By Eliana Tedrow
The Sooner Catholic
In our own time, in a world often alien and even hostile to faith, believing families are of primary importance as centers of living, radian faith. For this reason, the Second Vatican Council, using an ancient expression, calls the family the Ecclesia domestica (CCC 1656).
After the vows have been said and the honeymoon is over, many couples find themselves asking the same question, “What next?” Life can become hectic and stressful, especially with the addition of children. Before Catholic couples receive the Sacrament of Matrimony, they are offered “Pre-Cana.”
After marriage, that kind of support tends to drop out of married life, and couples find themselves without the marital or spiritual support needed to navigate an otherwise difficult journey.
Beginning this year, Oklahomans are being offered the chance to be part of an international, officially-recognized lay movement that supports Catholic family life. “Domestic Church” has come to the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City and is available for newlywed and veteran couples alike.
This new movement guides sacramentally married couples to deepen their spiritual growth through couple prayer, daily reading of the scriptures and family prayer. Domestic Church focuses on the continued spiritual formation of married couples, with the goal of strengthening the overall family.
Domestic Church was founded in Poland in the 1970s, but only recently translated into English and brought to America. Its founder was Servant of God Father Franciszeck Blachnicki, who created Domestic Church under the guidance, support and influence of his then-bishop, Karol Wojtyla (now Saint John Paul II). Domestic Church includes thousands of couples across the world.
“We heard about this movement and ended up setting up an information session with people in Louisiana,” Alex Schimpf said.
Alex and Sarah Schimpf recently moved to Oklahoma from Texas, bringing the Domestic Church movement with them.
“We all know we should be doing this stuff,” they said, “But, we just don’t. Doing this with other couples is the unique thing that lets you succeed.”
“We have two ‘circles’ up and running and are very excited about that!” Sarah Schimpf said. “A very important ‘side-effect’ of this is the formation of vibrant little Catholic communities within parishes. The family becomes strongest when knit with other families!”
Before couples can join Domestic Church, they are asked to attend a weekend-long retreat. The purpose of the retreat is to allow couples to encounter Christ together, “free of distractions.”
After couples attend the initial retreat, they are welcome to join a community group the Domestic Church calls a “circle.” Circles are comprised of four to seven couples and are overseen by one priest per circle.
Each circle goes through an outline for every meeting.
“Couples discuss their joys and sorrows, what has been working for them, what hasn’t been working for them,” Alex Schimpf said.
“It’s amazing to see the community that naturally flows. The things that you learn in the circle are very intimate, but you see God working in their lives, which helps put in perspective our life as well.”
So far, Domestic Church includes couples from Saint Eugene in Oklahoma City, Saint Benedict in Shawnee and Saint Mark in Norman. That number is expected to grow as more Oklahomans participate in the initial retreat, with the goal of getting circles started in every parish within the archdiocese.
“We would be excited to see the movement brought to our Hispanic community here in the archdiocese!”
One Oklahoma couple already is experiencing the fruits of this newfound community. Kathryn and Eli Ferrell are parishioners at Saint Mark in Norman. The Ferrells attended a retreat in October.
“This was truly a unique experience for us!” Kathryn Ferrell said. “Encountering God’s love as a couple and on a deeper level was an invaluable gift to our marriage and our family.”
Couples are asked to begin with a commitment to pray together as a couple, being more intentional about their approach to marriage.
“This has been a huge blessing! Now, praying as a couple is a priority for us, and while life sometimes happens, we are dedicated to making it an everyday occurrence,” Kathryn Ferrell said.
The next Domestic Church retreat is being offered at the Catholic Pastoral Center in February.
Eliana Tedrow is a freelance writer for the Sooner Catholic.
Archdiocese of Oklahoma City