By Deacon Stephen Bowling, Director of Family Ministries
When I came aboard as Family Ministries Director a little over two years ago, one of the very first things Archbishop Kurtz said to me was, “We generally do a fine job of walking with couples on their way towards receiving the sacrament of matrimony. We need to be better at continuing that journey with them into their new married lives.”
As usual, very well said indeed.
Little did I realize that Pope Francis himself would soon echo those very words in his own pastoral exhortation Amoris Laetitia in April of 2016. The fruit of two synods and not-a-little-bit of discernment by the Church herself at all levels, this idea of “walking with” newly married couples has been on my mind and in my heart (as well as my strategic plan) for some time now . . . and instead of us wading ankle-deep in this particular ocean any longer, it’s finally time to swim!
Our new parish-based “Companion Couple Program” (a term coined by Archbishop Kurtz himself) is entitled Joined By Grace and it is now beginning to be explored and adopted by parishes all over the Archdiocese. It is unique among the many available programs in that it takes into account the unique needs and views of millennials today. It also contains a special component called “Newly Married Companioning.” This distinctive part of the program is designed to build upon the special relationship created during the couple’s marriage preparation process in order to deepen, support, and enhance their relationship during those critical first years after the wedding.
Especially in light of the Archbishop’s recent pastoral letter calling for us to better “support, equip, and form families” using the parish as our primary vehicle, what parish would not want its newly married couples to become better involved in the regular life of the Church through strongly-formed relationships they have experienced there?
After seeing (and liking!) what this program could offer, Father Chuck Walker from Saint Peter the Apostle recently asked me the million-dollar question – how can you better get this info out to the pastors and their marriage preparation teams?
Well, in addition to having personal conversations with the priests, deacons, and others involved in marriage preparation as well as speaking to groups (I am speaking at the Deacon Assembly Day on September 23), the best method for spreading the word about this program is by parishes either hosting or sending folks to one of our “Joined By Grace Information Sessions.”
These quick, hour-long sessions are designed to showcase the many strengths of the “Joined By Grace” program as well as to answer questions of parish staff, marriage program administrators, and prospective couples, so as to clearly illustrate just how robust and easy-to-implement and operate this program really is.
We are offering sessions on Monday, September 18 and Wednesday, October 18 at 7:00 p.m. in Loft 1 at Saint Gabriel Parish as well as on September 28 at 6:30 p.m. in the Rodney Thomas Room at Saint James Parish in Elizabethtown.
We will be scheduling many more sessions in parishes all over the Archdiocese as we further “swim” this program into existence.
Please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or (502) 471-2127 to schedule one of these information sessions at your parish soon. I promise you will like what you hear . . . and please click on the Joined By Grace graphic shown here to view the 1:53 long trailer for the program on YouTube!