Over the past two years, engaged couples have had to deal with a sea of challenges brought on by COVID.
With the stress of lockdowns, restrictions, and capacity limits, some couples may also be experiencing relationship stress even before they reach the aisle.
As part of their outreach to engaged couples who may have struggled during COVID, the Mission Enhancement Team of the Diocese of Parramatta is looking for experienced married couples to undertake training to accompany couples preparing for marriage.
Every year, hundreds of couples across the Diocese attend two pre-marriage preparation courses, which are either in-person or online. The in-person weekend course is presented by an experienced married couple and the online course is the SmartLoving Engaged program.
If couples choose to complete the SmartLoving Engaged program, they are invited to journey alongside a sponsor couple who have been married for over five years. The older couple accompany them as they learn about communication, building and restoring unity, family planning and the sacramentality of marriage.
“In a world with lots of conflicting ideas about what makes a good marriage, having the experience and understanding of these issues by a married couple is a sure way to guide these engaged couples to live their vocation of Catholic marriage,” Karin Abrams, Coordinator, Marriage, Mission Enhancement Team, told Catholic Outlook.
“Both Pope Francis and Bishop Vincent Long OFM Conv, Bishop of Parramatta, support the idea of accompaniment, and in line with this vision, the SmartLoving program allows for this personal journeying between engaged couples and more experienced married couples.”
The sponsor couple are asked to complete the nine sessions separate to, but in conjunction with, the engaged couple. They are encouraged to meet either weekly or fortnightly to share openly and honestly about what they learned.
There is no cost to the mentor couple as the Diocese provides access to the program and to the workbooks.
During a Masterclass held in mid-March for couples interested in undertaking this ministry, volunteer couples explained that the program is well structured and easy to use.
Karin hopes that by having a sponsor couple, the engaged couple will learn that there is no perfect marriage and that even if there are struggles, a long and happy marriage is achievable.
“I think the engaged couples will realise that to fulfil their marriage vows to live together for the rest of their lives, there are skills to develop, positive attitudes to work on and a commitment to this lifelong journey together and ultimately be in Heaven together forever,” she said.
“I hope that married couples will be reminded of the youthful optimism of starting this adventure called marriage together.”
Karin hopes one married couple from each parish in the Diocese volunteers as a sponsor couple. This would build a sufficient number to accompany all engaged couples who use this form of preparation.
For parishioners who may not be able to volunteer their time, Karin asks for prayers and warm welcomes for those in their parishes who are preparing for marriage.
“As part of this program, the engaged couple are invited to attend a Sunday Mass with their sponsor couple and receive a blessing from the priest after Mass in front of the Church community.
“Parishioners can also offer personal words of welcome and encouragement to these couples after Mass.”
There is an opportunity for married couples to join the team of sponsor couples in the Diocese and learn more about the sponsor program during a Masterclass on Friday 28 October at 7.30pm at the Bishop Bede Heather Centre, Blacktown.
To book your attendance or to ask further questions, please email firstname.lastname@example.org or phone Marisa on (02) 8838 3460.