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Pray a Day Calendar for November

November Prayer-a-Day Calendar for Souls in Purgatory

Today it seems there are apps for everything, ways to streamline activities, hack our daily work, help us remember important things and keep us connected to friends and family.

 

A few years ago, a friend and fellow Regnum Christi member, CC Christopherson of Ohio, shared a way she and her family make the most of the month of November with a calendar on which each day is assigned to a deceased person whom they pray for on that day.

 

It’s kind of like an app, since it makes things so simple and organized, just not so hi-tech. It’s a Calendar printout you can keep on your fridge to remind everyone of their holy November mission.  You write the name of a deceased loved one on each day of the calendar, reminding you to dedicate your prayers and sacrifices for them on that day.  At the end of November, you will have brought 30 souls a bit closer to their eternal reward!

 

Adults and those without little ones can simply use the calendar as a way to organize their efforts to offer their daily prayers and sacrifices for the souls of their loved ones.

 

Families can take it a step further, making treat bags or boxes with 30 pieces of candy in them (left-over Halloween candy is perfect!). Each day, after a child has prayed for the person on the calendar, they can take a treat to remind them of the ‘reward of Heaven’ they have asked God to give this person. Or, they can make a sacrifice and not eat the candy that day, giving their prayers an extra push!

 

CC and her family have taken this great way to participate in the communion of saints to another level. She shares the Christopherson family tradition and some of the ways they have encouraged others to live this holy November mission:

 

“Our family has been utilizing the November calendar for years.  We make it a family mission to give out ‘packets’ containing the calendar, printed prayers and little bags to anyone who will take them.

 

This year we took it a step further.  Unfortunately, we had a very special 19-year-old man at our parish named Cullen pass away in September from a car accident.  It was a shock to our whole community.  The students at our parish school were especially close to Cullen because he helped to train the new altar servers.

 

Our local Challenge club approached the principal of our parish school to ask if the club could put together packets for all the students, with Cullen listed on November 1st.  The principal loved the idea, and our priest asked for more packets for our PREP students (those students receiving religious education but who do not attend the Catholic school).  Our parish priest was able to speak to the students about this very special mission at their weekly school Mass.  The Challenge girls gave away over 250 packets to their parish students.”

 

 

November prayer calendar, prayer card, and candy bags the Christophersons use (and give out) to pray for the holy souls in purgatory.

 

 

I invite everyone – young, old, priest, consecrated, lay – to join me in this simple way to live the tradition of the church by praying for our brothers and sisters who have gone before us.

 

You can download the calendar here, as well as directions for the calendar/candy box and a file with prayer cards you can use or print to give out to other prayer warriors, Christopherson style.

 

 

From the Catechism of the Catholic Church:

  1030 All who die in God’s grace and friendship, but still imperfectly purified, are indeed assured of their eternal salvation; but after death they undergo purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven.

 

1031 The Church gives the name Purgatory to this final purification of the elect, which is entirely different from the punishment of the damned.606 The Church formulated her doctrine of faith on Purgatory especially at the Councils of Florence and Trent. The tradition of the Church, by reference to certain texts of Scripture, speaks of a cleansing fire:607

 

As for certain lesser faults, we must believe that, before the Final Judgment, there is a purifying fire. He who is truth says that whoever utters blasphemy against the Holy Spirit will be pardoned neither in this age nor in the age to come. From this sentence we understand that certain offenses can be forgiven in this age, but certain others in the age to come.608

1032 This teaching is also based on the practice of prayer for the dead, already mentioned in Sacred Scripture: “Therefore [Judas Maccabeus] made atonement for the dead, that they might be delivered from their sin.”609 From the beginning the Church has honored the memory of the dead and offered prayers in suffrage for them, above all the Eucharistic sacrifice, so that, thus purified, they may attain the beatific vision of God.610 The Church also commends almsgiving, indulgences, and works of penance undertaken on behalf of the dead:

 

Let us help and commemorate them. If Job’s sons were purified by their father’s sacrifice, why would we doubt that our offerings for the dead bring them some consolation? Let us not hesitate to help those who have died and to offer our prayers for them.611

 

 

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Fr. Jaime Building Holy Families Podcast

Fr. Jaime Lorenzo Addresses Hard Questions from Catholic Parents in New Podcast

Fr. Jaime Lorenzo, LC, was ordained only three years ago on September 5, 2020, but he has been working with youth and young adults for nearly a decade. Today, he is serving as the Executive Youth and Camp Director for ECYD, and he has recently begun a new video podcast series called Building Holy Families, designed to provide parents with the tools and resources to support them along their spiritual journey and in their mission to build a happy and holy home.

 

It was his years of work with youth that inspired and motivated Fr. Jaime to focus on the spiritual formation of parents and helping them to build a foundation of faith in the family. In organizing and hosting the various youth events, retreats, clubs, activities, and camps that his ministry entailed, and accompanying so many boys and young adults over so many years, Fr. Jaime came to realize that he, as a priest, could only do so much, and that the solution to many of the faith struggles he was witnessing in the youth he was serving could only really be found in the families themselves.


“At one point during a moment of prayer/frustration, I realized that I am only doing half of what these kids need – the other half, or most of the work, is done in the home,” says Fr. Jaime. “And I felt the call to reach out to the families and work with them – personally with those who are close by, but also through videos and social media as a way to reach a wider audience.”


The Building Holy Families podcast provides conversations and suggestions on a diverse variety of topics (like “How to have meaningful conversations with your children,” “Inspiring trust,” and “Should my child get a phone?”) but what they all have in common is that they are short, sharable, and practical. Most of the episodes are approximately 7-10 minutes long, and offer parents ideas, motivations, and challenges to get them thinking about their own spiritual journey and owning the faith for their family. Here, parents can find best practices to guide their children through the world that is full of spiritual obstacles and not always amenable to the faith, while their eyes and hearts are set on heaven. And one of the biggest spiritual obstacles facing Catholic families today, according to Fr. Jaime, is a lack of passion for the faith.


“The faith has become very basic and very easy to live, but the fire, the excitement, and the depth is sometimes lacking,” says Fr. Jaime, who sees many families simply going through the motions – attending Mass and receiving the sacraments, but living a Catholic faith that is dry and monotonous and lacking true life and a real thirst for God. “The world has humanized God, and humanized the faith, to the point where the call to grow isn’t very strong. What’s really lacking is growth in the faith as a family, the call to grow, to go deeper. A lot of families don’t know how to do that, or they’re looking for places or people to help them be formed and guided and keep growing in the faith, and they don’t know where to go.”


Fr. Jaime’s podcast offers a space for these conversations to happen. In one of his episodes, Fr. Jaime talks with Jacquie Lustig, a Consecrated Woman of Regnum Christi and the Assistant Vocations Director for the Consecrated Women, who is currently working with youth ages 10-18 in Cincinnati, Ohio. Together, Fr. Jaime and Jacquie discuss how parents can show active love towards their children in the face of challenges, discouragement, frustration, and exhaustion, and when it even feels like their love is not reciprocated or appreciated. “When kids get home, even if they don’t know it sometimes, those girls or those boys are testing to see ‘how loveable can I all of me be?’,” suggest Jacquie. “No one has a harder job than being a parent, because you’re kind of like the cliff that those waves keep crashing against, but sometimes you just need to stay the course and give yourself permission to say, ‘I’m doing a good job.’ And just keep showing up.”


But in the midst of the all the challenges facing the family today, Fr. Jaime sees an abundance of hope. For him, the Church is a place with a multitude of resources around the globe, particularly within the world of technology, and a space where people can come to be nourished, to be accompanied, and to grow, and Fr. Jaime sees his podcast as just one more resource of personal formation and growth for the family. “It’s a beautiful thing that Regnum Christi, and, in fact, the whole Church, is called to offer that place to have those conversations, to share experiences and stories, successes and failures, and to support and accompany each other through this journey together.”


Fr. Jaime releases a new episode approximately once a week during the school year, and he plans to introduce new topics and new guests in the upcoming months. You can watch Building Holy Families on YouTube or listen to it on any podcast platform. If there are any topics you would like Fr. Jaime to cover, feel free to email him.


 

Besides his work with youth, Fr. Jaime is one of the core team of Regnum Christi Music Collective, a musical group consisting of Legionary priests, Consecrated Women of Regnum Christi, and lay Regnum Christi members, who come together to create and perform. You can hear their music anywhere you stream music, or on their website rcmusiccollective.org, or subscribe to their Regnum Christi Music Collective YouTube channel for updates on new music.

 
 
 

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City Missions in Valencia, Spain – Sandra and Guille: “Seeing people you have stopped on the street coming to Church is something amazing”

For the second year in a row, Family Missions of Valencia organized its Holy Week Missions in the parish of the Valencian Martyrs. These are a different kind of missions, as Sandra and Guille explain, since in city missions, “we are more hesitant, embarrassed and afraid,” and plus, “city people are busy with another type of activity in the moment you stop them, and when you stop them, you cut off their activity…” In any event, as Family Missionaries have realized, “in either case, children are the ‘awesome instrument’ of God.”

Sandra and Guille, accompanied by their daughter María, have been doing missions with “Mission Family” for seven years. The Lord always makes himself present in a special way during missions, and these in particular were marked by “communion among the new missionary families and how the Lord sought them out, came out to meet them and surprised them, and they have come out more in love with him and very eager to do it again.”

A girl comes forward to receive her missionary cross

What has been special about these missions?

Normally we are used to doing missions outside of Valencia and spending the night away from home, but for the last two years they have been “at home,” which makes them different. We have gone out to do missions in the streets of Valencia, and the mission has also been very much within the group, as these were the first missions for many new families who came to be missionaries.

What have the missions consisted of?

The services took place in the Regnum Christi parish, Valencian Martyrs. There we helped out with everything our parish priest, Fr. Cortina, LC, asked us to do. But we also had moments of camaraderie in ECYD’s Club Faro and a day of fellowship and formation in Vall de Flors.

Are city people very different from small-town people when you approach them to talk about God?

Where they are from doesn’t matter at all, neither to them nor to us. We are more hesitant, embarrassed or afraid in the city, but at the same time, that makes the challenge more exciting.

City people are busy with another type of activity in the moment you stop them, and when you stop them, you cut off their activity… This is a difficulty from the outset, but sometimes that becomes an advantage because you startle them and they pay attention. In either case, we have found that children are the “awesome instrument” of God.

In the particular case of Valencia, what is the difference between missions in a parish assigned to Regnum Christi and another parish that isn’t?

In a Regnum Christi parish, you are “at home,” and you know the pastor well, which kick-starts teamwork. On the other hand, in small towns it is very satisfying to give people the possibility of participating in services to which no other priest would go if ours didn’t. Also, getting to know Regnum Christi awakens questions and curiosity. The joy is different, but present in both cases.

Mission Family assisted Holy Week celebrations in the parish of the Valencian Martyrs.

What impacted you the most in this missionary experience?

Communion among the new missionary families and how the Lord sought them out, came out to meet them and surprised them. They have come out of missions more in love with him and very eager to do it again.

Could you tell us an anecdote that you experienced with the people you worked with that touched your heart?

What is most exciting is when the Lord allows you to have the joy of realizing that you are an instrument. When you see people you have stopped on the street, who you know would not have accompanied Jesus in his Passion had you not stopped them, that is something very great. This makes you wonder why you stopped this person and not that one, why you said to them what you did… The answer is always the same: It is he who is at work in you… You just give your “yes,” and he does all the rest.

Originally published in Spanish here.

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“I Saw A Gap And I Wanted To Fill It”: An Initiative For Parents Of Teenagers And Adult Children

As the sacrament coordinator at her parish of Christ the King, in Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada, Holly Gustafson is responsible for helping to prepare families to receive the sacraments, from couples getting ready for marriage or for the baptism of their child, to parents of children preparing to make their First Confession, and receive First Communion and Confirmation. In the two years that she has held this role, she has already had the opportunity to see couples she journeyed with through marriage preparation come back to the church for the baptism of their first child, and she is excited to be able to reconnect with those families again when they come back for sacrament prep.

One thing that Holly noticed, however, from her position as sacrament coordinator, was a lack of support in the parish for parents of older children, teenagers and young adults who had received their sacraments long ago, and some of whom had since stopped coming to Mass and had essentially left the church. And this gap in spiritual support for parents mirrored what Holly was feeling in her own life.

When Holly had her first child in 2001, she attended every free parenting class offered through the health district, and joined mothers’ support groups at the YMCA and her local parish. She became a leader for FAMILIA, and helped to run kids’ clubs and vacation Bible schools at her church. As her children grew, Holly enrolled them in Challenge and Conquest Clubs, and multiple camps around the city, including one led, entirely in French, by the Myriam Bethlehem Family, a consecrated community founded in Quebec, Canada. Throughout this phase of raising young children, Holly sought out – and found – a multitude of resources to help and support her in her role of motherhood.

But as her kids all transitioned from childhood to adolescence and young adulthood, the parenting issues that she and her husband were dealing with became much more serious, and yet there didn’t seem to be any resources to help guide them through this complicated phase of parenthood. There were very few books on parenting adult children, and simply no programming or moms’ groups for moms like her, mothers of teenagers and adults who come with their own sets of complex and difficult problems.

“I saw a gap, and I wanted to fill it,” said Holly, who got the idea of hosting an evening of adoration in her parish specifically designed for parents of teenagers and adult children. The deacon at her parish, Kevin Harty, who has older children of his own, wholeheartedly agreed help host and to expose the Blessed Sacrament for the event. Holly planned to keep the event simple: after exposition, they would pray a communal rosary, and then the remainder of the time would be spent in silent prayer. “We didn’t know how many parents would show up, or if anyone would show up at all, but Deacon Kevin and I agreed that even if it was just us there praying for our children before the Blessed Sacrament, the event would be worth it!”

The immediate response to the event was overwhelming. Approximately fifty parents showed up that Sunday evening to pray for their children and grandchildren. “Many people came up afterwards and thanked me for putting it on,” says Holly. “They were so many people who thought they were the only ones struggling with really complicated issues with their adult children and grandchildren, and they walked into the church and they suddenly realized that they were not alone. And I realized I wasn’t alone either.”

In light of the positive response, Holly took the idea of making the evening of adoration a monthly event to the next staff meeting, and the idea was met with immediate enthusiasm – the rector, Fr. Stephen Bill, had already heard from several of his parishioners how much the event had meant to them. Holly and her husband, with the help of Deacon Kevin and many other parishioners who have agreed to help by welcoming, or praying the rosary, now host Adoration for Parents of Teenage and Adult Children on the second Sunday of every month.

In April, that second Sunday happened to fall on Easter, which Holly says was the perfect day to pray for older children whose faith lives are in need of a resurrection of their own.

Holly chose Our Lady, Undoer of Knots, as the patroness of this new initiative, which draws parents and grandparents from all over the diocese. “Little children typically have little problems, and their knots are pretty easy to untie,” says Holly. “Big kids have big problems, and I wanted to place those big, tangled knots in the hands of Mary.” Along with a prayer to Our Lady, Undoer of Knots, on the evening of adoration, Holly sets out a variety of prayers, including a parents’ prayer and a prayer to St. Joseph, and a meditation or two for parents to reflect on if they choose. “The theme of the readings or meditations is always about hope, and the reminder that God really does hear our prayers for our children, and will answer them, because he loves our kids even more than we do.”

Along with scheduling the sacrament preparation sessions and monthly Adoration for Parents of Teenage and Adult Children for the upcoming school year, Holly is also planning to host some women’s retreats on the virtue of hope, and an artist’s retreat based on those held by Called to Create, a Regnum Christi initiative that responds to the call of evangelization through the beauty of art. And she is always open to new ways that God may be calling her to fill a need in her parish and diocese. “Sometimes I feel like all my initiatives come from a place of selfishness – I have a longing, to pray for my kids, or for a retreat, so I organize something to fill my own need!” says Holly. “But then when I create an event or an initiative, and people come, I know that I wasn’t alone in that longing after all.”

Besides being the sacrament coordinator at her parish, Holly is also a story writer for Regnum Christi and a regular contributor to the RC Live Blog – you can read her blogs at regnumchristilive.org. She has been a member of Regnum Christi since she was pregnant with her first child back in 2001, and has served in a variety of roles in FAMILIA and as Team Leader. Holly also teaches linguistics at First Nations University of Canada in Regina.

Holly’s youngest child just turned 13 in April of this year, so she and her husband, James, are now the parents of two teenagers and three adult children. If you would like more information about how to host your own Adoration for Parents of Teenagers and Young Adults, or for prayers and meditations to use at the event, email Holly at [email protected].

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A Weekend in New Orleans with Lumen and St. Michael Special School

St. Michael Special School in New Orleans, Louisiana is dedicated to providing a unique Catholic education to students aged six through adulthood with mild to moderate intellectual and developmental disabilities, including autism, ADHD, developmental delay, Down Syndrome, traumatic brain injury, multiple disabilities, and other health impairments. Opened in 1965, the school is a leader in Special Education, providing integral formation of the whole child – a balance of academic, physical, emotional, and spiritual development that helps all students grow in their faith and reach their full potential. Besides daily prayer and religion classes, students attend weekly Mass in the St. Teresa Chapel, and also have the opportunity to prepare for and receive their sacraments during the school year.

As Head of School since July of 2020, Dr. Cissy Laforge is responsible for everything from facilities to finance and development, as well as daily contact with staff and faculty. And she is particularly passionate about Catholic education and the children she serves. “The students, hands down, are my favourite thing about working at St. Michael,” says Cissy. “They are a true reflection of all things good in our world – they are joyful, kind, authentic, sincere, sweet, loving… you name any good quality, and they have an abundance of it!”

And at St. Michael, it’s these students who set the tone: one of complete joy. Everything is celebrated with delight and gratitude: the new vending machine has its own ribbon-cutting, and the baseball pep rally ends with a jubilant rendition of “Take Me Out to the Ballgame.” Cissy shares one particular story that illustrates the attitude encouragement and joy that reigns at St. Michael School:

“At St. Michael, we celebrate small things and big things – we enjoy each other and life in general, and the kids delight in each other’s accomplishments. For example, I was in a class one day and the teacher asked a question, and student after student did not have the correct answer. When one student answered correctly, his friend turned to him and said, ‘You did great! I am so proud of you for knowing that!’ They were 16-year-old boys!”

St. Michael Special School is a unique educational experience in a world where inclusion of those with developmental disabilities into a normative setting is the trend. Instead, St. Michael takes the opposite approach – students are encouraged to be front and center in a space designed especially for them. This unique methodology is a response to the needs of the families who, Cissy explains, come to the school often in a state of hopelessness, and even despair. “These families have typically experienced so much trauma – their kids have been neglected or pushed to the side. St. Michael is a community: a learning community for the students, and a welcoming community for the parents. Our students experience everything they would in a typical school, but here, they are encouraged to hold all the positions – they are student council reps, on teams, in clubs, and on stage. We help our students become as independent as possible and build their confidence so that they can become the people God intended them to be.”

St. Michael Special School only charges a fraction of what it costs to educate a child. Each student’s tuition is subsidized about $10,000 per year, and the school fundraises 1.6-1.8 million dollars a year just to keep the facility running and the staff and faculty paid.

This is where the Legionary priests and Lumen members and family from a variety of communities come in. Every year for the past ten years, the group travels to New Orleans to take on projects on campus that the school has neither the funds nor the personnel to complete. This year, at the end of October, 15 missionaries from Calgary joined 20 others from Chicago, Tulsa, and Washington, DC, including Legionary priests Fr. Michael Sliney, Fr. Michael O’Connor, and Fr. Daniel Wilson, organized by Lumen member, Kent Wang.

The weekend mission began with dinner on Thursday night. Organizers always order much more food than is necessary, so that there is plenty left over to be boxed up as meals and distributed immediately to people experiencing homelessness in New Orleans’ French Quarter. (You can watch Lumen family member, Daisy Overmyer, explain the supper mission on YouTube here.) Friday began at St. Michael Special School with Mass. This was followed by a tour of the school, including the bedroom where St. Teresa of Calcutta herself spent the night when the school was still a convent! Then, the dads got to work to complete the projects the school had lined up for them, while the daughters spent the day in the classrooms and on the playground with the students. In the evening, the school families joined the group for jambalaya that they had prepared and both the school parents and missionaries shared testimonies about their experiences at St. Michael School, which is always one of the highlights of the weekend, says Cissy: “The dinner and conversation is a time for our families to enjoy the company and interacting with people who are genuinely interested in their stories – the Lumen families talk about their experiences with our students, and the St. Michael families talk about life with intellectual and developmental disabilities and what the school means to them. It’s beautiful because people talk from their hearts.”

On Saturday, the missionaries partnered with the New Orleans Mission to bring a pop-up grocery store to an impoverished neighborhood, setting up tables with 10,000 lbs of groceries to come and get for free. The daughters accompanied the shoppers, and the dads and daughters even helped the residents carry their groceries home. When it suddenly started raining and the line-up of customers thinned, the group packed up the groceries and went door-to-door delivering them to the housing projects. The rain ended up being a blessing, as the missionaries were able to visit and deliver food to people who were shut-ins and too elderly or disabled to make it out to the pop-up grocery store. Lumen member, Fouad Arbid, explains the “pop up” grocery market here

The weekend mission ended with a closing Mass and a celebration Dinner Cruise on a steamboat.

After ten years, the students and staff of St. Michael Special School know Lumen well, and the students love having the group back year after year, and the group is already planning to go back October 19-22, 2023. To find out more about St. Michael Special School, visit their website at St. Michael Special School – New Orleans, LA. St. Michael depends on the generosity of others to fulfill its mission: you can give to St. Michael Special School through their website link found here .

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To Know, Love and Serve: A Path to Marital Fulfillment

Jean MacKenzie

Jean MacKenzie is a Regnum Christi member and a Registered Psychologist in private practice in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. She received her MA in Counselling from The Franciscan University of Steubenville in 1999 and has experience working with clients from a variety of backgrounds and cultures, presenting a wide range of issues.  Jean is most passionate about marriage and couples counselling and believe that strengthening relationships strengthens the foundation of our society. Jean says, “I enjoy working with Catholic couples to help them have marriages that are both fulfilling and pleasing to God.” She has been married to Colin since 2001 and they have seven beautiful children.

Jean was first introduced to Regnum Christi through her father. Legionary priests would frequently visit their family home while she was a university student.  She was introduced to the spiritual exercises and was involved with Regnum Christi for many years before associating.  In Canada, Regnum Christi members were very geographically spread out, and she remembers more than once their gatherings were interrupted by a snow storm. However, in May 2006, Jean finally had the opportunity to join Regnum Christi. She has been an active member of Regnum Christi ever since and grateful for all the gifts of love, grace and growth which God has provided through her involvement.

The motivation to write To Know, Love and Serve: A Path to Marital Fulfillment

“The idea for the original To Know, Love, and Serve book was one that was on my mind for a long time before it came to fruition. I started working in private practice in 2004 and had always worked from a faith informed perspective. At some point in our marriage journey my husband and I read a book by Christopher West called The Love That Satisfies: Reflections on Eros & Agape.  The book was a collection of reflections on excerpts from Pope Benedict XVI’s Deus Caritas Est and I was struck by how much our relationship grew just by reflecting on the true meaning of love and God’s plan for love in marriage,” shared Jean. “Reading this book inspired me to develop a similar resource but one that integrated Catholic faith and psychology to help practicing Catholics strengthen their faith and their relationships so they could be strong witnesses to the couples they encountered in their lives. Though God had given me the inspiration, it seemed that, as a military wife and mother of 5 children, he had not given me the time or energy to follow through on this inspiration.”

Melissa Guzik

During spiritual direction, Jean remembers, “the topic frequently came up and it was during this time that I learned an important lesson about myself, although God will place inspirations on my heart, he often wants me to collaborate with another one of his children to get the job done.” One day Jean’s guide asked her if she thought she needed to reach out to someone else to help her bring this inspiration to life and shortly after she connected with her colleague, Melissa Guzik, a fellow Catholic counsellor. Jean says, “She was as enthusiastic about the idea as I was.” Together, often with babes in arms and while Jean’s husband was in Afghanistan, they were able to combine the skills and inspirations God gave them and write To Know, Love and Serve: A path to marital fulfilment.

Jean shares, “Many Catholics will recognize that the title of our book is derived from the Baltimore Catechism’s answer to the question, “Why did God make you? God made me to know Him, to love Him, and to serve Him in this world, and to be happy with Him forever in heaven.” Famous marriage researcher John Gottman identified that building detailed love maps is an important factor contributing to strong marriages. Building strong love maps essentially amounts to developing an intricate knowledge of your partner. To me, this need to develop a love map is a reflection of our relationship with God. In order to love God, we must know Him and as we  strive to grow in our knowledge and love of God, we grow in our desire to serve Him. Similarly, as we grow in our knowledge of our spouse, we grow in our ability to love him or her and our desire to serve our spouse. Essentially, this is what the To Know, Love and Serve program is about, helping couples to grow in their knowledge of God and each other so they can grow in their faith and strengthen their marriages.”

Military life took Jean away from Alberta and then back again. Upon her return, Fr. Todd Arsenault, LC, and the board of Vibrant Family Ministries, having heard of their book, approached Jean and Melissa about creating a workbook.  Despite busy lives and many children, Jean and Melissa produced the workbook feeling convinced that the end product was fully a result of the grace of God.

How has this resource help married couples?

Jean and Melissa conducted an initial test group with a group of young couples from Ontario, Canada. Fr. Todd Arsenault had been running a group with these couples where they read and reflected on encyclicals and these generous young couples agreed to be guinea pigs for the new workbook. The couples met online and took turns leading the group every two weeks. Jean and Melissa joined them just to observe. The couples offered some suggestions for improvement but overall were enthusiastic. So they implemented the suggestions and sent the workbook to the publishers.

Since then Jean and Melissa have run an in person group at their parish and Melissa participated in a family camp in Quebec where they used the book and workbook as part of their program. Both groups responded positively to the program. Jean  remembers one night for the group at their parish, both she and Melissa were sick and they left our husbands to run the group that night. Jean’s husband returned home that night and informed her that they had left them with the chapter on family planning which had them leading a discussion on natural family planning.  Although their husbands were somewhat dismayed, Jean and Melissa were thrilled as they took it as more evidence that you do not need to be a mental health professional to lead the group.

A priest from Nigeria who was present at the family camp in Quebec decided to bring the program back to Nigeria, and some Regnum Christi members in Ontario, members of the Vibrant Family Ministries board, have started 2 or 3 groups.

Here are some testimonials from people who have read the book and/or the workbook:

“To Know Love and Serve” explores key topics and approaches drawn from the established body of marriage enrichment literature in the fields of psychology and counselling.  Often faith-based marriage enrichment books will simply replay the main findings in this field and claim their Christian relevance through some scriptural proof-texting. “To Know, Love and Serve” transforms the treatment of these topics by making scripture and church teaching the key to unlocking their deeper significance for the marital journey. By leading with scripture, couples are invited to encounter Christ’s unique way of listening, communicating or dealing with conflict before reflecting on insights from psychology.  “To Know, Love and Serve” also pushes beyond the standard treatments of topics in marriage enrichment to address the core dimensions of faith in the marital journey including spirituality, openness to life, new paths to intimacy, the faithful handling of finances, and our shared destinies in Christ. The title, ‘to know, love and serve,’ is normally understood to refer to our relationship to God.  In this book couples are invited to begin to experience the deeper interconnections between our spiritual and nuptial call.

– Dr. Daniel Cere, Ph.D., Associate Professor, School of Religious Studies, McGill University

This Marriage Enrichment book touches on ten important domains in married life while emphasizing the importance of faith in the life of a couple. The book is based on sound scriptural and psychological information. Couples using the book will find the structure of the program helpful in reflecting individually and conjointly on their faith life. Each chapter contains beneficial educational material for healthy marriages and practical exercises couples will find useful in strengthening their marriage. Many of the resources listed in the course are ones that I use with couples in my own clinical practice.  May this book be a source of hope, courage and strength for couples who use it. 

– Timothy Shininger, LCSW, LMFT, Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist, Clinic Director/Owner, Comprehensive Counseling Services, LLC

You and your spouse are about to be richly blessed by this marital book! Jean and Melissa have prayerfully developed a unique program that brings together the spiritual tools and the truths of the Catholic faith with effective and practical marriage counseling tools. Drawing from years of clinical training and experience, they focus each chapter on potential problem areas experienced by most marriages. The book is framed in a helpful and easy to follow steps including prayers, scriptures, reflections, discussion questions, couple activities and recommendations for further study. I highly recommend this book for marriage preparation, marriage strengthening and for marriage repair and fervently pray that parishes and dioceses will adopt the program for their marital enrichment programs. God bless you!

– Ian Butler, MA, MTS, Executive Director of Holy Family Counseling Services Inc.

We loved reading “To Know, Love and Serve” every Sunday evening. The 10-week program was easy to fit into our lives, provided us with special time alone together, allowed for some important dialogue, and pushed us a bit further as a married couple. We really liked that there are numerous activities to choose from each week as we can do the book again in another year or two and it can be a different experience. The resources listed at the end of each chapter were excellent, some we had read and some we look forward to reading. The time commitment was perfect, not too long but enough that we actually felt connected and were able to pray, read and discuss the topics. We would definitely recommend the book to our friends! Great job Melissa and Jean!

– Pam and Eric Davey Edmonton, Alberta

This marriage enrichment book will help you strengthen your relationship with Christ, through your spouse. Anchored in Scripture and Church teaching, this program provides a holistic understanding of the person and marriage. The practical questions and resources provided dig into the standard topics but opens dialogue with a new perspective. The easy layout and flow of the program, backed by the years of counselling experience, makes this an ideal program for Catholic couples. 

– Diane Rouleau, M.T.S., Former Associate Director, Office of Family & Life for the Edmonton Archdiocese

The To Know, Love and Serve Marriage Enrichment program is an easy, versatile, out of the box program that includes a book and workbook with an easy to follow, step by step format that makes marriage ministry easy to facilitate. One does not need any special training to run this program. It is possible for one couple to lead the program, or couples can take turns. It has been used for in person groups at parishes, online groups, and as part of a family camp, but someone could also host the program in their home, or as part of a larger program.  Couples could also turn the program into more of a date night by getting dressed up and sharing a meal together. The possibilities are endless.

Some recommendations for anyone who might be interested in using this resource:

Jean and Melissa are happy to support any couples who are interested in facilitating the To Know, Love, and Serve marriage enrichment program They offer free online Q & A sessions for anyone who has questions they would like to have answered or support they would like to receive. They also have email, social media, and bulletin templates, posters and invitations that they provide.

Find out more on their website, knowloveserve.info.

Where can the book be purchased?

Canada

www.knowloveserve.info

https://justinpress.ca/book/to-know-love-and-serve/ 

https://justinpress.ca/book/to-know-love-and-serve-workbook/

USA

https://www.queenofpeacecatholicstore.com/

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Catholic Caregiver Community: “It’s like having a therapist, a coach, a spiritual director, and a best friend all in one!”

Four years ago, Maria Mercedes Gaviria was living a full and busy life, with two children, a job as a global leader with a company she had been with for over 28 years, and a growing Holy Week Mercy Mission apostolate in Cincinnati. Then, all of a sudden it seemed, her life felt like it had been turned upside down.

In 2018, after attending her niece’s wedding, in a transition that felt like it occurred overnight, Maria was catapulted into the unexpected role of caring for her mother, Lucia. Although she had always helped her mom, who had up until that point been living independently, with some of the various aspects of her life, like finances, healthcare, and odd chores, she now found herself as her mother’s full-time caregiver, all while continuing to care for her own family and maintaining her professional role. During the two years that Lucia lived with Maria and her family, they experienced myriad challenges, including cancer and a dozen other healthcare issues; long hospital stays; palliative care, in-home, and near-hospice care; COVID infections, intricate decision making, and the complicated insurance and financial issues that come with complex healthcare.

During this difficult time, however, Maria felt continuously blessed and supported by her Regnum Christi family, her parish community, and her personal and professional network. Here she found valuable expertise, experience, and accompaniment from individuals – including a spiritual director, a psychologist, a mentor, a coach, a Catholic health counselor, and her entire RC family – who served as her pillars of strength, wisdom, hope, encouragement, and spiritual nourishment. But in speaking with friends experiencing similar challenges, Maria became aware that not everyone had the same access to the type of resources and network that Maria had had through own spiritual, personal, and professional life. “Becoming a caregiver to an elderly parent is a role that often hits us unexpectedly,” says Maria. “Many of us begin without even realizing that we’re assuming the caregiver role, and without really being taught how to navigate or manage.”

Natasha and Lucia spending time together sewing

Meanwhile, Maria’s daughter, Natasha, was having similar thoughts, and while the two were on a walk together, Natasha, a former clinical therapist and social worker and current online business owner with expertise in the development of online communities, shared that God had been moving in her heart the desire to help other caregivers of elderly parents. After spending time researching and speaking with caregivers and experts in the field, Maria and Natasha recognized a significant lack of support for the caregivers themselves; the resources available tended to focus on the elderly receiving care, without taking into account the needs of the caregivers tasked with this often complicated and difficult role. Combining their desire to serve caregivers, Natasha’s expertise, and Maria’s experience in human development and formation, as well as leveraging her Master’s in Catholic Theology, the pair set out to create the Catholic Caregiver Community, a one-of-a-kind ministry created to serve those who find themselves in the complex and sometimes entirely unexpected role of caring for their aging parents, helping them to navigate the many emotional, mental, physical, and spiritual challenges that come along with it. As members journey through this caregiving role, the community provides weekly guidance, counsel and relatable accompaniment, as well as concrete support through actionable techniques, tactics, and tools, all aimed at helping caregivers to restore balance in their lives, regain control of their actions, and care for their loved ones with confidence. Through monthly talks and meditations led by priests, religious, or lay people including Legionary priests, Consecrated Women, or lay Regnum Christi members, caregivers are invited to encounter Christ and connect their caregiver role to a greater purpose, aligned with their Catholic faith. “With the proper support and tools, caring for an elderly parent is a beautiful and fruitful vocation that transcends beyond their relationship and even impacts generations to come,” says Maria. “Ultimately, we hope that they lean into their faith by acknowledging that they have been chosen to be a caregiver to their mom and dad and through this experience to deepen their relationship with Christ.”

One of the members of the Catholic Caregivers Community who has benefitted from the ministry is a woman who, like Maria, had an active and busy life when she found herself, in the midst of 2020, unexpectedly taking on the role of her mother’s full-time caregiver. Over the course of the next two years, the woman’s career and retirement plans, her personal life, her relationships with her immediate family and friends, and her spiritual life, became reprioritized. Waking up one day, she realized that her life was going in a completely different direction than she had planned, and that the role of caregiving had her completely overwhelmed. After stumbling across the Catholic Caregiver Community on Facebook and becoming a member, she was able to access practical and easy-to-apply tactics, powerful meditation videos, and most importantly, a community that understood exactly what she was going through. “Through the Catholic Caregiver Community, my mindset has totally changed, and I don’t view my role as a burden, but as a vocation. It’s like having a therapist, a coach, a spiritual director, and a best friend all in the course of one month,” she says. “As a result, I am kinder to myself, and a better caregiver to my mom.”

For Maria and Natasha, their vocations and charism as Regnum Christi members have been the driving force behind this ministry. The ongoing formation, accompaniment, and spiritual direction they received allowed them to hear God’s call for this mission to serve and meet the needs of a growing population of individuals (currently, there are approximately 42 million adults caring for a family member in the United States alone), as well as giving them the courage to respond to it. “One of the most beautiful charisms of RC members is radiating joy and peace in every encounter,” says Maria. “When we developed The Catholic Caregiver Community, we wanted to ensure that our members feel that same charism with every encounter with our ministry.”

Lucia, Maria’s mom

And, of course, Maria’s experience caring for her own mom, gave her the experience and insight to carry out this mission with true empathy and compassion. “Over the past three years, I have had a complex, challenging, diverse, overwhelming caregiving experience with my mom, and little did I know that God was preparing me for my next apostolate!”

Recently, Maria honored her mom’s wish and helped her move back to her home country of Colombia, where Lucia now lives in a Catholic assisted living community. Besides developing The Catholic Caregiver Community, she and Natasha combined their expertise in branding, digital marketing, and technology to establish Aspen & Oliva, a personal branding and lifestyle agency anchored by faith.

To find out more information about the Catholic Caregiver Community, visit the website at  catholiccaregivercommunity.com, and as a special offer, all Regnum Christi Lay members who are caregivers will receive a 25% discount off the cost of the membership (when signing up for an individual account, enter the code RC25).

Catholic Caregiver Community: “It’s like having a therapist, a coach, a spiritual director, and a best friend all in one!” Read More »

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Alex Kucera

Atlanta

Alex Kucera has lived in Atlanta, GA, for the last 46 years. He is one of 9 children, married to his wife Karmen, and has 3 girls, one grandson, and a granddaughter on the way. Alex joined Regnum Christi in 2007. Out of the gate, he joined the Helping Hands Medical Missions apostolate and is still participating today with the Ghana Friendship Mission.

In 2009, Alex was asked to be the Atlanta RC Renewal Coordinator for the Atlanta Locality to help the RC members with the RC renewal process. Alex became a Group Leader in 2012 for four of the Atlanta Men’s Section Teams and continues today. Running in parallel, in 2013, Alex became a Team Leader and shepherded a large team of good men.

Alex was honored to be the Atlanta Mission Coordinator between 2010 to 2022 (12 years), coordinating 5-8 Holy Week Mission teams across Georgia. He also created and coordinated missions at a parish in Athens, GA, for 9 years. Alex continues to coordinate Holy Week Missions, Advent Missions, and Monthly missions at Good Shepherd Catholic Church in Cumming, GA.

From 2016 to 2022, Alex also served as the Men’s Section Assistant in Atlanta. He loved working with the Men’s Section Director, the Legionaries, Consecrated, and Women’s Section leadership teams.

Alex is exceptionally grateful to the Legionaries, Consecrated, and many RC members who he’s journeyed shoulder to shoulder, growing his relationship with Christ and others along the way. He knows that there is only one way, that’s Christ’s Way, with others!