Ondrej & Alenka VANDAKOVCI, CANA Slovakia

A CANA Week that almost did not happen this summer

20 years have passed since the first CANA meeting in Slovakia in 2000. And just this spring, we found ourselves here in a situation where we didn’t know whether we would be able to organize a CANA Week this summer – and in what form. Indeed, we were unpleasantly surprised by the Covid-19 situation. In April, everything looked so negative that we didn’t think we would be able to hold CANA this summer. All similar meetings for couples were cancelled in Slovakia, but we still had hope in our hearts. We considered postponing CANA Week to the end of August, or organizing it without the children’s participation.

Finally, in early May, the national team decided that we would do everything we could to keep CANA in full swing, as anyway cancelling the week at the last minute would be easier than organizing it at the last minute. The Lord gave us courage, so we decided. We called the registered couples and to our great surprise, almost all the couples, very motivated, confirmed their participation. Of course, we were worried about the situation regarding Covid-19, but we were especially worried because – with the borders with France closed – it was very likely that the brothers and sisters of the Chemin Neuf Community would not be able to come and support us in person.

We organised the CANA Week in Nitra from 19 to 25 July 2020, in a diocesan seminary. And the Lord blessed the preparation and the whole meeting. We had planned to accept a maximum of 20 couples and exactly 20 couples registered and came! We didn’t have to refuse anyone… For us it was symbolic because of the 20th anniversary of the first CANA Week in Slovakia! How happy we were when the borders with France opened fourteen days before the start of the meeting. Father Christophe BLIN and Ľubo and Ľudka ČEKANOVCI were able to come. Translation was provided by sister Anička VILHANOVA.

The day scheduled to welcome the couples finally arrived. Everyone came. Although we could not see our faces completely because we were all wearing masks, we are very grateful to God for having decided in May that CANA Week would take place in Slovakia this summer.

Participants after the renewal of commitment mass

Together we had a truly blessed time as participants and servants. There were 25 small children with us. In the older children’s camp, which was 80 kilometres from Nitra in the countryside, 30 children attended a very interesting programme on the theme of Joseph of Egypt. They enjoyed nature, sports and games.

We also had something new for couples. This year, various proposals were part of the afternoon programme, with Libor and Monika KUVIKOVCI being in charge of their preparation. They were able to propose workshops for reflection as well as creative and sports activities. For the workshops for reflection, here are the proposed themes:

As creative activities, here is what was proposed:

The sports activities have been a great success:

Another novelty was the CANA Café. We created a pleasant place with an intimate atmosphere, where couples could enjoy quality coffee or tea, pastries and cakes. The important thing was to open only outside the official programme to avoid tempting coffee lovers!   And we did another good thing. The Martha and Mary programme for the servants was the responsibility of the couple ČEKANOVCI of the Chemin Neuf Community and Martin and Milka JANČOVIČOVCI. They created a space for the spiritual formation of the servants. And it was very good. Each servant lived a time of service, but also a time of formation, where they could go and draw strength at the feet of Jesus. Another very good news is that the seminary administration asked us if seminarians, in their penultimate year of studies, could participate in the Week. As a result, five students fully participated in the program and completed their CANA Week with the couples. They were also involved in sharing groups or in the liturgy.   The Lord has truly cared for us. No one was infected at CANA, we were able to live fully with the brothers and sisters of the Chemin Neuf Community, and the servants left tired but also having received a loving embrace in their souls.