The Compass: Official Newspaper of the Catholic Diocese of Green Bay
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February 9, 2001 Issue
Local News

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
Compass Correspondent

Bishop's Appeal

What: Bishop's Appeal, the Green Bay Diocese's annual fund-raiser to support diocesan programs and services offered to parishes and individuals.

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 mean.

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 inventory.

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 marriage preparation.

"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. Kabat said.

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 each issue.

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 years ago.

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 box.

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,, 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.

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