Spouses Who Are Parents Can Enrich Both Marriage and Parent Vocations
Previously, we looked at research on reasons couples shy away from "marriage enrichment" programs. Although not every couple are parents and ministers need to keep all kinds of couples in mind, many people are parents.
Offering a marriage program that expressly engages married couples as parents can be an effective “hook” to catch these young adults and minister to their marriages. Consider taking a two-pronged approach – marriage and parenting together in one program. Offering couples guidance for parenting which has the potential to attract better participation. By moving the spotlight off of the couple’s relationship, this project can make participants more comfortable than ordinary marriage programs that urge couples to “work on their relationship.”
To succeed, programs for marriage enrichment need to be as family-friendly and hospitable as possible, qualities that the parish setting can offer readily. Parishes have the facilities and volunteers to provide a comfortable setting for marriage enrichment. Guided by parish policies and supported by appropriate training, parish members can assist with child care for the participants.
Parishes need to offer ministry that addresses young parents’ felt needs, fits into their busy schedules, and teaches them ideas and skills they can put into practice in their daily lives. Programs and events should be part of a fabric of ministry that also includes good liturgy, preaching, and opportunities to serve others. Parishes need ideas and tools to help this group develop a network of support that will sustain their spiritual growth.
Marriage: Love and Life in the Divine Plan identifies specific areas of growth that can be promoted in enrichment programs for married couples: “Maintaining the common courtesies—persevering in fidelity, kindness, communication, and mutual assistance—can become a deep expression of conjugal charity. It means growing in a love that is far deeper than a romantic feeling.” Those same character qualities can improve the parent-child relationship.
An effective marriage enrichment program should teach spouses ways to practice cooperating with each other that can also help them relate more lovingly and effectively with their children. This project aimed to create an interactive, spiritually enriching program, in a comfortable setting with their peers, in which participants could experience the fruits of the connection between their marriage and their parenting that Catholic tradition has defended.
The Christian Family Movement offers a five-part program by Dr. Lauri Przybysz, Wisdom and Grace for Marriage and Parenting. Each of the parts on Wisdom and Grace can be offered as a stand-alone session, or multiple sessions can be offered in the parish or in peoples’ homes. The Wisdom and Grace program is available free to members of the movement, although donations are welcome. CFM hopes that all participants will join for a trial membership. Visit www.cfm.org to join and find out more details about Wisdom and Grace and other CFM programs.