Through the Parish-Based Mentor Couple program, my wife Laura and I have the privilege and responsibility of preparing a couple, Kellie Crowder and Adam Penny, for the sacrament of matrimony. They will walk to the altar this December and create a covenant that is intended to last until death.
This is the first couple we are preparing for marriage, and we have been pleasantly surprised by the benefits it holds, not only for the couple, but also for us.
Kellie and Adam are in their 20s and have dated for more than two years. They did not choose a program that would require the least amount of time to complete, assuming incorrectly, that by now, they must know all they need to know about each other in order to take this big step.
Following the guidelines of the Archdiocese of New Orleans, they contacted Father Edmund Akordor, the pastor of Sacred Heart of Jesus in Norco, who led them to us for wedding preparation.
It is not unusual for a couple to be so focused on the wedding plans that they just want to get the archdiocesan requirements out of the way without taking into consideration that the programs offered are intended to help provide a foundation for a strong marriage rooted in deep knowledge of each other’s family of origin, marriage expectations, how they communicate, their sexual expectations, their spirituality, how they make moral decisions and the importance of Christ as the invisible third partner in the marriage.
I talked to Kellie and Adam about what their expectations were as they entered into this program. Adam had to admit that he thought the program might cover marriage topics with broad strokes, but he recently told us, “I love how in depth it gets and the challenging topics” that the program covers in detail.
receive guidance as well as a lasting friendship that I could rely on for future consultation.” She is confident that she is receiving both.
Can help later in life
As the mentor couple, Laura and I want engaged couples to feel enough confidence in us to be able to seek us out when times require support or they just need a third party to evaluate or give an opinion on some matter of importance in the couple’s lives.
We hope to gain this trust by being up front and truthful about our own good and bad experiences and how we faced an issue, examined our options, and with prayerful reflection, made informed decisions.
Kellie gave what amounts to a ringing endorsement of the program when we asked her what she thought the benefits were to herself and Adam.
“My fiancé and I have learned things about each other that we may not have uncovered at this stage of our relationship if not for this program,” Kellie said. “The material we read and questions we answer help us to have deep, meaningful conversations about our expectations and hopes for our marriage.”
That is one of the primary purposes of this program. The ability to develop strong communication skills and to share with each other without limitations provides the building stones for a strong marital foundation.
Not viewed as ‘old fogeys’
I was interested in finding out what the couple thought about Laura and me sharing what we had been through during our 41 years of marriage. Would they think it was just an old couple sharing war stories?
I was happily surprised to hear that Kellie actually “looked forward to hearing (our) personal experiences and solutions to difficult situations.”
“It’s always good to have a reference as to how to deal with hardships before they happen,” she said.
Kellie and Adam now have insight into experiences outside of their families. Adam said “to have a couple open up their marriage to us has been a blessing.”
As Laura and I dialogue with Kellie and Adam, we draw from our 41 years of marriage experience and are joyfully reminded of the bad times we’ve overcome and the joys we have shared through the grace of God. Laura said “it is fulfilling to us to see that Kellie and Adam appreciate the process.”
If you are preparing for a wedding and would like to experience the Parish-Based Mentor Couple Program, please contact your parish priest or call the archdiocesan Family Life Apostolate Office at 861-6243.
If you are already married and want to be a mentor couple for engaged couples, contact your parish and then either call the Family Life Apostolate to discuss options or register online for training in the “In Home Marriage Prep” program. You’ll be glad you did.
Deacon W. Gerard Gautrau is a permanent deacon serving at Sacred Heart of Jesus Parish in Norco. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.