Making marriage work is a lifelong undertaking, one in which the Catholic Church is heavily invested. Strong, faithful marriages make strong, faith-filled families. Within the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend, there are many resources to help married couples focus on each other’s needs and keep the spark alive.
Marriage Course Online
One of these is the Marriage Course Online program that the Marriage and Family Ministry has offered since 2020. Lisa Everett hosts the program with her husband, Deacon Fred. The Marriage Course is a Christian, not Catholic, program, so the Everetts give a short presentation prior to the video in a Catholic perspective. While Deacon Everett is serving on a mission trip to Cuba, Lisa will continue to give the presentations on her own until his return.
In the videos, real-life couples and marriage experts speak on the topic presented, and participating couples have time for private conversations built into the program.
Lisa said, “I also make a point to pray the rosary for all of the couples during the 30-minute conversation that is the centerpiece of each session, so I think the couples benefit from that prayer support and feeling bolstered by grace during that conversation as well.
“The course has received rave reviews from couples who have taken it,” she continued. By using an online platform, couples do not need to travel from home to benefit from it, and even those outside the diocese can participate. The program is offered at no cost and the only things participants need to pay for are their personal journals to use in the course.
Married for 30 years, with three children and one grandchild, Eric and Kristine Dohrman still like to find new ways to enrich their marriage. When they found the Marriage Course Online, they chose to participate.
Both admitted to being skeptical of the program and its online platform at first. “However, as we made our way through the course, I really appreciated being able to discuss the topics with my husband from the privacy of our home,” Kristine shared.
“After the first session, I was impressed by the way the program was structured and more importantly how Kris and I could relate to a number of the couples that were sharing about themselves and their marriage journey,” Eric said.
Eric and Kristine are members of St. Mary of the Assumption in Decatur. One of the benefits of the online course is that they can comfortably participate from their own home. The couple has made the evening a special part of their week by making dinner and enjoying dessert together. “We really looked forward to the sessions each week and our time together – it was a nice time to share together in the midst of the normal duties of the week,” Kristine said.
In their experience, the couples featured in the videos were relatable and the program simply gave them additional tools to grow in their relationship. Kristine said, “The session on ‘The Impact of Family’ helped me to realize the impact that family background can have on a marriage. It really opened up some good conversation between the both of us.”
Eric added that he enjoyed the program and the special time with his wife so much that he would willingly repeat the course with her. “It added so much to each week and provided us a unique way of taking time out of each week to focus on each other and our relationship.”
For more information and to register, visit diocesefwsb.org/marriage-course/.
SALT Marriage Enrichment
Another way to help couples focus on their relationship is a program known as SALT – an acronym for “savoring a lifetime together.” Several local parishes have initiated this “date night” program for married couples. At Queen of Peace Parish in Mishawaka, Michelle Szajko runs SALT, though the idea originally came from another parish in the diocese.
Every year, the Queen of Peace group hosts three large events in January, February and March. They chose those months because there didn’t seem to be as much going on, which meant fewer reasons for couples not to attend. These events run about an hour and a half and give couples tools to strengthen their marriages, Szajko explained. “We try and find practical ways to share tools with couples.”
One such event focused on the book “Men are Like Waffles, Women are Like Spaghetti,” a devotional written by Bill and Pam Farrel about the different ways men’s and women’s brains work. The SALT organizers try to keep each event fun, and made a dinner of spaghetti and waffles for the attendees.
Offering free babysitting as much as possible is a must for Queen of Peace’s SALT nights, as Szajko recalls that she and her husband didn’t go on dates because of childcare issues. The group boasts an average of 15-20 couples.
“We all get into a daily routine … you go one day at a time and forget to make the extra time together,” she said. “And families do so much better when parents take extra time.”
Sometimes, Szajko said, “Just being around other couples inspires us to do better, to be better.”
For Your Marriage
Another resource comes from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, which sponsors an ongoing online initiative to help dating, engaged and married couples find the assistance they need for spiritual and practical relationship matters. The website For Your Marriage posts daily marriage tips and frequently adds new blogs for those in various stages of their relationships, focusing on Church teachings and prayers for the family. Additionally, there is a link to Unique for a Reason’s podcast, “Made for Love.”
For Your Marriage also has an active Facebook page for couples to connect with other Catholic couples and strengthen their bonds of friendship and support. And the companion website Por Tu Matrimonio offers resources for Spanish-speaking couples as well.
For information on the USCCB’s marriage initiatives, visit usccb.org/topics/marriage-and-family-life-ministries/marriage-and-family.
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