By Deacon Gary and Kay Aitchison
Special to The Witness
AMES — The Ames Christian Family Movement (CFM) marked a major milestone with the celebration of its 60th anniversary on Oct. 25. Former members, current members and new members came together for dinner, a brief program and social time at the St. Cecilia Parish hall.
The birth of the Christian Family Movement in the 1940s was an extraordinary event in the pre-Vatican II Catholic Church. Laymen and women began meeting simultaneously in small groups in various parts of the country, then joined together in 1949 to create the Christian Family Movement. They developed programming using the Observe-Judge-Act (OJA) methodology to reach out in action in their families, churches and communities.
CFM fanned out across the country, spreading like wildfire and reached the Archdiocese of Dubuque in 1952. The first group in Ames was formed by Father James Supple at St. Thomas Aquinas Parish when he brought together a group of young married students and professionals in the late 1950s. Joe Stritzel, who attended the celebration, was a member of that first group with his late wife, Marcella. Marlene Weisshaar, Bernie Beaudry, and Steve and Audrey Marley were in the first group that formed at St. Cecilia in 1959. They all were in attendance at the recent anniversary celebration and continue to participate in a CFM group. Melissa and Craig Kaufman are among CFM’s newest members and brought their children, Kenna and Griffin.
From the beginning, CFMers used programming developed by its members and based on the OJA methodology. CFM’s mission was to share faith in homes, churches and in the world. In doing so, marriages were strengthened, families were enriched, and leaders were developed. Groups built community as members worked together to reach out in action.
Over the years, the Ames groups spawned a wide variety of actions and causes from small personal endeavors to large community actions. The impact reached far beyond the local community. In the late 1960s, several families participated in CFM sponsored Christian Family Mission Vacations in Appalachia. They launched the Appalachia Committee which sent clothing, materials and volunteers to Appalachia for more than 50 years. One group sponsored two refugee families. Others supported an emergency shelter project in Ames. In the early 1970s, the federation brought the Marriage Encounter to the archdiocese. From 1981 to 2001, the National CFM Office resided in Ames. Deacon Gary and Kay Aitchison served as national presidents from 1981 to 1985 and as international presidents from 2010 to 2013. Today, many CFMers volunteer with Meals on Wheels as well as Food at First, a program that provides an evening meal and fellowship to those in need.
Families were enriched and developed community through CFM. A bishop and a priest were nurtured in two CFM families. The federation is proud to claim Bishop William Joensen, bishop of the Diocese of Des Moines, and Father Andy Vogel of the Diocese of Winona, Minnesota, as CFM kids.
During the short after-dinner program, emcee Vern Schaefer introduced Rick and Sandy Hoenig of Winterset. They are former Ames CFMers and serve as national treasurers. They read a letter of congratulations from Brian and Mary Ann Thelen. The couple serve as co-presidents of the national organization. Acknowledgements were also shared from archdiocesan family life director Matt Selby. Father James Secora, pastor of St. Cecilia Parish, gave a personal message of congratulations. In the spirit of action, those attending were invited to make a contribution to a local charity — One Heart Catholic Mission — which leads mission trips to Nicaragua.
Forty-five families are currently involved in eight groups in the Ames Federation of the Christian Family Movement. They include young developing families, school-age families, families with young adult children, empty nesters, grandparents and retirees.
As Ames CFM moves forward into its next decade, it is alive with enthusiasm and welcoming young, new families who want to enrich their family life, build community, and deepen faith much as the pioneers who launched those first groups 60 years ago.
Deacon Gary and Kay Aitchison are from Ames.
Craig, Griffin, Melissa and Kenna Kaufman, participants in the Christian Family Movement, are pictured at the 60th anniversary celebration held in Ames Oct. 25. (Photo by Bill Haas)