Teams of Our Lady offers married couples support, path to growth

| Susan Klemond | June 11, 2018 | 0 Comments

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Steve and Nicole Pattee of All Saints in Lakeville spend a lot of time in transit, including driving their two teenage daughters to swim meets and flying around the country for work.

What helps the couple stop and take time for their marriage is an international lay movement called Teams of Our Lady, where they learn with other couples to grow in their relationship with God and live their sacramental call more intentionally through prayer, study and fellowship. 

“As your kids get older, you sort of get focused on taking them places and doing things with them, and sometimes you can forget about working on your own relationship,” said Nicole, 44. “So, it makes us think about that on a regular basis. We pray together now more than we did before.”

The Pattees and the other five married couples on their team are among a growing number of couples from local parishes who join together in following a pattern of prayer and life as members of the 80-year-old movement. Many have small children, but some members are of the older “sandwich” generation, caring for both children and aging parents.  

Teams of Our Lady leaders say the movement stands out among Catholic marriage programs because it is ongoing. Members witness to Christian marriage as they imitate the “yes” that their patroness, the Blessed Mother, gave to God at the Annunciation. 

Teams of Our Lady was founded in 1938 in Paris, France, by Father Henri Caffarel after a couple in his parish requested a way to support and develop holiness within the sacrament of marriage. Today about 11,000 teams meet worldwide, including 838 in the United States. 

Teams have met in Rochester for more than 40 years and several also met in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis 30 years ago but no longer meet, according to Steve and Glynis Sturm, both 69, movement leaders from Stewartville in the Diocese of Winona-Rochester. They’ve been members of a team for 43 years. 

More recently, the movement has again expanded in the archdiocese, according to Cathy Miller, 55, a parishioner of St. Joseph in West St. Paul. Miller and her husband, Tom, 56, serve as the archdiocesan Teams of Our Lady leader couple. 

In 2012 young couples at St. Joseph, inspired by teams in California, formed a new team at the parish with the Sturms’ help. There are 15 teams in or near the archdiocese, including seven at St. Joseph, Tom Miller said.   

Ultimately, Teams of Our Lady seek to deepen marital sacramental graces and grow in holiness, said Mary Kay Bungert, 56, director of mission and marriage preparation at All Saints in Lakeville, and a Teams of Our Lady member. The first teams formed at All Saints in 2016 and now, four are based there. Members aren’t required to belong to the hosting parish, or be Catholic, she said. 

“It really is about … a renewed sense of relationship with God in the couple and a renewed sense of commitment to the sacrament as a couple,” said Bungert, who’s also an All Saints parishioner. “You can’t live out a mission if you don’t know what you’ve been called to.”

Bungert said that some ways she and her husband, Lyle, live out their marriage sacrament are by caring for their aged mothers together, welcoming people into their home and striving to make their marriage, rather than their work, their primary vocation.

Teams of Our Lady members commit to meeting monthly in groups of five to seven couples led by a mentor couple where they share, pray and support each other. They also read Scripture regularly; pray as individuals, as a couple and as a family; and strive for personal improvement. Teams make an annual retreat together or as individual couples. When possible, a priest, deacon or religious sister joins the team as chaplain, Cathy Miller said.

All Saints pastor Father Tom Wilson learned about Teams of Our Lady while visiting a California parish five years ago. He serves as a team chaplain and appreciates that the movement strengthens marriages through a shared spiritual life between husband and wife, and other couples. 

“It’s important to talk about the human challenges of relationships, but there’s also a spiritual base that Teams of Our Lady addresses very directly and I think very effectively.”

Teams study marriage and the faith together, Tom Miller said. 

“We really want to understand how we can support each other in marriage, but we also want to understand our faith,” he said. “We want to unpack things and talk about subjects most Catholic couples don’t get the opportunity to do in a group and as a couple.” 

For example, Bungert’s team studied parts of Pope Francis’ 2013 apostolic exhortation, “The Joy of the Gospel,” during a retreat. After a team’s first two years of studying the movement’s formation texts, members may choose other study topics assembled by the Teams of Our Lady organization.

Teams of Our Lady goes deeper into spirituality than other more relational-oriented Catholic marriage enrichment programs, Father Wilson said. The movement continues to be relevant because it intentionally builds in flexibility to meet participants’ needs, he said. 

Teams of Our Lady isn’t a Marian movement, but as a mother, “Mary loves and cares for us,” Tom Miller said. Cathy Miller added, “She has the heart of a mother for marriage.”

The growth couples experience on Teams of Our Lady prepares them to bring the gifts and charisms of marriage into the world, Bungert said.

It “isn’t just felt between us, but it changes the way we work in the world, the way we parent, the way we buy groceries,” she said. “We bring the sacramental nature of our marriage to all the areas of our life.”

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