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AMERICAN ASSOCIATION OF INTERCHURCH FAMILIES
2003 NATIONAL REPORT

Introduction - This report is intended to inform the larger, international group of interchurch families of the activities, challenges and plans of the American Association of Interchurch Families. In the United States, we are still in our infancy, with regard to organization and growth, however, we have had some significant achievements and milestones since the last international conference and the purpose of this report is to highlight these events for all interested participants of the meeting in Rome. We will supplement this report by making ourselves, and some of the referenced materials, available at the Rome Conference.

2002 National Conference – Our last national conference was held in Omaha, Nebraska in July, 2002 and hosted by the active participants in the Omaha AAIF Chapter. Meetings were held at St John Vianne church and involved some social gatherings at local homes and restaurants.

The conference highlights included:

  • A reworking, updating and approval of our Constitution and By-Laws. The revisions were mostly technical and all revisions met with Board approval. Subsequent to our conference, copies were made available to all Full Members and Associate Members.
  • It was agreed to continue seeking incorporation and non-profit status for AAIF. This task was to be pursued by our Treasurer, Merwyn Pearson. The By-Laws were to be submitted to the State of Nebraska for approval.
  • Some time was spent discussing the need for chapter and membership expansion. It was decided that the material and programs that had been successful in the establishment of the Omaha chapter, would be reviewed and utilized elsewhere. Ideas for chapter development were to be published in future editions of The ARK.
  • It was approved to register a domain name for AAIF and start construction of our website. The site will be registered as www.aifusa.org. The search will be started for someone, hopefully a member, to provide the leadership in establishing and maintaining the site. We all felt this will be the primary means of communication in years to come.
  • A great deal of time was spent on the review and modification of the brochure used to promote AAIF. Some language was changed to make our mission statement more positive. We also planned some revisions based on our mission to be there for others, not as counselors, but as supporters to interchurch couples. We wanted to emphasize our role as couples that believe in sharing the faith traditions brought to our marriages and to be there for others in interchurch marriages who are asking the questions and facing the situations we have dealt with. We do not want to present ourselves as doctrinal resources.

With all of these topics, we filled our three day stay together with active discussion and action, but most of all, love and understanding.

AAIF Chapters – With an eye toward creating a roadmap for chapter initiation we ended up planning how to organize and support chapters more than we did actually create chapters. The planning must come first. We were, however, pleased that the Omaha, Louisville-So. Ohio, So. California, Cleveland and Virginia Beach groups seem to be moving forward.

In discussions about future chapters, Fr. Ernie Falardeau, one of our spiritual advisors, invited Diane and Lamar Burton to visit an interchurch event in Albuquerque, New Mexico. The Burtons found a solid group of couples that seem quite interested in moving forward toward a more active presence in AAIF. One couple, the Houses, attended the last world conference in Calgary, Canada.

In addition to these locations, the relocation of Fr. Ernie to New York brings us the hope that ther will soon be activity in that area. Fr. George Kilcourse, the other spiritual advisor, will be attending the Catholic Festival of Faiths in October, as a presenter, and is optimistic we will have interest and a future chapter there.

We have word there are couples in Kansas City and San Diego that are open to the opportunities with AAIF. We have new, prospective members this past year in South Carolina, Brooklyn, NY, Minnesota and Iowa. We maintain relationships with ecumenical and Family Life personnel in Seattle, Milwaukee, Boston, Toledo and Columbus.

In 2004 & 2005, we may very well have an opportunity to reach into the southeast United States because of some planned activities by one of our Spiritual Advisors, who will be consulting in that area.

Activities – Here are some of the highlights of events in the past couple of years as well as planned events for the future:

  • Fr. Ernest Falardeau, SSS, one of our important spiritual advisors, and an ecumenical pioneer, was transferred to New York from Albuquerque, New Mexico, where he had been serving the Archdiocese of Santa Fe in the Office of Ecumenical Affairs, to become the local superior of the Community at St Jean Baptiste Church, the first foundation of the Blessed Sacrament Community in the U.S. Fr. Ernie has said he will continue to work with interchurch families and you will see him in Rome. He can be contacted at 184 East 76th Street, New York, NY 1—21-2844.
  • An active interchurch couple in Cleveland, Ohio, Kay and Dennis Flowers, have authored a book, “Catholic Annulment: Spiritual Healing”. I was told you can reference and locate the book at www.amazon.com. Look it up!
  • It was learned this past year that the video AAIF has been working on since our international conference in Virginia Beach, Virginia, will continue to completion in the near future. A gift was received that should enable us to complete this important activity that will bring the message of our ministry to many who would otherwise not know of us or the support we can bring to those marriages where separate traditions can and should be celebrated.
  • This coming August, Fr. George Kilcourse will be consulting with the Glen Mary Fathers. The subject will be moving from Priest to Layperson in ecumenical work. This gathering will affect their work in the 7 Southeast states and opens the door to more AAIF activity. Apparently, interchurch marriage is high on their agenda.
  • We recently learned of another important publication, thanks to a review by Fr. Falardeau, and that is “Interchurch Families: Resources for Ecumenical Hope”. This short, but meaningful, book, is authored by the Catholic/Reformed Dialogue in the United States. It is a book for minister and priests to use with congregants who are entering into, or are already in an interchurch (Reformed-Catholic) marriage. It is also useful for laity involved in interchurch families. Topics covered are: sharing life together, pastors and congregations/parishes, our common baptisim, thew Church, the covenant of marriage, and the Eucharist.
  • Another publication comes to us from the Archdiocese of Louisville where Fr. Kilcourse, working with Barbara McDonald of the Family Ministry Office, helped mold the new “Marriage in the Catholic Church” handbook. Thanks to the input of Fr. George, the handbook has become more “interchurch family” friendly. We will have a copy at the Rome meeting.
  • The ARK has gotten back on somewhat of a schedule as the AAIF publication. It is now planned to have it issued at least three times a year with our near term goal being quarterly, or four times annually. Consideration will soon be given to posting on the website, when constructed, and distribution by email. With increased content contributions and chapter activities, we are hoping for to expand each issue.
  • As mentioned earlier, Fr. George Kilcourse has been invited to speak at the Catholic Festivals of Faiths in October in Chicago, Illinois. He will be specifically addressing the interchurch marriage and family. We are hoping for AAIF exposure in the Chicago area and new members from that region of our country.
  • The Board of AAIF is in the planning stages for our next conference in the Summer of 2004. We have agreed, the location needs to be central and accessible by low cost airlines. It is hoped we can convene in an area where new chapter growth can occur.
  • Finally, it is election time and a slate of candidates for all offices will be presented to the membership this Summer. The results of balloting will be announced in August, the beginning of our new year.

Summary – In the United States, we are faced with a vast geographic area and a very diverse Christian community. We have so many denominations within the one body that it is very challenging to present one clear voice on behalf of the interchurch family, however, we feel we are beginning to affect changes in attitudes and it has us encouraged to the point where we are more committed today to being there for those that choose to celebrate the richness of their various traditions brought together under one roof in the family. After all, it is Christian unity that we are all committed to and where better to start toward oneness, than with the family unit. AAIF is emerging and enthusiastically seeks the guidance and nurturing of the worldwide interchurch family organization.