A dream comes true

After 3 years during which the CANA fraternity in India was tested by the pandemic it was time to meet again! The joy was palpable when I was able to meet the small fraternity in Pondicherry. They were all eager to reconnect and to continue the formation. Together with three of the couples of the fraternity, we went to lead a splendid CANA Week in a retreat centre – Divine Retreat Centre in Elavur, located 40 km north of Chennai, in the South-East of India, from the 28th of September until the 8th of October 2022.

A unique experience

A few months ago, our CANA India leaders went to live a retreat in the centre run by a congregation whose spirituality comes from St Vincent de Paul, the Vincentians.

Father VARGHESE, who is in charge of this house, and who is aware of the effort to be put into the formation of couples, proposed to put his retreat centre at the disposal of CANA. The Vicentians’ congregation offered its entire structure (accommodation, chapel, translation, facilities for children’s activities…). An exceptional situation which allowed us to concentrate on leading the retreat. Father VARGHESE came to join us regularly and organised with volunteers a 24-hour non-stop intercession for the couples!  We had been dreaming of such a proposal for CANA for a long time, and it has become a reality!

This centre lives solely on donations from participants or outsiders, anyone can come at any time during the day, there is permanent adoration, two silent retreats. Every month there is a full night of worship, with adoration, mass and teaching. This last one took place during our CANA Week and I could see the attendance which seems to be regular: between 800 and 1000 people come each month to spend the night! And everything works with volunteers apart from the three priests of the Congregation.

The CANA Week

This week was rather acrobatic as we were only 8 servants to accompany the 16 participating couples and the 11 children! But the Lord was generous and faithful. We managed to offer almost the whole programme according to the local situation. We found that the language barrier was a real difficulty as very few spoke English.

At the end of the week, everyone said that they had experienced profound things; that they had received a renewal in their relationship; and they had greatly appreciated the exercises and tools provided by CANA. And yet the cultural difference is immense.

Fraternity meeting in Pondicherry

One Hindu person, who came with his Catholic wife, asked for baptism, which was beautiful!

The day before the start of the CANA week I was able to meet 6 of the 7 couples involved to make a general assessment of the fraternity. They all say that the economic situation is really difficult and they find it hard to keep their commitment. We agreed to do the classic programme: 2 weekends, 1 CANA Week. They want to add a monthly CANA day open to all.

What happens next?

It is really a huge country with real challenges of inculturation, but also beautiful perspectives which cannot be realised without the Holy Spirit who precedes us, as with Father VARGHESE who is ready to work with us. We hope that a fraternity will start in Chennai.

Let us pray that this beautiful communion will continue, as the needs are great and the resources of the couples are few. After this beautiful sign of Providence, we hope that the CANA Fraternity will be relaunched in this great Christian region.