Marriage
Preparation

There are approximately 320 couples who are married in the Broken Bay Diocese each year. About 160 of them are prepared for marriage through programs conducted by Centacare.

Summary of Learnings

In the Diocese of Broken Bay there are five marriage programs that are available to couples seeking to be married which are delivered in a variety of formats.

These programs are:

  • Partners for Life (Centacare),
  • Foccus (Centacare),
  • Foccus (parish based),
  • Embrace (parish based) and
  • Engaged Encounter.

There are approximately 320 couples who are married in the Diocese each year. About 160 of them are prepared for marriage through programs conducted by Centacare.

Centacare conducts two programs for marriage preparation:

  • Partners for Life, and;
  • Foccus.

 

FOCCUS

This is a program where a couple meets with a facilitator one on one.

Couples come to an initial meeting where they fill out a questionnaire which involves a response to about 150 statements. Between sessions the questionnaire is processed and the couple meets with the facilitator to discuss the results of the questionnaire.
 

 

This discussion acknowledges the areas of agreement and focuses on areas where there was disagreement between the couple’s responses or when the couple both did not select the preferred responses.

There is also an opportunity to learn new skills, for example in conflict resolution, and to explore the Church's teaching on spirituality and the Sacrament of Matrimony.

Approximately 80 couples per year attend FOCCUS. Facilitators of this program must be accredited.
 

Partners for Life

Partners for Life is a marriage preparation program that is conducted over a Friday evening and Saturday.

The program is conducted in a small group format with a minimum of 6 couples and a maximum of 12. The program is conducted at Waitara and Manly Vale. About 80 couples per year participate in Partners for Life.

The program is delivered by a male and female facilitator who are employed by Centacare. Facilitators must have a background in adult education, or social sciences. It is preferred that they themselves are married and have been for a number of years.

 

To ensure professional delivery of the courses, facilitators must be accredited. This accreditation process involves attending a program as an observer, attending a one day training program and then facilitating part of a course and being assessed.

There are 7 facilitators on the team; they conduct on average 3-4 courses per year. Following each weekend the program co-ordinator makes contact with facilitators to debrief and offer support. Three times per year facilitators of both Partners for Life and FOCCUS are required to attend a team meeting where they receive professional development and peer support.
 

Many couples that attend Centacare marriage preparation programs identify as Catholic however they have seen an increasing number of couples of mixed faith.

The couples that attend place value on marriage – this is affirmed by the presenters and course material.

The presenters of the course recognise that it is very important to welcome and affirm the couples and to help them realise that the church is invested in their marriage.
 

Some of the practical ways that they communicate this message of welcome, affirmation and support is by being well prepared and by being attentive to the physical comfort of the couples.

The venue is well maintained and presented they try to provide “hospitality that goes the extra mile.”

The presenters are also aware that by being approachable, available and by modelling good relationships between themselves they again can demonstrate care for the couples and communicate the message that the couples are valued and important.
 

The primary message that the facilitators hope to deliver through their words and actions to the couples is that “we are here for you, to provide a forum for you as a couple to develop your relationship and to support your decision to marry”.

Another way of showing respect and support for the couples is by ensuring that the material presented is up to date and relevant. Through regular program review, training and professional development for presenters the program quality is maintained.
 

The program co-ordinator described the presenters of the programs as people who want to make a difference, see the program as a ministry, are passionate about the work and have a high regard for marriage and its impact on society and children.

The two topics that can be challenging for couples to address in the program are those of spirituality and fertility awareness.

In terms of spirituality the program draws on the couples own “spiritual experiences” in the context of their everyday life, highlighting their wedding and marriage as such.
 

With regard to fertility awareness it is very important that information presented is accurate, balanced and up to date. The focus of this is topic is for couples to recognise the choices that they have made and for them to consider how consciously they have made this choice and the consequences or impacts of that choice.

While addressing these issues the team aims to ensure that people know that they are included. Judgement makes everything you say unpalatable. It is this approach that can lead to productive conversation between the couples, opening them up to areas for discussion that they may have not considered in the past.
 

When it comes to talking about spiritualty, many of the couples are undecided about this area of their lives. We can help them to articulate their understanding by providing them tools such as the model presented in Father David Ranson’s book Across the Great Divide or by talking about our own spirituality.

One of the presenters commented “I believe strongly that the beauty and the love of God can be seen in marriage, there are many ways that this can be acknowledged. It is important for ordinary couples to see their vocation as important.”
 

Summary of Learnings

  • Facilitators of the program must be accredited. This process includes them attending training, being observed and assessed and being given feedback
     
  • The program co-ordinator debriefs with facilitators after each program (Partners for Life)
     
  • They put great effort in making the couples feel valued and affirmed, this is evident in the welcome, the quality of the venue and hospitality, the quality of information and presenter preparation
     

 

  • Couples are affirmed, for the love that they share, for the value that they place on marriage
     
  • It is important to present the “challenging issues” of spirituality and family planning in a relatable and professional way with up to date, accurate and balanced information
     
  • By the way that couples are welcomed and accepted the team hopes provides a positive experience of “church”
     
  • Presenters of the program are approachable, flexible, accepting and available
     

Catholic Diocese of
Broken Bay

Building 2, 423 Pennant Hills Road
Pennant Hills NSW 2120

PO Box 340
Pennant Hills NSW 1715

Phone 02 9847 0000
Fax 02 9847 0001
news@dbb.org.au

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