.
Like a new flame this Good News springs up in the night: the night of a world already faced with epochal challenges and now oppressed by a pandemic severely testing our whole human family. In this night, the Church’s voice rings out: “Christ, my hope, has arisen!” (Easter Sequence).
This is a different “contagion”, a message transmitted from heart to heart – for every human heart awaits this Good News. It is the contagion of hope: “Christ, my hope, is risen!”. This is no magic formula that makes problems vanish. No, the resurrection of Christ is not that. Instead, it is the victory of love over the root of evil, a victory that does not “by-pass” suffering and death, but passes through them, opening a path in the abyss, transforming evil into good: this is the unique hallmark of the power of God.
The Risen Lord is also the Crucified One, not someone else. In his glorious body he bears indelible wounds: wounds that have become windows of hope. Let us turn our gaze to him that he may heal the wounds of an afflicted humanity. (…)
This disease has not only deprived us of human closeness, but also of the possibility of receiving in person the consolation that flows from the sacraments, particularly the Eucharist and Reconciliation. In many countries, it has not been possible to approach them, but the Lord has not left us alone! United in our prayer, we are convinced that he has laid his hand upon us, firmly reassuring us: Do not be afraid, “I have risen and I am with you still!”. (…)
In these weeks, the lives of millions of people have suddenly changed. For many, remaining at home has been an opportunity to reflect, to withdraw from the frenetic pace of life, stay with loved ones and enjoy their company. For many, though, this is also a time of worry about an uncertain future, about jobs that are at risk and about other consequences of the current crisis. I encourage political leaders to work actively for the common good, to provide the means and resources needed to enable everyone to lead a dignified life and, when circumstances allow, to assist them in resuming their normal daily activities.
This is not a time for indifference, because the whole world is suffering and needs to be united in facing the pandemic. May the risen Jesus grant hope to all the poor, to those living on the peripheries, to refugees and the homeless. May these, the most vulnerable of our brothers and sisters living in the cities and peripheries of every part of the world, not be abandoned. Let us ensure that they do not lack basic necessities (all the more difficult to find now that many businesses are closed) such as medicine and especially the possibility of adequate health care. (…)
This is not a time for self-centeredness, because the challenge we are facing is shared by all, without distinguishing between persons. (…)
This is not a time for division. May Christ our peace enlightens all who have responsibility in conflicts, that they may have the courage to support the appeal for an immediate global ceasefire in all corners of the world. This is not a time for continuing to manufacture and deal in arms, spending vast amounts of money that ought to be used to care for others and save lives. (…)
This is not a time for forgetfulness. The crisis we are facing should not make us forget the many other crises that bring suffering to so many people. (…)
Indifference, self-centeredness, division and forgetfulness are not words we want to hear at this time. We want to ban these words forever! They seem to prevail when fear and death overwhelm us, that is, when we do not let the Lord Jesus triumph in our hearts and lives. May Christ, who has already defeated death and opened for us the way to eternal salvation, dispel the darkness of our suffering humanity and lead us into the light of his glorious day, a day that knows no end.
from the LETTER OF HIS HOLINESS POPE FRANCIS FOR THE MONTH OF MAY 2020
THE POPE ENCOURAGES THE FAITHFUL TO PRAY ROSARY AT HOME IN MAY
In a letter addressed to all the faithful, Pope Francis invites them to pray the Rosary in May. The Pope writes: It is a tradition to pray the Rosary at home, as a family, in the month of May. It is a dimension that the restrictions of the pandemic have forced us to appreciate, even from a spiritual point of view. He underlines that alone or as a group, the important thing is to pray with simplicity.
The Pope recalls that it is easy to find, even on the Internet, good prayers schemes to follow and he adds "....je vous offre les textes de deux prières à la Vierge que vous pourrez réciter à la fin du Rosaire, et que je réciterai moi-même pendant le mois de mai, uni à vous spirituellement."
One of the prayers proposed by the Holy Father is the following.
Prayer to Our Lady
“We fly to your protection, O Holy Mother of God”.
In the present tragic situation, when the whole world is prey to suffering and anxiety, we fly to you, Mother of God and our Mother, and seek refuge under your protection.
Virgin Mary, turn your merciful eyes towards us amid this coronavirus pandemic. Comfort those who are distraught and mourn their loved ones who have died, and at times are buried in a way that grieves them deeply. Be close to those who are concerned for their loved ones who are sick and who, in order to prevent the spread of the disease, cannot be close to them. Fill with hope those who are troubled by the uncertainty of the future and the consequences for the economy and employment.
Mother of God and our Mother, pray for us to God, the Father of mercies, that this great suffering may end and that hope and peace may dawn anew. Plead with your divine Son, as you did at Cana, so that the families of the sick and the victims be comforted, and their hearts be opened to confidence and trust.
Protect those doctors, nurses, health workers and volunteers who are on the frontline of this emergency, and are risking their lives to save others. Support their heroic effort and grant them strength, generosity and continued health.
Be close to those who assist the sick night and day, and to priests who, in their pastoral concern and fidelity to the Gospel, are trying to help and support everyone.
Blessed Virgin, illumine the minds of men and women engaged in scientific research, that they may find effective solutions to overcome this virus.
Support national leaders, that with wisdom, solicitude and generosity they may come to the aid of those lacking the basic necessities of life and may devise social and economic solutions inspired by farsightedness and solidarity.
Mary Most Holy, stir our consciences, so that the enormous funds invested in developing and stockpiling arms will instead be spent on promoting effective research on how to prevent similar tragedies from occurring in the future.
Beloved Mother, help us realize that we are all members of one great family and to recognize the bond that unites us, so that, in a spirit of fraternity and solidarity, we can help to alleviate countless situations of poverty and need. Make us strong in faith, persevering in service, constant in prayer.
Mary, Consolation of the afflicted, embrace all your children in distress and pray that God will stretch out his all-powerful hand and free us from this terrible pandemic, so that life can serenely resume its normal course.
To you, who shine on our journey as a sign of salvation and hope, do we entrust ourselves, O Clement, O Loving, O Sweet Virgin Mary. Amen.
TESTIMONY OF EMIILIA AND ROGER AGBOZOH
Responsible Couple for the Francophone Africa SR
Our hearts were overflowing with joy at the announcement of the news that Togo was to hold the second annual meeting of the ERI in March 2020. The whole of French-speaking Africa was honored by this unprecedented choice of the International Leading Team of the Teams of Our Lady. This important information had received the support of all the leaders of the movement during the Super-Regional College in Dakar in August 2019.
Mobilisation and engagement began in September 2019 at the end of the College in the eight Regions that now make up our Super-Region.
An organizing committee was set up in Lomé to coordinate the activities. The event took the form of a large gathering of the Teams of Our Lady in French-speaking Africa, with the additional presence of the ERI in Togo. Nearly 500 delegates from the 16 countries of Africa were expected in Lomé for this meeting.
The Eurafrique Zone tabled its plans at its first Zone meeting in Togo , Africa in Lomé from 27 February to 1 March 2020.
All the logistical arrangements and reception processes were in place. The news of a pandemic in China in January 2020, and its effects in Europe at the beginning of March, only increased our determination for the success of the three events on the agenda of the Super-Region: the meeting of the ERI, the College of the French-speaking Africa Super-Region and the meeting of the French-speaking Teams of Our Lady with the ERI on the theme: “Christian Couples of Africa, be salt of the earth and light of the world”.
Via Bernadette and Sylvestre Minlekibe, the ERI Liaison Couple of the Eurafrica Zone, we received words of encouragement, “Do not be afraid”, from Clarita & Edgardo, the Responsible Couple for ERI. They had already arrived in Paris with the Spiritual Counsellor, Father Ricardo, during that week of March.
This encouraging information was brought to the attention of the participants who had all confirmed their attendance. All the flight plans had been drawn up and given to the reception sub-committee for the final arrangements to be made, including confirmation of accommodation.
It was Thursday, March 12, 2020, when our phone rang around 4:45 pm. It was a call from Sylvestre Minlekibe. We were busy making final arrangements. At the time, we were waiting for the first arrivals on Friday March 13 at 11:00am on an Ethiopian Airline flight. I answered him, “please, I'll call you back in a few minutes”. At about 5 p.m, since I was late in calling him back, he insisted again on the phone. “Roger, news has just come in: the ERI meeting can no longer take place”.
Dumbfounded, I had taken the information like a dream, reacting after a few minutes of silence. I realized the real meaning of this news.We immediately called an emergency crisis meeting to bring the announcement to the Chairmen of the Sub-Committees at 6.30 p.m.
We lived a long day, that Thursday, March 12, keeping our cool under the gaze of the Virgin Mary, Our Lady of Perpetual Help.
That night, we reached some of the College participants, already at the airport, to cancel their trip. We needed to act kindly to calm the anger and agitation. Some participants had made all the arrangements: request for permission, leave of absence, etc....
The situation was certainly unbearable at the beginning. But soon we recovered, thanks to our Christian faith, with the phrase: Everything is grace. Man proposes but God disposes.
We continued to manage this crisis with the language of postponement, not cancellation.
We entrust everything to the Lord, who is the master of our destiny.
We give thanks to God that this pandemic has not claimed any victims among the team members of French-speaking Africa. We sympathize with the families who have been bruised by this epidemic and pray to the Lord to welcome all those who have died.
May the light of the Risen Christ destroy forever this coronavirus that has done so much harm to humanity.
We still have the hope that when we resume our activities, the ERI will renew its confidence in the French-speaking African Super-Region for its next meeting.
With our sincere and fraternal greetings.
TESTIMONY OF JOSETTE AND FADI BARHOUCHE
Responsible Couple for the RR Libano
"We must never renounce prayer "(Luke 18:1)
For more than 30 years, teams of the Lebanon Region have been accustomed to an annual voluntary 24-hour national retreat in which an average of 20 to 25% of the team members in Lebanon participate.
This year, despite the economic crisis that has been raging in our country since October 17, we wanted to maintain this intense time of prayer, especially since it was during Lent that we lived this retreat. The preparations were going well: the date set for March 28-29, the invitation sent, the convent reserved, the program established by a small committee...
March 10, general lockdown. No leaving the house and certainly no meetings. At first, total hopelessness. For the second time in a single year all our programs fell apart. Zoom team meetings were being set up. One idea that always worked for us: "don't settle down”. And as always, through the light of the Holy Spirit who is always invoked in our prayers, an idea began to germinate: Why not make this retreat using the communication networks that are available to us? The first person to be consulted, and without whom this retreat could not take place, was our National Spiritual Counsellor, Father Maroun Mubarak. He is a generous person with his time and spirituality, and Father Maroun accepted.
The main idea, and our challenge, was to live and enliven the retreat with all the key elements, but this time at home with all the disadvantages that this entails. Consequently, in our invitation, we insisted a lot on the setting and décor which could help a lot.
The wheels of the machine were starting to turn. Choosing people who were well-versed in technology and who would be the coordinators, was most important, and involved close coordination with a total of about fifteen people. Everything worked online. No way to meet each other!
Chosen date: Friday, April 3 from 6:00pm to 11:00pm and Saturday, April 4 from 4:30pm to 8:00pm.
Means: Our WhatsApp network from all over Lebanon, our Facebook page, as well as our YouTube page.
Targeted audience: Team members from all over the Lebanon Region and related Sectors: Jordan, Emirates and Qatar and all those connected to our Facebook page.
The program: Begin our two days with a prayer prepared by couples and transmitted simultaneously on WhatsApp, Facebook and YouTube.
The 1st day: Teaching of Father Maroun under the title: "And they began to pray" (Tobit 8:5); a moment of personal prayer and prayer in general; a simple dinner with the family, the Way of the Cross in the evening, and finishing with the hymn of Mary.
The second day: Teaching of Father Maroun: "Speak Lord" (Samuel 1:10:3); couple prayer and a sit-down; a coffee break; and then a Mass celebrated by a Spiritual Counsellor and transmitted via a religious television channel. We ended chanting the Magnificat.
In order to be able to follow the retreat easily, posts were put on the different pages at each change of sequence.
This retreat was an act of faith, an transmission of love between all the members towards the Lord. A great thirst was felt among the participants, whether through their comments before the retreat, during the retreat or afterwards. What impressed us most were the remarks from the countries that are attached to us: Thanks, because they felt that they were part of a big family; Thanks, because they experienced a retreat together for the first time.
An evaluation, strictly speaking, was not asked of the team members but was replaced by the comments and feedback that we received. More than 300 couples took part, as well as Spiritual Counsellors who were very appreciative.
It was a blessed moment and above all a beautiful preparation for Holy Week. The Lord always puts at our disposal the means "to kindle in our hearts the warmth of Faith and Hope", as Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI says.
TESTIMONY OF LU AND NELSON PEREIRA
Responsible Couple for the SR Brasil
Dear friends of the Teams of our Lady:
The last few months have not been easy for all of us from all over the world. We have had to give up one of our greatest values - the face-to-face team meetings, the hug, the handshake, the welcome, the contact that helps us to walk as a team unit throughout Brazil and the world.
But, at the same time, we have a unique opportunity to connect by heart, through prayer, good thoughts and attitudes. It is a moment of reflection, of looking outside and understanding events; but above all, of understanding our neighbours, their needs and fears. And, whenever possible, as servants of the Father, to support ourselves, even if it is only with a conversation at a distance that conveys love, peace, affection and hope, until better days come.
It is a time to connect with the Father, to feel the Holy Spirit, who inspires us daily, tirelessly.
We are having to fill ourselves with faith and reinvent ourselves, in the certainty that nothing will falter and that answers will come.
Father Caffarel, throughout his life, did not cease to repeat that a movement must evolve to stay alive. For him, a living movement is a movement that is built each day thanks to the action of its members. (Introduction to the document - Vocation and Mission)
And, precisely for this reason, in the Super Region Brazil we looked for various means, through social media, that would keep us united to the team members from all over Brazil. From January to March, we held 67 EACREs (Annual Meetings of Responsible Team Couples), passing on to all the Responsible Couples, Liaison Couples and Pilot Couples, the guidelines to be worked on during the year 2020. We could not let this flame go out.
We always keep in touch with team members, either through Formation Meetings, Retreats, Meetings, etc., but this is not possible at this time.
Thus, we made several videos involving team members from all the Provinces, with positive messages, using eight key words: Welcome, Love, Faith, Hope, Peace, Life, Earth, Time.
And finally, we made a video with an Easter message to the Team members of Brazil, with the participation of all the members of the Super Regional Team.
We are holding around 72% of the team meetings in the Provinces, as well as times of prayer, reflections and meetings of service teams by videoconference.
The teams that are not able to hold their meetings by videoconference are responding to the Study Theme, by sending their answers to the Sectors, and waiting for the opportune moment to hold their face-to-face meetings again. In some Regions of our country there are no conditions to hold a meeting by videoconference, since some places do not have an Internet connection. We also have older couples with no ability to deal with the new technologies.
We are holding weekly “lives” via social networks to encourage and to provide formation for Team members. We have been able to reach many couples, and it has been a wonderful experience.
And we continue with the videos of ENS-PLAY, which tell the story of the Movement and its expansion throughout Brazil, since, on May 13th this year, the Movement in Brazil celebrates seventy years of its existence. This will be a time of thanksgiving for all that we have achieved in past years, and for so many couples who have committed themselves to the Teams of Our Lady Movement in all four corners of this immense country.
Today we are the largest Super Region in the world, with 58,000 members. This is thanks to the effort, perseverance and love of thousands of couples and spiritual counsellors, who tirelessly served God by working in the vineyard of the Teams of Our Lady in Brazil and in the Church, in order to support the building of the Kingdom of God.
We had to postpone the 70th anniversary event until the end of this year, but we continue with the preparations. We will have a Thanksgiving Mass celebrated by Bishop Moacir Arantes, Spiritual Counsellor for SR Brasil, through the media, the launching of the commemorative book and we will keep posting the videos at ENS-PLAY.
Through the general orientation proposed in Fatima, the Movement asks us “not to be afraid, to go out”.
Many people think that "to go out" means to go to the streets to accomplish something, but this call can also be a call to go out of ourselves, leaving aside our selfishness, our egocentrism and turning to the other. Perhaps this is the opportunity to review our values and our attitudes, and to turn more to the Father and his teachings.
The General Guidelines for Evangelizing Action in Brazil tell us: In Jesus Christ we become sons and daughters, we are a family, and we call God the Father. It is a profound experience of gratuitous and transforming love: it generates fraternity; it consolidates the community of faith; it strengthens bonds and converts hearts… (No. 17)
May we overcome the obstacles we have encountered along the way and stand firm on this crossing. For, as the Brazilian writer Guimarães Rosa says: "Whoever chooses the quest cannot refuse the crossing".
We fraternally embrace all of you.
WHAT IS ERI DOING?
More than washing hands, the world needs to wash heart, soul, mind and spirit.
The year 2020 began with great expectations from the whole ERI - the first ERI meeting on the African continent would be held in Lomé, the capital of Togo. And also, as announced at the College of Valencia (in July 2019), the next College would take place in Warsaw, capital of Poland.
These expectations, unfortunately, have failed due to the Coronavirus pandemic that has taken over the planet, as Clarita and Edgardo said in the Editorial.
CANCELLATION OF THE MEETING IN LOMÉ
In addition to the natural worries and difficulties that the pandemic has generated in everyone, we ERI couples are still sad at having to cancel the Lomé meeting, for which we had been preparing with great affection and hard work since the end of 2019.
At the time of the cancellation of this meeting, which would take place in March, it hurt us to know that all the preparation done by our Togolese brothers, with so much love, had been in vain and that the expectation created by our presence would not be fulfilled. To the sadness of the news concerning the pandemic was added that of the cancellation of the meeting. It was a very difficult decision, but it proved to be the right one in view of the travel restrictions imposed by all the countries.
The testimony of Emilia and Roger, in this bulletin, gives us an idea of the feeling of sadness they had, and makes us understand what we want to express here as ERI.
HOLDING VIRTUAL MEETINGS
Due to the cancellation of the meeting in Lomé, the ERI has been doing its meetings in a virtual way and still with some interruptions, because, as Clarita and Edgardo said in the Editorial, they themselves were infected by the Coronavirus and had to rest for some time in order to recover.
The virtual meetings of ERI have been very joyful and participative - everyone prepares in advance from the agenda that is sent. The duration of each meeting is about two hours. We always start with a prayer prepared each time by one of the couples or by our counselor, Father Ricardo, who ends up giving the final blessing.
These are very rich moments, not only because we can see and hear each other, but because we can feel the affection and friendship that unites us as a true family.
We have been dealing with several subjects, especially the preparation for the College in Warsaw. Another difficult decision. To carry out the College or not?
CANCELLATION OF THE INTERNATIONAL COLLEGE OF WARSAW
After much reflection and attentive to the information gathered by the press and the couples, the ERI decided that there would be no conditions to hold the meeting of the International College in person, scheduled to take place in the last week of July until August 2.
Another hard blow to our planning, because the preparations were already well advanced, the schedule defined, with the orientations of each day, the celebrations, the prayers, the talks, finally, the College was in progress and all the arrangements were well advanced.
From the decision taken, we then began to prepare ourselves to, in the impossibility of holding the College in Warsaw, to take to the SR and RR, even if in a virtual way, what would be proposed and experienced by all.
We reflected that there would be a great loss, because the human warmth, the coexistence, the mixed meetings, which are the great differential in our Colleges, would not happen.
So we put all this in God's hands so that we could find the best way to do so. And we are still working on preparing for this extraordinary virtual meeting of the ERI with the SR and RR.
The ERI liaison couples have meanwhile made very successful virtual meetings with the SR and RR, on various platforms, and the reports are very positive. In other editions of our bulletin they will report these experiences to us.
As you see, dear brothers, we are living in isolation, but our activities are more dynamic than ever - creativity and reinvention have been our motto.
ROME INTERNATIONAL COLLEGE 2021 AND MEETING OF REGIONAL LEADERS
The work of the ERI always has a long-term vision, which is framed in the path we defined at the beginning of our service, at the Massabielle retreat, and at our first ERI meeting, where Clarita and Edgardo proposed a roadmap for the ERI, which is being collegiately adjusted.
In this itinerary, in the middle, we have an event of vital importance in the animation of the Movement, which is the Meeting of Regional Couples, which we traditionally hold in Rome, by the grace we have obtained of linking it to the public audience with the Pope, which the Movement requests well in advance.
At this moment the ERI has already configured the thematic content of this meeting, it has already defined almost all the speakers, SR Italy has already advanced in the logistical planning of the meeting, the service teams have already been constituted and, in the economic aspect, the general budget and the specific budgets have been prepared, from which we must inform the Super Regions about the cost of registration of the Regional Couples, establish the economic aid and make the advance payments from the place of the meeting to guarantee their reservation.
The current situation of uncertainty presents us with the great dilemma of continuing to advance or thinking about a postponement to 2022, which would bring many logistical inconveniences, especially the impossibility of defining the place and the juxtaposition with the preparations for the International Meeting of 2024, would compromise the management already advanced to obtain the papal audience.
The activities of the Secretariat
Paola and Giovanni Cecchini Manara - Responsible Couple for the Secretariat
In this difficult time, the activities of the Secretariat at the Glacière offices in Paris have adapted to follow both the legal measures enacted in France and the necessity to safeguard the health of those who support us with their work in Paris.
For the same reasons it was not possible for us to personally support the work at our headquarters, an activity we should have done both in view of the interviews for the recruitment of the new collaborator, replacing Patricia, and in preparation for the ERI meeting planned in Togo.
Assistance to the Movement by the Secretariat
Since mid-April, therefore, when the first measures related to the containment of the virus were enacted in France, our collaborator Guènola began to work exclusively from her home, remotely. Thanks to the fact that most communications are happening over the internet, her absence from the office in the Glacière has not created too many problems.
Up to now, Guènola could not return to the headquarters of the Movement, so it was not possible to receive any mail that might have been delivered and the nobody answered any phone calls to the main office.
The work did not stop, however; Guènola has always been in contact with us, the responsible couple for the Secretariat, has received many documents intended for the Collège in Warsaw, and has supported the work of the volunteer translators. Although the Meeting of the Collège will take place in a different way, as you know very well, we have not stopped the work of collecting the necessary documents and to proceed with the translations.
In addition, we have been working on the preparation of the economic balance sheet, in cooperation with an external accounting firm.
Search and selection of a new assistant
As you know, we are proceeding with the selection of a new assistant to take the place of Patricia, who has ended her collaboration with the END Movement; between January and March 2020 we received and reviewed many resumes of candidates; we met some of them in person, but with the situation complicated by the travel bans we had to suspend the selection activity. To date we have not yet found the person who will collaborate with us at the Glacière, together with Guènola.
Association of Friends of Father Caffarel
At our international headquarters at the Glacière there is also the office of the Association of Friends of Father Caffarel, where Marie Christine Genillon goes once a week to carry out activities both related to the cause of beatification and to the collection of quotas. Marie Christine also had to suspend her visits and continued to stay in touch with all the members of the Association via email. In April we also had to postpone the planned meeting of the Board of the Association (called the Bureau), because it was not possible to meet.
If you need contact with the Secretariat
For now, we do not know when it will be possible for Guènola to return to the offices of the Secretariat at the Glacière. Even less do we know when we, responsible couple of the secretariat, will be able to go to Paris, since travel from abroad is still prohibited.
However, we remain available and invite all those who need to communicate with the Secretariat to use email, addressing your messages to firstname.lastname@example.org or directly to us Giovanni and Paola to email@example.com.