Aug 18-31, 2005
VOL 124 NO. 28
A Meeting of the Minds
By Claudia Mathis/ SUN staff writer
SUN photo(s) Paul Finch
Engaged couples prepare for life together
The diocese is striving to provide opportunities for engaged couples to establish maturing and successful marriages through a meaningful marriage preparation program. Its goal is to help prepare couples not just for their wedding day, but for their married life together. The diocese wants to help engaged couples grow not only in their relationship to each other, but also to God.
The first step in the marriage preparation process is for the engaged couple to notify their parish priest six months prior to the time they want to have the wedding. The priest will then instruct the couple on what form of marriage preparation he wants them to pursue that will best fit their circumstances.
The diocese suggests participation in one of the following programs for every couple preparing for marriage: Marriage Preparation Conferences (Pre-Cana), Engaged Encounter Weekends, Evenings for Engaged, and Preparing to Live in Love.
The Marriage Preparation Conferences are sponsored by the diocese. The program consists of one or more sessions (with a minimum time of six hours) and is conducted by trained teams of priest(s) and married couples. The format includes a presentation by the leader, group discussions and communication exercises. The topics covered are: sacramentality, adjustments, communication, finances, parenthood and sexuality. Sue Kielar, director of the Eastern Region Family Life Education Office, said, “The conference covers a variety of topics and includes marriage as a Sacrament. It gives the couples a very sound beginning.”
Tammy Sherlock and Joseph Occhipinti III, parishioners of St. Peter’s Church in Rome, recently participated in the Marriage Preparation Conference program. Sherlock said she loved the program. “It was a great experience,” she said. “I think it’s important for all couples to participate in this program, because it presents issues for engaged couples to discuss that they wouldn’t normally think about. I’m definitely glad we took it. It wasn’t a waste of time.”
She and her fiancé plan to be married Sept. 16. Sherlock said she remembers learning about the reality of what marriage really is — two people coming together from two different families. She also remembers how the facilitators stressed the use of open communication between couples. The couples were encouraged to communicate their feelings to one another. After participating in the program, Sherlock and Occhipinti now take time out of each day to spend with one another, continuing to communicate freely about their feelings.
Sherlock said she learned that when you care more about your partner’s feelings than your own, it encourages you to put 100 percent into the relationship.
Sherlock said, “I enjoyed the stories the couples told about how they succeeded in staying together after experiencing some rough times in their marriage.”
Jeff and Shannon Lewis, parishioners of Holy Cross Church in DeWitt, have been married nine years. Before they were married, they participated in the Engaged Encounter Weekend program.
Through participation in this program, the couple is encouraged to reflect on every aspect of their relationship, with the guidance and support of two presenting couples and a priest over the course of a weekend.
Involvement in the Engaged Encounter Weekend forces the couple to recognize any unhealthy behaviors and attitudes in their relationship. The work that the couple does on the weekend strengthens their trust and love for one another through private writings and sharing with one another and with the group. Team couples share their personal struggles and joys, and support the couple in an intense weekend of growth and deepening intimacy.
“It was a wonderful experience,” remarked Shannon. “I think more people should participate in it. This program blows the other ones out of the water.
“We were encouraged to be open and to listen to one another. After the team couple gave their presentation, we separated ourselves from one another, and then wrote a letter to our mate, describing what we heard during the presentation and how we felt about it. Then, as a result of sharing what we had written, we discovered more about ourselves as a couple and as individuals.”
The Lewises learned how important it is to make sure that they take time to be a couple. They have put that concept to good use because they are now parents of several children. They also learned that they should try to trust one another as much as they can.