Couples can model the qualities of positive marriages to the outside world by serving as mentors to others
by Marian Christiana
Have you ever considered your marriage to be an evangelization tool? I have to admit that until I started working for the Office of Marriage Preparation and Enrichment the thought never really crossed my mind. My husband, Ralph, and I would discuss what effect our marriage would have or was having on our children over the years. We really wanted to be positive role models for them and project a strong Catholic Christian marriage when we were together as a family. But modeling those qualities to the outside world never really was a point of discussion for us.
The concept of evangelizing the world around us through our marriage really started to blossom in me as I worked with the marriage preparation process. I had recruited married couples whose marriages I admired, or their parish priest admired and recommended to me, to help me present material during our diocesan-sponsored marriage preparation weekends.
Often I didn’t know that much about a team couple, other than that they treated each other well and were good communicators. I thought if I, or their pastor, responded positively to a couple’s interpersonal interactions then our engaged couples would, too. It was through the beautiful witness of their sacramental marriages that I began to truly understand the transformative power strong marriages can have on other people, especially our engaged couples, and how those strong marriages can be instruments of evangelization.
Recently I have been studying the use of parish-based married mentor couples as another element of the marriage preparation process. A number of dioceses around the country have been successful in implementing these types of mentor couple programs.
The dioceses that have enhanced the marriage preparation process with mentor couples report that their parishes have seen an increase in the Mass attendance of their engaged couples, and an increase in the engaged couples’ becoming an active part of the church community after their weddings. What a great evangelization tool for a parish!
The challenge now is how to convince married couples to be mentor couples when they are asked. People are busy. I get that. I remember what it was like trying to juggle the schedules of three children along with the schedules of my husband, and mine, while still having quality time as a family and as a couple. Who wants to squeeze one more thing into a busy schedule, especially when you are being asked to step out of your comfort zone and reach out to another couple?
It can be intimidating to contemplate that an engaged couple would look to you for guidance and support, but we are all called to share our talents. A successful or strong marriage is a marriage between two people who are willing to do the work to strengthen their relationship. It is a lifelong process. We all face challenges but it is in how we meet those challenges together that make the difference. Please don’t keep the secret of your strong marriage to yourselves!
All married couples share their marriage with those around them, either intentionally or unintentionally. Why not share the best of what you have instead of unintentionally sharing the worst of it? I write about being intentional in our marriages a lot. That is because intentionality produces more accurate, productive, intended results.
Consider training for a marathon. You wouldn’t just show up on the morning of the race and wing it expecting to be successful. You would prepare for it. The same is true about being intentional about our marriages. The work and effort we put into our marital relationships help bring about positive results and are reflected to the world around us.
We don’t have to be a “formal” parish mentor couple to evangelize the world around us through our marriage. Remember that our sacramental marriage is a reflection of God’s unconditional love for us, and we are called to share His love with others.
Through our sacrament we receive lifelong graces to aid us in facing the challenges of everyday life. We can all be intentional about our marriage. We can all focus on what needs to grow or heal in our own relationship. We can all ask God to help us be His light to others. Through intentionally sharing the gifts of our marriage with others we can all be fishers of men!
If your parish does start a mentor program, however, please prayerfully consider being a part of the effort. Pray for the mentor couples, the engaged couples, and the marriage preparation process.
Please also pray that you will be willing to say “yes” when asked to act as a mentor couple. Mentor couples report that their relationship is renewed every time they work with another couple. God blesses two marriages through this process!
This year’s opportunities to celebrate positive marriage role models and their sacramental marriages throughout the diocese with Bishop Richard F. Stika are now available for registration.
The dates and locations for the 2017-18 Marriage Celebrations with Bishop Stika begin with St. Henry Church in Rogersville on Saturday, Aug. 12. On Saturday, Nov. 11, we will be at Shepherd of the Valley in Dunlap, and on Feb. 10, 2018, Immaculate Conception in Knoxville will be our host parish.
All Masses will begin at 11 a.m., with a luncheon immediately following the Mass. The Mass in Dunlap will start at 11 a.m. Central Time.
I want to encourage you to come and celebrate your sacrament of matrimony with us. Over the years 21 parishes have acted as our hosts, and more than 3,500 people have joined the celebrations. Be a part of the festivities this year! For more information, visit dioknox.org/marriage-preparation-and-enrichment/.
Mrs. Christiana is coordinator of the diocesan Marriage Preparation and Enrichment Office.