From the movement’s founding till 2019
The Movement was founded in Poland in years 1977/78. As the Movement of its own spirituality, it was created by Irena and Jerzy Grzybowski, though the first experimental encounter was began by late Mr Stanisław Boguszewski (†1980), Pole from Canada. He brought to Poland one of programmes of the Movement Marriage Encounter. He helped in organisation few experimental meetings and later withdrew from this activity. It was absolutely needful to deepen the merit of programme and introduct some changes. Irena and Jerzy Grzybowski inspired and guided the evolution of the core programme; they created or assisted in creation of new apostolate programmes, supervised spiritual formation of the Movement. They finally defined, the retreat character of the Movement as well as its theological principles. They defined the dialogue as the spiritual way to the sanctity. From Poland, Encounters of Married Couples spread to several other countries. Regular national and international workshops, retreats ands conventions of leading couples and responsibles for the Association are important factors for their formation and in comon reflection on the development of the Encounters of Married Couples.
Most centres in Poland have been set up as a result of the bottom-up initiative of married couples who had attended Encounters of Married Couples retreats and decided to bring retreat weekends to where they lived.
From 1983, new centres were successively established in Wrocław, Toruń, Opole, Kraków, Szczecin, Łódź, and other Polish cities. Couples conducting the retreats worked diligently, often with great perseverance, and sometimes learning from their own mistakes, in order to organize subsequent weekends, find new animators, and invite new couples to attend.
On August 3rd, 1989, a group of animators took part in a pilgrimmage to Rome. Irena and Jerzy Grzybowscy gave the Holy Father John Paul II an album presenting the Encounters of Married Couples’ work.
Important events in the Encounters of Married Couples history include its participation in the 17th International Family Congress held in Warsaw on April 14-17, 1994 (Jerzy Grzybowski was a member of the Programme Board) and in subsequent Congresses of Catholic Movements in Poland. In 1996, we wrote the first Statute of the Encounters of Married Couples, which was approved by Bishop Edward Samsel, the then Delegate of the Polish Episcopal Conference for Religious Movements.
In 2000, during the World Meeting of Families organized by the Holy See, Irena i Jerzy Grzybowski gave the Holy Father John Paul II a painting in St. Peter’s Square in Rome, on behalf of the Encounters of Married Couples centres from all the countries where the Association is present. The painting, entitled Married Couple in Dialogue with each other and with God, had been painted by Wacław Sobieraj, an Encounters of Married Couples animator. On the next day, Irena and Jerzy Grzybowski attended Mass in the Holy Father’s private chapel, and were received at a private audience. The Pope received them again in 2002.
Almost from the very beginning, we offered follow-up post-retreat meetings, the form and content of which were gradually shaped as we gained experience. We started other forms of work, too, primarily Evenings for Couples in Love (from 1984, with special contribution from the Wrocław Centre), and Retreats for Engaged Couples (about 10 years later).
The first retreat for couples in civil unions after divorce was held at Laski near Warsaw on March 22-24, 1995. Since that time, this type of retreat has usually been conducted twice a year. So far, it has been regularly offered only in the Warsaw Centre, where post-retreat meetings for this type of participants are also held.
According to Jerzy Grzybowski’s instructions and on his commission, the Icon of the Encounters of Married Couples was painted in 2005 by Ventzislav Piriankov. It quickly became very popular in the entire Association, both in Poland and in the Association’s centres outside Poland. The Icon was consecrated in the same year by Stanisław Gądecki, Metropolitan Archbishop of Poznań, during the International Convention of Encounters of Married Couples Animators in Poznań.
The development of post-retreat work is very important. The number of post-retreat small groups is growing, as well as the number of Advanced Retreats conducted according to programmes approved by the Assocation’s Managing Board.
In recent years, the rudiments of spirituality of dialogue have been described, which determine the identity of our movement.
The 2011 pilgrimmage of representatives of National Managing Boards to Rome was an important event in Encounters of Married Couples history. Its participants were received by Cardinal Stanisław Ryłko, President of the Pontifical Council for the Laity, and Cardinal Ennio Antonelli, President of the Pontifical Council for the Family. Vira and Zinovij Kuzymkiv from Ukraine, members of Encounter of Married Couple’s delegation, gave the Holy Father Benedict XVI the Icon of the Encounters of Married Couples.
In 2006 and 2014, Irena and Jerzy Grzybowski attended World Congresses of Ecclesial Movements organized by the Pontifical Council for the Laity, and in 2015 they participated in the international congress of representatives of Catholic Movements and Associations, “The Vocation and Mission of the Family in the Church and Contemporary World”, which was a kind of consultation in the work between two sessions of the Synod on Family.
So far, the Encounters of Married Couples is the only international movement founded in Poland and approved by the Holy See as a Catholic association.
The documentation of Encounters of Married Couples work has been archived, and includes the most important documents, an archive of meetings and Connventions of animators, Bulletins, bibliography, etc. The 1978-2018 Book of Testimonies has been designed and published in Polish and English.
According to the Holy See’s recommedation, the Association’s authorities have their seat in Warsaw.