Many a young parent struggles with the challenges of raising a family but some Catholic parents are taking advantage of extra support, with a formal dinner for two and babysitting thrown in.
The Time For Us weekend run at the Mt Schoenstatt retreat centre in Mulgoa each year welcomes families for a program of fun activities, spiritual enrichment, and food for thought.
Sr M Julie Brcar ISSM said that the weekends organised by the Schoenstatt Family Movement are aimed at supporting couples and promoting healthy family life and spirituality.
“There are so many pressures on families today,” she said. “We need to commit to informing ourselves about these and connecting young families with each other because they really are under attack in our culture and they benefit from mutual support.”
On the recent long weekend couples had opportunities to attend talks and for private reflection and discussion time while their children enjoyed their own supervised program. There were raucous family games, prayers and Mass at the community’s shrine. A highlight was the formal dinner followed by a ballroom dancing lesson for parents on the Saturday night.
Karen Sukkar, whose family attended for the first time, said they all loved it and plan to return next year.
“There was an outdoor family challenge, which was actually the best part for us, just spending time having fun together with our kids,” she said.
“But the whole weekend was really relaxing and so beautiful. It was wonderful to be able to have a nice dinner out with my husband and not have to worry about organising babysitting. A talk by Sr Julie about being children of God and surrendering to God was very relevant to us because we’ve been experiencing some financial troubles.
“There’s no point stressing about these things, we just have to do what we can and leave it all in God’s hands. A talk on the importance of fathers for their children was very good also.”
Bernard Toutounji, who with his wife Jane helped Sr Julie to establish the Time For Us concept four years ago, said he was inspired by childhood memories of similar weekends when his parents belonged to the then-thriving Mt Schoenstatt family groups movement.
“Jane grew up in a parish-based family group as well, and we just wanted to re-introduce that experience of coming together as a family and having some kind of community with others who take both faith and family seriously,” he said.
“The Time For Us weekend is a taste of that; of meeting with like-minded families and allowing the children to see that faith is not such a weird concept but is really something amazing when it is lived out. “It also meets a great need to spend time as a family together away in the beauty of nature, and hopefully deepening our love for each other. We aren’t often able to get that kind of time together with the busy-ness and stresses of everyday life at home.”
The Toutounjis belong to a small group of families affiliated with Mt Schoenstatt who are reviving the family group model, but the Time For Us weekends remain open to all.
The weekends are just one event in a broader Time For Us initiative. It includes opportunities for families of all types and configurations including an Advent and a Lenten day retreat program, date nights for spouses, and a retreat for engaged couples.
For more information visit the Schoenstatt Movement Australia Facebook page: www.facebook.com/SchoenstattAustralia