In celebration of National Marriage Week, Feb. 7-14, and Worldwide Marriage Sunday, celebrated Feb. 10, the diocesan office of Marriage and Family Ministry and the Black Catholic Advisory Board collaborated to offer an outstanding afternoon of marital support, refreshment and focus at St. Augustine Parish, South Bend, on Saturday, Feb. 9.
Quoting Luke 8:16-18, “No one who lights a lamp conceals it with a vessel or sets it under a bed; rather, he places it on a lampstand so that those who enter may see the light,” the event was meant to be a support for marriages that already exist and an encouragement for those considering the vocation of marriage as well as civil marriages that will be blessed in the Church. The couples present could be ambassadors for those not present and for the good of the family, organizers Lisa Everett and Deacon Mel Tardy suggested.
Andrew and Terri Lyke of Joliet, Illinois, presented a dynamic, research-based and reflective Catholic-based program, engaging the participants with song and small- and large-group discussions. They are national leaders in Catholic marriage preparation, education and enrichment. Since 1982 they have served thousands of married couples and presented programs, keynote addresses, workshops, retreats and seminars on marriage and family issues to church, community and business audiences. They have been married for 43 years, since “right after kindergarten,” they joked. They are especially grateful for their parish, they said, and the faith community who walked with them and helped keep them in the vocation of marriage. Together, they sang and spoke about living as a follower of Christ in the married state.
Their strong, well-designed presentation flowed from their own life experiences, complete with relatable, true examples. Their words rang true both theologically and practically. Andrew explained, “As God’s ambassadors, can you do something with what you have left? Can you trust God, that He will magnify and bless and multiply it? Or will you complain? How many of you got married because you liked the way your spouse argued? You loved their attitude? Take the losses but roll with what you got. Trust what God will give you … in fact, trust that God’s plan is better than your plan.”
“God works in us,” he continued. “The people of God hold us together… If I’m looking for the devil, I’ll find what I’m looking for! Look for God in marriage. You will find God. God is not elusive. Look for the good things! God never stops being good.”
This combination of rich Catholic voices speaking the Truth of the faith along with joy-filled and realistic witness to the vacation of marriage. Tongue in cheek, they showed the three rings of marriage, engagement ring, marriage ring and suffering. Without skipping a beat, the Lykes then shared their recent state in marriage, where Andrew suffered with cancer and Terri suffered with him, as his primary caretaker. They spoke about joy and suffering present at the same time, a reality one can only describe once experienced.
“Embrace that suffering! Spend time and truly be happy together — the fact that we have each other… Putting the other person’s needs over what you want. The outcome is something you can be proud of together. Marriage has the mysteries of the Paschal Mystery itself … how both holy orders and marriage are both a vocation of service, “Andrew encouraged. After contrasting the fulfillment and commitment models of marriage, he added seriously, “This is a faithful, flawed person married to a faithful, flawed person: Because of our issues, not despite of our issues, I am a more loving person because of her.” He encouraged couples to “not be afraid of our differences — we might grow from it!”
The couple spoke of grit and grace of marriage, how to make room for each other’s differences. “Let’s not be afraid of our differences — we might grow from it,” they suggested.” We are, in marriage, a witness to and reflection of God’s magnanimous love and mercy. When I think of how much God loves Terri, my love pales, but that is what I’m shooting for,” Andrew reflected. “It is worth it.”
Their sincere, Catholic and humorous words touched the hearts of many present. Jude Pean, from St. Pius X Parish, Granger, shared: “I love how Terri and Andrew used real-life situations prevalent in their marriage to connect with the audience. It made the message they were communicating relatable and easy to understand. They were authentic and transparent.” Her husband, Emmanuel, agreed. “The retreat was a great experience for my wife and I! We learned a lot and would recommend their book “Marriage on a Lampstand” to our friends and family.”
David and Janel Charlton of St. Joseph Parish, South Bend, concurred. “The speakers were passionate, funny, comfortable with the audience, engaging, committed to helping married couples. St Augustine’s is a very welcoming community and the food was delicious. This topic is an important one and it was done well. It had a better turnout than we had figured there would be and it was energizing to see so many people committed to this topic.”
Everett and Deacon Tardy intentionally supported that which the Charlton’s found. “We intentionally sought a diverse audience since modern Christian marriage crosses racial and religious boundaries, and facilitators capable of presenting to such an audience. Our event attracted 30 couples — diverse racially, but also from nine different parishes and several cities,” Deacon Tardy explained. “We believe that marriage and relationships are best supported in community. We hope that by focusing primarily on couples and culminating with a candlelit dinner, this unique event will provide an informative, a fun and (maybe even) a romantic opportunity to provide participants with the communal support needed to sustain and enrich their marriages and relationships.”
He shared that the impetus for the event was a recollection of prayer from recent data. “In our 2015 Strategic Plan, the Black Catholic Advisory Board of the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend set a goal to “increase vocations to — and improve the health and longevity of — marriage within the black community.” Marriage as a vocation has been declining in society, but dramatically so within the African-American community. Among Catholics, the notion of marriage as a sacrament is also declining. To counter this, we sought to partner with the diocesan Office of Marriage and Family Ministry to both identify barriers to the sacrament of marriage and to promote African-American participation in relationship- and marriage-enrichment programs. This event marks our first such collaboration.”
The best news. Delivered to your inbox.
Subscribe to our mailing list today.