Alfa y Omega: ‘blessing from God for Hispanic couples’

By Jorge Mederos | Contributor
Sunday, November 6, 2011

Alfa y Omega: ‘blessing from God for Hispanic couples’

Joel and Mary Puente from Our Lady of Hope Parish share the sign of peace during a Mass following the cardinal's blessing. (Karen Callaway / Catholic New World)
Father Marco Mercado, director of the Office for Hispanic Catholics, delivers the homily at a Mass to celebrate the 10th anniversary of Alfa y Omega on Oct. 21. (Karen Callaway / Catholic New World)

I am very proud of all of you because your marital life represents the relationship between Christ and the church,” Cardinal George said in a blessing ceremony held at the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Des Plaines, with approximately 150 couples gathered on a sunny Oct. 21 afternoon. They gathered to celebrate the 10th anniversary of Alfa y Omega, the archdiocese’s marriage enrichment program for Hispanic couples.

“This is a very special moment for the archdiocese, he said. “When we live in difficult moments we should pray and remain together, blessed in Mary and her mission.”

The words were presented in the context of marriage and family, as well as the example of imitating the Virgin Mary.

“The image of Our Lady reminds us of the unity that exists among Mary, Christ and the church. She is the mother of Christ, mother of the image of the seen and unseen and of almighty God. She is also an example, image and model of the church. In Mary, the church contemplates all that it desires, recognizing in her the model of faith that it has to imitate,” said Cardinal George during the blessing.

There was also a special message for Valentin Araya and his wife, Betty, who, in 2001, gathered with a group of leaders to exchange ideas on how to respond to problems facing couples and Hispanic families in the Archdiocese of Chicago.

Araya recalled when the idea of Alfa y Omega was born. It was during a three-day retreat in November 2001. Participants at the retreat felt that a type of accompaniment was necessary.

The Promotional Communities of Peace and Harmony (COPPAS is the acronym in Spanish), was formed in 2002. COPPAS is a group of six couples who gather in homes once a month to reflect on themes that allow for growth in their married life.

Later family reunions were added to the ministry, with the intention of assisting the growth of families and preventing conflict.

In 2003, a follow-up manual was created that is used as the guide for COPPAS participants.

“We are very happy with the results, especially in the testimonies of the couples who have made adjustments in their married life and who now live more fulfilling lives,” Araya said.

That includes couples like Teresa Cermiño and Tomás Recharte, who celebrated 12 years of marriage 10 years ago but at the same time were going through very serious problems. They became one of the first couples who participated in the retreats.

“Our marriage was in ruins, everything was in darkness and we were suffering because of a very serious drug addiction my husband had,” Cermiño said.

“Someone recommended this retreat and it became the beforeand- after in the history of our marriage. That’s how great, strong and transcendental the experience was. Today we are a living testament on how you can transform your marriage if there’s a willingness to confront the challenges.”

According to Cermiño, one of the first steps to healing was to understand the problem of drug addiction and then find healthy solutions to confront this issue.

They found the help they were looking for from the various groups and organizations that network with Alfa y Omega assisting couples and their families.

Araya says he counts on social service agencies, psychologists and psychiatrists to confront the various situations that present themselves, in addition to the help parishes, ecclesial and apostolic groups can provide.

Thirty five Alfa y Omega retreats have been held in Chicago, Arizona and Mexico, and more than 800 couples have shared their experiences in other states like Tennessee, Wisconsin, Indiana and Michigan.

Alfa y Omega is not a movement, it is a ministry coordinated by the archdiocese’s Office of Family Ministries.

Araya said it is “a great blessing from God for Hispanic couples.”