A new program at the Diocese of Parramatta connects engaged couples with married mentors for their journey of marriage.
Guided by principles of faith and love, the SmartLoving Engaged Online program aims to equip soon-to-be spouses with the tools and wisdom they need to embark on a lifelong journey together, as Karin Abrams, Coordinator of Marriage Education at the Diocese of Parramatta explains.
“This is a marriage preparation program where engaged couples are accompanied by a married sponsor couple,” she says. “How it works is the engaged couple meet with the sponsor couple over four to nine sessions, reviewing the lessons and engaging in discussion about marriage.”
The comprehensive program prepares engaged couples for a lifelong marriage by offering information and strategies for the relationship, and as Karin puts it, highlighting “the joy of living this vocation of Catholic marriage.”
“We are lucky to have 23 sponsor couples in the Diocese that each accept one or two couples each per year,” she shares. One such sponsor pair is Glenice and Jerry Lui, who Karin describes as “very enthusiastic supporters of the Sponsor Couple Program.”
Glenice – happily married to Jerry for over 20 years – reveals that she and her husband benefited “so much more” than expected by becoming sponsors with SmartLoving.
“Following 20 happy years of marriage, we volunteered as a way of giving back,” she says. “We thought that the best way to thank God for blessing our marriage was to help new couples by sharing our experiences. But we actually got a lot more from it ourselves than expected.”
The SmartLoving Engaged Online program involves the sponsor couple meeting with engaged couples for approximately two hours each fortnight to complete the nine modules included in the course.
“Both sponsors and couples prepare by going through the material before we meet. Then we discuss the key messages from the lesson, read through the sharing questions, and help them process the key learnings that ultimately deepen their understanding of marriage,” Glenice says.
When asked how engaged couples may benefit from taking this course, Glenice is resolute. “The concepts and insights provided about marriage establish a foundation for the couple to navigate marriage more smoothly,” she says.
“It provides them with a good understanding of what marriage truly is, which helps them grow richer in love and discover God’s mission for them as husbands and wives. It can really help transform a marriage from good to great.”
Earning a positive reputation throughout the Diocese of Parramatta, the marriage program leaves a lasting impression on all involved in the process.
“I didn’t realise until after we mentored our first couple just how rewarding it would be to walk with a new couple on their Catholic marriage journey,” Glenice tells. “It is so heart-warming to see the bride walk down the aisle. I cry as if it is my own child getting married! It’s such a good feeling knowing we were part of their journey.”
There are two marriage preparation programs currently available: a weekend course facilitated by a trained married couple, and the online SmartLoving Sponsor Couple Program.
To find out more about the program or to volunteer as a sponsor couple, you are invited to attend an information evening on Thursday 19 October at 7.30pm at the Bishop Bede Heather Centre, Blacktown. For those unable to attend in person, a Zoom session will be held on Tuesday 10 October at 7.30pm. To register your interest, please call Karin or Marisa on (02) 8838 3460 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Belinda Harding is a freelance writer and contributor to Catholic Outlook.
This article was originally published in the 2023 Season of Creation | Spring edition of the Catholic Outlook Magazine. You can read the digital version here.