This workshop was jointly presented by Faye and Kevin Noonan from Teams of Our Lady.
Website information about Teams of Our Lady / Equipes Notre-Dame
Faye and Kevin Noonan
The title of this workshop was a misnomer. It was only about Teams of Our Lady and not about any other ways of building up married couples in parish life. However, the workshop was still very interesting.
There are about 1000 members of the Teams of Our Lady in Australia.
This is a successful model for engaging married couples that works across cultures, ages and stages of marriage.
Kay and Kevin Noonan have been married for 34 years and have been in Teams of Our Lady for 33 years. It is one thing that we do as a couple, which enables us to serve as a couple. Parish rosters tend to split husband and wife up, and get you out of sync with each other, so that they often end up not even sitting at Mass together.
It is probably not an accident that you haven't heard much about the Teams of Our Lady because they don't tend to make a big fuss of things. However some 130,000 people need in homes every month as part of this movement worldwide.
Teams of Our Lady might make you think of a Catholic football team, but that that is not the case. The older meaning of the word 'equipes' relates to village fishing where the little boats would go out as a mini fleet and would look after each other on the way out, and on the way back, so that no one would get left behind in a storm or any other nasty seafaring disaster. This is a far richer meaning than the one we usually ascribe the word team.
So how did it begin? In the late 1930s five couples in a French parish near Paris wanted a new approach to married spirituality. They desired to live out their faith and marriage together. This was a time of men's sodalities and women's sodalities, when there wasn't much in the way of helping couples grow together towards God. So they approached their parish priest Fr Caffarel, who said 'Let's find out together'. After meeting together and growing together they learned and the movement became official in 1947, well before Vatican II.
Because the movement grew out of parish life, it is an ongoing model for supporting married couples at a parish level. It is a good answer to 'What do you do next?' for those who have been through Antioch, Engaged Encounter etc. Over 8000 clergy and religious are involved as members of the Teams of Our Lady.
Pope Benedict XVI sent a message to the 11th International Gathering of the Teams of Our Lady in 2012
"…couples of the Teams of Our Lady proclaim, not so much with words but above all with their life, the fundamental truths about human love and its most profound meaning."
St John Paul II spoke to the Teams of Our Lady present in Rome for an international gathering in 2003.
"Fr Caffarel taught the greatness and beauty of the vocation to marriage, and, anticipating the fruitful directions of the Second Vatican Council, he set forth the call to holiness that is integral to marital and family life."
Bl Paul VI spoke to the Teams of Our Lady on 4 May 1970
the version in French http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/paul_vi/speeches/1970/documents/hf_p-vi_spe_19700504_notre-dame_fr.html (then use Google translate)
Both Benedict XVI and John Paul II quoted from this address in the messages above.
"A man and a woman who love one another, the smile of a child, the peace of a home: here is an exhortation without words, but extraordinarily persuasive, in which every man can already anticipate, as by transparency, the reflection of another love and its infinite appeal"
Canonically the Teams of Our Lady are a 'private association of the faithful with juridic personality', in other words a lay group / movement with a defined purpose.
So what is a Team of Our Lady? A movement with the two-fold mission: of supporting each couple in their married life, and couples supporting other couples.
A typical Team consists of a small Christian community of 5-7 couples, ideally guided by a spiritual counsellor, who are committed to mutually supporting each other between meetings. Each month they would meet together in the home of one of the member couples. Each team has access to local, national and international support.
Teams of Our Lady is not for those already in troubled marriages. It doesn't have the purpose of counselling. Clearly this is a Catholic movement, but it is a gentle one and couples with mixed marriages (one Catholic spouse and one Christian spouse) are welcome. The idea is to listen more than you speak, and to listen even if you don't agree with what someone else is saying. It is not a 'fix-it' group. Because Teams of Our Lady have a set of statutes, it is regulated by them.
There is a social aspect to how Teams operates, but it is not a social movement. Pragmatically, unless you have a small infant, meetings are for couples only and arrangements for someone to look after your children during meetings have to be made. Of course if there is a Mass, whole families come together to celebrate it. When Teams take retreats together they do things like rent out a beach house, and have a few times set aside for discussion where the older children look after the other ones, but the rest of the time is like a holiday.
You only ever belong to one team. Over time as you grow together deeper things get talked about. Trust only comes with time.
Each couple is expected to live by the six endeavours, which are a framework for growth. These are not tasks to be accomplished, but attitudes to be awakened and absorbed.
- The Sit Down. Where the couple takes an hour to sit down, on a monthly basis, to talk about themselves and not about functional things and not about work, children and other non-personal things.
- Reading the Word of God. On a regular basis and discussing it.
- Annual Retreat.
- Personal Prayer
- Couple Prayer
- Rule of Life. Thinking about and working towards doing better as a couple and family
- Liturgy and prayer. A lighted candle, a scripture reading, intercessions
- Meal. Hospitality and table ministry
- Sharing. This is not a monthly download of your highs and lows, but a chance to share something that is important to you, a chance to listen and to be listened to. Of course, it is very confidential.
- Study Topic. Discussion on a book or social issue, one chapter at a time. For this there is a list of suggested reading, but each Team chooses what to study and doesn't have to choose from that list.
If things aren't going well we don't set any Team adrift. There is a liaison process whereby a 'check the heartbeat ' of the group is done, and support is given.
A Marriage Encounter weekend acts like a shot of adrenalin into a marriage. Teams of Our Lady are in for the long haul.
The numbers of couples in Teams of Our Lady are steadily growing, and have been for 6 decades. Currently in Australia there are 130 Teams with 1200 members and 72 spiritual counsellors. Teams can be parish based, or language based, for example one Team in the Sydney area is for Arabic speakers. Brazil has the largest number of Teams (3,250), followed by France (2,127). Even China has 14 teams, and New Zealand has 6 teams.
Teams of Our Lady encourage their members to be involved in parish life. Because the meetings are monthly they can function alongside the usual parish commitments that members have.
Teams of Our Lady can help start a new Team in your parish by providing presenters, formation for new Teams, Retreats (local, regional and international), ongoing formation, and links to many cultures.
"A real Christian couple is a great work of God: the brightness of the sacrament of marriage is the reflection of the immense tenderness that unites Christ to the Church" Fr Henri Caffarel
To ask Faye and Kevin Noonan for information about what is possible locally, email them at teams-noonan at grapevine dot com dot au.
The next blog-post will feature the homily from Saturday's Mass at the Conference.
Some of the workshops have been made available as podcasts via www.xt3.com
To access them visit http://www.xt3.com/library/view.php?id=17454
Some of the talks and workshops are now available from http://www.proclaimconference.com.au/resources.
Several video clips, transcripts, handouts and slide presentations are downloadable.
These Notes are only one person's version of what they heard, and they are not a literal transcript.