Some engaged couples can get swept up in the fairy tale that is planning a Catholic wedding.
Fortunately, marriage educators Sue and Doug Robertson have brought hundreds of young couples back down to earth by strengthening their bonds to each other and to Christ before saying “I do”.
At the end of November, Sue and Doug taught their very last pre-marriage preparation course in the Diocese of Parramatta after 11 years of service.
Sue, a former lay mental health chaplain to the Western Sydney Local Health District (WSLHD) Mental Health, and Doug, an educator, have been married for 38 years and have four children and seven grandchildren.
Sue and Doug are among a tight-knit community of couples who teach the weekend pre-marriage education course under the Diocese’s Life, Marriage and Family Office.
The course, which runs on a Friday night and all-day Sunday, teaches engaged couples important foundations for their marriage, such as communication, managing conflict and couple intimacy. They do so with a down-to-earth style, grounded in their witness of faith.
“Faith is everything in a marriage. Marriage is a commitment for life, and through Christ, you can overcome any obstacles, and He can help throughout your relationship,” Sue tells Catholic Outlook.
The former director of CatholicCare, the late Ray Reed, saw Sue and Doug’s ‘dynamic’ as an opportunity to provide a living example of how marriage is done to younger couples.
“When Ray met Doug, he said he’d prefer lived experiences over someone who had strong theological training,” Sue says.
“He loved the balance that we brought to the pre-marriage program. We showcased how diverse relationships can be, and if there really is love and perseverance in a relationship, It can last a lifetime.
“Marriage is not meant to be easy, it’s a work of art. With work, perseverance and love, and a profound relationship with God, all things are possible.”
Doug sees how some initially resistant couples realise the value from the weekend marriage course. “It’s really heart-warming to see couples reach that lightbulb moment about a particular topic. It completely changes their demeanour and it completely changes the outcome of the weekend,” he says.
Sue adds, “Although online pre-marriage education is becoming more popular, there is nothing like the face-to-face sessions and the relationships that form amongst the couples.”
Having stepped down from this ministry, the couple is looking forward to literal greener pastures on their farmstead in the NSW southern tablelands.
Sue has recently got a position as the Clinical Lead at Headspace, a youth mental health service. Doug, in the meantime, will be working to create a 100% self-sufficient lifestyle, beaming with pride when discussing his newly-installed water tanks.
For their parting message, Sue and Doug emphasise trust and communication among couples young and old.
Doug says, “No matter how difficult a situation can get, make sure to keep those lines of communication open.
“Active listening is always important – it’s not just something you learn at the beginning of a relationship.
“I take the promises I made in my wedding vows very seriously. Every day, I endeavour to live out my vows. Every morning, I ask myself the same question ‘How can I make my relationship better today?’”
To found out more information about pre-marriage preparation courses offered by the Diocese of Parramatta, visit the Life, Marriage and Family Office’s website on https://parracatholic.org/pmp/. Dates for the 2021 weekend courses are available.
Couples interested in becoming pre-marriage educators can contact the Life, Marriage and Family Office on (02) 8838 3460 or email@example.com