Archdiocese Endorses Marriage Seminar That Gets Strong Results
Marrying couples respond positively to solid Catholic theology
"I never really knew, up until today, that my vocation in life was to get to heaven. I also did not know that part of my vocation in marriage was to get my spouse to heaven. It truly does take three to get married."
"One in Christ" seminar participant
The need it meets
Fr. James Hulbert of St. Alphonsus Parish in Chicago said the "One in Christ" seminar offers a thorough overview of the sacrament of matrimony. St. Alphonsus serves about 150 couples a year in marriage preparation. Before â€œOne In Christâ€, St. Alphonsus would send couples to Archdiocesan weekend retreats.
â€œWe donâ€™t farm out our first communion or reconciliation preparation,â€ he said. â€œSo we decided to keep our marriage preparation in house.â€
The â€œOne In Christâ€ seminar can also be used for couples who would like a refresher course on marriage.
Where it came from
With the support of Cardinal George and a priest of the Respect Life Office in the Archdiocese of Chicago, program creator Fr. Thomas Aschenbrener said "One in Christ" prepares engaged couples for matrimony and re-evangelizes fallen away and lukewarm Catholics.
â€œWe discovered that by evangelizing couples with the Gospel of Life, within the context of marriage preparation, couples come to appreciate the total value of human life transmitted through marriage,â€ he said.
"One in Christ" is in a â€œturn-keyâ€ format any parish can use. It features a foreword by Cardinal George and videos by experts such as Dr Janet Smith, Dr Martha Garza (OB-GYN) and Dr John Littel (OB-GYN) along with an array of witnessing couples.
How it works
- Present the seminar to individual couples or small groups in either a single, full weekend or over a two to three weekends.
- This â€œturn-keyâ€ program includes a 280-page facilitatorâ€™s manual, a 270-page coupleâ€™s workbook, ten multimedia MicrosoftÂ® PowerPoint Presentations on a DVD and at least fifteen videos. The books contain all the speaker notes with the presentation goals, handouts, prayers, and articles on marriage. Topics include the vocation of marriage, covenantal theology, the sacraments, communication, moral virtues, finances, marriage as unitive and procreative, contraception, Natural Family Planning, and infertility.
- The NFP portion can stand alone for use in RCIA or marriage enrichment.
- Fr. Aschenbrener says 90% of participants get a more positive view of chastity and Church teaching on contraception.
- Numerous couples return to a more frequent reception of sacraments.
- Some cohabitating couples have subsequently chosen to abstain from sex until marriage.
- Fr. Hulbert estimates at least 15 percent of the couples participating in the St. Alphonsus seminar are from out of parish; they heard about the program by â€œword of mouth.â€
As one couple said, "Walking in, I strongly disagreed with the Church's teaching on chastity before and during marriage [marked '1' on scale of 10, corresponding to 'absolutely disagree']. As a result of today, I found the Church's position on chastity at least to be reasonable and not stupid or 'out of date' [marked '10' (absolutely agree) after the seminar]." (This result is found on about 85 percent of the evaluations!)
Deeply rooted in Scripture, Catholic Tradition, the Lives of the Saints and Papal Encyclicals, this seminar prepares couples to see how God and his grace are the remedies and the quintessential means to a happy, healthy, holy and lasting marriage.
Cultivate a regular group of speakers who can run "One in Christ" periodically in the parish.
How to implement it
- Obtain the program from www.cantius.org/go/webstore/product/one_in_christ_marriage_seminar
- Follow the Instruction Guide of the Facilitatorâ€™s Manual.
- A priest, deacon or lay couple(s) can facilitate using the pre-written talks. The St. Alphonsus team has the pastor and a visiting priest, a veteran married couple, a diocesan trainer on Natural Family Planning and a representative from the diocesan Respect Life Office.
- For large groups, have host couples who help with set up, intake, welcoming, food.
- The priests should give the first half on the spirituality and theology of marriage. The married lay couple should present the second half on the unitive and procreative ends of marriage, communication, problem solving and finances, tithing and almsgiving.
- Pray for the couples!
Fr. John Hulbert is pastor of