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Seminar-in-a-Box on the Sacrament of Marriage


St Alphonsus
Chicago, IL
Archdiocese of Chicago
United States

More Info

For more information, email Fr Tom Aschenbrener.

One-day, high quality, motivational, proven marriage seminar starts new marriages out on the right foot and refreshes more experienced married couples.

"Putting this seminar together is probably one of the pinnacles of my priestly ministry." Fr. Tom Aschenbrener

"This program has given a truly Catholic framework of marriage to the couples whose weddings I have celebrated. So many have told me not only that they learned a lot, but also enjoyed themselves in the process." Fr. Paul Stein

The need it meets

Turning marriage preparation classes into a truly faith-deepening experience by evangelizing couples with the Gospel of Life -- which is not just about fighting abortion but the total value of human life transmitted through marriage.

Where it came from

In the Archdiocese of Chicago, Cardinal Francis George asked his Respect Life office how to put the pro-life message at the heart of parish life. The solution: build pro-life families. We won't eliminate abortion until true chastity is embraced.

The "One in Christ" program was designed to teach what is true, good and beautiful in married love. The GIFT foundation provided videos of well-known experts: Dr Janet Smith, Dr Martha Garza (OB-GYN) and Dr John Littel (OB-GYN). The videos also feature an array of witnessing couples.

How it works

  • 8:30am-5 pm marriage seminar
  • Turn key program
  • 1 DVD includes the entire marriage seminar (9 Power Point presentations, with supplemental material, instruction guide, speaker notes, outline for day, discussion questions, prayers, videos of couples who give their personal witness and testimony.)
  • Notes are provided for speakers on exactly what to say to lead into the provided presentations. There is freedom within the talk to add personal testimony.
  • Detailed time outline for each day: prayers, questions, presentations with notes, slides and videos.
  • Topics include "Following Christ in Marriage," Natural Family Planning, family finances, and many others.
  • The NFP portion can stand alone and be used in other settings such as RCIA or marriage enrichment.
  • Professionally produced multi-media format with emphasis on the beauty and truth of our Catholic faith.
  • Excellent videos of couples witnessing to the beauty and effectiveness of NFP.
  • Works for a wide range of couples, from young engaged couples to older couples who have been cohabitating for years.

The results

  • 90% of those who have participated have a more positive outlook concerning chastity and Church teaching on contraception.
  • Numerous couples have returned to more frequent reception of sacraments
  • Some couples living together before participating in the program have subsequently chosen to abstain from sex until marriage.

Quotes from couples:

"I enjoyed and learned a great deal today. The conversation on chastity and contraception was difficult at first for me and my fianc?�, but surprisingly, we were much more interested, compelled, and comfortable when hearing the priest speak specifically about the Church's stance on these topics. I never knew why contraception was wrong until today and because of it, I gained a deeper appreciation for the beauty of chastity and marital love. Now my fianc?� and I have a greater understanding and appreciation for that stance and the great gift of chastity and conjugal love within marriage."

"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. Because of today, I have come to a deeper realization of my call to holiness and how it truly does take three to get married."

"I was really surprised by how much I enjoyed today. It has given my fianc?� and I a lot to think about, and it has allowed us to have discussions we would not normally have together."

"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]." We see this on about 85 percent of the evaluations!

Quote from Seminar Co-Creator Fr. Tom Aschenbrener

"The Holy Spirit has truly guided Fr. Paul and I to present the beauty of marriage in an age when beauty, truth and goodness are no longer valued as gifts from God. Through this seminar, with the help of God's grace, we are changing hearts and minds by objectively teaching the Catholic Faith and the truth about Christian Marriage. As a result, couples are truly experiencing profound conversions. Many of them are coming back to Church and to the Sacraments, especially Confessions. Many women will approach me or email me and say, 'I am off the Pill.' Many couples end up taking more classes on NFP and for many couples this has opened up their channels of communication about sexuality, chastity, and conjugal love. The seminar has given many couples a deeper appreciation about fidelity and indissolubility, tithing and almsgiving, communication and problem-solving skills, forgiveness and prayer, the sacrament and grace. It gives me great joy to see that couples are coming to see the truth, beauty, and goodness of Christian marriage as a gift from God and how marriage, here on earth, is truly a participation in the life of heaven,"

Key elements

  • Supportive priest and a married couple that can give personal testimony to faithfully living the Church teachings in regards to Christian Marriage.
  • The married couple should be comfortable speaking in front of others.
  • We highly encourage a priest to give the first half of the talk on the spirituality and theology of Marriage. We also highly encourage a married lay couple to present the second half of the seminar on the unitive and procreative ends of marriage, communication, problem solving, and finances, tithing and almsgiving.

Explanation of the Seminar's Approach:

This marriage seminar provides engaged couples with an all-inclusive and comprehensive appreciation and knowledge of the Vocation and Sacrament of Marriage within the Catholic Church. The goal is to present both the theology and the practical ���tools��� of Christian Marriage so that couples will come to a deeper understanding of how marriage is a participation in the life of heaven and what that means for their lives together here on earth. The program is specifically designed to present the beauty, goodness and truth about Christian marriage, with a particular emphasis on the properties and ends of marriage. Once the couples are informed about the truth, goodness and beauty of Christian Marriage, they can then see the things that break down marriages, i.e. contraception, infidelity, greed, selfishness, etc. This is a life changing experiencing for many couples.

How to implement it

  • DVDs available for free by request: Contact Fr. Tom Aschenbrener @ 773-525-0709 Ext. 141
  • Follow the step by step information provided in the instruction guide.
  • Priest, deacon or lay couple(s) can facilitate using the pre-written talks that lead into the presentations.
  • Venue should have space for both presentations and lunch.
  • Have available a computer with PowerPoint software; LCD projector with sound system.
  • Make copies of provided questions for couples ahead of time and hand out at specified times.
  • Serve a nice breakfast and lunch; provide beverages all day.
  • Pray for the couples!
  • Have couples fill out feedback form and keep a file of results for future reference.
  • $90.00 per couple has been enough to provide breakfast and lunch.

Rev. James F. Hurlbert is pastor of St Alphonsus.

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