PARAGUAY, by Víctor and Stella Domínguez •
As of May 30, 2016, the Ministry of Hope for divorced persons in a new relationship was 10 years old. These have been years of many graces and blessings. Blessed Mother opened her arms to embrace many people during these 10 years. We lovingly remember that first meeting in the Youth Shrine [Santuario Joven] where on a day like this past May 30th, we began our walk hand in hand with Jesus who gave us his blessing through dear Father Antonio who is still on fire for this mission.
Congratulations to all, who in one-way or another, supported this beautiful pastoral project. Thank you Lord, for making us your instruments.
Today we celebrate ten fruitful years. From Asunción it spread to Santiago, Chile, and precisely on this 10th anniversary, it was founded in Resistencia, Argentina, and soon will be in Tucumán, Argentina; it also exists in Spain.
In Paraguay, Ministry of Hope is present in Encarnación, Ciudad del Este and Ayolas. Currently they are beginning to work in this mission, visiting and conquering all the Asunción parishes. For ten years, Ministry of Hope is a proven model that is now offered to the Church in this post-synod period, in this time of joy in love, in this time of Amoris Laetitia.
Basic principles of Ministry of Hope
The evangelical and evangelizing attitude of Ministry of Hope is that of Jesus the Good Shepherd who is searching for the lost sheep. When he finds it, he carries it on his shoulders and filled with joy, he returns it to the flock (a reading from the Gospel of Luke 15:1-10).
We believe that the pastoral love of the Church toward those who are divorced and in a new relationship has to make itself felt, become visible, not only in announcements and discourses, but in concrete actions. That is, they have to “feel this love of the Church.” It is not enough that they know that the Church loves them. They have to feel it. Love that is not experienced is not true love.
From our Family Work, we see that an evangelizing pastoral approach toward our brothers and sisters who live in an “irregular” situation because of the break-up of their marriages is necessary.
The Church cannot remain indifferent to these painful situations.
The Church as Mother and Teacher has as a mission to lead all who are baptized to salvation without establishing differences between those who continue faithful in their marriage commitment and those who have ruptured said attachment and, inclusively, have established a new relationship.
The Church tries to secure in an “infallible” way to place “the means for salvation” at the disposal of these folks.
The the divorced and remarried should know and experience that “God loves them” and that “the Church loves them” and is not separated from them and suffers because of their situation.
The “continue being her members, have been baptized and preserve the faith.”
Ministry of Hope has as a main objective to embrace, shelter and support our Catholic brothers and sisters so that they may experience the infinite love and mercy of God.
To support those the divorced and remarried to follow with confidence and joy the itinerary of conversion (progressive par excellence), of healing and growth in the faith and in the Christian life – as a couple and family – according to each particular situation.
To accompany them to live united to Christ, to help them feel as an important part of the Church. Said in another way, to integrate them into the bosom of the Church and to rehabilitate them in the service to God and neighbor, and that as baptized persons, they have simultaneous rights and obligations being that service is the charism that highlights this group.
To support them in experiencing the healing forgiveness of God.
Our Pastoral Project is inclusive and does not seek a sacramental solution but an evangelizing one.
The spirit with which we work
- Ministry of Hope wants to show them that they continue being children of God as they were before the break-up and with the attitude of children who know they are loved will open up to unheard-of ways of spiritual growth.
- Charity in truth: Like Jesus, we want to embrace them in truth, and in the merciful love of God with respect and warmth. We clearly accept the limits that Familiaris Consortio establishes in No. 84. But we are joyful in being able to offer to many ways for spiritual growth, which the Good News of Jesus offers them daily.
- We want to accompany them with love and hope to cure the wounds of separation and to assume the challenge of solidly building the foundations of a new and definite home.
- The Ministry of Hope does not assume the role of mediation or conflict negotiations, nor does it pretend to constitute itself as therapy for couples.
As an ecclesial movement, we commit ourselves to:
Support them in their faith and hope:
By and for all which was previously cited, we conscientiously take care that in our activities the following aspects are fostered:
- Embrace them with love, respect and warmth as Saint John Paul II in Familiaris Consortio No. 84 reminds us.
- To help them recognize their rights and obligations within the Church.
- To work diligently so that, like Mary, they transform their hearts according to the image of Christ and thus we walk alongside them toward sanctity.
- For those of us who work in this Pastoral Project, that there is a before and an after, since we have been able to deepen in the great mercy and love of Jesus. Besides, we learn a great deal from the divorced and remarried since perseverance and the spirit of profound renunciation of sacramental communion speak to us of the greatness of the heart and of their faith in total surrender. This enriches us and brings us special joy to see them grow in their life of faith.
What do we offer them?
- A series of monthly encounters that is formative and experiential. It has the aim of offering them a space for formation and spiritual help where they can work with love and hope for the enrichment of their Christian faith and their role as couples and parents in order to walk together and securely towards what the Merciful God the Father expects from them.
- The possibility to form groups: In the measure in which they are able to achieve personal attachments among themselves and increase the desire to deepen their faith and spiritual growth, they are offered a couple who will accompany them as a guide.
- The latter may become pastorally very relevant. If they attend the encounters regularly, experience the very special benefits and graces which the Blessed Mother gives us in the Shrine and, on that journey, they awaken the desire to seal the Covenant of Love. They are also prepared to bless their Home Shrine through which they can educate themselves and their children in the Faith.
- Yearly retreat: A three-day annual retreat is offered to them where they experience a deep personal encounter with God as a couple. There they also have the opportunity to share with other couples in the same situation. They share their life experiences through the dynamics of workshops and from where they leave strengthened in their spirituality.
- Monthly Mass: On the first Sunday of each month in Tupãrenda and on the fourth Monday of the month in the Youth Shrine where they are responsible for the liturgy and they receive a special blessing. Thus they become attached to the Shrine and with couples who are in the same situation as they are.
- Apostolate: According to their spiritual growth and their charisms, they discover the desire to share the graces they receive, becoming involved in different apostolic tasks and services to the families and to the Church. The majority assumes apostolic activities of great commitment within the Movement and in their parishes.
- Expansion: The same the divorced and remarried are the best promoters of the expansion that is progressively being realized in the country’s different dioceses, presently, in three of them.
The couples “in a new relationship” also assume responsibilities within Ministry of Hope. In addition, today there are several members of Ministry of Hope who are leaders of projects or apostolates within the Schoenstatt Movement, like for example, the leaders of the Guardians of the Tupãrenda Shrine or of the leaders of the Rosary Campaign in Encarnación.
A response to Francis (and to the work of Ministry of Hope) is that Sacred Heart’s Parish in Asunción named Marina and Rolf Huber (divorced and remarried, co-founders of the Ministry of Hope) for the pastoral endeavor with parents separated and in a new relationship whose children will be making their First Communion.
Original Spanish. Translation: Carlos Cantú, La Feria, Texas USA. Edited: Melissa Peña-Janknegt, Elgin, TX USA