Couple learns path to financial peace

Kristi Meleney is a nerd. Her husband Patrick, a free spirit.

This according to a course the newlyweds are taking to help get their marriage off on the right foot financially. Kristi, 27, and Patrick, 26, married last September at St. Mary Church in Littleton, are five weeks into a nine-week course at their parish called Financial Peace University (FPU). It’s a part of a wider parish campaign to build stronger families.

“Opposites attract,” Kristi said of the two. “And the class has really helped us with our communication style.”

Arguing about money is the top predictor of divorce, according to Kansas State University researcher Sonya Britt, in a study released last July. Her findings indicated couples who argued about money early in their relationship were at a greater risk for divorce.

As the “nerd” in the couple, according to the course material, Kristi is analytical about household finances. While Patrick, being a “free spirit,” is involved in the process but not as likely to lead it.

“Because I do the budget every month doesn’t mean Patrick doesn’t have a say,” she said. “We’re doing it together; making decisions together.”

Financial Peace University encourages households to become debt-free, a countercultural message in today’s buy-or-charge-everything-you-want society. The Meleneys, who both graduated college with student loans, are debt-free just four months into their marriage.

“I’m really passionate about paying down debt,” Kristi said.

Kristi, who works at the Re/Max corporate headquarters, paid off $25,000 in student loans in four years while earning an annual salary of $28,000 at her former job as a youth director. Patrick, director of youth ministry at Pax Christi Church in Littleton, just made the last payment on his $20,000 student loan debt this month. Both attended Franciscan University of Steubenville.

“It’s not about your income,” she said. “It’s about your willingness to make sacrifices.”

Another motivating factor for the couple: a baby on the way, due next September.

“Sometimes people don’t want to have kids because they feel financially out of control,” she said. “We knew we wanted to have children.”

They learned about FPU though Kristi’s father, Peter Ugran, director of stewardship and development at St. Mary’s. He coordinates the course, along with Erin Monroe, parish receptionist, as part of the parish vision “Towards a Family Friendly Parish” established by pastor Father Alvaro Montero of the Disciples of the Hearts of Jesus and Mary last October.

“This ministry, like many others developed as staff and parishioners, asked: ‘What can I do to contribute to this vision?'” Ugran said. “We are a stewardship parish and Financial Peace University is an offering that we can give to our parish and local community that benefits the family.”

About half of the 65 people from 30 households participating are parishioners and the other half from neighboring communities.

“We’re all called to be good stewards of our money,” he said. “And if we don’t manage and direct it, it can manage and even enslave us.”

Personal finance authority Dave Ramsey, an evangelical Christian, created FPU, a program based on scriptural themes and prayer.

“(It’s) helped millions of families using biblical principles to address some the money myths of our society,” Ugran said. “And challenges us as families to be countercultural and address the need to make a budget and get out of debt.”

Members in the current class range from their early 20s to a participant in his 80s.

“Regardless of age, we all can benefit from a financial re-boot at any stage of life,” said Ugran, who has participated in the program twice. “The average family sees a financial improvement of over $8,000 in just 90 days through reducing their debt and increasing their savings.

“When we do this as Christians,” he added, “we can better serve our greater community.”

For more information or to find a class, visit www.daveramsey.com.

COMING UP: Q&A: USCCB clarifies intent behind bishops’ Eucharist document

Sign up for a digital subscription to Denver Catholic!

Last week, the U.S. bishop concluded their annual Spring meeting, during which much about the Church in the U.S was discussed. In particular, the bishops voted to draft a document on the meaning of Eucharistic life in the Church, which was approved by an overwhelming majority.

Since then, speculation about the nature of the document has run rampant, the chief of which is that it was drafted specifically to instigate a policy aimed directly at Catholic politicians and public figures whose outward political expressions and policy enactment do not align with Church teaching.

The USCCB has issued a brief Q&A clarifying the intent of the document, and they have emphasized that “the question of whether or not to deny any individual or groups Holy Communion was not on the ballot.”

“The Eucharist is the source and summit of Christian life,” the USCCB said. “The importance of nurturing an ever
deeper understanding of the beauty and mystery of the Eucharist in our lives is not a new topic for the bishops. The document being drafted is not meant to be disciplinary in nature, nor is it targeted at any one individual or class of persons. It will include a section on the Church’s teaching on the responsibility of every Catholic, including bishops, to live in accordance with the truth, goodness and beauty of the Eucharist we celebrate.”

Below are a few commonly asked questions about last week’s meeting and the document on the Eucharist.

Why are the bishops doing this now?

For some time now, a major concern of the bishops has been the declining belief and understanding of the Eucharist among the Catholic faithful. This was a deep enough concern that the theme of the bishops’ strategic plan for 2021-2024 is Created Anew by the Body and Blood of Christ: Source of Our Healing and Hope. This important document on the Eucharist will serve as a foundation for the multi-year Eucharistic Revival Project, a major national effort to reignite Eucharistic faith in our country. It was clear from the intensity and passion expressed in the individual interventions made by the bishops during last week’s meeting that each bishop deeply loves the Eucharist.

Did the bishops vote to ban politicians from receiving Holy Communion?

No, this was not up for vote or debate. The bishops made no decision about barring anyone from receiving Holy Communion. Each Catholic — regardless of whether they hold public office or not — is called to continual conversion, and the U.S. bishops have repeatedly emphasized the obligation of all Catholics to support human life and dignity and other fundamental principles of Catholic moral and social teaching.

Are the bishops going to issue a national policy on withholding Communion from politicians?

No. There will be no national policy on withholding Communion from politicians. The intent is to present a clear understanding of the Church’s teachings to bring heightened awareness among the faithful of how the Eucharist can transform our lives and bring us closer to our creator and the life he wants for us.

Did the Vatican tell the bishops not to move forward on drafting the document?

No. The Holy See did encourage the bishops to engage in dialogue and broad consultation. Last week’s meeting was the first part of that process. It is important to note that collaboration and consultation among the bishops will be key in the drafting of this document.


Featured photo by Eric Mok on Unsplash