July 15, 2016

Celebrate Marriage ministry offers couples opportunities for ‘Christ-centered marriage enrichment’

Marcy and Tom Renken started the Celebrate Marriage Ministry at Our Lady of the Greenwood Parish in Greenwood in 2012. (Submitted photo)

Marcy and Tom Renken started the Celebrate Marriage Ministry at Our Lady of the Greenwood Parish in Greenwood in 2012. (Submitted photo)

By Natalie Hoefer

Tom and Marcy Renken were stunned several years ago at the news of their friends’ divorce.

“[The announcement] came out of nowhere,” says Marcy. “It was heartbreaking.”

With thoughts of, “If it can happen to them, it could happen to us,” the Renkens decided to attend a Worldwide Marriage Encounter Retreat in Indianapolis in 2010, eight years into their marriage.

“We came out of it on fire for each other, and for marriage being a covenant calling,” says Tom, 39.

Tom, who was not Catholic at the time, felt called to be received into the Catholic Church at the couple’s parish, Our Lady of the Greenwood in Greenwood. The Renkens became a sponsor couple for the parish’s marriage preparation program. And they searched for other opportunities in the Church to enrich their marriage—with little luck.

“The Church does a great job with marriage preparation and sponsor couples, but we didn’t see opportunities for marriage support,” says Marcy, 36.

So the Renkens turned to resources they received during their marriage encounter weekend. From those resources, the ideas for the Celebrate Marriage Ministry were born.

(Related story: Other marriage ministries open to all couples in the archdiocese)

‘Reconnect with your spouse’

The ministry began with the Celebrate Marriage event at Our Lady of the Greenwood Parish in 2012.

“It’s a condensed version of the marriage encounter weekend,” says Marcy.

The daylong event offers child care, so that members of a couple can focus on each other and their marriage. Speakers address various topics, and couples are given five 20-minute blocks to discuss the topic just between each other.

“It provides a chance to reconnect with your spouse,” says Tom. “A lot of couples say, ‘This is the first time I’ve had 20 minutes with my wife in years.’ ”

Marcy says there is only one complaint she hears: “At least half say they didn’t get enough time with their spouse. Five times to talk for 20 minutes, and they’re still wanting more, which is great!”

The Celebrate Marriage event takes place in the late summer. The Renkens next added the annual Celebrate Romance dance in February.

The dance started as an event for the parish’s sponsor couples. When it was canceled one year, the Renkens decided “to take it on, and not just for sponsor couples” but for all couples, “from married a few days to married more than 50 years,” says Tom. “The idea is a wedding reception for married couples—dinner, cake, DJ, dancing.”

By the second or third year of the ministry, a third annual event was added, this one titled Celebrate Fun. It is held in the fall.

“The whole purpose of that [event] is to go out and have fun with your spouse,” Tom explains. “We made it a competition between couples doing silly things. Every year, we shake it up. … You don’t have to be in any sort of athletic shape, but you have to be willing to have fun with your spouse.”

The most recent large group event the Renkens added is a pitch-in dinner called Celebrate Covenant. Held for one evening in the spring, the event provides an opportunity for couples to enjoy food, fellowship and a presentation “where we concentrate on bringing God into our marriage and focus on what it means to be in a covenant marriage,” says Tom.

‘The chance to meet like-minded couples’

With four large group events established, Tom and Marcy started sprinkling in other opportunities for small groups and individual couples.

They established dinner clubs of four couples each. During four months, each couple hosts dinner once for all of the members of their club, giving couples “the chance to meet other like-minded couples,” says Tom.

Small group Bible studies for married couples during Lent and Advent are also available.

With four children of their own—three boys ages 11, 6 and 2, and a 2-month old daughter—the Renkens know the importance of quality couple time to the health of a marriage. So they added date nights eight times a year to the Celebrate Marriage Ministry.

With pre-registration, couples can drop their children off at Our Lady of the Greenwood’s Madonna Hall for an evening of free baby-sitting. The couples can then either grab a sheet with instructions for their date, or simply do their own thing for the evening.

“Not many [couples] drop their kids off late or pick them up early,” notes Marcy with a laugh.

Lastly, the ministry offers a monthly e-mail called the Married People E-Zine. According to its website, celebratemarriageministry.com, the e-mail “offers marriage ideas and insights, sparks great conversations, and helps you laugh—and it’s totally man-friendly.”

‘Let Christ shine … through their marriage’

Whether the event is for large groups, small groups or individual couples, the goal of all that Celebrate Marriage Ministry does is the same: “It’s to give couples the opportunity for Christ-centered marriage enrichment,” says Marcy.

“Everything we do is to let Christ shine his light through us to encourage and enrich other couples, so they might go out and share the love of Christ with others through their marriage.”

Whether Catholic or of another faith tradition, say the Renkens, spouses must choose to love one another.

“You look everywhere in Scripture where Christ was loving us, and it was a choice, an action he was doing,” Tom explains. “It’s our call as married people to love each other as Christ.”

“And like Christ loves his bride the Church,” Marcy adds. “You have to keep hearing it and practicing it.”

The Renkens have seen positive results from such practice.

“We have run into couples that have been in distress,” Tom admits. “We’ve seen some amazing success stories from when others were advising divorce. The whole notion that it’s too late for your marriage, it’s not true.”

Since starting the Celebrate Marriage Ministry four years ago, at least 220 couples have participated in its events and benefited from its mission.

And not all of those are from Our Lady of the Greenwood Parish—or even Catholic.

“This [ministry] is actually a form of evangelization,” Tom notes. “Many couples are not from this parish, and many of the couples invite their non-Catholic friends. It’s a chance to share Christ’s love to a married couple that maybe aren’t getting it at [their] church.”

The Renkens hope to see this ministry expand to other parishes in central and southern Indiana.

“We’d love to assist a parish in kicking this off,” says Tom, who notes he and Marcy have more time to do so as they start to parcel off responsibilities of different events to new leaders. “Start small. Do one thing well, then grow it. You don’t have to start with a dance that attracts 50 couples.”

In the meantime, all couples are welcome to enrich their marriage and grow closer to Christ as a couple through the Celebrate Marriage Ministry at Our Lady of the Greenwood Parish.

“No matter how long you’ve been married,” says Marcy, “we have a place for you.”

(The next event sponsored by Celebrate Marriage Ministry is the Celebrate Marriage event from 10 a.m.-5 p.m. on Aug. 13. The event is $15, which covers child care and lunch. For more information or to register for this event, log on to celebratemarriageministry.com, then select Large Group Events. For more information on the ministry and its events and offerings, log on to celebratemarriageministry.com or visit their Facebook page: www.facebook.com/groups/CelebrateMarriage.)

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