June 23, 2015 // Local

SALT ministry flavors married life for couples at St. Vincent de Paul

By Kay Cozad

Married couples gathered to renew their vows at the third SALT, Savoring A Lifetime Together, event held at St. Vincent de Paul Parish in Fort Wayne on June 13. SALT is a ministry offering fun date nights to foster healthy marriages.

FORT WAYNE — A new ministry at St. Vincent de Paul Parish in Fort Wayne is bringing married couples together for fun and fellowship. A simple ministry to start and maintain, said founder Cindy Black, SALT — Savoring A Lifetime Together, is meant to season the marriages of the couples that attend. “Salt is a preservative. So our hope is that these date nights will help preserve these marriages, so that as couples we can be salt and light to the world,” said Black.

Couples married for any length of time are welcome to the bimonthly events at St. Vincent’s Life Center. Free childcare, a necessary service for some who may otherwise be unable to attend, is provided by teens of the parish and held at a different site on the church campus. Each event brings the couples together for food and beverages, a themed talk presented by a variety of speakers, table sharing with discussion questions and built-in couples’ face-to-face time for personal sharing.

“We want these date nights to be focused on the couples, not the kids,” said Black. The evening always concludes with a prayer.

Inspired by a radio show illustrating the need for marriage support, and with defense of marriage in the news, Black began to form the idea of a mission for her church. Then, she said, on the feast of the Holy Family in 2014, Father Andrew Budzinski, then parochial vicar of St. Vincent de Paul Parish, who supports fostering holy marriages, during his homily asked newly married and long-time married couples to stand, and exhorted the congregation to find ways to help other married couples get from their newlywed days to celebrating many years of marriage.

Taking his words to heart, Black wrote a proposal for the SALT ministry that was immediately approved by Father Dan Scheidt, pastor of St. Vincent, and a bulletin ad was published calling for assistance. “I didn’t know what to expect,” Black said, and was amazed when seven creative couples stepped forward, with two more couples joining later, who have settled into specific roles that utilize each skill and talent they have to offer.

The SALT core team has hosted three couples’ events to date with plans for many more to come, with some proposed themes of communication, intimacy and the five love languages.

Father Scheidt introduced the concept of SALT at the first event that drew in 45 couples with marriages ranging from one to 40 years. At the conclusion of the evening, each couple was given a jar of salt blessed by their pastor to take home as a reminder of the importance of keeping their marriage fresh.

Ed and Amber said of the first event, “We had a blast last night. … We had no idea going in what to expect. To be honest it was the last thing either of us wanted to do on a Saturday night. It was quickly apparent that is exactly where God wanted us to be.”

Another couple, currently empty-nesters, met a younger couple at their table and are now bonded in friendship and babysitting for their children, a gift for both couples as their grandchildren live out of town.

The second event, hosting 58 couples, offered a talk on gender differences garnering nods of assent from the attending husbands and wives. And of course, humor was an essential part of each evening. “We just had fun,” said Black, “I want people to know this is the Catholic Church just being human together.”

Several of the couples are of mixed religions and others are inviting non-Catholic friends to the events that are bearing great fruit for the New Evangelization effort by the Church. “We have marriage prep before you get married but there’s not anything specific until Baptism prep, unless a couple’s having problems. So this is a way to enrich marriages,” Black reported, adding that this proactive approach acknowledges that no marriage is easy and that that’s okay.

The most recent SALT date night, a marriage vow renewal ceremony, was held in the church, attended by 72 couples, one of whom marked their 63rd year of marriage this year. A wedding reception with champagne and dancing was held following the blessing by Father Scheidt.

One couple said, “As Frank and I reflected on our evening, we came to the conclusion that renewing our vows was very special, mainly because we have been married 20 years and we have the experience of — in sickness and in health, richer and poorer, etc. When we said ‘I do’ 20 years ago we didn’t have these experiences together.”

Black and her dedicated core team are excited that three parishes, St. Elizabeth Ann Seton and St. Jude in Fort Wayne, and St. Mary, Decatur, are in the process of initiating the SALT date night and Black invites all diocesan parishes to contact her at [email protected] or 260-422-4611, for more information on how to start their own parish SALT date nights for married couples.

“It’s been a fun and simple ministry to put together,” said Black, “and it’s bearing great fruit!”

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