Community Pillar Stellar Contest Submissions

Region 10 DFWET Encounter - Southern Sweethearts Sharing Group

The Southern Sweethearts live the idea of community. And it was apparent to us the very first time we interacted with them. Minerva and I first felt the joy of Marriage Encounter on our weekend. It was very special for us as we had been looking for something to fulfill our desire to strengthen and renew our lives as a married couple. At the end of the weekend we received our first taste of the vibrancy of the Southern Sweethearts. Like everyone we were catching our breaths from the intense feelings that had been rekindled in us from the weekend when one couple came up to us and said with absolute conviction “you are ours”. We had no idea what this meant, yet at the renewal weekend we were invited to a wine and cheese social event hosted by this couple. This is where we met many of the other Southern Sweetheart couples. As one couple said to us when we entered the home, we don’t do handshakes, we do hugs. We were enveloped by many couples that day and it has never stopped.
 The previous Sharing Group leaders were a dynamic young couple who had served for 3 years prior to our leadership. Their four children along with the other children from many of our couples are an integral part and joy of the whole group. The empty nesters have adopted all of the children, as if they were their own grandchildren.
The Southern Sweethearts have a rich and comprehensive engagement with the outside community. Anywhere from maintaining a Facebook page that has even attracted one outside couple to attend the weekend, to Mass talks, following through with materials shared by the Pillars to invite new couples to the weekend, and a constant encouraging of each other to find ways to fill up each and every weekend.
This history includes a very active participation in the whole of WWME. Four couples are presenting couples, one couple who are slowing down in life were a presenting couple, one of the newest presenting couples previously was the Prayer Coordinators for the weekends. One of our couples is also a member of the Region team, yet still find time to be very active within the group. We have couples who challenge couples in their Parish to attend, who work with young couples till they are ready to attend a weekend. 

Our monthly Sharing Group meetings bring everyone great joy and are much fun. We rotate the presentation every month, so all participate. The presentations are relevant, funny, spiritual, heartfelt, and at times very emotional. Our trust in each other allows us to dig deeply into the challenges that life brings us. To people outside of the WWME community, it may seem risky to talk so openly with others about the personal and couple struggles we face, but within our community we feel completely safe to deal with the hard issues and share the importance of the gifts of our sacraments. Dialogues and sharing sessions at our meetings are very resounding and fruitful. These monthly meetings are regularly attended by many within our community and it doesn’t end there. Afterwards some couples go to dinner together to continue the joy from the meeting. Last Christmas the presenting couple created a wonderful activity so the children could participate and still have our usual sharing.

The group bond is more than just the monthly gathering. We participate in many social activities together, cook outs, parties or coming together to show our values such as going to the movie “Unplanned” as a group to show solidarity to our values for the respect of life. 
And this bond continues in all aspects of our relationship with the whole of WWME community. Our group is always a strong presence in renewal meetings, core meetings, and other events.  
The last time we hosted a weekend with another group we found ourselves taking on new roles as some of the regular weekend host couples were unable to make it. Also, it was a new venue for a weekend, so we adapted along with the presenting couples to make sure all the attendees felt as if this was our place. Each couple pulled through and the experience was so exciting we went to dinner afterwards. At the restaurant it took four tables pulled together to fit us all. And even when we aren’t the hosting group we still attend the Friday night bag drag and Sunday Send Off to show our support and our belief in WWME.
There is so much more to share about the Southern Sweethearts that one to two pages cannot begin to capture it all. Everything from the simple tasks of one couple being our supply couple for the potlucks, to the reminders each month for everyone to attend, to having daycare at every meeting, to the larger events such as participating in the annual World Priest Day dinner.  All groups are asked to participate and bring gifts and our group enjoys contributing to this wonderful event. No task exists, everything is done because we want to participate, it is part of a routine that doesn’t feel like a routine, but a community coming together to share the joy of marriage and community.
I hope you consider the Southern Sweethearts for Stellar Community. We feel we are one.

We are very proud of this community that has grown tremendously long before we arrived and became the current Sharing Group leaders.

Submitted by Charles & Minerva Holmes