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For each human being, family is the primary and essential school of love. Within this womb life is born. In the family, life is being protected and helped along the way until a person reaches full maturity. Through the relationship with parents, brothers and sisters, a person absorbs and becomes familiar with Love.

Family is the womb of Life in its fullness As Franciscan Sisters of the Poor, we share this wish of “Love and Life.” Because of this we assist families on their journeys.

This ministry has a long history and came about in answer to the needs we found. Around our SFP Communities, groups of couples have gathered for more than twenty years. We grow with them by sharing opportunities of formation.

National couples’ meeting in Vermicino: group pictureNational couples’ meeting in Vermicino: group picture

 

Called to married life

Biagio and Valeria – who now have two daughters – remember with simplicity the beginning:“When we decided to get married, we thought that a pre-cana class of a few days was not enough. We wanted to journey together and really understand what our calling was. Encountering the Franciscan Sisters of the Poor was truly providential. It was the first step of a journey that still continues today, and is nourished by our meetings with other families.”

Ten years have gone by; Biagio and Valeria express gratitude for all the years shared with us: “Our sisters gave a face to the words ‘openness’ and ‘kindness’ and they have become a point of reference for us. They listen, we pray together, we reflect, we grow spiritually and dialogue with other couples.”

There are groups of families in Padua, Pistoia, Rome and Messina. We meet once a month and during the meetings there is baby sitting for the children. Creativity is not lacking and the skills of each are at the service of all to learn prayers, speak about relevant issues or have recreational time. There are also special opportunities, such as retreats or weekends, we spend together in a different town.

Padua and Rome: sharing among engaged couples and familiesPadua and Rome: sharing among engaged couples and families

Beyond the obvious differences, there is a common style in each group: prayer, listening to God’s word, sharing with everyone, a focus on a holistic formation of the individual. Federico and Rossella tell us about their experience: “The times when a specific topic is presented to us are important because they offer food for thought and dialogue about our feelings, freeing us to know one another better and honestly.

Through our dialogue with other couples, we realize that our questions are the same that other families have and we feel peaceful again, seeing that we are walking in the same direction.” A special time for all the families is the national two-day gathering in Vermicino (Rome) in the Spring. This gathering is connected to the formation done in the various parts of Italy, but it is also a privileged opportunity to “start anew” as a couple, family, and as a network of families.

Care in generating compassion and hope

The life of a couple goes through stages that we always try to respect and support with sensitivity.

This is why we prepared formation programs specifically for engaged couples in preparation for a Christian marriage.

Luca and Teresa tell this: “Sharing with other couples has created a precious closeness. The workshops included in each meeting amaze us ... each time we go home enriched. This was a small brick which, if the Lord wishes, will build a home for our life together.”

During these last years, we have also focused on individuals who are separated from their spouses. Mother Frances’ healing charism prompted us to give life to, in dialogue with the local Church authorities, a program of spiritual support for these people. Rita says: “I could not accept the fact that we would need to go in front of a judge to end our marriage.

I felt that before separating I needed help from someone who would talk to me about mercy and could help me find a way to forgive... I found the Franciscan Sisters of the Poor.

With time, I realized that entrusting myself to God through prayer is the essential ‘medicine’ to heal one’s soul. I experienced that sharing with other brothers and sisters in a place where we feel finally accepted and not judged, is a ‘school’ that teaches how to forgive and build again one’s life without giving up.”

It is a ‘school’ where the lives of engaged and married couples, families, and people who are separated are enriched in reciprocity with our life and vocation.

Thus, as consecrated women, we realize with Alessio and Benedetta that, “...everything is not simply done in the space and time of a meeting; instead we go home with a ‘backpack’ filled with suggestions, insights, topics, questions and also certainties about which we can reflect in our daily lives.” Through this simple sharing, which includes prayer, listening, dialogue and patience, we feel we are “generating compassion and hope in the community of Life.”