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New Marriage Prep Program Helps Couples Become "Fully Engaged"

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When a couple informs the Catholic Church of their plans to marry, they are typically required to undergo some instruction about the Sacrament of marriage and an assessment of their understanding of the responsibilities involved in their union. In the Diocese of Raleigh, this has usually been accomplished in a one-day session with facilitators and other engaged couples.

Beginning the weekend of Friday through Sunday, January 27-29, 2012, more encouragement will be given to couples preparing for marriage to take part in a weekend program in a retreat setting. The program, “Fully Engaged,” was developed in the Diocese of St. Cloud, and will now be offered four times a year by the Diocese of Raleigh at the Avila Retreat Center in Durham.

Anne and John Melia, parishioners of Immaculate Conception in Wilmington, are the facilitators of Fully Engaged, and recently spoke about the weekend on Catholic Perspective, the weekly Diocesan TV program. (The interview will be broadcast the week of January 16 and available on the Diocesan website.)

Anne and John, married for 47 years, have been involved in marriage preparation in the Diocese for seven years. “The one-day session is a wonderful program,” Anne said, “especially in helping couples to understand the sacramental nature of marriage. But the weekend has the advantage of a more relaxed atmosphere in a prayerful setting.”

John agreed. “The weekend leaves more time for reflection, for interacting with other couples and especially for communicating with your future spouse.”

“Cell phones are turned off during the weekend,” Anne said. “That way couples have a chance to focus on their marriage instead of their wedding.”

The Fully Engaged weekend is conducted by several teams of presenters. It utilizes a workbook and includes sessions on Catholic Identity and the Sacrament of Marriage; Chastity in Marriage; Communication and Conflict Resolution; Catholic Parenting; and Finance, Stewardship, Vocation and Career.

In addition to facilitating, John and Anne present a session titled Ecumenical Marriage.

“With roughly half of the couples we see,” Anne said, “one of the two comes from a non-Catholic background. So we try to stress praying as a couple, first of all. Regardless of our denomination, we all pray to the same God. We also talk about the importance of knowing your own faith, practicing it and respecting the faith of your spouse.

“We want, at all costs, to prevent religious indifference.”

“Fully Engaged is a Catholic program,” John said, “and makes no apologies for that. But it’s completely respectful of other faiths and emphasizes the point that marriage is a sacrament the couple gives to each other.”

While noting how busy couples are these days, Anne and John stress that devoting two days is a small time investment when preparing for a life together.

For more information on Fully Engaged, contact Linda Bedo at 919-821-9753 or Bedo@raldioc.org; or Mary DiSano at 919-821-9710 or Mary.DiSano@raldioc.org; or visit the Office of Marriage and Family Ministry section of the diocesan website.