February 16, 2024

Spring Marriage Supplement

Apostolates help married couples grow in faith, develop supportive community

Teams of Our Lady “Sector couples”—couples who coordinate smaller teams within a geographical area in the U.S.—pose for a photo in Our Lady of Loretto Church in Foxfield, Colo., during a training weekend in July of 2023. (Submitted photo)

Teams of Our Lady “Sector couples”—couples who coordinate smaller teams within a geographical area in the U.S.—pose for a photo in Our Lady of Loretto Church in Foxfield, Colo., during a training weekend in July of 2023. (Submitted photo)

By Natalie Hoefer

Pope Francis recently commented on the importance of marriage and the family.

Marriage is “an extraordinary good, a good of extraordinary value for everyone—for the spouses themselves, for their children, for all families with whom they form relationships, for the entire Church, for all of humanity,” he told members of the Roman Rota, the Vatican-based marriage tribunal, on Jan. 27.

But marriage can pose challenges. Perhaps its learning to find balance, as Kathy and Victor Lara of St. Gabriel the Archangel Parish in Indianapolis experienced. Or it could be communications, as was the case for Kevin and Judy Killegrew of St. Paul Catholic Center in Bloomington.

To improve their marriage and grow in holiness, each couple became involved in a Catholic apostolate—the Christian Family Movement for the Laras and Teams of Our Lady for the Killigrews.

Such apostolates help Catholic couples live out their sacramental marriage in fellowship with other Catholic couples. The result is the growth in holiness, as Pope Francis said, “for the spouses themselves, for their children, for all families with whom they form relationships, for the entire Church, for all of humanity.”

CFM is like ‘a school for marriage’

Kathy and Victor Lara had struggled for a good part of their 18-year marriage.

“I took care of the children, and he did work, and we couldn’t find a way to balance everything and how to work as a team,” says Kathy. “For years, we struggled with that and were considering divorce.”

Joining the Christian Family Movement (CFM) at their home parish of St. Gabriel the Archangel in Indianapolis turned their marriage around.

“It made a great impact on us, a 180-degree change,” she says.

Victor is quick to agree, noting that CFM helped the couple realize “we have to invite God to live with us, otherwise we can’t find that perfect balance.”

CFM, which began in Chicago in the 1940s, is listed in the U.S. Catholic Bishops’ Directory of Lay Movements, Organizations and Professional Associations.

According to its website, CFM “strives to equip families to intentionally address the concerns facing families in modern society, to help them discover ways to grow in holiness themselves and as families, and, ultimately, to bring the light of Christ into their environments.”

Members of the movement meet every two weeks in small groups of couples, allowing time for prayer, reflection on Scripture and social time.

During the meetings, they also use CFM books to discuss questions on topics affecting families and society, employing a method of “observe, judge, act.” This method allows couples “to see the facts of their everyday lives, to judge them in the light of the Gospel and Catholic social teaching, and to act on their new insights and change and transform their immediate [lives] as well as the larger society,” the website explains.

“We act by making a commitment,” says Kathy. “Like, if we see we’re not communicating well, we focus on each couple and what they need to work on for two weeks and then see how it went two weeks later. It’s like accompanying couples throughout marriage.”

Each small group—and a few times a year, all the groups together—also gather as families for picnics, game nights and other fun gatherings. By couples living out their faith, she says, “We believe children will see their example and live out their faith, too.”

Priests play a large role in CFM. As a local coordinating couple, the Laras meet with a priest who “guides us and tells us more about the topic [of an upcoming meeting]. Then we go talk to the families with more understanding. It’s important for them to share their knowledge with us.”

While Hispanics comprise the majority of local participants—CFM is also active at St. Patrick Parish in Indianapolis—the movement is for all Catholics, regardless of race, ethnicity or language.

“To me, this is a school for marriage,” says Victor. “We’re in love with the Christian Family Movement because it helps our families, it helps our kids, and it helps others.”

TOOL is ‘a blessing for our marriage’

After more than 35 years of marriage and raising three children, Kevin and Judy Killigrew were seeking a change.

“We were just looking for more spirituality in our marriage,” says Kevin.

“Something to help build our faith as a married couple,” Judy adds. “To work to have God as the center of our marriage and just to grow stronger in our marriage.”

They learned about Teams of Our Lady (TOOL) through their home parish, St. Paul Catholic Center in Bloomington, and joined six years ago.

“It’s been a blessing for our marriage,” says Judy, noting she and Kevin celebrated their 43rd anniversary on Jan. 17.

The TOOL movement began in France in 1938. In 2002, it received official recognition from the Vatican as a movement.

TOOL is “is an international lay movement in the Catholic Church designed to enrich marriage spirituality and make good marriages better,” explains the apostolate’s website.

Through monthly meetings of small groups of couples (called Teams) from a local area (Teams are not parish-based), it says, TOOL provides “a proven method of increasing and improving prayer life, which will help couples grow closer to God and each other. At the same time, their family will reap the benefits as well.”

The Killigrews have found this to be true for their own Team, one of seven in the Bloomington area. Eight Teams are also active on the west side of Indianapolis.

While the Killigrews appreciate their group of longer-married couples, Judy says she wishes she and Kevin had known about TOOL when they were young and starting a family.

“The benefit of Teams of Our Lady with younger married couples starting life together and having children is they have a wonderful support group to bounce off questions,” says Judy. “I see such a neat bond developing between those mothers and the husbands that I would’ve given anything to have when I was their age.”

During the monthly gatherings rotated among Team members’ homes, couples enjoy a meal, sharing their highs and lows of the prior month. The group then moves into a time of Gospel reading, prayer intentions and discussion based on TOOL reading material.

Each Team also has a priest as a spiritual advisor who serves as a guide, joins their meetings and offers Team retreats.

TOOL “keeps couples praying as a couple,” says Dominican Father Dennis Woerter, spiritual advisor for the Killigrew’s group and a parochial vicar at St. Paul Catholic Center. “That’s basic, but that’s something that is really important.”

Prayer is lived out in each couple’s marriage through TOOL’s “Endeavors”: regular Scripture reading, daily individual prayer, daily couple and family prayer, a monthly meeting of the spouse to discern God’s movement in their marriage, a private endeavor for improvement, and participation in an annual Team retreat.

“It’s a good way to mix socially and spiritually together,” says Kevin. “We support each other through health challenges, raising kids, kids growing up and moving out on their own.

“That’s kind of what Teams is all about—creating a spiritual component in your life and sharing it with other couples.”

(For more information on the Christian Family Movement [CFM], go to www.CFM.org. To inquire about bringing CFM to your parish, contact Giovani and Norma Chavez, 915-803-5840. For more information on Teams of Our Lady in the Bloomington area, contact Kevin and Judy Killigrew at jkilligrew@gmail.com or kevinkilligrew@hotmail.com. For information about Teams in Indianapolis or elsewhere in the archdiocese, contact Rick and Andrea Rader at lakemi-rc@teamsofourlady.org. For more information on Teams of Our Lady in general, go to www.teamsofourlady.org.)

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