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 Official Newspaper of the Catholic Diocese of Green Bay, WisconsinFebruary 13, 2004 Issue 

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
Compass Correspondent

photo of Mary Stubler going over FOCCUS pre-marital inventory with a couple

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 diocesan parishes.

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.

Bishop's Appeal 2004 logo

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, credit card (MasterCard, Visa and Discover) or pledge donation. Materials have been sent to homes and also are available through parishes. Some employers offer matching gift programs, for which Catholic Charities may qualify, since it serves the general public; additional information is available through Human Resources departments.

Theme: Offering a Helping Hand.

Target: $4.8 million.

Related articles ...

from the Feb. 6, 2004 issue:
Appeal theme mirrors Catholic way of life
    Believers are called to offer a helping hand
    to Appeal and daily

Bridging the Gap by Bishop David A. Zubik --
    Blockbuster action and beyond
    Offering a helping hand at a cold time
    in someone's life

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."

•, 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 website,

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