Couples for Christ movement strengthens tribal families in India

It has taken hold in Odisha state's Kandhamal district after anti-Christian violence hit the area
Couples for Christ movement strengthens tribal families in India
Couples for Christ members pose for a photograph after a retreat program in the Odisha capital of Bhubaneswar Sept. 18. (Photo by Purushottam Nayak)


Catholics from indigenous communities in the eastern Indian state of Odisha are looking to the Couples for Christ lay movement to strengthen their family and faith life.

The Vatican-approved lay movement began their unit in Odisha's main Cuttack-Bhubaneswar Archdiocese in 2013.

"Most parish priests who have seen the difference in couples have started units in their own parishes," said Hector Poppen, leader of the movement in India.

Poppen along with his wife Garnet and a team from the Philippines conducted a week-long program Sept. 13-18 in state capital Bhubaneswar focusing on evangelization, renewal of families and caring for the poor.

The movement has taken hold in Kandhamal district, where more than 70 percent of some 50,000 Catholics of the archdiocese live. Majority of them are indigenous people depending on farming in the hilly district.

The movement began in the area five years after a major wave of anti-Christian violence hit the area killing some 100 Christians and displacing thousands.

Suchita Toppo, who belongs to the Oraon tribe and who attended the retreat in Bhubaneswar, said the movement has helped her "renew and enrich the responsibility and unity in married life."

A. Tikey, from the same tribe and member of the movement in Odisha, told that Couples for Christ gave him "an opportunity to know that Christ is the head of the family" and that "the blessings for life are possible only through Christ."

Denzil D'Cunha, a member of the movement in Odisha, said the retreats and other programs made "a great change" in his prayer life. It helped him realize "family life should build up a strong relationship with God."

Couples for Christ programs include retreats, household prayer meetings and monthly prayer assemblies.

The movement that began in Manila in 1981 stresses renewal of Catholic parish life working through couples. The movement now works in some 100 countries including India.

Poppen said the movement has moved from a family renewal movement into social ministries to help in education, health, housing and food-sufficiency of the needy.

In 1995, the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines approved the movement as a national private association of lay faithful and in 2005 the Vatican approved it as international private association of lay faithful, making it the first lay group in Asia to get Vatican approval.

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