Carolina couples grow in faith through 'Teams of Our Lady'
CHARLOTTE — The sacrament of holy matrimony is for Catholics a sacred, living sacrament, constantly requiring the nurturing of the spouses and the laying down of one's life for the other. That alone may often cause married life to be challenging, even in the best of circumstances.
For more than 60 years, couples in the U.S. have found support and encouragement in faithfully living out their vows through a lay movement called Teams of Our Lady.
Teams of Our Lady, an officially recognized Catholic lay movement by the Holy See under the Pontifical Council for the Laity, is under the patronage of the Blessed Mother, and members pray the Magnificat daily for Our Lady's intercession.
Pictured: Teams of Our Lady couples gathered in Charlotte on Aug. 24, 2011, at St. Matthew Church for an installation ceremony. Pictured (from left) are Jason and Molly Beckert, Mary Ellen and Doug Bashioum (East Coast Regional Couple), and Mary Ann and Jim Kirchner. The Beckerts and Kirchners were installed as the South Charlotte Sector Couples and were presented with framed artwork of the Holy Family. (Photo provided by Mary Ann Kirchner)
Teams of Our Lady was founded by Father Henri Caffarel in France in 1947. Father Caffarel wrote several books about marriage before his death in 1996 and, like St. John Chrysostom, is considered to be a "prophet of marriage." He started this community of couples to support traditional marriage and help couples make more of a commitment to grow in their love of their faith and their spouses.
Pope John Paul II, in his address to Teams of Our Lady couples meeting in Rome in 2003, spoke about the spirituality of Christian marriages, telling them that "for the Christian people, marriage, that was elevated to the dignity of a sacrament, is by nature a sign of the covenant, of the communion between God and the human person, and between Christ and the Church.
"So, for the duration of their lives, Christian spouses receive the mission to manifest in a visible way the indissoluble covenant of God with the human race. Christian faith presents marriage as Good News: the total, reciprocal, unique and indissoluble relationship between man and woman, called to give life."
Fourteen Teams of Our Lady groups now exist in North Carolina – two in the Diocese of Raleigh and 12 in the Diocese of Charlotte – living out the Good News in their marriages.
Teams of Our Lady groups consist of five to seven couples who meet monthly in each other's homes to share a meal, pray and discuss the spiritual efforts, or challenges, that they are working on. Sometimes a priest is also a part of a team and may serve as a spiritual advisor to the couples.
Couples in Teams agree to practice a spiritual direction that includes personal, couple and family prayer each day; regular reading and reflection on Scripture; a monthly "sit down" for the husband and wife to discuss family and spiritual matters; and an individual "rule of life" for personal improvement.
Doug and Maryellen Bashioum, parishioners at St. Michael the Archangel Catholic Church in Cary, are the regional leaders for Teams of Our Lady, overseeing more than 56 groups in the Carolinas and Virginia. They will have been married 52 years in June and have five children, 15 grandchildren and one great-grandchild.
They joined Teams of Our Lady 12 years ago in Virginia.
Doug and Maryellen are arguably total opposites when it comes to temperament and have found that Teams of Our Lady has, as Doug says, "been helpful in appreciating our differences rather than try to correct them."
"Teams focuses on 'couple spirituality' and helps you better understand the 'two becoming one.' It does this without losing sight of the individual spirituality that each of us has as we progress on our journey through life," he adds.
Maryellen believes Teams of Our Lady has enhanced their spiritual intimacy and made them focus more on each other. She loves the "sit down" time where they can discuss things without the usual distractions of daily living.
"It's important for couples to sit down and check in with each other away from the children, etc., and spend time focusing on each other," she explains.
Vince and Mary Pat Arostegui, who moved to Charlotte in 2000, served as the pilot couple who brought Teams of Our Lady to the Charlotte diocese after speaking to Monsignor John McSweeney, pastor of St. Matthew Catholic Church in Charlotte.
The Arosteguis, who have been married 47 years, have been in the Teams movement for 27 years. They have three children and 10 grandchildren.
"When we started at St. Matthew we had no idea it would bloom into this, but Teams of Our Lady is the movement of the Holy Spirit," says Mary Pat. "The time is right because marriages are being attacked on all sides, and when couples can engage in something like this rooted in the Gospel and the teachings of the Catholic Church, it is huge. It's a refuge."
One of the regional couples for Teams of Our Lady that oversees the groups in south Charlotte are Jim and Mary Ann Kirchner. They know well the importance of growing in faith together, as Mary Ann is a Catholic convert who came into the Church eight years ago. They have been married almost 23 years and have one son in middle school.
The Kirchners were one of the original couples who joined the movement when it came to Charlotte in 2001. They are also active in several ministries at St. Matthew Church.
So why did they add Teams of Our Lady to their list of activities?
"We did a lot of things separately and wanted to do something together," says Mary Ann. "I like that we're growing in our faith with other Catholic couples. I like the fellowship and the support we give one another in the good times and the bad. We're there for one another."
Teams couples agree that the Blessed Mother plays an essential role in the movement and in their marriages.
"We feel like Mary oversees our marriages and our Teams," shares Mary Pat Arostegui.
Maryellen Bashioum affirms the Blessed Mother's central role in her marriage, too.
"Doug and I have developed more of a relationship with the Blessed Mother since joining Teams," she says. "The whole idea of Mary is to bring you to her Son, which she did. Teams brought us together to look at Mary... pray the rosary together... look through her eyes. By doing that, you keep expanding spiritually."
— SueAnn Howell, staff writer
More information online
Teams of Our Lady: www.teamsofourlady.org
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FROM THE PASTORS
Read and listen to homilies posted regularly by pastors at parishes within the Diocese of Charlotte:
- Fr. Frank Cancro at Queen of the Apostles
- Fr. Patrick Earl at St. Peter in Charlotte
- Fr. John Eckert at St. John the Baptist in Tryon
- Fr. Timothy Reid at St. Ann in Charlotte
- Fr. Benjamin Roberts at Our Lady of Lourdes in Monroe
- Fr. Patrick Winslow at St. Thomas Aquinas in Charlotte
- Watch full Masses live and on demand, listen to homilies and reflections from Sacred Heart Church in Salisbury
- Listen to homilies from St. William Catholic Church in Murphy