Report of the Meeting on Family in Poland

On 28th April 2017 , the house of Missionary Sisters of Christ the King for Polish Immigrants (MCR) in Morasko near Poznan hosted 25 people from different European countries (Belgium, France, Spain, Holland, Latvia, Malta, Italy and Poland) who came to reflect upon family issues. The participants are involved in pro-family actions and are experienced and ready to continue their work.

The atmosphere facilitated the exchange of ideas both during group work and breaks. There was time for the Mass, Eucharistic Adoration, integration and walks. Our joy was easily spotted even by our hosts and people taking part in the meeting only for a short time. The participants left not only with an album about Poland but, first of all, enriched with the experience of meeting another person as well as knowledge and opinion exchange concerning family.

The main “subject” of the reflection and discussion was the human being in their wide range of family experiences in the  context of Amoris Laetitia, the  exhortation by the Pope Francis on love in family. The topic was undertaken with great realism, taking into account various participants’ experiences. Family, being a community of persons, undergoes development on the subsequent stages of life. One of the turning moments can be the process of maturing children or ultimate situations like death, divorcing or illness. The transition from one development stage to another one is usually burdened with the effort of struggle, experience of loss as well as an appeal for acceptance and undertaking the change (foregoing way of thinking and functioning etc.). It is in the moment of transition when wise support is crucial for the family’s survival.

The participants of the meeting  confirmed that family subject is still a challenge for the CLC, the terrain of our special mission which should be constantly taken care of. The meeting in Morasko was a place of the exchange of experiences, anxiety and needs. The participants came with their own experience in service, work and apostolate in the field. The most interest was shown in the project realised in Spain and South America called Family Clock (El reloj de la familia).

Group work was an essential element of the meeting. Every group focused on one of four issues which were formerly determined as the important and urgent ones to be undertaken. As a result of the group work, the participants came to the following conclusions:

Families in the CLC:

  • the need to find an offer for the children whose parents are community members and who come to the meetings: it is not only the question of taking care of them but also providing them with age-appropriate formation;
  • following St. Ignatius example, it is worth looking for the ways to talk to children so that they could recognise God in their lives (e.g. thanks to increasingly popular religious education method Godly Play used in western countries);
  • it is worth looking for ideas and offers of common meetings (individual or cyclical) also for the members of families and the spouses who do not belong to the CLC.

Children and teenagers’ upbringing as well as preparing for the Sacrament of Marriage.

  • a gap in spiritual formation between the preparation for the First Communion, Confirmation and then preparation for the Sacrament of Marriage; the lack of offers which would attract young people; the aim of such formation would be intensifying of the inner life and faith;
  • it is crucial to be with your children/teenagers where they are (important question: where are your children now?), what are their interests (board games, hobbies); it is important to be with them without criticising or judging but with the attitude of entire acceptance of the person
  • it is worth being alert and use everyday situations in order to take up valuable subjects when talking to children and teenagers (conversations when the opportunity occurs)
  • it is a good idea to introduce and cherish family rituals and celebrate important events in their own, developed by the family way (e.g. first baby tooth loss);
  • appreciating the value of praying together and family overview of the day with the use of the ignatian daily examen;
  •  constantly raising the awareness that in order to be with children, help and accompany them in their development, the adults (parents and teachers) have to be in contact with themselves and reflect upon their own lives;
  • a verified and worth continuation way of work with the young is the project/experiment method used in MAGIS program; at present the youth are looking more for actions where you can see a distinct beginning and end rather than a long term structures (compare a long formation process in communities);
  • it is important to take care of the engaged couples in such a way that the preparation to marriage is performed at the deepest level, taking into account ignatian spirituality; it is worth joining the parish preparation to the Sacrament for Marriage
  • not so much the need for new actions and initiatives but a new approach which would be more profound and ignatian.

Young married couples and families experiencing difficulties and suffering (infertility problems, difficult adoptions, illness, death).

  • it is worth giving testimony concerning the profound significance of the Sacrament of Marriage: the fact that it is not one-day event but the beginning of a way and a process which requires constant care and engagement (AL 71-79); it is necessary to increase awareness that the care for the development of marriage is indispensable at every stage of common life while loving another person is a constant process which brings more and more joy, over time;
  • the need of experienced married couples’ testimony for the young couples
  • accompanying (meaning ‘being with’) the families which are experiencing difficulties by the CLC can enrich the service with ignatian tools and the language of wisdom
  • where possible, share the ignatian tools (especially the discernment!) for example organising short projects/ workshops which will show the others good fruit of discernment which are visible in life
  • it is worth cooperating with other movements which also undertake work for families and marriages

Non-regulated situations (e.g. non-sacramental marriages, cohabiting couples) as well as family in crisis (divorces, marriage disintegration).

  • mercy is the way to understanding a man: be like Jesus in our attitudes (AL 60); the point is to reach everybody, regardless of the situation: accompany, discern, re-introduce: with simplicity, authentically and personally;
  • acceptance means development and maturing in order to be able to love every person;
  • the key word is ‘non-ideal’; a precious ability and great value is not to judge those who are not ideal at everything, not perfect; everybody may identify with the prodigal son or his brother but we are also called to be the merciful father.

The actions taken which are worth to continue include giving personal testimony by being a witness of love and mercy as well as creating the attitude of acceptance at a deeper and more comprehensive level, in yourself and around you. Deriving from the richness of our spirituality, we are called to accompany children, teenagers, young adults, married couples, families experiencing difficulties and suffering as well as non-sacramental married couples (AL 217, 299, 246). If we undertake to accompany, we should take a step in the direction of the reality which the ones we accompany live in. The point is to be in their world and not to force our ideas and believes on them. Undertaking to accompany another person, one must remember that development is a process. As Ignatius of Loyola says, all actions and activities should be adjusted to the people, the place and the time. One should not climb the tops of the spirituality and devotion working with families, looking for God “in the clouds” but notice that He comes down from the height into the reality of every family.

As the organizers, we are very pleased with the meeting in Poland and we hope the fruits will follow.