After three months of mission around the world, a new pastoral year 2023-2024 begins for CANA International. Gilles & Véronique CORMIER share with us their new challenges. To marvel, to listen, to renew, to launch, to relaunch!
A new team
First of all, in this new pastoral year 2023-2024, CANA International is delighted to announce the arrival of Guillaume and Sandrine HAUDEBOURG, as well as Sister Marie BOURBONNAIS within its team!
Marie, a consecrated sister in the Chemin Neuf Community, will be taking over from our sister Audrey. Marie has spent a long time serving the Youth Mission in many countries and is very familiar with this international dimension.
Guillaume and Sandrine are married, have 3 children (2 university students and a teenager), are also involved in the Chemin Neuf Community and were responsible for CANA in France for 5 years. So they know this mission very well.
42 years after the launch of CANA in France, we are still amazed at the fruits of the CANA pedagogy; and the 63 CANA weeks that have taken place over the last three months in some forty countries are further proof of this. Around 1,100 new couples have benefited from these weeks, and have come away strengthened, renewed and even healed! The miracle of water turned into wine continues, and the dark days of the pandemic seem to be definitively behind us.
Overall, we can say that the mission is doing well in many countries. But, at the same time, it needs renewal in others. For some years now, we have been feeling that it has become very difficult for young couples in certain countries to take part in a whole CANA Week. Like many others, we have noticed that the world economic and political situation is deteriorating, with a direct impact on the CANA mission. We feel that we are coming to the end of a single model comprising CANA Week followed by CANA Fraternity with weekends and retreats designed for couples who wish to go deeper.
Last year, Father François Michon, head of the Chemin Neuf Community, asked us to ask the new generation the following question: “What do they have to say to the Community, to CANA? What would they like to find there?
Listening to renew ourselves
To respond to this challenge and to the question posed, we have launched a focus group with young couples, a reflection that has already been presented to you in a previous article (June 2023) where we presented the method used and its initial results. Here’s the rest of the story of the adventure.
To keep in touch with reality, we asked the group to interview couples of their generation in each of their countries. They conducted 22 interviews, the main findings of which are set out below.
- Couples are still connected. Paradoxically, they are both very engaged in what’s going on and also feel at a distance, disconnected.
- Their professional careers and personal development come first. This is delaying the building of a family, as they make little commitment or later.
- Divorce rates continue to rise in all these countries, and hyper-consumption is also upsetting the notion of commitment.
- It is becoming difficult to find a balance between the marital relationship, children, work, household chores and personal interests.
These young couples also express expectations of the Church
- A desire for support through prayer, for belonging to a community,
- They appreciate open-mindedness and want less judgement from the Church. They are looking for a welcoming environment that respects their backgrounds and experiences.
- They need to have quality time for each other and their families, with free time, helping them to find a good balance between work and family life.
In response to the question, here’s what couples tell us:
- Do “with” couples rather than “for” them. That means listening first! Not proposing ready-made solutions.
- First of all, develop a sense of belonging to a group. Then the couples will move forward in their faith, their conversion…
- Propose fraternal life: in a fragmented world, many people are looking for it and thirsting for it.
- The importance of ecology, being more in touch with nature.
- The CANA Week remains a treasure!
As for the next steps we can take to better meet their expectations, they advise us:
- Offer young couples something that is: flexible, deep, outdoors, fun, a breath of fresh air in their hectic lives.
- Attitude: don’t judge, be inclusive, listen to them and stay there, help them prioritise.
- Make the most of the time they give us! Their lives are a race, and because they are so busy and connected, they don’t manage to find time for their relationship.
We feel that through this experience, however modest and limited, a new future is taking shape for CANA, especially in countries where the mission remains in great difficulty despite the efforts of local leaders.
For CANA to continue to respond to the needs of couples in an environment that has changed a great deal in recent years, we need to evolve and listen together to the Holy Spirit. We’ve decided to call this approach CANA Refresh because it doesn’t call into question the foundations of CANA, but builds on them to offer better adapted entry points for the new generation.
Getting started: experiments with CANA Refresh
A number of ‘experiments’ will be launched this year in several countries. The overall aim is to review the CANA format wherever it is becoming very difficult to attract couples on a regular basis and over a long period. It’s up to each team to allow itself to be inspired by listening carefully to the demands and expectations of couples, even if these are not clearly expressed. All the while maintaining close links with the CANA International team.
In Germany, it was becoming difficult for some couples to come regularly during the CANA year. In Berlin, for example, a proposal has been made to the couples of the Fraternity to meet for 4 whole days during the year, with their children: the ‘KANA-Days’. The couples will take it in turns to serve (children, cooking, etc.) so that everyone can have time for their own couple. Some fraternities will meet the evening before for an evening of sharing. Two “open” days are also planned, so as to invite couples who are not in the CANA Fraternity but would like to discover and take some time for themselves.
In Bonn, the proposal is different. This shows that for the same country there can be different adaptations according to the constraints… the ideal remains to keep times of sharing and formation throughout the year, an opening to invite other couples…!
In the United States, in California, CANA welcomes couples at the beginning of the year who wish to discover the programme without yet having experienced the CANA Week. They are invited to join one of the fraternities closest to their home and to stay for the whole year. They are of course invited to take part in CANA Week the following summer.
In Colombia, the 4-day week: following the participation of a couple from our team in the “Couples Experience” weekend with our Protestant friends from 4M in the Netherlands, a more suitable proposal (CANA Week in four days) was successfully tried out in Bogotá.
In some other countries, still a little hesitant, the idea of giving couples the opportunity to experience 1,2,3…CANA! (CANA Week in 3 weekends) is gaining ground, as a full week to take in the year is becoming increasingly difficult for many, for economic reasons and lack of holidays.
Pastoral year 2023-2024: getting back on track
The programmes for the 2023-2024 pastoral year are already well underway in many countries; in other countries the programmes are still being finalised. But the couples of the CANA Fraternity are already looking forward to meeting up again after a fine summer to launch their pastoral year.
For example, we have just returned from Latvia (22-25 September) where we met the new CANA team, which is highly motivated, and couples who are committed to growing in their life as a couple. Photo above on the banner.