Spending a Saturday night with your spouse enjoying a little food, a few drinks and listening to a speaker could enhance your marriage – especially if the evening out is free, includes babysitting and is sponsored by the Nazareth Project of the John Paul II Center.
A year in the making, Destination Marriage is similar to the popular Theology on Tap series, except it is designed for married adults seeking to strengthen their relationships. The series aspires to offer married couples immediate formation, to equip them for ongoing formation and to connect them to other couples.
According to Lydia LoCoco, director of the Nazareth Project, the idea for Destination Marriage began with the mission of the 3-year-old Nazareth Project and is an extension of the Catholic Church’s belief that marriages can be lifelong, faithful, fruitful and life giving.
“The church knows that marriage is the most time-honored and time-tested institution on the face of the earth and that it has a particular meaning that is unchangeable, beyond cultural variances and even attempts to change it,” she said. “The bishops’ plan to strengthen marriages begins by evangelizing that ‘marriage is the permanent and exclusive union of one man and one woman, a bond ordered to love and life.’ This is what marriage is. It’s not arbitrary or made up. As church, we need to be better at articulating that marriage is grounded in the nature and identity of the human person, created by God as man and woman.”
Bishops’ pastoral is starting point
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has written a National Pastoral Initiative on Marriage, www.usccb.org/laity/loveandlife/ meant to be a starting point for each diocese, allowing for evangelization, catechesis, pastoral, education and advocacy within the parishes.
A team of four, led by LoCoco, created the Destination Marriage program that will consist of four evening formation sessions facilitated by trained (archdiocesan approved) presenters.
“I handpicked the team that created Destination Marriage,” she explained. “Three of us are married – one is a married deacon, the other works with youth and young adults and is a young adult himself and the fourth member of the team is a priest.”
Dave Braun, youth minister of St. Frances Cabrini Parish, West Bend, is excited to be part of something he views as helpful and needed for married couples to build up their relationships in everyday life and faith.
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The series begins
Onsite babysitting is
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For questions or more information about Destination Marriage, call Lydia LoCoco, director of the Nazareth Project for Marriage and Family Formation at
“Selfishly, I was also involved in part, because I fit the target audience, 36 and married with two kids in grade school,” he said. “It gives us an opportunity to have a night out, meet other couples who are Catholic in the area and maybe even help our own marriage a bit.”
Early feedback is positive
Early feedback from married couples in the archdiocese is favorable, Braun said.
“Theology on Tap works well and I think this type of setting for married couples will seem to work well for this series,” he said. “Those that have spoken to me seem genuinely interested and even grateful for an opportunity to get some time together.”
The program is targeted toward married couples in their 20s, 30s, 40s and possibly 50s with or without children. In a casual setting, Destination Marriage leaves adequate time for social interaction to foster long-term connections among the couples.
“This is simply a speaker series for married couples looking for a night of food, fun and a bit of formation, and we take the food and fun part of this very seriously,” said LoCoco. “The series offers insights into married life based on the personal experiences of presenting couples in light of the Catholic tradition. This series provides an opportunity for couples to be together in a relaxed atmosphere and informal setting. It is for all married couples raising kids from newborns through their teenage years, or who have no children at all.”
Session begins Jan. 22
The series begins Jan. 22 at Holy Angels School, West Bend at 7 p.m. with “Marriage Myths Busted.” Married couples can often feel isolated or alone in thinking that what they are experiencing in marriage is unique to them, when the reality is that marriages tend to share a lot in common.
This session will address popular misconceptions in marriage with plain, honest talk, sharing personal experiences about what marriage is really like, and why certain aspects, such as arguing, can be fine.
Session Two, “Avoiding Polygamy,” on Feb. 19 continues formation on fidelity, freedom, and fruitfulness by placing intimacy at their core. Speakers will discuss how God’s intimacy is the model for marital intimacy.
“Married couples need to be aware of the threats to intimacy,” said LoCoco. “Those things that undermine fidelity, freedom and fruitfulness, those things that lead to having multiple spouses, both figuratively and literally – a result to be avoided at all costs. The church’s teachings on chastity, contraception, pornography, masturbation and Natural Family Planning are meant to help safeguard true intimacy, fidelity, freedom and fruitfulness. There is a spirituality of married love with concrete practices that can serve as remedies to those dangers.”
Session Three, “Raising Catholic Kids,” on March 19 speaks to a common concern and question of married couples on raising children to be faithful Catholics. The church maintains that such formation occurs mainly in the home, and that the family is the domestic church. Through shared stories and experiences of presenters, attendees will learn practical insights into raising children through practices in the home that establish religious identity.
Session Four, “You’re only Together for Life,” on April 9 will be presented by Fr. Don Hying, rector of Saint Francis de Sales Seminary, addressing the often overlooked truth that marriage is, by definition, a temporary reality.
“This fourth session of each series will be given by a priest and we thought who better to start off with, but Fr. Don Hying,” said LoCoco. “This session addresses what spouses can do to help each other reach the ultimate goal – heaven!”
Program addresses stages of marriage
As hosts to the first Destination Marriage series, Deacon Mark Jansen of Holy Angels Parish is excited to welcome married couples from all over the archdiocese.
“In our parish and throughout the archdiocese, there continues to be a need for marriage support at all stages,” Deacon Jansen said. “I like the idea that Destination Marriage looks at the challenges of the earlier stages of marriage, including the challenges of being parents, as well as being marriage partners. Destination Marriage provides an opportunity not only for some great support from other married couples, but it gives couples a chance for some really great time together.”
As a deacon, he counsels engaged couples, and is hopeful that offering this program will follow through with his desire to see all couples have a successful marriage.
“We want them to know that they are not facing the challenge of marriage and parenting alone, and it has never been more important to pray for and support marriage and family,” said Deacon Jansen. “I hope the outcome is that couples that attend find this program helpful in supporting and encouraging them as marriage partners and parents. I am optimistic that this program will be effective in helping all those who attend in some way. I really see this program as having something for all those who attend.”
No cost to participating parishes
The program has no cost to participating parishes. The Nazareth Project for Marriage and Family Formation is responsible for the promotion, content, planning and speakers. The parish is only responsible for hosting the series and providing the hospitality.
“It was designed that way after seeing the success that we have had with Theology on Tap, which also comes out of the Nazareth Project,” explained LoCoco. “Like Theology on Tap, we will have Destination Marriage as an ongoing speaker series, which will be hosted twice a year – in the winter/spring and then in the fall, all around the archdiocese. Catholics in the archdiocese will only have to check on the JPII Web site to see where the series is being hosted. It is a big archdiocese and we plan on taking this series all over the map. We are thrilled to have our kick-off be West Bend.”