Actually 27 diocesan centers exists in Poland. Till September 2019, about 2100 basic retreats for married couples were conducted, with about 30.000 couples participating. Nearly 20.000 couples took part in the Evenings for Couples in Love and Retreats for Engaged Couples.
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The first Encounters of Married Couples retreat in Russian was carried out at Osieczany near Myślenice, southern Poland, in July 1990. The attendees were five Orthodox married couples from Fr. Alexander Men’s family groups functioning half-legally in Moscow, and two Catholic married couples. After returning to Moscow, they continued post-retreat meetings, and in next years they organized two weekends, which were carried out with the help of couples and a priest from Poland. The next several weekends were carried out on their own. Fr. Vladimir Arkhipov, the successor of the murdered Fr. Alexander Men, joined the team. However, they did not manage to develop the Encounters of Married Couples in Moscow on a larger scale at that time.
In 2000, first married couples from Kaliningrad attended a weekend in Gdynia, Poland, which gave rise to establishing a Centre in the Kaliningrad Oblast (Region).
In 2001, on the invitation of Bishop Jerzy Mazur SVD, the first Encounters of Married Couples retreat was carried out in Irkutsk by animators from Poland and Latvia; two later weekends were also supported from Poland. A retreat for animators was held in 2003. Retreats for Married Couples and post-retreat meetings have been continued since then, more or less regularly.
On the initative of Dominican Fathers, an Encounters of Married Couples retreat was held in Saint Petersburg for the first time in 2004, carried out by animators from Warsaw and Kaliningrad. No permanent centre has been established there so far. However, an Orthodox Church Centre of the Encounters of Married Couples was created in 2012, inspired by Orthodox participants in that retreat, with the consent of and in consultation with Irena and Jerzy Grzybowski. In 2013, an agreement defining the rules od cooperation was signed during the International Convention of Animators in Pelplin, Poland. It was signed by Irena and Jerzy Grzybowski on behalf of the Catholic Encounters of Married Couples, and by Protoiereus Alexander Diagilev and his wife Ljubov Diagilev. This cooperation was supported by the Pontifical Council for the Laity, the Pontifical Council for the Family, and Orthodox Church authorities.
The local agreement on Catholic-Orthodox cooperation in the Kaliningrad Oblast was signed in 2017 by Paolo Pezzi, Archbishop of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Mother of God in Moscow, and Bishop Seraphim of the Orthodox Eparchy in Kaliningrad.
In 2016, the Encounters of Married Couples started retreats in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Transfiguration at Novosibirsk. Basic Retreats are held at least once a year, and several post-retreat groups are active there.
A Baptist Centre of the Encounters of Married Couples started to be created in 2018.
The first weekend in Ukraine, initiated by Fr. Serafin Tyszko OCD and carried out by animators from Poland, was held in 1992 at Skrahlivka near Berdychiv, in a former Young Pioneer camp (the village had been owned by Carmelite Fathers in the 17th century). It gave rise to the Encounters of Married Couples’ presence in the Roman Catholic Church. The next weekend, a year later, was again held at Skrahlivka. Further weekends, initiated by the Carmelite Fathers, were organized in Kiev. This Encounters of Married Couples centre owed a great deal to the married couple Walentyna and Waldemar Witliński, and Fr. Maksymilian Podwika OCD. In 1994, the first formation weekend was held in Kiev, aimed at preparing animators from both existing centres: Kiev and Berdychiv. The retreat held a year later was carried out entirely by animators from Ukraine. The first Advanced Retreat was held in 1995, also at Skrahlivka. Besides Kiev and Berdychiv, a centre was established in Kharkiv, and retreats were also offered in other towns and villages, e.g. Bar and Yazlovets. A weekend for Orthodox married couples was held in Poltava. Weekends have been held regularly in Berdychiv in recent years, and in 2019 a retreat was offered in the Archdiocese of Lviv.
Since 1999, the Encounters of Married Couples has been developing in Ukraine in the Greek Catholic Church. The first independent Retreat for Married Couples was held in Truskavets. Eparchial centres have been established in Kiev, Lviv, Ternopil, Ivano-Frankivsk and Chortkiv. In 2002, the First Convention of Greek Catholic Animators of the Encounters of Married Couples was held in Kiev. Retreats and post-retreat meetings are carried out regularly, and summer holidays for families are organized. This centre also organized International Leader Conventions in Bukovel and Yaremche.
Initiated by the Pontifical Council for the Laity, an International Congress was held in 2003 in Kiev on Christianity in the former Soviet Union countries. Ukrainian animators, both from the Roman Catholic and Greek Catholic Churches, were on the organizing committee of that congress, and animator couples from Latvia and Ukraine were official delegates to the congress and presented the work of the Encounters of Married Couples.
Weekends in Lithuania were started in 1992 by the Cracow Centre in cooperation with Dominicans in Vilnius. The first retreat was held at Šilas near Vilnius. The next weekend was held in 1993, carried out by Poles, Lithuanians and Latvians, and in 1994, there was a weekend at Nemenčinė preparing animators from Lithuania and Latvia, carried out by married couples from Poland. The first independent weekend in Lithuania was held in June 1995. Since then, weekends have been organized several times a year. There are centres in Vilnius, Kaunas and Panevėžys. Post-retreat meetings and workshops for animators are conducted.
The first Encounters of Married Couples Basic Retreat in Latvian, a joint effort of couples from Latvia, Lithuania and Poland, was held in 1994 in Jūrmala near Riga, Latvia. The first independent weekend in Latvia was held in May 1995. Post-retreat work has been continuing since then, gradually but systematically, embracing both married and engaged couples. Four Diocesan Centres have been established: in Riga, Rēzekne, Jelgava and Liepāja. Evenings for Couples in Love have been approved by the Latvian Episcopal Conference as the only official preparatory course for the sacrament of matrimony in this country. The First Latvian Animator Convention was held in the autumn of 2004. These conventions are held regularly every year. Summer holidays for families are also organized.
The first retreat weekend in Belarus was held in 1996 in Baranavichy, but it had no continuation. The Encounters of Married Couples was again introduced to this country in 2002. There are two centres at present: in Minsk and Baranavichy. A new centre is being established in Vitebsk. Basic Retreats are held several times a year and small post-retreat groups are thriving, not only in these cities, but also in several smaller towns in different parts of the country. Advanced Retreats, Retreats for Animators and animators’ conventions are organized, as well as Evenings for Couples in Love, Retreats for Engaged Couples and summer holidays for families.
The Encounters of Married Couples has also been introduced to Moldova. The Polish Bielsko-Biała Centre has played an important part in establishing the Encounters of Married Couples in this country. The first retreat was held in 1998. Sine then, retreats have been organized once a year, usually at the Fides Centre in Chișinău (Kishinev). Post-retreat meetings are conducted in Bălți. An Advanced Retreat was held in 2014.
In other countries
The first retreat in Romania was held in 1993 in Sinaia, carried out by animators from Warsaw. The next weekends were also held in Sinaia, in 1994 and 1995; both were carried out by married couples and a priest from Poland, but the first Romanian animators already joined in to cover some of the topics. More than ten further retreats were carried out independently. The beginnings of centres in Bucharest, Oradea and Cluj emerged. Various difficulties caused a break in Encounters of Married Couples activity in Romania, but a retreat weekend was held again in the autumn of 2004 in Sinaia, and on May 6-8, 2005 in Cîmpulung.
The first retreat in Kazakhstan was held in 2006. Besides animators from Poland, it was carried out by animators from Russia, Belarus and Ukraine. During the first several years, the retreats were organized regularly twice a year, and two post-retreat groups were active.
In both these countries, however, post-retreat work failed to be continued.
Encounters of Married Couples in countries of Western Europe and in the USA
Participation in Basic Retreats in the Wrocław Centre by Polish married couples living in Ireland and Germany resulted in weekends being held in Dublin, Ireland, in 2007 and in Dűsseldorf, Germany, in 2010. This initiated the development of the Encounters of Married Couples among the Polish community abroad. Thanks to the fact that couples from England knew couples from the Jaworzno Centre, Poland, a retreat was held in Brownshill near Swindon, in the west of England, in 2012. At the same time, retreats started in Bournemouth in the south of England, and in 2018 in Hyning in the north of England. Systematic post-retreat work is carried out in all these three countries.
In 2012, the first weekend was held in the United States of America. It was organized by long-time animators from Warsaw, Poland, permanently resident in the USA. Retreats are held in the National Shrine of Our Lady of Czestochowa in Doylestown (American Czestochowa), Pennsylvania, as well as in Verona, New Jersey, Bridgeport, Connecticut, and also in California. Systematic post-retreat work is carried out. Several retreats have also been held in Chicago.
There have been two retreats in Belgium and Switzerland, and the first ones in the Netherlands, Norway and Sweden.
Although at present, retreats in these countries are mostly intended for Polish communities (except Sweden, where they are held in Swedish), we expect that ultimately our centres there will be open to all people in those countries, and retreats will also be held in local languages.