The MEFM-CA as an organization is relatively new, but as a uniquely spiritual, lay apostolate by married couples for other married couples, has a rich history that started in Spain and brought to the Philippines from the USA via the Latin American countries, specifically Mexico. And now back to the USA, as a parish- based movement affiliated with The Incarnation Church in Glendale, CA and officially recognized as a ministry by the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, under the auspices of the Office of Family.
Knowing the history of the organization provides a perspective of the many influences that have contributed to its personality as an autonomous, transparent, collaborative, and mature movement that encourages and promotes the strengthening of marriage and the family unit consistent with the statement made by the Most Reverend José H. Gomez, Archbishop of Los Angeles in the Tidings titled, The Human Ecology of Marriage and Family, wherein he stated that “As Catholics, we know that marriage and family are part of the deepest mysteries of our Father’s Creation. The human family is the vessel through which God pours out His blessing.”
The major milestones in the birth and development of the MEFM-CA are as follows:
- 1961 - Founded by Father Gabriel Calvo, a Diocesan Laborer priest, in Barcelona, Spain, as a Catholic marriage retreat (a marriage renewal program) known as Encuentro Conjugal.
- 1966 – Father Calvo and a Spanish encountered couple addressed the International Confederation of Christian Family Movements in Caracas. With a group of "encountered" Spanish couples, Fr. Calvo then proceeded to spread the Marriage Encounter (ME) weekend to Latin America via Mexico and from Mexico to Spanish speaking couples in the United States.
- 1967 - a couple and a priest presented the first ME weekend to seven couples and a few priests at the Christian Family Movement (CFM) convention at Notre Dame University.
- 1969 - Luisito & Asuncion Sison attended a CFM convention at Southbend, Indiana as delegates and then attended an ME weekend a week after. That same year, Father Ruben Tanseco SJ, also attended an ME weekend but in Michigan, USA. Then the three of them brought the Marriage Encounter to the Philippines as an apostolic program of the CFM and conducted the 1st ME weekend with eleven couples and four priests. Among the priests were Fr. Jess Fernandez SJ (Tuklasan series), Fr. Pat Lim (Villa Adelaida series), and Fr. Aureo Nepumoceno (SWADCAP series).
- 1970 - Due to philosophical differences, the ME groups in the USA split into two separate organizations. The group based in Minneapolis known as “National Marriage Encounter (NME)”, separated from the group based in New York under the direction of Father Charles (Chuck) Gallagher SJ known as “Worldwide Marriage Encounter (WME)”. As a result, NME and WME both exist today as two different expressions of the original weekend Encuentro Conjugal developed by Father Gabriel Calvo.
- 1976 - The Marriage Encounter Foundation (MEF) was organized by the CFM as the funding arm of the CFM ME programs. The ME Program itself was under the supervision of Marriage Encounter Philippines (MEP) council of ME team couples.
- 1984 - The Marriage Encounter Foundation of the Philippines (MEFP)was organized with the merger of the MEF and the MEP. Today, MEFP serves as the umbrella organization for more than around the Philippines.
- 1989 – The Marriage Encounter in the Filipino Perspective (MEFP) came to Los Angeles, CA. Antonio (Tony) & Teresita (Tess) Aranda started it through the encouragement of Al & Raquel Canonigo, and enlisted the spiritual guidance of co-founders Msgr. Cesar (Ching) Encinares and Fr. Antonio (Tony) Astudillo. Sr. Irma Isip, the Director of Filipino Religious Education for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles believing that as a marriage renewal and enrichment movement, it could help couples strengthen their relationships, approached the Office of Family Life. This eventually led to the MEFP officially being recognized as a ministry in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, under the auspices of the Office of Family Life. The MEFP Los Angeles since its inception has always been recognized and affiliated with MEFP Philippines.
- 1990 – The first MEFP weekend was held on November 4th at the Howard Johnson in Monrovia, CA with five participating couples including Al & Raquel Cannonigo.
- 2001 - MEFP regionalization started in June as originally envisioned by Tess Aranda prior to her death in February of that year. The four MEFP communities that were established, included: - The San Fernando and San Gabriel communities of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, the Holy Trinity community of the Diocese of Orange, and the San Bernardino community of the Diocese of San Bernardino. After 11 years in existence, MEFP had 45 ME Weekends.
- 2006 - On February 19th, the fifth MEFP community, the San Lorenzo community of the Diocese of Riverside, was born.
- 2008 – The MEFP communities of Los Angeles decided to organize themselves due to differences in philosophy, objectives, and direction. The Marriage Encounter Movement of California (MEMC) came into being under Msgr. Cesar (Ching) Encinares as founder and spiritual director with the intention of not limiting the ME weekends experience from just a Filipino perspective but also from other cultural perspectives. MEFP-San Gabriel community called themselves as the Marriage Encounter of Southern California and the MEFP-Holy Trinity community with a special emphasis on the marriage enrichment formation component of their ME program.
- 2009 - MEFP’s Founder, Tony Aranda joined his beloved wife, Tess Aranda on September 24th. Their marriage of 58 years produced a family of 11 children, 23 grandchildren 13 great -grandchildren, and 2 MEFP co -founders.
- 2012 - MEFP gave birth to a new community called the Marriage Encounter and Family Movement of California (MEFM-CA).
A committee of twelve couples worked tirelessly to develop the new MEFM-CA movement with it’s brand new mission and vision, determined to collaborate with other ME ministries and to increase the spiritual growth of its members. These 12 couples comprise the initial membership of the official Administrative Advisory Council (AAC)also known as the “Council” of MEFM-CA.
Promoting the spiritual welfare of MEFM-CA is the Spiritual Advisory Council (SAC) initially composed of four Deacons of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles supported by their spouses. The SAC is the official spiritual council of MEFM.
The First MEFM-CA Weekend was held on August 17-19 at the Holiday Inn and Suites in Fullerton. Fr. Tony Astudillo, one of MEFP’s Co-Founders, was the Spiritual Director for the weekend. Fr. Tony together with his parish-based Cana Ecclesial Team conducted the weekend and named the weekend MEFM#1-CANA#50. This is in accord with MEFM-CA’s desire for greater collaboration with other ME ministries.
On August 24, the First MEFM-CA Thanksgiving Mass was held at the Incarnation Church in Glendale presided by Msgr. Stephen Zak, Parish Administrator of Incarnation Church assisted by the Deacons of MEFM -CA’s SAC. MEFM-CA is recognized by Incarnation Church in Glendale as one of their ministries.
It is our prayer that the MEFM-CA established on the feast of Sts. Peter and Paul, June 29, will be built on solid rock and with God’s love and mercy, will continue to minister to married couples and their families.