In 2019, Paradisus Dei launched a new ministry called Missionaries to the Family to help combat the collapse of marriage and family in our culture. It forms modern marriages and families upon the model of the Holy Family at Nazareth. Couples discern this calling for their own family, receive the formation needed to live that life in their own homes, and share what they have learned with other couples and families through intentional, spiritual friendships and accompaniment. After their formation year, they begin their active mission work, which takes place right in their own homes and communities.
The first class of missionary couples completed their formation year and were commissioned in the summer of 2020. The second class will be commissioned this summer. And the third class is now being assembled and will begin formation this August. The first missionary couples have already begun their active mission work, and in spite of the pandemic-restricted environment, they are having an impact! Their work includes leading marriage preparation sessions, leading marriage enrichment efforts, hosting young adult and family small groups in their home, and even leading regional outreach to recruit other missionary couples.
Win and Erinn Vahlkamp belong to St. Laurence in Sugar Land, TX. Their active mission work began with leading a parish marriage enrichment initiative based on content presented in their formation year. After that, the Vahlkamps invited couples to form a small community that meets out of their home. Eight couples continued in that fashion, meeting every other Friday. “Conversations have been remarkably deep. We’ve had to cut ourselves short because they’ve gone so long,” offered Win. Erinn shared, “It feels really great to get to the point to have a small group and develop friendships…just deepening our faith and growing.” Through those spiritual friendships, the group has already provided support for those tough moments of everyday life, most notably when a member lost a parent. “These are groups that care about each other and can be there for each other, build you up, do life together. There is a lack of that. That’s a rare gift,” said Win.
Carlos and Rebecca Carrillo, members of Christ the Redeemer parish in Houston, TX, led a pilot program for couples last October on behalf of the parish. When asked about getting couples involved, Carlos commented, “In our case, it was surprising how well it worked. Six couples accepted right away.” Carlos further spoke of the great need for groups like this. “There is a need to help other couples. Every couple in the group shared that they have no one else to share their faith journey with,” he said. As a result, many of the couples are interested in continuing as a small group, and three new couples expressed a desire to join as well. Carlos summed it up by saying, “People are waiting for that opportunity, particularly as a couple.”
Deacon Richard and Tina Grant are members of Our Lady of Mercy parish in Baton Rouge, LA, where Deacon Grant also serves on staff. The diocese has seven missionary couples actively engaged in mission work with three more scheduled to be commissioned this summer. Reflecting on the impact of their work so far, Deacon Grant said, “We are restarting every ministry again after Covid. These are the people who are going to do them. They will have the full support of the parish.” During the pandemic-related restrictions, the missionary couples were invaluable to the parish in keeping marriage preparation going. They were able to host the engaged couples in their homes. The engaged couples witnessed different Catholic couples and households as they rotated through four missionary couples during the course of marriage preparation. Missionary couples will continue to leverage this model and host newly married couples to experience The Choice Wine: 7 Steps to a Superabundant Marriage. Deacon Grant noted that the missionary couples “…are not only taking more of a leadership role in their own homes, but in the parish. They become more visible. They planted a seed and now the seed is sprouting into other areas of parish life.” He went on to say, “Our pastor is pleasantly surprised when he hears these things the couples are doing.”
These examples highlight the tremendous work being done by just some of couples from the first group of Missionaries to the Family. This fall, couples from the second group will begin their active mission work. The ministry is structured so that additional missionary couples enter into the mission field each year after they complete their formation. When they do so, they can rely on key learnings so far: the need is great, it’s not hard to get started, and the results are so worth the effort. As this ministry grows, it will not only meet the great need that exists but also begin to transform the culture one family at a time.
Please join us in praying for the missionary couples, whether in formation or active mission work. May God bless them abundantly in their calling and their work.