June 16, 2017

Worship and Evangelization Outreach / Cheryl McSweeney

Communication at the heart of Tobit program offered for engaged couples

Cheryl McSweeney

“Living together [in the sacrament of marriage] is an art, a patient, beautiful, fascinating journey. It does not end once you have won each other’s love. … Rather, it is precisely there where it begins! This journey of every day has a few rules that can be summed up in three phrases which you already said, phrases which I have already repeated many times to families, and which you have already learned to use among yourselves: May I—that is, ‘can I,’ you said—‘thank you,’ and ‘I’m sorry.’ ”
—Pope Francis, Feb. 14, 2014, address to engaged couples preparing for marriage

 

Good communication is a gift to all healthy relationships. I think if you were to speak to most priests or marriage counselors, they would say that a majority of relationships suffer from a lack of, or poor, communication. Marriage is no exception. Healthy communication with your spouse and with God is vital to a successful marriage.

This is the focus of the Tobit program that is offered to engaged couples at Our Lady of Fatima Retreat House in Indianapolis. The weekend program starts on Friday evening and is finished on Sunday by noon, and is offered six times a year.

A variety of topics are discussed, including understanding your family of origin and communication styles that you have witnessed over the years, the relationship cycle of “dream, disappointment and discovery,” individual spirituality and spirituality as a couple, as well as a better understanding of what all is encompassed in the vows. Many couples state that the instructional Mass on Saturday evening is a highlight for both Catholics and non-Catholics.

Depending on the time of year, there will be anywhere from 15-30 couples that attend. While often nervous coming in, most couples leave feeling much more confident not only in where they are currently in their relationship, but for the future as well.

Nicole Bauer and her fiancé, James Sigler, attended the Tobit program a month ago. She stated, “I feel the program really helped me to understand my partner more, specifically with knowing his love languages and how he communicates. The tools we received have been very useful in helping us improve our communication, and will continue to be useful in the future.” She added, “One thing that was reaffirming to us was how important it is for us to pray together. With God on this journey with us, we can accomplish anything!”

My husband, Mark, and I attended a program very similar to Tobit in the Chicago suburbs almost 30 years ago to prepare for our marriage. We loved the process and found it very helpful as we were coming from two different faith backgrounds.

The conversations that were started that weekend are still happening today, and we still rely on all the communication skills and techniques that we learned so long ago.

We have been presenters for the Tobit program now for more than 20 years, and have found that our marriage continues to be blessed by this opportunity to evangelize to engaged couples. From the variety of people that we have been able to meet, to the stories that we have heard and shared, we too have been evangelized and our marriage has grown as a result.

We are forever grateful!
 

(Cheryl McSweeney is associate director-program manager at Our Lady of Fatima Retreat House in Indianapolis.) †

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