From the revised and updated Manual
of the Original Marriage Encounter
by Fr. Gabriel Calvo
The first MARRIAGE ENCOUNTER was experienced on the weekend of January 6th through the 8th, 1961, at Castell de Corbera, a village about fifteen miles from Barcelona, Spain. This M.E. experience introduced 27 married couples of the working class to a way of living married life.
This way, which a group of married couples were living, was based on an ever growing mutual confiding between husband and wife so that each married couple was ever striving towards greater and greater human and spiritual intimacy.
When Jaime and Mercedes Ferrer-Escola were married in 1943, they were searching for something for couples within the Catholic Church. Their Spiritual Director, Fr. Vicente Lores, General Director of the Diocesan Laborer Priests Institute in Spain, encouraged the couples to pray and they would discover what they were seeking.
In 1952, Fr. Lores introduced this couple to Fr. Gabriel Calvo, a newly ordained priest and a member of the aforementioned Priestly Institute. They invited other married couples to join them; this group of couples received episcopal approval as “The Matrimonial Teams For A Better World.” Their purpose was that each married couple grow in union of heart, mind and will through mutual confiding. At bi-weekly meetings these couples studied and put into practice the “Discourses of Pope Pius XII to the Newlyweds” (1939-1943) “in the light of the Word of God.”
In May 1958 the Teams changed their name to “Matrimonial Teams of Pius XII.” This was to avoid confusion with the Better World Movement of which they were not a part. In August 1958 Pius XII received some couples from these Teams in a private audience. What he said to them encouraged them all the more to live more intensely the way of life based on mutual confiding and the Word of God.
Toward the last half of 1960 other married couples were coming to Fr. Calvo and asking him to help them improve their marriage and family life. They did not belong to any matrimonial group in Spain. Fr. Calvo, drawing from the material used by teams of Pius XII, conceived a weekend experience called: “ENCUENTRO CONYUGAL” (Marriage Encounter). Fr. Gabriel Calvo along with Jaime and Mercedes Ferrer-Escola animated the first “ENCUENTRO CONYUGAL” (Marriage Encounter) for those couples.
Through the efforts and zeal of the Teams of Pius XII the MARRIAGE ENCOUNTER experience was spreading to many cities in Spain — Castellon, Palma de Mallorca, Madrid, Murcia, Zaragoza, Bilbao, Valladolid, San Sebastian, Avila, Valencia, Toledo, Granada and Talavera de la Reina.
In September, 1966, Jaime and Mercedes Ferrer-Escola and Fr. Calvo were invited to Caracas, Venezuela, for the founding of the International Confederation of the Christian Family Movement (ICCFM). To the attendees from many parts of the world at this meeting, they gave testimony concerning the M.E. in Spain. At this meeting they were invited by José and Luzma Alvarez-Icaza, President Couple of the Latin American MFC (CFM) to come and animate the M.E. in Mexico. They went and gave the first M.E. in Mexico City. Afterwards, Fr. Calvo, along with some trained Mexican couples, animated three M.E. weekends, in three different regions of Mexico.
On the last weekend of November, Fr. Calvo, accompanied by Jaime and Ana Maria Benet-Abiega from Mexico, animated the first M.E weekend in Miami, FL, participated by 14 Spanish speaking couples and two priests.
From 1958 the “Matrimonial Teams of Pius XII,” the “Apostolic Family Movement” and many other Marriage and Family groups were taking steps to unite themselves into one movement in Spain. This union formally took place in 1968 with the name of “Movimiento Familiar Cristiano” (MFC). Its purpose was to bring together the ideological aspirations of these groups.
The “Matrimonial Teams of Pius XII,” who abandoned their name as did all the other groups, brought with them the M.E. which the MFC committed itself to promote, as one of its primary services, to married and family life because the couple is the “heart of the family.”
In August 1967 at the CFM meeting at Notre Dame a M.E. was offered to the married couples attending both it and the ICCFM meeting. The couples represented five continents.
At the ICCFM meeting in Madrid (Spain) the following October, Pat and Patty Crowley of the U.S. and José and Luzma Alvarez-Icaza met with Jaime and Mercedes Ferrer-Escola and Fr. Calvo and laid plans for the birth of “Family Encounter of America and Spain” (E.F.A.E.) The main purpose was to promote M.E. among the Hispanic married couples living in poor areas in the U.S.
The result was the sending of 50 couples, 18 sons and daughters and 29 priests organized into 17 teams to offer the M.E. experience in 30 different cities of the U.S., between August 3rd and 28th, 1968.
In August 1969 the CFM Convention held at Notre Dame offered two M.E. weekends. The ICCFM was meeting at the same time. Most of the leadership of the Confederation which was composed of couples from the U.S., India, New Zealand, the Philippines, Great Britain and Ireland experienced the M.E. During the work sessions of the Confederation, time was given to the Spanish couples to discuss M.E. Finally, the ICCFM moved to appoint a couple from Spain, Jose and Margarita Pich-Botey, to promote M.E. internationally, especially in all countries represented in the Confederation.
In the previous month (July) the Spanish couples in the U.S. formed their own MFC/USA whose primary service was to promote M.E.
MARRIAGE ENCOUNTER has remained a primary service of the “Movimiento Familiar Cristiano” (MFC) in Spain and Latin America as well as among the Spanish MFC/USA. In the U.S. in 1971 M.E. separated itself from CFM and became its own organization.
In 1973 this M.E. organization split into several different expressions. Some of these expressions have spread to other areas of the world.
Today MARRIAGE ENCOUNTER weekends are experienced in many countries throughout the world animated by more than 25 different expressions.