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GENERAL CONFERENCE

AMERICAN ASSOCIATION OF INTERCHURCH FAMILIES

CREIGHTON UNIVERSITY, OMAHA

1999

The Second Bi-Annual General Conference of AAIF took place at Creighton University in Omaha, Nebraska during July. The Omaha Chapter of AAIF made all of the arrangements for this Conference (and they need to be commended for a wonderful job), with the featured speakers being Dr. Michael Lawler and Sister Barbara Markey. Families came from all over the US, with over 100 people participating. Several local clergy also participated during the long weekend. We were also blessed with the presence of Fenella & Ray Temmerman, from Manitoba, Canada who participated in the whole weekend.

The Conference began with the families arriving and dinner. There was time for all to greet old friends and new arrivals. Many of the participants had never taken part in any of AAIF’s activities -- and there were several families that came at the suggestion of either their Diocesan Ecumenical Officer or Family Life Office, not too sure what the weekend would hold.

A local committee of clergy and laity had planned an Opening Prayer Service, which began at the fountain outside the Chapel of the University and ended in the Chapel/Conference room we would be using during the weekend. The theme was "Common Baptism", with everyone bringing a cup of water from the fountain and pouring it into a "baptismal font" at the side of the altar in the Chapel. Candles were also lighted during this time. The prayerful time set the mood for what was to come.

We enjoyed, tremendously, the Keynote Talks. The interactive talk on communication and difficulties in an InterChurch Marriage given by Sister Barbara was thought provoking and very helpful. The further information shared by Dr. Lawler regarding the study he conducted on InterChurch Couples/Families in the US proved to be very valuable also. The Study has now been published and is available from him at Creighton University.

But for all of us the most valuable time was the time we had to share with other couples and get to know each other a little better.

A young engaged couple from Omaha, due to be married in September, came to the Conference and went away with new ideas and a better understanding of how they could make their InterChurch marriage work.

A couple from Milwaukee, married for many years, had heard about the Conference from some clergy in their Roman Catholic diocese. They had no idea of what they were coming to -- and, in fact, the only way the wife was willing to come was when they decided that if they didn’t like it they could leave and go visit her family in southern Nebraska. At the end of the Conference they did not want to leave and were one of the last to checkout. After our Mass together, the husband commented (with tears in his eyes) "I’ve been waiting 35 years for this". They plan on becoming much more active with the Association.

On Saturday evening there was an informal sharing time, when we talked about communications with Ecumenical Officers in our different dioceses and different traditions. It was also suggested that another avenue to pursue would be contacting the Family Life Directors and Offices in our own particular areas. The Association already has quite a good relationship with the organization of Ecumenical Officers for the US -- we would like to develop a similar relationship with the Family Life Officers.

When the discussion turned to how we can help young couples and newly-engaged couples even more, a very lively interaction took place among all in the group. One person then shared one of the things she has begun to say to young people who are contemplating an InterChurch marriage: "The day after you’re married, where will you go to church". She said most couples, simultaneously, will say "We’ll go to my church, of course". This, then, is a place to begin to think thru and pray over exactly what is involved in becoming an InterChurch couple.

There was also a chance to share some of the activities and things in which we are involved in our particular part of the US. We came away with many new ideas of things we may be able to try, such as Ecumenical Marriage Panels.

The children and teens who were at the Conference, appeared to enjoy their time together and many lasting friendships were made. At the last Mass they presented candles to each couple, which they had decorated and written the traditions from which the couple had come. This was very moving.

At the end of the Mass Father George and Father Ernie gave a special blessing to the newly-elected Board of AAIF asking all to pray for them.

Our next General Conference will take place during the International Conference, which will be held in Edmonton, Canada during August, 2001.

A lot was accomplished, but there is still much ‘ground-laying’ work needing to be done. Now that we have a Constitution our Treasurer can work on getting us Charity status. This will allow us to pursue getting Grants and donations from many sources; we will also be able to get a Postal Permit, which will allow us to send our publications out at a special rate. Donations are still very much needed so that we can complete the work on AAIF’s video. And we want to continue the work that’s already begun by setting up a Chapter (or at least having a presence) in each State -- and becoming more well known throughout the country as a whole. We receive inquiries from people all over the country, Family Life Directors, Ecumenical Officers, InterChurch couples; and the National Conference of Catholic Bishops have been referring people to our Co-Chair for some time -- all of this we would like to extend even further.

We ask for your prayers as we continue in this very important ministry and thank all of you for your love and support.

Michael & Barbara Slater