For Couples for Christ, this year has, indeed, been a year to “Rise, Pick Up your Mat and Go” (Mark 2:1-12), our community’s theme for 2023. The Lord has manifested His raising up of CFC from what our Chairman Joe Yamamoto refers to as CFC’s buwelo (momentum) years ⏤ the slump in our activities during the pandemic years.
He has shown us five ways in which we have indeed been rising.
The Lord has been gathering His people once again. Excited for face to face gatherings after almost three years of seeing only faces on our computer monitors, CFC brethren have joyfully gathered in droves to attend all the annual conferences – from the CFC International Leaders Conference on January 21 at the PICC in Metro Manila which was, for the first time, held simultaneously with five “live” watch assemblies here and abroad, to the international conferences of CFC Singles for Christ (February 10-12) in Bataan, the CFC Youth for Christ (April 14-15) and CFC Kids for Christ (July 22-23), both held in Laguna and the CFC Handmaids of the Lord (May 12-14) and CFC Servants of the Lord (March 22-24), both in Pampanga.
In all these events, the atmosphere was one of “homecoming,” of rejoicing at being together once again. The HOMECOMING was made more manifest in the momentous “CFC Forgiveness and Healing Weekend” in Baguio City last February 3-5, 2023. Brethren from all over the world experienced homecoming, making spaces together, and experiencing the feast of forgiveness, and new life. At this homecoming, the participants received the grace to utter in amazement and in praise to God the very words uttered by the crowd in Mark 2:12 ⏤ “We have never seen anything like this!”
The “CFC Forgiveness and Healing Weekend” has been echoed in all Metro Manila areas, in the various provinces around the Philippines and in CFC countries across the globe.
MAKING SPACES TOGETHER
Evangelization through the Christian Life Program still continued, pandemic or no pandemic. Through the CLPs patiently and diligently conducted by CFC brethren worldwide from 2020 up to August 2023 ⏤ a total of 2,935 CLPs ⏤ the Lord has been adding CFC members, transforming families and lives.
In 2020, at the height of the pandemic, only 891 new members were added. The pace icked up in 2021 when 8,290 individuals graduated from the CLP and in 2022, when there were 10,246 new CFC members. As of August 2023, just more than halfway through the year, 6,432 individuals have already been added to our numbers. Thus, from 2020 to the present, the Lord has added 25,859 new members to CFC. Indeed, pandemic or no pandemic, the CFC life and mission continued, even thrived.
The example of CFC Bukidnon is worth mentioning. In July, 2023, the province dedicated more than 100 couples who finished the cluster-wide simultaneous units-conducted CLPs.
There was a similar rise in evangelization by the CFC Family Ministries. Since 2022, 18,586 new members have been added to the CFC Family Ministries as a result of 2,472 camps (CFC-YFC and CFC-KFC) and CLPs (CFC-SOLD and CFC-HOLD) that were conducted during the same period.
FEAST OF FORGIVENESS
Brethren across the globe have been partaking in what Pope Francis termed as the Feast of Forgiveness.
During the pandemic years when the sacrament of reconciliation was not readily available in churches, CFC brethren were able to avail of the Sacrament of Confession, and even counseling, since these were made available at the various CFC retreats and echo conferences. All major CFC activities have been mandated to start with a recollection. Prayers continue to be lifted up for CFC and former CFC to reconcile and be brethren to one another, with the intercession of Our Mother Mary, the Undoer of Knots.
The CFC brethren from Southern Leyte, led by its PAH at the time, Gerry Mariscal with his wife Linda, are the best examples of this kind of reconciliation. In a Mission Gathering last summer, brethren, who have been inactive in the community for the past 12 years because of the “Letting Go” of Gawad Kalinga, returned to CFC. They have not forsaken their work in Gawad Kalinga sites but they are now very active in CFC households and in service.
CFC Iloilo PAH Jorge Miravite, with his wife Chit, launched the Win Old Members Back (WOMB) program that resulted in leaders and members coming back to CFC, and immediately becoming the answer to the area’s prayer for more discussion group leaders in the ongoing CLPs.
At the 30th CFC Family Ministries Anniversary Celebrations, GK’s Tony Meloto attended and dialogued with CFC leaders and members.
WITNESSING TO A LIFE ANEW
The CFC Gateway Evangelization programs have been attracting people to seek and try Christian family living.
Pioneering this is the CFC Seniors Program which conducted a CFC Seniors Program National Conference at Laus Convention Center, San Fernando, Pampanga, on February 25 to 26, 2023, with close to 600 participants from the various Philippine provinces. Senior Couples’ Retreats have also been mounted in various areas, even in parishes. The Young Couples Program also had its National Assembly in Albay. The National Music Ministry has been doing the rounds to conduct Music Ministry Conferences and Workshops, which saw the attendance of even non-CFCs.
The CFC Social Development Programs also experienced a rise in the number of people reached by the various CFC SDP offerings.
In 2023 alone, the CFC Order of St. Michael conducted 72 Character Enhancement Retreats to 5,551 uniformed military personnel and gave much needed Emotional First Aid training to 341 non-CFC personnel, 298 of whom are from the Philippine Army.
CFC OIKOS conducted the “The Letter Recollection” in 21 places with a total number of 1,064 participants, including parishioners in the Diocese of Pasig.
CFC Project ReForm has continued to give Substance Abuse Awareness Programs to the youth in parishes. CFC St Thomas More and Associates conducted its Enhancing Personal Effectiveness in Iligan City. CFC Isaiah 61:1 continued with its engagements with Persons Deprived of Liberty (PDLs) by conducting formation programs , Lenten recollection and jail visitations.
The Lord’s biggest surprise for CFC has been Liveloud which staged concerts last year in Cebu, Bohol, Guam and UAE. This year, Liveloud was held at the Ninoy Aquino Stadium on June 10, 2023, with 4,500 attendees. All these served as preparation for World Youth Day 2023, where Liveloud was featured at the WYD Youth Festival and at the WYD Main Stage in Lisbon, Portugal, attended by over a million young people worldwide.
SEEING THINGS AS GIFTS FROM GOD
Finally, the Lord has been raising up CFC by giving leaders and members the grace to see things as gifts from Him, prompting them to utter in amazement and praise of God, “We have never seen anything like this”.
There are many wonders that the Lord has allowed us to see in the past year but I will cite here only one of them ⏤ the Build My Church program (BMC)
The program has been revived much to the delight of parishes in need of assistance with rehabilitating their churches. CFC BMC has helped in the construction of chapels damaged by calamities ⏤ in Coron, Palawan; in Dinagat Island; in Hinakpan, Negros Occidental; in Abra; in Ilocos Sur; in Mountain Province; in Benguet; and in Pampanga. Construction funds were raised through special/second collections in the Metro Manila MCG Masses, as well as through the efforts of CFC artists who staged “Hilom” and “Bangon” art exhibits.
We shall be writing more about the “We have never seen anything like these” moments in our next issues. Let us continue to pray for one another, as we heed the Lord’s invitation for us to “Rise, pick up our mat, and go”.