WCR PHOTO | RAMON GONZALEZ
Terry and Miriam Sharp have been involved with the Teams of Our Lady movement for 5 years.
Miriam and Terry Sharp say they now have the kind of relationship they dreamt about thanks to a movement for married couples they joined in 2006 at Edmonton's Our Lady of Guadalupe (Spanish) Parish.
Not long after getting married in 2005 the Sharps started to notice something was missing in their relationship. Things were good, but not good enough.
Just as they began to search for something that would bring them closer as a couple, Father Augusto Garcia invited them to a meeting of Teams of Our Lady, an international movement that helps married couples discover the full richness of the sacrament of marriage. It changed the Sharps' lives - and their marriage.
"Our marriage is definitely better off because of it," says Miriam, 28.
"By being involved in the team we are at a point where we can say this is the kind of marriage that we had envisioned or that we dreamed about," added Terry, 35.
The Sharps were one of 30 couples attending the 10th anniversary retreat of the Teams of Our Lady in Edmonton at Providence Renewal Centre June 17 to 19. Guest speakers at the event included Maria and Carlo Volpini, an Italian couple responsible for the movement internationally.
The movement, a lay movement officially recognized by the Vatican, began in France in 1947 when Father Henri Caffarel was asked by young couples in his parish to help them to develop spiritually.
Today there are Teams of Our Lady in close to 70 countries with more than 55,000 couples worldwide. In Canada, there are teams in Quebec, Ontario and Alberta.
In Edmonton there are five teams of six couples each. All teams are based at Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish, although lately the movement has been making inroads at St. Thomas More Parish.
"This is a movement of conjugal spirituality for couples married in the Catholic Church," explains Mario Allende, who is responsible for the Edmonton movement with his wife Angelica. "It helps married couples to grow in faith, love, happiness and holiness."
A team is a group of married Catholic couples that have joined together in their efforts to lead Gospel lives.
The team meets once a month in each other's homes for a simple meal and to share their experiences of the previous month. Couples also reflect on Scripture, discuss study material on married life and faith, and pray.
Allende said slowly through time teams become close communities where couples inspire one another through their living examples of faith and share with one another their struggles, successes and failures.
"These teams prepare couples to become witnesses of Christ's love in this world."
Moreover, team members take part in various endeavours that help them in their spiritual formation as couples and individuals.
Those endeavours include daily personal, couple and family prayer; regular reading and reflection on Sacred Scriptures; having a monthly "sit down" as a couple to discuss spiritual and family matters, following a personal "rule of life" for personal improvement and attending an annual retreat as a team.
Allende, a founding member of the movement, said couples inevitably change through this process, growing in communication and spirituality. When they discover behaviours that are damaging to their relationship, they commit themselves to changing those behaviours.
The Sharps got interested in the movement a year after their marriage. "Even though we were married, there was still something missing," Terry recalled.
After a year of learning about the goals of the movement and the benefits of joining it, the couple said "yes" to the team.
"We like the tools that the team offers to us," Miriam said. "We always knew from the first time we got married that we wanted to be closer to God. The team offered us the tools and the opportunity to achieve that."
Terry said the closer they get to God the closer they get to each other. "This is what I thought marriage should be," he now says, with a wide smile on his face. "Before we joined the team, it was harder. There was still something missing."
Added Miriam, "I'm being very honest and I have told Terry that if we couldn't be involved in this movement, I don't think we would be as happy and really close to each other because we are coming from different backgrounds."
Miriam is from Mexico and Terry is Canadian and, as Miriam implied, the team has helped smooth their language and cultural differences.
"This team is our family. It's amazing the connection that we have with them, with everyone," Miriam pointed out.
Living out the endeavours of the team "is what keeps us alive," she continued. "We do it because we have seen the benefits of that. We feel the love in our home and that love we have now we are able to give back to the community."
As mandated by the movement, the Sharps reflect on the daily readings. "That's a really good way for us to learn more about God and what he wants from us," Terry said. "What I like about it is that it's a daily movement, not just once a month."
The Sharps, both of whom hold professional jobs outside the home, also have a monthly meeting with each other where they pray together and discuss important things. They hold the meeting at night after their 18-month-old son Emmanuel is in bed.
"Ours is a two-hour (meeting) and it's a really deep moment," declared Terry. "We read a reading and we invite Christ to be with us in that moment. It's a very special moment for us."
Miriam described the monthly meeting as a time when you really need to listen to your spouse. "It's not a moment to judge each other. It's a moment to kind of find things to improve so we can grow together as a couple."