Posted On 2023-06-04 In Covenant Life

For us everything was new, and contagious

PARAGUAY/ SPAIN, Laura Toves •

A few months ago we were surprised with totally unexpected news. We were offered to go to Asunción, Paraguay, for an international congress of the Schoenstatt Family Movement (CIOF). We were amazed, because we really did not expect something like this. Moreover, we imagined that perhaps the Family Federation wanted to send another couple. The truth is that we thought very little about it. This is one of those opportunities that should not be missed. —

When the Paraguayan organization included us in a WhatsApp chat (yes, another WhatsApp chat) attended by about 200 people of many nationalities, we were not yet aware of the true meaning of the Congress. There, the different delegations were introduced, which, by the way, were much larger than the Spanish delegation. I felt “small.”

CIOF Delegación de México

CIOF Delegation from Mexico

A warm welcome

CIOF España

CIOF, Delegation from Spain

When we landed in Asunción, a committee of people from the organization awaited us with cheers and flags. What a nice welcome after we had slept quite little (the flight was at night)! They took us to a nice family, Claudio, and Vicky, who welcomed us warmly and offered us a delicious coffee, breakfast and above all a good conversation. We quickly connected with them. They really made it easy for us. Then they took us to the hotel, and we settled in. By the way, in the hotel room we had a very nice gift from the organization.

Shortly after, as we were going down in the elevator, a woman came in and when she saw us, she said to us:

– You are the Spanish couple that will attend the Family Work Congress.

My husband and I looked at each other in amazement.

– How did you know? -, I asked in amazement.

– Very simply, you posted a photo on WhatsApp chat showing that you were already at the hotel, and I also recognized you by the Blessed Mother’s medal.

She turned to me and pointed to my medal.

The woman belonged to the Institute of Families in Chile. We spent some time talking at the hotel reception while we waited for the buses to take us to the Santuario Joven, where the starting gun was to be fired. This woman gave us a warm welcome.


Family around the Santuario Joven in Asunción

All the participants gathered around the Santuario Joven, the City Shrine of Asunción, everyone who had introduced themselves in the large WhatsApp chat, as well as the Schoenstatt Fathers and Sisters of Mary and the entire organization from Paraguay. Many people were there, very happy, celebrating, taking photos, and greeting each other. The atmosphere was exuberant, and it was no wonder. For us, everything was new and contagious. We saw the few people we knew: Father Carlos, now stationed in Monterrey, and Tomás and Flavia, whom we had met on a trip to Spain. Except for Father José María and Sister María Ignacia, who had come with us, everyone else was a complete stranger to us. But they would only be strangers for a short time. At the end of the Eucharistic celebration, we were introduced to Ramón and Marité Marini from Paraguay, Silvina and Raúl Viñas from Argentina, the leader couple of the International Federation, and Margarita and Alcides González from Paraguay, a couple from the Council of the International Family Federation. That’s it!


What is CIOF and what are its goals?

Before we continue, let’s stop for a moment and talk about CIOF (International Congress of the Family Work). It is a space of connection between the different communities of the Schoenstatt Family Work. Its purpose is to exchange experiences, training materials, projects, and apostolates on the subject of marriage, and the family. It also proposes lines of action to face the challenges of today:

  1. To promote a personal and real-life encounter between the different communities of the Family Work.
  2. To develop concrete proposals in response to the challenges of our times.
  3. To transmit Schoenstatt’s charism to the Church and the world in the strength of the Covenant of Love.

This year, under the motto “Family in Covenant, Heart for the World,” it brought together more than 150 couples from different countries, especially from Latin America: Brazil, Colombia, Argentina, Chile, Ecuador, Bolivia, Paraguay, Mexico, Costa Rica, USA, Puerto Rico and Spain, to name a few.

Current, bold and daring content

Various workshops were held at the Congress. They began with a presentation and were followed by working groups that answered questions about the presentation. This was the most enriching part, as life in different countries could be shared.

Current, courageous and risky topics were discussed, such as the addictions that creep into our families, an encounter with the God of mercy (the role of parents in orienting and affirming the sexual identity of their children, accompanying families with homosexual children), technology, raising children in faith, feminism, the marriage crisis as an opportunity for growth, a look at social problems from a practical faith in Divine Providence, the influence of the laity on the economy, politics, education and health, or the formation of Schoenstatt leaders.

The apostolates were not left out either: The courses for engaged couples, Fortalecimiento Matrimonial, the Leadership for Love Seminar, the Academy for Family Pedagogy, or the Pastoral of Hope with the “Re-enchantment” (a kind of Fortalecimiento Matrimonial adapted to the divorced and remarried), had their concrete space.

The Congress ended in the Shrine of Tupãrenda, which means “dwelling place of God” in Guaraní. How beautiful! Undoubtedly, it was a perfect ending.

CIOF Santuario Joven

Santuario Joven (Young Shrine)

Experiences that inspire

If I had to say thank you, the family from Paraguay would be the first. The warm welcome, the pampering with which they took care of all of us, always to the smallest detail, is admirable. We felt “at home” among people we had never seen before. And that is not easy to achieve. You did it, always with a smile and a deep sense of service. The organization was impeccable, anticipating the adversities of the weather, which always plays “against us” in the most intense and interesting moments.

In Paraguay, we breathed a large family, this large family of the Schoenstatt Family Work that gives of itself, that takes the initiative, that is hungry for more, with a very high spirit of service, spiritual richness, and commitment to the Movement. Movement in capital letters. There they give “all” to everything they believe in, to the strategies and goals they propose. You just feel that “pride of belonging,” that love for the charism.

In Ciudad del Este, 320 km from Asunción, something strange happened to us. We visited the Schoenstatt Shrine, and we met a person there who was praying. As we were leaving, he came out and greeted us. When he asked us where we were from, we started an amusing conversation. It turned out that this person had built this shrine with his crew, and he told us how the project began, how they carried it out, and how they gave it shape. It was really worth listening to him. But that will be the subject of another article.

If it was so important to breathe this great family, it was even more important to understand the organizational framework of the Family Work in all the countries whose couples were represented. It is a Family Work that is totally different from ours, but whose gears mesh and function.

Encuentro en Ciudad del Este

A professional movement

We were able to see firsthand how strong the movement is, driven mainly by the couples of the Family Work. The professional is linked to the personal. The CIEES (Schoenstatt Entrepreneurs and Executives) is “in the veins” making Schoenstatt known in the business world. The projects are strong and robust from the beginning, sustained by this professional and business fabric, with the warmth of everyone involved, with a firm objective: to make our charism, our pedagogy known because it is good and does good. Because who wants a hidden treasure if it is fruitful? On more than one occasion I was reminded of Ambrosio and his inner strength. And in a way, I felt like “Ambrosio” (Ambrosio Arizu, member of the first course of the Family Federation, a motivating and fearless apostle who is very well known in Spain and on

It was four very, very intense days, from morning to night, during which we had the opportunity to speak with many people from different countries, with whom we shared experiences and concerns. The body was exhausted at the end, but the mind and soul were strengthened. Looking at different realities in depth, but at the same time feeling as if we have known each other for a long time, is simply magical. And we all do this magic because we are all Schoenstatters, and we all want to transmit the “magic” of our charism. Because that is Schoenstatt going outward. Because when you do it, you feel good, strong, and why not give all you can for what is good? I dream of a strong family work in Spain and a great covenant, what about you?

Family in covenant, stand up and serve!

Everything you have experienced opens your mind.

The next congress is in Costa Rica, in 2027, will you be there?


Also published on the website of the Spanish Family Federation

Original: Spanish. Translation: Maria Fischer

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