Canberra couples experience moving Fatima gathering
The recent twelfth International Gathering of Teams was a deeply moving experience for five Canberra couples.
They were part of a group of 38 Australians who arrived in Fatima using very different means of transport. Some walked part of their journey following the Camino trail, while others chartered a bus and toured with fellow Australians.
The Gathering focused on the joys and challenges of married life in the context of contemporary society. Enlivened by the Gathering, a number of Teams couples later went on to attend the World Meeting of Families in Ireland.
The size of the world Teams movement came into sharp focus, while sitting in Fatima’s massive Basilica together with 8,500 Teams members, from 80 countries.
Attendees included a significant contingent of clergy, with 400 priests, 18 bishops, and 4 cardinals who were speakers at the event. Speakers gave witness covering a diversity of languages, cultures and ages. This year, strict quotas had to be imposed on each country, as expressions of interest from the 150,000 members of Teams were about double the capacity of the venue.
Each day, a different part of the world led the agenda. There were many memorable moments, such as the enthusiastic dancing and singing at the African Mass. Not to be outdone, the English-language Mass finished with a jazz version of “When the Saints Go Marching in”. The entire Basilica erupted into song! In later activity, the central square (about the size of a football field) was filled with umbrellas as each couple sat together in shade to share some quiet time.
There were many thought-provoking presentations from clergy and married couples. Especially memorable, was the speech from Cardinal Turkson, who spoke on Human Ecology: Fraternity & Communion. The Emeritus Archbishop of Mosul, Iraq, spoke of the courage of ordinary couples in times of extreme adversity. The message was punctuated by his own personal story of when he was kidnapped by Islamic militants.
Married couples from around the world also spoke about the everyday reality of married life. South Australia’s Vee and Rene Pols delivered one of the best presentations of the conference, focusing on forgiveness in marriage. Attendees remarked with admiration about the Australian way of speaking plainly and directly, in a way that touched the hearts of many.
Accommodation for Australian couples was spread over many hotels. Each mealtime, attendees returned to the allocated hotels for a shared meal with other couples. Of course, the likelihood of sitting with other English-speaking couples was remote, but it did not seem to matter. There always seemed to be someone who could translate, and then others who could retranslate into the remaining languages around the table. This process sometimes produced amusing results, but it was all part of the experience! A lot of animation, hand waving and laughing supplemented any attempts at communication. Of course, the assistance of a glass of wine also made the job a little easier!
The joy, friendship and openness of attendees was catching and reciprocated. It would be hard to return home without being changed in some way by the experience. The couples certainly returned richer, enlivened and with more understanding of the internationality of the Teams movement.
Teams is a movement for married couples, who meet regularly in small groups. For more information contact Genevieve and Tim Power at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit the website: www.teamsoceania.com.au.