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Saint John Neumann C.Ss.R
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A Mission to Europe

The following article was written by Fr. Andrew Burns C.Ss.R - and was first published in Bishop Eton's parish magazine BE Alive in May 2017.

When I first came to Bishop Eton twoWhen I first came to Bishop Eton twoyears ago, I wrote in BE Alive aboutthe various hats that I wear as part of my ministry here as a Redemptorist.One that I spoke of as being o fspecial importance to me is my work with Worldwide Marriage Encounter.



Very recently this has taken on a newdimension. Although the movement originated in Spain in the 1960s, itr eceived its current form in 1968 in the United States, and within a very short time, spread to Europe and the United Kingdom. The weekend is nowe xperienced in over 90 countries throughout the world and the movement is organised into six geographical regions corresponding approximately to the different continents. For the last five years, I have worked with the National Coupleas their team priest leading the community in England and Wales and representing this country in Europe.

On Easter Sunday it was announced that the new European Leadership Couple, Josico and Susana Mata Pradera, had invited me to share the service of leadership of the European Marriage Encounter community.

Now as the leaders of the European community, we have a mandate over the next three years to focus on the priorities that have been identified bythe national teams of the 13 countries  in Europe where Marriage Encounter is experienced. It is very interesting to discover that in spite of the differences in cultural, religious and social experience, we are confronted by many of the same issues: a Catholic community that is shrinking, with an ageing clergy, changing attitudes towards marriage and sexuality; many young people deserting the church, living together, marrying later, if at all. How are we to respond to these issues?

In the last couple of years, Pope Francis has helped us to focus our minds on marriage and family life. After an unprecedented consultation with the whole church by means of a questionnaire; after two sessions of theSynod of Bishops, Pope Francis issued last year his Apostolic Exhortation,Amoris Laetitia, The Joy of Love. In chapter 4, Pope Francis speaks about love in marriage and focuses on the love of the couple that is at the heart of every marriage, the qualities to be developed and the difficulties to be overcome. An essential part of a successful marriage is good preparation, but further and ongoing support of couples is also necessary.Support like this is the mission of Marriage Encounter in the Church.

Pope Francis says "dialogue is essential for experiencing, expressing and fostering love in marriage and family life... We need to develop certain attitudes that express love and encourage authentic dialogue...

This means being ready to listen patientlyand attentively to everything the other person wants to say... This mean cultivating an interior silence that makes it possible to listen to the other person without mental or emotional distractions."The ability to communicate at a deep level, to share our deepest feelings, to develop openness and trust, are not automatic qualities of a couple in love.They need to be developed, and it's never too late. So, is your marriage important to you and your family? Would you like more joy and romance,more fun and laughter, to be happierand closer as a couple, a lifelong adventure together, a weekend away together? Then a Marriage Encounter weekend could be the answer for you.For more information,  please ask me,or go to the website: www.wwme.org.uk

Father Andrew Burns, C.Ss.R.