A special Catholic marriage mentoring program for newlyweds is increasing in popularity as the next generation strives to build strong, long-lasting and prayerful bonds.
Aimed at fostering relationship skills, broadening spouses’ understanding of each other and living out the sacrament of marriage for couples during their first five years of marriage, the Ministry to the Newly Married (MNM) has grown from humble beginnings in Canberra to dioceses and parishes throughout Australia.
Maurie and Bernice Boland began MNM in 1990 at the repeated request of couples who had experienced their “Evenings for the Engaged” program.
“We found the couples wanted more as they entered into marriage. Over the years, we’ve received wonderful feedback from the couples who have taken part,” they explained.
“I believe we have a ‘hidden treasure’ in the Church – the daily living-out of faith and love of our married couples,” Mrs Boland said.
Canberra couple Mark and Louise Ferris, who will graduate along with four other couples on September 27, have found the program very helpful.
“We are each fortunate to have sets of parents whose marriages are both enduring beyond 30 years, but still place a very high value on talking to others about their experience of marriage,” they said.
“Marriage should be enjoyed, but also needs a commitment to learn more about it and about each other.”
Fourth-year Brisbane MNM couple Nick and Lauren Le Feuvre have been married since 2013 and now have three children.
“We have been blessed to be involved in this brilliant program for the past four years,” the couple said.
“When we decided that it was crucial that we made our marriage a priority, it was refreshing to land in the lap of the Brisbane coordinators of MNM – mentor couples all with strong priestly support and endorsement.
“We look forward to every session, both working through the content together with each other and with our various mentor couples.”
So pleased with the support they have received, the parishioners of The Brisbane Oratory in Formation highly recommend the program to married friends “so that they may be afforded the same graces and blessings which come from involvement”.
It’s the positive comments, lasting friendships and Christian fellowship that has kept the Bolands committed to leading and expanding the national program.
“MNM unearths this treasure as the adoptive couples share their experiences with those just starting their journey. I remember one young couple in awe of the talk they’d just had with their adoptive couple on what the Sacrament of Marriage meant to them,” Mrs Boland said.
“The adoptive couples in turn find their participation in the program renews and refreshes their own marriage – a win-win situation for us all, which also builds community.
“We had no idea that the program would expand nationally when we started this. The Lord prepared the way for us.”
Mrs Boland said they were very thankful for the strong support and guidance they received from former Archbishop of Canberra-Goulburn Mark Coleridge, now the Archbishop of Brisbane and current president of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference.
“In 1995, our first group ‘graduated’, having completed the five years of the program, and the program is currently being run in Canberra, Adelaide, Perth, Brisbane and Darwin,” she said.
“The newly marrieds want to get it ‘right’ from the start. They accept that a successful marriage is going to take effort and they’re eager to make that effort to build the best marriage they can.
“Unfortunately, many young couples have experienced the effects of divorce and fear that something will go wrong in their own relationship.”
In 2017, there were 49,032 divorces granted in Australia, an increase of 5 per cent from 2016. Statistics suggest one quarter of the married couples who separate do so before their third wedding anniversary, and 36 per cent within five years.
Furthermore, the Pontifical Council for the Family recommends that: “In the first five years of married life, it would be desirable to follow up with young couples through post-marriage courses to be conducted in parishes or deaneries.”
Mrs Boland said: “Young people have consistently identified mentoring as one of their needs as they seek to survive against the statistical tide and build strong marriages for themselves.
“MNM is pre-emptive, building their skills and confidence to deal with whatever life has in store and building friendships with other couples who are sharing the journey. Many, in fact, don’t want to leave when they’re finished, and return to the program as mentor couples,” she said.
For more information, contact: Bernice and Maurie Boland on (02) 6288 7030 / 0490 901 912 or via email at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
With thanks to the ACBC.