Diocese helps engaged prepare for marriage
Family Life Office works with parishes to assist couples in learning skills for marriage
Second in a series on Bishop's Appeal 2004
By Joanne Flemming
INVENTORY FOCCUS: Mary Stubler of the Family Life Office goes over the FOCCUS pre-marital inventory with a couple. Marriage preparation is one of many services the Bishop's Appeal funds. (Rick Evans photo)
In an era when far too many marriages end in divorce the Green Bay Diocese is helping engaged couples FOCCUS on really getting to know each other, the skills they have and the skills they need for a successful marriage.
Marriage preparation is one of the many programs and services provided by the diocese to parishes and individuals through the support of the annual Bishop's Appeal under way in all
Marriage preparation in the diocese involves five steps before the wedding, said Mary Stubler, diocesan family life consultant.
These five steps are:
meeting with the priest and completing canonical forms;
taking the FOCCUS (Facilitating Open Couple Communication Understanding) inventory administered by the pastor or marriage preparation team;
attending a diocesan or parish-based marriage preparation program;
meeting with the parish liturgist to plan the wedding celebration;
ironing out issues that could affect the marriage.
This whole process takes a minimum of six months, Stubler said.
The FOCCUS inventory is a "survey, a tool to help engaged couples explore where they are communicating well and discover where they need to work harder," Stubler said.
Stubler began training Green Bay Diocesan marriage preparation teams how to use FOCCUS after the Archdiocese of Omaha's family life department created and published the tool in 1985.
Recently, the FOCCUS publisher organized an accreditation program for FOCCUS trainers such as Stubler. She completed the two-day course and is now certified to "teach FOCCUS anywhere in the United States," she said. "This is the affirmation of the years I have been doing it here."
She said she begins the training by explaining to the participants what today's engaged couple is like. Typically, she said, the men are 26-27 years old; the women, 25-26. Both are
established in their careers, and want economic issues, such as car and home ownership, settled before they consider marriage. They are looking for their soul-mate, "the person who will complete them."
Stubler then teaches participants how to administer and score the inventory and to facilitate discussions of the results by the couple.
A team of social workers, psychologists and counselors put together the more than 200 questions in FOCCUS, Stubler said. The 156 basic questions cover such topics as lifestyle
expectations, friends and interests, personality matches, communication and problem solving, religion and values, parenting, finances and sexuality.
There are another 10 questions for couples planning an interfaith marriage; 10 to 12 for those starting a second marriage, and 25 for those who have been cohabiting.
The basic questions take about 45 minutes to complete. When done, the married couple giving the tool score it by hand, recording any answers that are different than the preferred
ones. Those become the basis for discussions between the engaged couple. Those discussions can take one to three sessions with the married preparation team.
Couples then need to register for one of the five marriage preparation programs offered in the diocese, Stubler said. The five are:
Engaged Encounter, a weekend held at the Norbertine Center for Spirituality in De Pere and designed to teach couples "tools for building a lasting marriage."
Foundations.com, a one-day workshop "covering the basics of relationship building."
Enrichment Seminar, a Saturday program held twice a year that stresses such topics as communication skills, self-esteem, financial resources, interfaith marriages and natural family planning.
Relationship Enhancement Training, a day-long conference built around the nine tasks of a healthy marriage.
Remarriage: Myths and Realities.
The diocese is developing a sixth program, Marriage Futures, expected to be ready in May, Stubler said. It will consist of three evenings during which couples will have dinner and hear speakers on various topics. There will be homework between evenings.
Stubler said parishes in the diocese's northern communities, such as Niagara and Antigo, have developed their own marriage preparation programs based on FOCCUS. Nativity Parish in
Green Bay also has a one-day marriage preparation workshop.
Information about marriage preparation programs is available by calling the Green Bay Diocese's Family Life Department at 1-877-500-3580, ext. 8310, or by checking the diocesan