How did the New Families School concept come about?

It seems that in our country, in a very special and extraordinary way, Providence has used the FAMILY as an instrument to spread the spirituality of unity. In hindsight, it was seen that this happened because the family was in fact the only natural environment that could hide "Jesus among us" from the malice of totalitarian power, just as the Nazarene family once hid Jesus from the Emperor Herod.

In the beginning of our encounter in times past, we had only the Word of Life at our disposal. Subsequently, the reports and experiences of other communities of families from different regions of Bohemia, Moravia and Slovakia were added, which were a great enrichment and inspiration for all. Then the material prepared by Danil and Anna Maria Zanzucchi, covering points of spirituality and aspects of life from the family perspective, was a great help. We have tried to pass on these themes to other families.

In the common life of these New Families, first in small groups and later in larger communities, a number of spiritual paths, vocations and decisions were profiled. Some of the New Families decided to adopt or foster children from orphanages, some began regular catechism classes, other families offered their help in marriage preparation and opened a family planning clinic. Over time, the small community of New Families grew into a larger one, reaching out to other families from other parts of the country. Paradoxically, the external conditions of political oppression seemed to further strengthen the sincerity of their decision to live the Gospel.

Thus the formation school of the New Families was gradually formed. At first it was a Saturday meeting at our home, but later the school took on a regular form, meeting in the library of the Endocrinological Institute in the centre of Prague. Subsequently, we recognized that when someone became ill or could not come, they missed the topic being discussed. So we introduced a model of weekly summer schools to which whole families were invited. A parallel program for children was provided. We also prepared our own scripts for Years 1 and 2.

The family, when alone, finds it hard to resist the pressures of a consumer society; going "against the tide" alone is not easy at all. New families radiate love for each other not only inwardly but also widely, and in very different ways, according to their capabilities - mainly by being authentic.

Stanislava and Petr Ettler

Impressions of some participants

How did we get to the New Families School? I was Gen. After we got married, my husband and I continued our life in the Movement with the families around Stáňa and Petra Ettler in Prague-Karlín. It was a nice and encouraging meeting, we had all known each other for many years. Stáňa always listened to me with motherly understanding and gave generously of her precious time. On one Friday phone call she said to me, "Tomorrow we start the New Families School. Do you want to come?" "Yes, we'd love to."

And so we began New Families School. We were also in Castel Gandolfo for the International School of New Families with the Zanzucchis in 1997. There was a whole busload of us. We went on family vacations and helped with babysitting at the summer meetings of the school.All the activities helped us in raising our daughter and in family life, living in community, drawing on the experiences of others. And a great gift was the inspiration of Adoption at a Distance, which we joined right away. I am very grateful for the friendship with the Ettlers and the Synks, who passed on and communicated Chiara's charisma to us. Thank you so much.

Dagmar Mejstřík

We received the offer to participate in the New Families School at a time when we were going through financial and relationship difficulties. We knew we needed to do something about it, but we didn't know how to go about it. Our friends offered to participate in the school and help us with the financial side of it. We don't usually think of our vacation as a large organized event, so we didn't know what to expect. However, we were pleasantly surprised at how the program was organized, we didn't feel manipulated, on the contrary we felt freedom.We are grateful for the time we had to realize who we were with and why. Finding the strength to start again knowing that we are not alone, that we are understood and loved, trying to listen to each other and relearning the communication of love.

Maria and Ondřej Rose

We left for the first session of the New Families School a little nervous because we did not know what to expect. But the very first evening at the taps put us at ease. Here we made our first friendships. The next morning, we had an easier time with the program. During our stay, we not only gained new knowledge, but most importantly inspiration for our family life. We also had a lot of fun, for example, when we rafted down the Otava River together. We also appreciated the program for the children who came with us. We definitely remember both years of the New Families School with fond memories.

Zuzana and Antonín Čermák