Susan came home from her Opus Dei retreat in August, 1999. I seem to recall her being a little hesitant in telling me what was on her mind. But she did. She wanted to become a member of Opus Dei.
I should clarify here that there are (for lay persons) three types of Opus Dei membership:
Cooperators are not, strictly speaking, members of Opus Dei. They are involved in some regular way with Opus Dei. They need not be Catholics, or even Christians. Typical cooperators go to Opus Dei retreats, pray for "The Work," perhaps contribute financially. Susan and I were Cooperators.
Numeraries (and Numerary Assistants and Associates) are celibate. Clearly this was not what Susan meant.
Supernumeraries - so-called, not because they are somehow superior, but because they are in addition to the numeraries - may be - often are - married. They live the same sort of life as any other Catholic lay person - except that they have norms they are expected to follow, including certain patterns of daily prayer, attendance weekly at Opus Dei meetings, attendance at an annual week of theological education - and they have two bishops.
Most Catholics are under the authority of the bishop of their diocese. His is the government of the diocese, and he is the primary pastor, in Christ, of Catholics in that diocese - lay persons, clergy, religious (i.e. nuns, monks, sisters and brothers in religious orders).
Opus Dei is run as a 'personal prelature.' It is, so far, the only body in the Church that is so organised.
'Prelate' is just another name, in this context, for the bishop. Opus Dei has its own bishop - currently Javier Echevarria. The 'prelature' of the bishop of Auckland - Patrick Dunn - is the diocese of Auckland - extending from a little south of Pukekohe to North Cape. His prelature is a certain area.
The prelature of Bishop Javier is the persons of Opus Dei. That is why it is called a 'personal prelature.'
Susan wished to become a supernumerary of Opus Dei. Her bishop would be Bishop Javier, except for matters directly relating to the diocese, in which case Bishop Pat would be her bishop.
It was not a difficult decision for us to make. It was, I must say, a little scary. It would (has :-)) involve extra expenditure of time and money. Our lives would have to become, to an extent, organised more around Opus Dei.
I was delighted. I knew it would be good for both of us.
I knew it would be good for me - for my relationship with Susan has, through our marriage, not always been characterised by the freedom that should have been its nature. There have been times when I have felt that Susan did something because she thought she must simply follow me.
Which meant not only that she was not free; neither was I. Both of us have, I think, been freed, not from one another, but for one another in this.
I am still only a Cooperator. There are several reasons for this, but I have not felt any strong pressure to seek full membership. We have both been deeply blessed and helped by our respective memberships.
Susan joined Opus Dei in, I think, October of 1999. September of 2000 saw the flight of the last of our children from the nest.