‘The Marriage Journey’ — an enrichment conference

By David Cooley.

Married couples at every stage are invited to an enrichment experience in the Diocese of Covington!

Family is central to God’s plan. With this in mind, the diocesan Office of Catechesis and Faith Formation, with its Family Life Ministry Advisory Board (FLMAB) and the approval of Bishop Roger Foys, will undertake a dynamic effort to elevate the meaning and understanding of the sacrament of matrimony in the diocese. Part of this effort — a marriage enrichment conference, “The Marriage Journey” — will be held Sept. 21, 8 a.m.–3 p.m., at St. Barbara Parish, Erlanger.

The focus of this effort is to raise awareness of the sanctity, uniqueness and importance of the sacrament of marriage. There is no denying that it is a grand vision but it is one that hinges on the undeniable fact that a strong, faith-filled couple is the nucleus of a faith-filled family, which in turn becomes part of the nuclei of a strong parish, diocese and community at large that will effect change in the world.

The marriage enrichment conference is a direct response to a survey that was conducted to assess how parishes in the diocese support, build up and provide resources to married couples. The conclusion of the survey found that there was little support for the sacrament of matrimony and for the couples themselves.

“The question was what could we do as a faith community to help strengthen and support the married couple,” said Terri Brass, a member of the FLMAB. She and her husband, George, are involved with developing and carrying out the marriage enrichment conference.

“We are a faith community and just like the early Christians we need to support each other. We have to learn to help each other, trust each other and pray for each other,” she said. “This is a format where couples will be able to review aspects of their relationship privately, have an opportunity to experience community and, on their own, decide where they need to redirect — be it large or small changes.”

Mr. Brass compared this enrichment journey to a spiritual retreat that priests and deacons might partake in to strengthen their resolve to live out their vocation.

“Bishops and priests go on retreats to review where they are in their relationship with God and others and redirect if they need to, many jobs offer trainings and refreshers, but if you look at marriage and the idea of a lifelong commitment to each other there is very little offered in terms of building up that relationship,” he said.

“Most couples don’t realize that we became the sign of the sacrament when we were married,” Mr. Brass said. “We become a visible sign of Christ’s love here on earth. We make Christ’s love visible through our behavior and relationship that reflects love, understanding and, at times, forgiveness. That is our charism. There are only seven sacraments and we kind of shortchange the sacrament of matrimony.”

Mrs. Brass said that it is important for Catholic couples to learn to live out marriage as a sacrament.

“George and I were married 10 years before we really began to understand what it means to live marriage as a sacrament. We were out there doing the worldly thing — two people trying to match up to what the world thought we should be instead of what God thought we should be; it was a façade. It was a hard lesson to learn,” she said.

“There is a difference in being a married couple and living marriage as a sacrament, and that is something that couples will hear more about at this conference,” Mrs. Brass said.

“If we are a reflection of God’s love in the world then he does have expectations of us; how we act and treat each other is important and we need to be responsible to certain aspects of the relationship,” she said. “Our hope is that this event will open some hearts and open some eyes to journeying toward God, being motivated to continue and understanding that there is a reason to be the best you can be.”

According to Isaak A. Isaak, director, Office of Catechesis and Faith Formation, the Family Life Ministry Advisory Board is working very hard to make the conference not only enriching but also fun.

“They are planning a lot of things for that day,” he said. “Some of the plans include such things as, the celebration of the holy sacrifice of the Mass with our bishop, various talks prepared by a priest and married couples, and adoration of the Lord in the Blessed Sacrament.”

Mr. Isaak said that he believes the marriage enrichment conference is very important and much needed in the diocese; it will encourage married couples to live out the beauty of this sacrament, he said.

“Married couples need the spiritual support and encouragement of our bishop, the priests and their fellow parishioners. They need to know and feel that Jesus himself is walking with them, and not abandoning them to struggle alone in this world,” said Mr. Isaak. “Moreover, married couples need to know that Jesus himself gives them the grace in their journey. He gives them his free gift of strength and power in the sacrament of marriage. This strength and power of the sacrament can help married couples resist the many sins and evils that threaten marriage.”

Whether couples have been married for six weeks, six years or 60+ years, all are invited and encouraged to attend.

“There will be something there for you to identify with and some golden nugget for you to take home and make a difference in your marriage,” Mrs. Brass said.

Space is limited. Early registration is recommended www.covdio.org/catechesis-formation/ or call (859) 392-1500. The cost is $25 per couple, which includes a light breakfast, lunch and refreshments. For more information e-mail [email protected]