We, Annette and Paul, have been married 43 years. It all began in November 1976 over cold macaroni cheese at Pluscarden Abbey!
Annette was the CathSoc Secretary at Aberdeen University and had arranged the weekend retreat at Pluscarden. Fifteen students travelled by minibus, arrived late and as promised by the guestmaster, food was available in the ladies accommodation. So was breakfast to be there too. But in the morning, we could not find any breakfast. After quite a search and some deduction, Annette and Paul found the macaroni cheese in the oven – we’d eaten the breakfast in the evening so it was now cold and a bit dried up! As Annette and Paul are both one of six children, we did not have any problem in eating what the Lord had provided. Others were not that impressed! We not only enjoyed the cold macaroni, but we recognised a spirit in each of us of accepting what the Lord provides.
It was more than a year later that we started going out together and we engaged to marry in April 1979.
On moving to the south coast of England after our wedding in August 1980 we were introduced to Equipes Notre-Dame by the parish priest; a second ‘Team’ was just about to start. We were aware that we did not have any marriage preparation: when we enquired Fr McD said that we were “OK”! – Perhaps that lack of preparation urged us to continue our own formation to better understand our faith and to develop our married spirituality. While we met at Pluscarden, we have had continuous links with Benedictine Monasteries, Paul when a student in London had visited the Worth Abbey and stayed with the lay community.
One of the “endeavours” in the rule of Equipe Notre-Dame is to take an annual retreat with one’s spouse. Our Team has retreated at Prinknash and then Douai for over 20 years. We have found the Teams way has helped us for all our married life; that is not only the endeavours but through the sharing and support of our Team and our priest accompanist.
Teams is strictly a lay-led movement; it is couples who organise, of course with prayer and the support of our spiritual accompanist. In 2021 we were commissioned in responsibility for the English-speaking countries with Teams around the Atlantic. So, this includes Ghana. Teams in Ghana had been started under the initiative from Prinknash Monastery, where Robert and Mary Jones are oblates and Fr Martin has been a Spiritual Accompanist to the Team there for many years. During our Term of five years’ service we will visit each country at least once.
Since the start of Teams in Ghana, Brother Gabriel has been the main link to the monastery, supporting a team and the movement generally. The community at Kristo Buase welcomed us, by assisting with transport and wonderful hospitality – such that we did not have to worry about those arrangements and we could focus on visiting Teams in Ghana.
We were delighted to find Teams in such a strong position. We know that the Covid lockdown and difficulties have been a huge stress for parishes and groups in parishes. Staying at the monastery meant that we could check about our observations, about culture, religiosity, about organisation of the diocese, of parishes and what ‘norms’ are expected of us as people from England. It was particularly helpful to have discussions about marriage arrangements in the area.
While we have been here, it is likely that a further three Teams of five or six couples will begin. We have been able to leave resources in a corner in the monastery, for future needs of Teams here. Yes, Teams is strictly, a lay-led movement, but we all need the power of the Holy Spirit and the support of friends; Kristo Buase has given that support to enable the mission to marriage. The mission is to enable couples to move “closer to God, closer to each other”.
It was a blessing to be able to participate in prayer and Mass during our stay. We used one line of a reading at compline as part of our talk the next day. “blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God”. When talking about marriage we personally use three words Wholeness, Holiness, Happiness. Obviously linked and what the Lord wants for us, for couples is Happiness. We think it is being ‘whole’ being true, being pure in heart that enables the Wholeness, that leads to Holiness and Happiness. As a couple we try to enable that for each other.
It was a hectic six day programme. Our last day All Saints, allowed an afternoon off, how wonderful it was to celebrate the feast with the community.
Thank you Kristo Buase community.