Pahiatua couple, David and Bronwyn Lea, who are world leaders of Marriage Encounter, say they were humbled by last-minute meeting with Pope Benedict XVI while in Rome in January.
The pair with Fr John Rate msc, parish priest of Our lady of the Sacred Heart parish in Randwick, Sydney, Australia are on the current world leadership team of Worldwide Marriage Encounter, a marriage enrichment movement within the Catholic Church. Part of their role is to facilitate an annual meeting of the representatives of 92 countries from all of the continents of the world where Worldwide Marriage Encounter is currently operating. The most recent of these meetings was held in Rome in January where David and Bronny had the honour of meeting and talking to the Holy Father at the Sala Nervi in the Vatican. The meeting was arranged by an Italian Marriage Encounter priest, Fr Valintino Menengati, currently working in the Vatican.
‘We were overwhelmed by the occasion,’ said David and Bronny ‘as we did not know until the last minute that we were going to actually meet the Holy Father.
‘We were humbled by his presence and moved by his words to us. He affirmed the work that Marriage Encounter was doing for the church and asked that we continue to uphold the special place the sacrament of marriage has in the church. He said that society desperately needs such movements as Marriage Encounter, especially today with so many distractions and the destruction of family values.
‘He assured us of his prayers and support. Being in the Holy Father’s presence was a very moving experience and we were deeply touched by his genuine care and concern. He is a wonderful shepherd of his flock and we will treasure this moment for the rest of our lives.
Worldwide Marriage Encounter is 40 this year and David and Bronny will be speaking at an international convention in California in June. Since the movement, as it exists today, was started by a couple and a priest in New York, it has spread to more than 90 countries throughout the world. In this time, some three million people are estimated to have participated in a weekend.
The experience begins with a weekend of presentations given by married couples and a priest who simply share their own experiences of aspects of their relationship – husband and wife, and priest and people.
It is an entirely ‘private’ experience. Participants reflect on their marriage or priesthood and with the help of the personal sharing of the teams, rekindle the romance that they enjoyed when they were first married or ordained but that perhaps has lost some of its shine with the distractions of work and family.
An average 40 weekend meetings are being held every weekend of the year somewhere in the world. In New Zealand around eight weekends are held each year in the Auckland, Hamilton, Palmerston North or Wellington dioceses. It is hoped to be able to take Worldwide Marriage Encounter to the two southern dioceses in the near future.
For more information and weekend dates, phone free phone 0800 362 686.