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BY JOSEPH PRONECHEN
night Kevin and Bridget Hughes’ three children see their father and mother
praying together. One day the practice prompted one of the kids to state out
loud that, if Mom and Dad pray so much, then praying “must be really
it is, and so are other endeavors for Kevin and Bridget Hughes in Philadelphia
and couples like them who are growing in married love and holiness as members
of Teams of Our Lady.
international Catholic movement of married spirituality, Teams of Our Lady is
recognized by the Holy See’s Pontifical Council for the Laity as a private
international association of the faithful (online at teamsofourlady.org).
meeting in Rome have been addressed by two popes. In 1976, Pope Paul VI
referred to these teams as “authentic schools of spirituality for couples.”
And, in 2003, Pope John Paul II said, “I thank God for the fruitfulness of your
movement throughout the world, encouraging you to witness untiringly and
explicitly to the beauty of human love, marriage and the family.”
Growing in Holiness
fruitfulness comes through specific ways — the “endeavors,” explains Eileen
Kosnik of Tyler, Texas. She and her husband Ted are in charge of one
“super-region” — the United States.
endeavors are attitudes that encourage the couple to study, to really
concentrate on some areas that normally, without the group support, would not
be undertaken,” she says. Kosnik then lists six concrete ways couples
“increase” life in Christ and grow in holiness: daily reading of the Word of
God, daily meditation, conjugal and family prayer, a monthly sit-down, a rule
of life, and an annual retreat together.
Kevin Hughes, “We had the experience that when we were trying to find our own
way spiritually as a couple, one of us would expect the other to initiate
prayer. There were miscommunications and assumptions. But this gave us a shared
vocabulary and framework: We should be praying together every day, reading
Scripture together every day.”
fruitful experience repeats many times over once husbands and wives begin
praying together in addition to praying as individuals.
conjugal prayer includes not only familiar prayers like the Rosary but also
spontaneous offerings up to God.
“When we pray out loud together we can
understand what is on the other person’s heart,” says April Mahfood of Tyler,
Texas. What’s on the heart can become an important part of a couple’s monthly
sit-down endeavor, which April also appreciates.
Mahfoods make a date, light a candle, set the tone with prayers, and talk about
specific issues on growing in their lives together. They bring everything to
Kosnick details how the sit-down also includes Scripture. “We pray over a
reading, then discuss something significant to us, whether spiritual, a move to
make or about the children. It brings Christ into daily activity.”
five to seven couples comprising each of the 550 Teams of Our Lady across the
United States embrace the endeavors, not to mention nearly 10,000 teams
internationally. This July, the U.S. team as a whole kicks off a year to
celebrate its 50th anniversary in 2008.
numbers grew from the first meeting of Teams of Our Lady in Paris on Feb. 25,
1939, after four young married couples approached Father Henri Caffarel to help
them grow in their marriage and love in the light of their Christian faith. As
the movement’s founder, he helped in a way that’s proving timeless.
good reason can be spotted in the observation of Father Edwin Dill of the
Missionary Servants of the Most Holy Trinity, who has been a chaplain counselor
for teams in the Washington, D.C., area and regionally for more than 30 years.
He sees the teams as a way for couples to get to the depths of their
sacramental commitment in matrimony.
a place where couples can share their relational life, their married life
vis-à-vis their faith,” says Father Dill. “They can talk about their faith,
their marriage. The real practical things come out, and they bring them to God
couples, like the Mahfoods, married nearly six years, are proof positive of the
value of Teams of Our Lady.
keeps our faith in the forefront for us,” says husband Ben. “It helps us realize
the covenant we share through Jesus.”
and marital growth comes for couples through the endeavors, which include such
things as the rule of life. Every month, couples decide to concentrate on
something to improve their marital relationship.
gives a personal example that involves mashed potatoes — her husband loves them
while she’s no big spud fan.
month I gave Ted potatoes every day because it brings joy to him,” she says. It
became a love token and an act of service rather than a resented part of our
endeavors also affect the whole family. In Turlock, Calif., Ana and Luie Nunes
have been with Teams of Our Lady for 18 of their 19 years of marriage; they’re
second-generation members since Ana’s parents were with the first teams started
points to just one result of family prayer through the endeavors.
Sunday with our children, we do the readings before we go to Mass,” she
explains. “It actually prepares us and our children before we go. We can focus
better on the Mass. That’s a routine we’ve gotten into, and we have a
17-year-old who doesn’t complain.”
team, five to seven couples strong, can become a second family of sorts as they
meet together monthly for prayer, Scripture, fellowship, study and a potluck
meetings end with the Magnificat, the prayer of the international movement and
a daily prayer of the couples because teams see Mary as the perfect disciple
and model to follow to draw closer to her son.
since only one party needs to be Catholic, it isn’t unusual for the teams to
inspire conversions. Kosnik tells of one man who called Teams of Our Lady “the
book I’m studying about Catholicism.” Soon after, he entered the Church.
plus is the age range of the couples. “It’s the whole spectrum of life, which
is very rewarding,” says April.
all the pluses, it’s little wonder the couples of Teams of Our Lady constantly
grow closer to each other, to their family — and to Jesus, through Mary.
Staff writer Joseph Pronechen
writes from Trumbull, Connecticut.
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Teams of Our Lady