July 17, 2015

Office of Pro-Life and Family Life to phase in new Pre Cana marriage preparation format and material in 2016

By Natalie Hoefer

The Pre Cana Conference, one of three marriage preparation programs sponsored by the archdiocese, will undergo some changes in 2016.

“This is just an enhancement,” says Scott Seibert, marriage and family enrichment coordinator for the archdiocese. “Pre Cana has been running for several years. We wanted to give it a more unified approach to better serve parishes and engaged couples.”

Since 2013, an ad-hoc committee has been reviewing how to improve marriage preparation in the archdiocese.

“Through that process, [they] identified three guiding principles for marriage: the Catholic vision of love and marriage, the Catholic understanding of sexuality, and the skills of love and marriage,” says Seibert. “When I came on board [in 2014], I took those guiding principles and evaluated everything that we were doing to really enhance it.”

Seibert and his team reviewed more than a dozen marriage preparation programs and talked to numerous people involved in marriage preparation ministry.

They settled upon a program created by Ascension Press called God’s Plan for a Joy-Filled Marriage.

“This program better addresses the issues and challenges engaged couples are facing in the preparation process,” Seibert explains.

The program will be implemented in two phases. Five freestanding conferences, each occurring on a Sunday from 1-7 p.m., will take place during the first phase, which encompasses January through June of 2016.

“[This phase] focuses on communication, conflict, problem solving and practicing virtue in marriage,” Seibert says. “There’s an introduction talk on St. John Paul II’s Theology of the Body and a discussion of Natural Family Planning,” as well as a look at the sacramentality of marriage.

The second phase, which will be implemented starting in July of 2016, will add an additional day to the conference, establishing the new permanent overnight Pre Cana Conference format of one Friday or Saturday evening from 6:30-9:30 p.m., and the following day from 9 a.m.-4 p.m.

“Phase two will include the second half of the God’s Plan for a Joy-Filled Marriage program, which is heavily rooted in St. John Paul II’s Theology of the Body and outlines a more in-depth understanding of the sacramentality of marriage and a Catholic vision of love and marriage,” Seibert explains.

“We want engaged couples to have a better understanding of what the Church actually teaches about marriage. And also we want couples to feel prepared to encounter problems within their marriage: How does faith play into this? How does virtue? We’re supposed to bring our spouse to heaven—what does that really mean in the everyday messiness of life?

“The idea is enhancing what [couples] already know, maybe addressing misconceptions, and to help them feel as prepared as they can for marriage.”

A team has already been trained by Ascension Press to lead the program. That team will train others who are interested in participating, whether “priests, religious, couples or individuals,” says Seibert.

Initially the conferences will be offered at Our Lady of Fatima Retreat House in Indianapolis.

“We hope to expand it south and to other locations [in the archdiocese],” he says. “But for 2016, it will all be in Indianapolis as we learn how to train and transition to the new program and work out all the kinks.”

The Pre Cana Conference, like all of the archdiocesan sponsored marriage preparation programs, not only prepares couples for marriage but also introduces the Catholic faith to interfaith couples.

“More and more, there are interfaith relationships,” says Seibert. “If you’re going to get married in the Catholic Church, we’re not going to impose our beliefs on you, but let’s introduce you to what it is we teach and what we’re really saying so you know going into it.”

By focusing on the Catholic understanding of love, marriage and sexuality and the skills of love and marriage, the archdiocese hopes to help engaged couples succeed in their marriages.

“More and more, we’re finding that couples who should be prepared from the time they’re born are not getting that [preparation] as much as they should,” says Seibert.

“No one goes into marriage wanting to fail. This is about how can we best help them.”

(For dates and costs of the new Pre Cana Conferences, which begin in 2016, log on to www.archindy.org/plfl/marriage-precana.html. For dates and costs of the current Pre Cana Conferences through the end of 2015, see the related article.)

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