Pre-marriage preparation courses across Western Sydney and the Blue Mountains have gone digital.
The Diocese of Parramatta’s Life, Marriage and Family Office have launched the SmartLoving Engaged Online course for couples preparing for marriage.
This new form of marriage preparation will be available alongside the regular Marriage Preparation course conducted over a weekend by trained married couples.
The launch of SmartLoving has been a 12-month journey, with the Life, Marriage and Family Office meeting with the Marriage Resource Centre in Sydney, who developed the course, seeking and receiving approval from the Curia together with informing deaneries and parish priests of the changes.
Karin Abrams, Coordinator – Marriage Education Support and Enrichment, Life, Family and Marriage Office, believes that it is important that couples getting married in the Catholic Church understand what that involves, which is explained through SmartLoving.
“If people are getting married in the Catholic Church, I think it’s really important for them to understand what that means. Marriage is a sacrament, marriage is a vocation.
“There are big obligations – people when they marry in the Catholic Church are promising to marry for life, and it is important that they understand and with the vows that they are making, they’re actually agreeing to live their marriage in this way, as a sacramental marriage, and they’re also agreeing to welcome any children and bring them up in the faith.
“Because people are choosing to get married in the Catholic Church, it’s really good for them to know about those aspects.”
“[The couples] have great support in the diocese here – whether it’s from the parish priest, other couples in the parish, or from relationship counselling services that CatholicCare offers,” Karin said.
SmartLoving engages couples in a different direction – replacing the former Prepare Enrich program, which was an inventory-style one-on-one session with a facilitator.
“We see that into the future, we’ll be offering the online [course], as we know a lot of young people are attracted to online activities, and we think that it is just moving with the times and connecting with young people where they are and giving them that other option,” Karin said.
“SmartLoving Online, actually allows couple to do the preparation at home, in their own time. It is spread over nine weeks, allows couples to do a topic per week and really digest the information and have discussions in between and during the week before they approach the next topic.
“It is attractively done by having a series of short videos, a workbook with questions to answer individually and as a couple. At the end of each particular topic, there is a quiz before they go onto the next topic.
“All up, it’s around 15 to 16 hours of instruction, each session is an hour-and-a-half in length,” she said.
An interesting feature of the SmartLoving course is that the couple preparing for marriage have the option to work alongside a sponsor couple from their parish.
“A sponsor couple is a couple from the parish who have been married for a minimum of ten years, both practicing Catholics, who are prepared to journey with this couple as they do their preparation,” Karin explained.
“The sponsor couple are asked to work on each week’s lesson alongside the young couple, and then arrange to meet with them on a week-by-week basis to discuss the particular topic and give them their own insights from their marriage and journey with them.
“The value of that is that they [the young couple] have the wisdom and the information from a couple that are living their marriage and the reality of their Catholic marriage, which can be very helpful.”
Couples marrying in the Diocese now have the choice of undertaking a weekend marriage preparation course or an online course known as SmartLoving Engaged Online.
To find out more about the SmartLoving program, or to register for any pre-marriage preparation courses, visit www.parracatholic.org/pmp/