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Fr. Gabriel Calvo - Founder
Marriage Retorno was founded by the same group of couples, working with Fr. Gabriel Calvo, who developed the Marriage Encounter (ME) in Spain. As ME began spreading throughout Spain, the presenting couples came to Fr. Calvo and reported two problems. One, many of the couples, while having wonderful experiences on and after the ME weekend, were not bringing God into their relationship. Two, the presenting couples were getting worn out giving so many weekends. They were not being fed.
So Fr. Calvo, working with some of these original presenting couples, developed a weekend experience to help bring God into the center of the couples relationship. Using the method of couple prayer presented on the weekend, the couples can continue to draw on a source of strength and growth for their relationship that will energize them in their life and ministry. This weekend experience he called Retorno, after the highway turn around signs found in Spain. (A time to look around and make sure you are going in the right direction.) After Fr. Calvo came to the US, he developed other programs for families and singles that were also called Retornos. So the weekend designed for married couples was renamed Marriage Retorno.
North American Experience:
The MR experience came to the US in 1972 at a CFM Conference at Notre Dame and began spreading throughout the country. It drew from the large number of couples that had experienced ME. It seems they had the same yearning for more as the couples in Spain. In 1975, a few of the original MR team couples and priests gathered at Morristown, New Jersey to review what was happening with MR, and tried to determine how best to continue to support the growth of MR in North America. They determined that MR was a community of couples and religious who were serving in a ministry to other couples and religious seeking a richer relationship with God, living in the Lord. They decided to establish a central office to coordinate MR among the couples and religious who were serving in the MR ministry. They did not want to establish another organization like ME. Rather, they saw their role as supporting other couples and religious in their existing ministries,"ministering to the ministers".
There was also a need to remain independent of any one of the ME organizations existing throughout the country. MR could then serve each of these ME organizations, without being seen as attempting to proselytize couples from one group to another. Intentionally, there is no follow up after a MR weekend. All couples and religious are encouraged to go back to their own ministry or to join one if not already involved. They are encouraged to join a prayer group to continue to grow in the Lord in a community of fellow believers. True, some couples and religious do choose to join the MR ministry as presenting couples. This is really a small number, and many of whom are active in MR also continue to support and work in their original ministry. This ideal has not always worked out as human beings are suspicious by nature. Some ME communities were not open to MR. They were concerned it would drain their membership, or possibly threaten their control. As noted this was never a goal of MR as we only want to serve married couples and religious in their ministries.
To support the MR structure in the United States, Retorno was incorporated as a non-profit organization in July 1978 in the state of Minnesota. This gave the group legal standing and allowed donations to MR to be gifts to charity for income tax purposes. As a corporation, there is a president, a vice president, a treasurer and a board of directors. In this organization, a Coordinating Couple and a priest are selected every three years to serve as the officers. The Coordinating Couple and the Priest are responsible to then select couples and religious to serve as members of the board of directors. The main role of the officers and the board is to serve the MR community by providing a central place to share information and insight and to maintain the integrity of the weekend. A newsletter called the Ram's Horn is used to communicate to the larger MR Community. It is published a few times each year.
Fr. Calvo also insisted that MR have a Bishop serve as an Episcopal Moderator. It is through our moderator that we are to maintain communion with the Church. Since the beginning MR has been served by Bishop Stafford of Baltimore, MD, later Denver, CO; Bishop Daily of Long Island, NY; and most recently by Bishop Wm. Franklin of Davenport, IA.
Fr. Calvo was personally involved with the development of MR in North America and worked with the MR community, translating the Spanish MR manual to English. The original manual was published in 1977. Fr. Calvo then revised the MR manual in 1990. North America presenting teams use this manual to prepare and present MR weekend. Fr. Calvo copyrighted both manuals.