Couples for Christ
|This article relies on references to primary sources. (March 2009)|
The Couples for Christ (abbreviated as CFC) is an international Catholic lay ecclesial movement whose goal is to renew and strengthen Christian family life and values. It is one of 122 International Associations of the Faithful. The organization was affiliated with the Vatican recognition from the Pontifical Council for the Laity. It is led by an International Council, which operates in the Philippines under the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines and can report directly to the Vatican. The community is made up of family ministries, social arms, and a pro-life ministry.
Couples for Christ (CFC) traces its origin to Manila, Philippines. It was established in 1981 by the charismatic community Ang Ligaya ng Panginoon (LNP) (Filipino for "Joy of the Lord") as its outreach to evangelize married couples.
The approach and strategy was to invite prospective couples to a private home and bring them to a personal relationship with Jesus Christ through a series of weekly informal discussions of the gospel in a social environment.
Beginning from the first 16 couples who joined the weekly gathering, CFC became a Christian family life renewal program which was later made available to parishes and groups of married couples who wished to live out their Christian life in an active supportive relationship with one another.
The growth of CFC stemmed from its heart for mission and evangelization and its commitment to sharing God’s love with others, beginning from the basic unit—the family. It did not take long for CFC to realize that while couple renewal was essential, it would be incomplete without family renewal.
Beginning in 1993, CFC established the family ministries, namely:
In 1996, CFC was approved by the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines as a National Private Association of Lay Faithful and in 2000, was recognized by the Holy See (Vatican) as a private international association of the lay faithful of Pontifical Right.
Through the years, CFC has blossomed worldwide. It is now present in all 81 Philippine provinces and dioceses and it has been brought to 163 countries. It has become a major force for the renewal of the Christian family life and of the church.
Families in the Holy Spirit Renewing the Face of the Earth
Moved by the Holy Spirit, one with the Catholic Church, blessed to witness to Christ’s love and service, Couples for Christ is a united global community of family evangelizers that sets the world on fire with the fullness of God’s transforming love.
Membership and Community Life
Any validly married Catholic couple can become members of CFC. Although a Catholic movement/organization, CFC remains open to having non-Catholic Christians as members.
Those who want to join CFC will have to go through a 13-week seminar series called the Christian Life Program (CLP). At the end of the seminar, couple-participants are invited to dedicate themselves to the Lord as CFC members and to commit to participate actively in the life of the community and of the Church through regular prayer meetings, attendance in community assemblies and teachings, participation in parish life.
CLP graduates are then grouped into cell groups called "households", consisting of at least 4 and up to 7 couples under the pastoral care supervision of a household head.
The CLP is also the point of entry for those who wish to join CFC's Family Ministries:
- Singles for Christ, for unmarried young professionals
- Handmaids of the Lord and Servants of the Lord, for women and men who are widowed, single parents or those whose spouses choose not to join
- Youth for Christ (for teenagers) and Kids for Christ (for pre-teens) through attendance in a weekend camp.
The households are an essential feature of community life for the adults. They meet once a week, to discuss the Gospel, share testimonies about their own struggles to live according to Christ’s example, and to support one another in their spiritual journey.
CFC members are expected to work actively for the renewal of their own families, on the premise that the family is the basic unit of society.
Over the course of CFC's existence, there has been some restructuring and changes of leadership, and, occasionally and unfortunately, divisions. Thankfully, the members at large are mostly unaffected, and the respective communities continue to flourish.
CFC and FFL
In 1993, a group led by Francisco Padilla, one of the original members recruited by LNP in 1981, severed CFC's ties from LNP citing differences in evangelization approaches. Padilla was CFC's Executive Director until 2007.
In August 2007, the same group of leaders announced the creation of a separate group known as Couples for Christ Foundation for Family and Life (CFC-FFL). This development, particularly since it was a direct offshoot of the bi-annual CFC elections that saw Frank Padilla and his group defeated, caused a division of membership within CFC, as some of its membership migrated to Foundation for Family and Life (FFL). FFL, in a daring move, applied and was granted approval by SEC to use a defunct CFC foundation created in the 1980s, the Couples for Christ Foundation, Inc. The group continues to use the name, despite a Vatican admonition that "no other group may use Couples for Christ" in their name other than Couples For Christ Global Mission's Foundation, Inc.
CFC leaders have stated that they are open to reconciliation with FFL, but do not expect a quick resolution, particularly since Padilla, current FFL Servant-General, continues to insist that only FFL is recognized by the Vatican. He bases this assertion on a statement issued by one official of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines who stated that “in the dioceses in the Philippines there can be two groups of the CFC provided again the bishop of the place will permit. Abroad, FFL may not use CFC in their names” FFL is the name used in the USA. The Vatican has not revoked the recognition given to CFC, evidence cited by CFC that indeed it is the Vatican-recognized CFC.
Padilla's claim to be the founder of CFC, which is supported by FFL, is questioned by CFC. CFC's publication Origins of Couples for Christ directly responds to this claim by including the point of view of Vic Gutierrez, a former LNP leader who was responsible for the conceptualization of CFC in 1981.
Although FFL has received support from some Philippine and foreign dioceses, CFC still retains its recognition as a Catholic ministry nationally in the Philippines and internationally. Many bishops have also declared recognition of CFC in their dioceses, including John J. Myers, Archbishop of Newark.
CFC and Gawad Kalinga
In 2009, CFC-Global found itself being split again into 2 groups, CFC-IC and CFC-Gawad Kalinga. This was triggered when the existing conflict between CFC and GK leaders resurfaced. The International Council (IC) fired several GK leaders because of a mere reason of having a "GK heart".
The Internet as Pastoral Tool
Couples for Christ Local Websites
The homepage of the official website of the CFC organization showcases the worldwide presence of CFC sub-groups or "local" groups around the world. Aside from Asia where the foundations of this massive lay movement has its roots, CFC clusters and chapter-communities are already established in the regions of North America, South America, Africa, Europe, Australia and Oceania. These groups are created and are still accountable to the governing body, the CFC International Council with office in Manila, but have some differences compared to the chapter-communities in the Philippines to take into consideration the needs and context of the country or territory within which the local group operates. As such, volunteers and leaders have created websites to serve the local audiences accordingly.
To date, there is no official announcement from CFC's main International governing body with regards to support to website creation for local communities be they paid or free. However, it is notable that leaders and members operating such websites openly link to the homepage of the CFC Global website, which serve as declaration and recognition of the authority of the CFC International Council through the official website.
One Global Database
Because of the emerging growth of members and the difficulty related to administrative tracking of membership and activities, the International Council created a program dubbed as "One Global Database" or OGD, which is also the same name for the web-based database or "tally-sheet" being utilized to document the efforts of the CFC as a whole. This tallying or documentation of sorts has started with the younger ministries as early as the year 2011.
Using the OGD website, "Chapter Leaders" are given access for the database of the respective chapter-communities assigned to them. To help with the administrative tasks, a special "service position" called "Chapter Servant" or "Chapter Database Administrator" has been created, specifically because most of the qualified and / or assigned leaders do not have the expertise in and exposure to Internet-based tools.
CFC in Filipino Language
Couples for Christ as a movement and an organization started from the Philippines, but the teachings and related documents have been using the English language as the medium. Because of this, attempts to convey the messages of teachings and other documentation, or translating into local tongues or dialects, become part of the responsibility of the trained speakers.
As a result, qualified leaders have created and stored in various websites both free (like Website of CFC Youth for Christ in New Jersey and public documents from Scribd) and privately funded (like Couples for Christ in Me), their versions and reflections on different teachings, documents, and activities. Even if the CFC Global International Council has no clear official recognition to such translation and documentation, such efforts are seen as the results of practicing what is being preached by CFC: that is to work for spiritual development and "Evangelization" even with the use of more modern methods.
- Stravinskas, Peter M. J. (1991). Our Sunday Visitor's Catholic Encyclopedia. Huntington, Indiana: Our Sunday Visitor, Incorporated. p. 790. ISBN 0-87973-669-0. Retrieved October 8, 2010.
- About Couples for Christ
- Associations of the Faithful: A Working Definition
- Directory of International Associations of the Faithful
- Google.com's cahe for couplesforchristglobalmission.wordpress.com states that "This is the official and temporary website of CFC..." and describes "CFC Members Management Database".
- An automated document about the CFC Youth for Christ database system is also available from Google's cahe.
- CFC Global Newsfeed in Facebook.com
- About CouplesForChrist.me Website
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