The Denver Archdiocese held one of the largest-ever marriage-prep training days for mentor couples in January in hopes to better prepare engaged couples for holy matrimony.
Eager married couples and clergy packed Bonfils Hall on the John Paul II Center campus Jan. 17-18 to become the next FOCCUS (Facilitating Open Couple Communication, Understanding and Study) facilitators who guide couples on their way to the altar.
International FOCCUS trainer Tom Schulte flew from its headquarters in Omaha, Neb., to lead two trainings for some 150 veteran- and novice-volunteer facilitators.
“That was the largest group of trainers I’ve ever trained,” Schulte said. “It’s a wonderful ministry.
You can’t help but love it.”
The training days included insights on the new fourth edition of the FOCCUS inventory and information on how to train other facilitators. New facilitators also learned about their role in the marriage-prep process through talks, video demonstrations and discussions.
While priests or deacons may guide couples through the inventory, facilitating married couples can offer a unique “silent witness to the covenant of marriage,” Schulte said.
“You can’t help but build a relationship with a couple. You become friends,” he said. “All of it is based on the underlying attitude that marriage is sacred.”
The Office of Evangelization and Family Life Ministries organized the trainings in an effort to increase the number of parish-based facilitators and increase the inventory’s effectiveness in preparing both English- and Spanish-speaking couples, said Carrie Keating, natural family planning (NFP), family life and marriage specialist.
“We really want them to have the best start in their married life,” Keating said.
That same eagerness to mentor new couples was what compelled Chris and Linda Murphy to become FOCCUS facilitators since 2007 at the Cathedral Basilica.
They attended the training to become refreshed on the new edition and become better facilitators. The face-to-face interaction is key to fostering open dialogue, they’ve found, in mentoring the 60-some couples through the parish.
“Just having us there to prod them—it gets the dialogue going,” Chris said.
Linda said, “I think it helps to be with another who is encouraging them and showing them what life is as a married couple.”
Other new facilitators, like Ben and Donita Say of Blessed John XXIII Parish in Fort Collins, signed up to mentor after their own experience deviated from its model. Donita said the pair compared their FOCCUS answers without a facilitator or in-depth discussion.
“We didn’t talk about topics we could have, which have since come up in our marriage,” she said.
They took the training to help couples understand marriage in the Church.
The inventory is part of the Denver Archdiocese’s marriage preparation process. Couples record their answers to almost 190 statements on topics including lifestyle, religion, parenting, finances, sex and careers. The answers are then given to a facilitating couple who will guide the engaged couple through the results and encourage discussion to flesh out any potential issues.
Daniel Fugman, who’s engaged to be married to Jennifer Sustad in June, recently completed their FOCCUS inventory.
“The FOCCUS was one of the things we were looking forward to the most as far as marriage prep,” Daniel said.
He said the facilitator couple’s feedback was valuable and helped them think about topics they hadn’t considered in-depth, including finances.
Donita Say said they recently decided to coordinate marriage preparation at their parish to aid couples and encourage the practice of the faith.
“The FOCCUS allows an opportunity for the facilitator to encourage the couple to look up Church teachings on problem issues between sessions and to discuss their finding at the next session,” Donita said. “For engaged couples to have a relationship with a mentor couple can definitely be helpful as an example of how couples can practice the faith.”
For questions and information about becoming a FOCCUS facilitator, contact the Office of Evangelization and Family Life Ministries at 303-715-3259 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information about FOCCUS, visit www.foccusinc.com.