The family is the most basic unit of the human society, and as such, it requires particular attention by the Christian community so it can carry out the purpose for which it was divinely ordained.
Christian marriage is the accepted institution within which Christian couples can express their conjugal love for each other and children can be formed for a well-integrated Christian life.
I say this, recognising that in the Caribbean and in the world at large this is more an ideal rather than a norm, considering the many configurations of the marital union in our contemporary society. However, for our purposes, we focus on the Christian marriage.
In order to cultivate the ideal family structure, couples must be prepared to undertake the challenge of conjugal life. One of the tested and tried marriage preparation programmes within the Church is the Catholic Engaged Encounter (CEE).
This year marks the 40th year of its existence in the region of the Antilles Episcopal Conference (AEC), a significant milestone worthy of celebration. Over those 40 years, the bishops of the region have strongly encouraged and promoted its use for the preparation of Catholic couples for the holy Sacrament of Matrimony.
I have often listened to the testimonies of couples who considered themselves fortunate to experience the benefits of this programme in preparation for their life together.
In the Diocese of Roseau, it has become more a norm than an exception as the method of preparing young couples for the Sacrament. I say this, however, because the CEE preparation programme does not preclude the responsibility of the parish priest in the process of preparation on the parish level.
The relationship of the parish priest and the local Christian community remains paramount in the daily life of the couple and their family. It is also for this reason that a priest must be a key member of the team ministering to couples on the weekend. It is also a good opportunity for them to clear misconceptions on the Church teachings on marriage and family life and prepare couples for ministry.
The Covid pandemic of the past two years, fortunately, has not significantly hindered the CEE weekend programmes, which, prior to Covid, was perceived as an absolute face-to-face residential encounter, given the need for intense interaction focused on the couples’ relationship.
However, the virtual method and the non-residential weekends, from all reports are yielding equal benefits.
On behalf of the Bishops of the AEC, I congratulate and commend the efforts of all those who, over the past 40 years, have contributed to the mission of the CEE programme in providing Catholic couples with well-rounded formation for family life.
I take this opportunity to encourage our young couples of the AEC region, and the not-so-young, who are planning to join each other in holy matrimony to profit from the wisdom of the CEE programme.
I encourage parents to be good models to their children so that they may grow up witnessing the benefit of a faithful marriage and good family life.
May our Blessed Lady and Joseph inspire all engaged Christian couples to embrace the mission to today’s family.
Sincerely in Christ,
Archbishop Elect, Gabriel Malzaire
President, Antilles Episcopal Conference
From Archbishop Jason Gordon
The Catholic Engaged Encounter movement with its motto, “A wedding is a day, a marriage is a lifetime” has played a vital role in helping hundreds of couples discern whether they are being called to the vocation of marriage in the Archdiocese of Port of Spain.
Marriage is a vocation for the whole of life; it is by its nature ordered toward the good of the spouses and the procreation and education of offspring. Marriage then is a response to the divine initiative that requires discernment.
It is the most significant decision you will take in your adult life. It is the decision that changes all the other decisions you will make from that point on. As such, it requires significant preparation, prayer, reflection, and consciousness.
If then marriage is the biggest decision in your life, it is worth the sacrifice. It is worth the wait. Too often young people begin living as if they are married and rather than building the foundations of a great friendship, they get distracted by sex and do not do the work of deep human formation for relationship.
Most marriages fail because the human capacity to offer the self as gift has not grown to maturity. This growth should start from young within the family (remote preparation) and continue developing with individual discernment (proximate preparation).
The engagement period should include a ritual where the couple comes to church on the Sunday after being engaged and asks the priest to bless them and their rings, as they enter the immediate preparation for marriage.
This stage needs to be at least six months. During this stage, the couple should be exposed to a synthesis of the previous preparation, especially its doctrinal, moral, and spiritual content, should there be any gaps in basic formation.
The Catholic Engaged Encounter weekend then can be seen as an important first step in this process of immediate preparation.
I thank and congratulate all the clergy, religious and volunteer couples who have served and are serving within this movement in Trinidad and Tobago for the past 40 years. God bless you.
From the International Executive Team, International Catholic Engaged Encounter
Hello friends from Trinidad and Tobago. Congratulations on 40 years for Catholic Engaged Encounter in your country and of your service of love. We are really happy for you. You have positively impacted the lives of so many young couples. Keep up the good work and congratulations my friends. —Yovanny and Belkis Javier, and Fr Nelson from the Dominican Republic (ICEE IET 2022—2024)
We continue to pray for you, and we keep you close to us in our hearts. We wish you another 40 years of service, testimony, and generosity. Congratulations, Trinidad and Tobago. — Macedonio and Sandra Garza and Fr Luis Monroy from Mexico (outgoing ICEE IET)
From CEE, India
Congratulations to Engaged Encounter Trinidad and Tobago. A superb way to go. Forty glorious years and wishing you many more! Love from EE, India —Francis and Christine Silveira, Coordinators, CEE India
From CEE, Dominica
Catholic Engaged Encounter Dominica congratulates our friends in Trinidad and Tobago on observing 40 years ministering to couples in Trinidad and Tobago and the wider region. Forty years for any organisation to be in ministry is certainly a landmark achievement and so we salute all the pioneers of Catholic Engaged Encounter Trinidad and Tobago, some of them still active and those currently serving who have ensured that preparation of couples for marriage and family life has remained undisrupted for 40 years, even during challenging times like the Covid pandemic.
CEE Trinidad is seen as ‘Big Brother’ for the rest of us in the region, not only in the fact they were instrumental in establishing the programme in some of the other islands, but also in their continued leadership at the regional level and tangible support in the growth of the programme in our respective islands.
We again say bravo to our friends on this milestone achievement. God bless!
— Davis and Patsy Letang, Coordinators, CEE Dominica