Couple seeks to give Hispanic couples preparing for marriage a good foundation

By Sam Lucero | The Compass | February 17, 2017

Sosas serve as presenters in Diocese of Green Bay’s ‘Marriage in the Lord’

GREEN BAY — Abril and Manuel Sosa enjoy many leadership roles at St. Willebrord Parish, where they have been members for about 16 years. They team up to teach the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults in Spanish to catechumens (people who have not received any Christian sacraments) and participate in numerous liturgical ministries.

Abril and Manuel Sosa, members of St. Willebrord Parish in Green Bay, lead a Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) class for Spanish-speaking adults at the church Feb. 5. The Sosas also serve as a team couple for “Nuestro Matrimonio en El Señior,” a marriage preparation program sponsored by the Diocese of Green Bay. (Sam Lucero | The Compass)

But the Sosas, who have been married for 16 years and have two children, Monica, 15, and Alejandro 12, say their most meaningful ministry is serving as presenters in the marriage preparation program, “Nuestro Matrimonio en El Señor” (“Marriage in the Lord”). Sponsored by the Diocese of Green Bay’s Living Justice Department, it is funded through the Bishop’s Appeal.

While the Sosas have actually been involved in marriage preparation at St. Willebrord for two years, it’s only been one year that the Spanish-language program became a diocesan ministry.

“The first year we were kind of nervous about it,” said Abril. “We love it. We love to share our faith and see how people are transformed by Christ, so it’s been a blessing.”

“Over 25 couples were trained in Hispanic pre-marital ministry, but currently there are 10 married couples active as presenters in the program,” said Elisa Tremblay, diocesan Marriage Ministries coordinator. “Married couples are asked to give pre-marital retreats to Hispanic engaged couples around the diocese.  The retreats are given in Spanish and serve people from all the parishes on a centralized diocesan retreat.”

“Before, only the parish was doing Hispanic retreats,” said Abril. “But now we are growing, with other churches having a Hispanic community and wanting to do something that involves everybody, not just one parish.”

“Nuestro Matrimonio en El Señor” (“Marriage in the Lord”) is sponsored by the Diocese of Green Bay and funded through the Bishop’s Appeal.

The Sosas say that preparing couples for Christian marriage is vital, especially because of societal factors that challenge the sacredness of marriage.

“Today, marriage is something that society has (challenged) with all the negativism, the consumerism,” said Manuel. “That brings the situation of not really being open to having kids. ‘If it doesn’t work, I don’t want to have kids.’ So the value of the marriage is huge and I’m not just talking about Christian marriage.”

The Sosas help engaged couples see marriage as part of God’s plan. “A lot of problems today would not exist” if couples valued their relationship and saw it as part of God’s plan, said Manuel. “It brings out a lot of good in people.”

In the past year, the Sosas have participated in two diocesan marriage preparation retreats. Another retreat is planned for May 6 in Green Bay.

During the day-long retreat, Abril said the team couples talk about subjects that prepare couples for a “marriage in the Lord.” These topics include finances, communication, sexuality, natural family planning, domestic violence and the impact of pornography, alcohol or drug abuse on a marriage.

Manuel said family origin is also another topic. “For biracial couples who get married, the Anglo has a culture very different (than a Latino) and sometimes they can’t get along,” he said. “It’s important to give tools on how to get along.

“Another thing is spirituality, the importance of spirituality as a couple,” Manuel added. “Not only as a person, but what God wants you to do as a couple, what is your mission with your spouse.”

“So we talk about praying as a couple,” added Abril. “We suggest to them to make it a priority in their marriage. Now we live in a society where everything is so fast and couples have just a little time. So we have to make quality time when we cannot have too much time together.”

The Sosas strongly believe that family ministry starts with engaged couples.

“We really believe that our Hispanic community needs a ministry for couples,” said Abril. “We need to work with families, but we need to start with couples and then we can grow into families. That’s our personal idea.”

Having the diocese step in and provide its resources offers a stronger ministry to Hispanic couples, they say.

“First of all, it’s the organization. There is nothing more important than organization and the diocese can help us and show us how to do things, what steps to follow,” said Manuel. “They show us easy ways to do the program and also they can give us the facility, or if we need help, let’s say with dinner for the retreat, they give us ideas where to get it, how to get it.”

“The experience they have with the American community is helping us with the Hispanic community,” added Abril. “Another thing is, any program needs a leader, so it’s goods that somebody is neutral. We don’t think that one parish is favored over another one. That way everybody feels welcome, everybody feels that this is for the Hispanic community.”

“By having these diocesan retreats, we can offer couples the chance to form community with other engaged couples and have them also meet and develop relationships with presenters who are passionate about building strong marriages and families in this diocese,” said Tremblay.

To learn more about Nuestro Matrimonio en El Señor or to register for the May 6 retreat, go to www.gbdioc.org/marriage-prep/retiro-pre-matrimonial-2016-2017.html, or contact the Living Justice Department (920) 272-8291.

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