Appeal helps engaged couples FOCCUS
Annunciation and St. Jude parishes stress couple link
Second in a series on the annual Bishop's Appeal
By Joanne Flemming
What: Bishop's Appeal, the Green Bay Diocese's annual fund-raiser
to support diocesan programs and services offered to parishes and
Where: All parishes in the diocese.
When: Right now.
How: Making a cash, check or pledge donation. Materials have been
sent to homes and also are available through parishes.
Theme: Summoned to Serve.
Target: $4.1 million.
Couples with established marriages are helping engaged couples
explore issues that could affect their upcoming marriages through
a marriage preparation program at Annunciation and St. Jude
parishes in Green Bay.
While parish-based marriage prep programs are not new to the
Green Bay Diocese, there is something different about this one,
says Mary Stubler, diocesan marriage preparation/parenting
consultant in the Family Life Office. The difference is how it
helps couples focus on their differences and consider what they
Stubler said that in traditional parish-based programs, each
married couple administers the FOCCUS - Facilitating Open Couple
Communication, Understanding and Study - inventory to the engaged
couple they sponsor. The married couple then meets four more
times with the engaged couple to review the results of the FOCCUS
The model used at Annunciation/St. Jude is one Fr. Thomas
Hagendorf, O. Praem., associate pastor, used successfully for
eight years as pastor of a parish outside Baltimore.
This course is important, he said, because "the divorce rate for
first-year marriages is sky high. I trained nine years to become
a priest. Married people sometimes get a one-night class."
Fr. Robert Kabat, head of the diocesan Marriage Tribunal - which
he says would love to have all marriages succeed so it could be
'put out of business' - agrees with the need for adequate
"The preparation process is a way for the church community to
share its support and wisdom with the engaged couple, who have
been blessed with a special love that needs to be nourished the
rest of their lives," Fr. Kabat said.
"The marriage preparation process is not about 'red tape' -
something a couple has to endure to be married in the church.
Instead the marriage preparation process is 'glue' to help
solidify the couple's love for each other by looking at practical
issues where that love will need to be lived out daily," Fr.
At Annunciation/St. Jude, after an engaged couple is referred to
Fr. Hagendorf to begin their marriage prep, he administers the
inventory. Then a sponsoring couple discusses it with the couple
during the first of five sessions which focus on topics covered
in the inventory.
The sessions include: review of inventory, communication,
decision-making and problem solving, sexuality and intimacy and
spirituality and parenthood, Fr. Hagendorf said.
Eight married couples volunteered to help with the course and
each will work with two engaged couples this year.
They participated in three training sessions led by Stubler and
Fr. Hagendorf before Christmas. During these each took the FOCCUS
inventory, then discussed the results.
The inventory not only looks at issues that traditionally affect
marriages but also examines those that affect 21st century
marriages: living together before marriage, interfaith marriages,
and children from previous relationships and/or marriages. The
engaged couples are presented with a Christian perspective on
Ken and Bonnie Juza of Green Bay, married 17 years, have already
met with the engaged couple they are sponsoring, who have an
April wedding date. The Juzas are meeting with the couple every
other weekend for eight weeks.
Juza believes the marriage prep course is important because
"marriage is more than just two people living together and the
sexual portion of it." He pointed out that the inventory, which
Stubler said was recently revised, discusses issues not addressed
During the first session, the engaged couple saw areas where
their answers differed. "All of a sudden you realize you've
brought up a point they never discussed before," Juza said.
Another advantage of the course, Stubler and Fr. Hagendorf
pointed out, is that it bonds the engaged couples to the
parishes. Juza noted, however, that it also helps the sponsoring
couples that way too.
Mark Glendenning of Green Bay concurred. He and his wife Patricia
are also a sponsoring couple. Before volunteering, they had been
searching for ways to get involved in their parish.
Juza said Fr. Hagendorf had told couples that sponsors would find
that the program strengthened their own marriages. He said he has
seen that happening in the discussions he and Bonnie had about
the first session with their engaged couple.
Fr. Hagendorf said the sponsoring couples will meet to review the
program. He and they are also connected through a special e-mail
Helping parishes prepare engaged couples for marriage is one of
several services the annual Bishop's Appeal makes possible. Each
year, the diocesan Family Life Office, offers 32 different types
of Marriage Preparation Programs: Engaged Encounter weekends,
Relationship Enhancement Training, Foundation.com, Enrichment
Seminar for the Engaged and Remarriage: Myths and Realties. In
program year 1999-2000, 1,104 couples participated, said Stubler.
For more information about attending a marriage prep program or
becoming a marriage prep minister contact Mary Stubler at (920)437-7531, or toll-free 1-877-500-3580, ext. 8315, or by e-mail, [email protected].
Target for this year's Appeal is $4.1 million.