The Marriage Ministry at St. Peter Claver is back.
Having served on the recently completed archdiocesan synod, I was keenly aware of the archdiocese’s interest in working to improve relationships in families and marriages. The church plays a crucial role in supporting and nurturing our marriages and resulting families.
However, for too many, it barely seems to minister much beyond the wedding ceremony itself. Sitting together at Mass as a married couple or as a larger family is great, but that alone will not be sufficient to strengthen our relationships.
Our pastor, Father John Asare-Dankwah, embraced this particular tenet of the synod. One Sunday during his homily, in typical Father Asare-Dankwah fashion, he appointed Marc and Kiki Barnes to take the lead in revitalizing the parish’s once vibrant marriage ministry.
Offer they could not refuse
How could they say “no” in front of the entire congregation!
They were quickly joined by a core group of four to five couples who began in earnest to map out a strategy to help support married couples in our parish.
It was agreed that we would meet monthly (on the third Wednesday from 6 to 7:30 p.m.) and that we would hold quarterly activities. Our monthly meeting format has three parts: business, faith- sharing and social.
Using the consensus model, the business portion is used to plan future activities, assess previous and existing functions, and to discuss how to reach and serve more couples. The faith-sharing portion is usually led by one of the couples as we share from Scripture, reflect on our marriage journey and otherwise edify one another. The social – and additional conversations – continue the faith-sharing. It typically involves a meal prepared by one or more of the couples.
Our first quarterly activity was a couples’ trip to a local theater to see a highly acclaimed but little known movie entitled “War Room.” The movie is about a young couple struggling to save their marriage. The small group that participated enjoyed the evening, and we began to think of ways to share this fun outing and amazing film with others.
Overnight retreat a boon
The next event was an October married couples retreat in Bay St. Louis, Mississippi. This overnight retreat was just what the doctor ordered. We had a chance to get away from the city, take a step back and reflect on our marriages with our spouses and other couples, receive good manna in the form of physical food as well as spiritual food, and to experience the wonder of God in a subdued yet beautiful sunrise service on the bay. This activity could not have been better.
Our most recent quarterly activity was equally rewarding. On the Saturday prior to Valentine’s Day, we held our first “Dinner and Movie Date Night.” As we prepared, we anticipated 15 or maybe a maximum of 20 couples would show up. The small core group planned meticulously as many details as could be thought of, including Valentine’s, flowers, door prizes, and even a large bag of donated movie popcorn from a generous theater manager.
We were all set, and then people started showing up – and show up they did. We had nearly 40 couples – of all ages and years of marriage. Some were married for mere weeks; others had been married for more than 40 or 50 years. God truly blessed us as we had a tremendous turnout, great fellowship, a wonderful meal (followed by real movie popcorn), and that same amazing movie we wanted to share with others – “War Room.”
Yes, love is in the air at St. Peter Claver, and it is manifest in the form of our revitalized marriage ministry. Lay parishioners, assisted by our deacons and pastor, have crafted a fully functional and vital ministry.
Future plans call for continued energy and engagement in our monthly meetings and quarterly activities. We also plan to form mentoring relationships with couples preparing for marriage, couples who are newlywed and as well those who may be experiencing marital difficulties.
We want to continue to support all of our married couples but we also are beginning further outreach. We are living out our calling to share our marriage encounter with Jesus and to witness with joy.
Dr. Dereck and Angela Rovaris are members of St. Peter Claver Parish in New Orleans.