LISTENING TO TODAY’S COUPLES
Six couples of the new generation from 7 countries embark on a long process to express what they expect from the CANA mission of the Chemin Neuf Community. Through them, Gilles & Véronique listen to today’s world and share a few gems with us.
Gilles & Véronique CORMIER, CCN
About 18 months ago, our Community Superior, Father François MICHON, came to us with a question: “What do couples of the new generation have to say to the Chemin Neuf Community? This might provide food for thought for the Community Chapter to be held in August 2023.”
After some reflection, we decided that it would be a good idea to focus on the areas where we encounter the most pastoral difficulties, as if our proposals no longer really met the expectations of the young couples of this world. So we decided to focus on the Anglo-Saxon world, inviting couples from the following countries to take part: Germany/USA, Belgium, Netherlands, England, Canada and, with one exception, Colombia. And so, we set off on our adventure (for it was an adventure!) with 6 couples from these countries. They had things in common: a desire to proclaim Jesus Christ, the beginning of their lives as a couple, their age (between 28 and 40), both partners busy with their professional lives, and also differences: Catholics and Protestants, countries, cultures, proximity to the Community. It’s also worth noting that none of them were members of the Community, and only one is involved in the CANA mission. This enabled us to bring something new to the table in terms of reflection and listening to the world.
A magnificient process: Theory U
To accompany us, we enlisted the help of a professional coach who took us on a magnificent process: Theory U from the famous American university MIT (Boston). The principle closely resembles that of Kenosis described in the letter to the Philippians in Chapter 2. In a few words, it’s all about:
1. listening attentively to the world, observing it, spending time grasping what is happening, what is expected; and then
2. discovering one’s poverty in the face of the immensity of the task at hand (how to proclaim Jesus in such a secularized world, in which 40% of couples are divorcing or suffering) – this is the moment when we listen most attentively to the Holy Spirit, who is THE source par excellence, and feel what emerges from all that we have seen, heard and felt;
3. to finally dare to embark on the adventure of a response, however small, tailored to each individual, right where he or she is. At this stage, it’s a question of carrying out small tests and, in our case, seeing what proposals we could present to couples of this generation.
We’ve been on the move for about a year, and some of us have been able to launch local experiments: “Platform for couple time and childcare in Canada”, “Weekend à la carte” in Belgium, “CANA Experience” in Colombia… And there are many more to come. We had 9 Zoom meetings altogether throughout the year, the last of which was a face-to-face meeting at a Community house in the Paris region. What a joy to finally be able to see each other! During this last weekend, we experienced the joy of fellowship (for it was above all a beautiful human story, of sharing our dreams but also our sufferings at times), of listening to the Word of God, and we began to map out the road ahead. Indeed, we very much hope that others will feel called to launch something around their own environment, even with little means. To be ready to accompany them, we’ll need methodological tools and access to all or part of what has already been discovered.
Let’s share some gems
- It’s much more profitable to work with people than for them – and this applies to all CANA’s pastoral work, but no doubt also to the Community and the Church.
- The very great importance of deep, genuine listening – training yourself to listen!
- The notion of commitment has changed a great deal in recent years. The new generation needs flexibility, adventure, refreshment, time for their couples, but only if they have participated in the development of the proposed content – it’s the notion of ‘à la carte’.
- It’s very important to include all those who may have been left on the margins of the Church, and for this the Fraternity / Fellowship Group has an essential role to play. We believe in something, in Jesus, because we belong to a group that makes us aspire, that accepts us with what we are, and not the other way round.
This invites us to review some of our CANA Weeks and Weekends to better match the expectations and needs of couples whose lives are under a lot of stress.
On a personal note
Finally, on a personal level, we have also made our own way: leaving behind our schemas, our ready-made answers about this generation to welcome what they are experiencing without judgment (a real conversion!), listening, listening again, accepting different ways of seeing commitment (as a couple, in CANA…), accepting small beginnings without thinking “big” right away…
It was a wonderful experience that we would be delighted to share with others who would like to get involved.
Don’t hesitate to contact us if you feel like to get something started.