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home : features : kids/families October 17, 2017

Couple-to-couple mentor training aims to strengthen marriages, parishes

From staff reports

In an effort to help couples on their faith journey move toward a fuller understanding of sacramental marriage, the diocesan Department of Evangelization and Family Life is co-sponsoring a marriage preparation ministry that brings those who are engaged together with mentoring couples.

Witness to Love, a parish renewal program certification training, will be held from 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Sept. 9 in St. Gregory the Great Parish, Hamilton Square. It is being co-sponsored by the Office for Life and Family, Archdiocese of Philadelphia.

“This new approach calls for engaged couples to be accompanied by an experienced married couple from the parish that is selected by the engaged couple,” said Peg Hensler, diocesan associate director for marriage ministries and Natural Family Planning. “The married couple’s only qualifications are that they are married in the Catholic Church in good standing, they are known by the pastor and they attend Mass regularly and are active parish members.”

Witness to Love is a virtues-based, catechumenate model of marriage renewal and preparation that integrates modern principles of psychology and the virtues to help couples facilitate an authentic dialogue about their relationship. What makes it unique is the inclusion of a mentor couple, chosen by the couple, to provide a concrete connection and integration into the parish, helping to ensure the engaged couple experiences the Church not as strangers, but as a committed and life-giving family of faith. Through the sharing of the mentor couple’s own marriage journey, the engaged couple inherits a “lifeline” of support in their commitment to Jesus and his Church.

“The process is a win-win because the married couple is given the privilege of journeying with the engaged couple, so they agree to a process that allows them to enrich their own marriage through prayer and study,” Hensler said.

“The highest level of adult learning is teaching, so the married mentor couple learns and internalizes the beauty of Church teaching about marriage along with the engaged couple, then connects these teachings to their own experience of married life. They mentor out of their own unique experience,” she said.

Under the program, both couples sign a contract wherein they agree to a certain list of tasks, known as a “scavenger hunt” of activities, that they complete together. For instance, Hensler said, the mentor couple agrees to pray for the engaged every week, and both couples attend Mass together monthly, attend a parish event together and have dinner several times.

 There are also structured activities that provide for guided discussions of various marriage topics. The married mentor couple is not responsible for the sacramental catechesis aspect of marriage preparation, Hensler said, but they may be asked to accompany the engaged couple through the catechetical sessions.

Hensler said one benefit of the program is that those who are engaged can learn much about relationships from a married couple.

 “They build a relationship of trust that carries through into the early years of marriage when things can be difficult,” she said. “Mentors can work through the challenges of the early years of marriage with the engaged couple – a tremendous benefit.”

 In addition, married couples can become more actively involved in parish life after having the responsibility of being mentors, Hensler said. “The whole parish benefits greatly from the process, as more and more disciples are formed.”

For more information on Witness to Love, or to register, contact Hensler at 609-403-7156 or

Related Stories:
• Training program aims to bring married, new couples together

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