February 16, 2024

Spring Marriage Supplement

Two upcoming retreats give opportunities for married couples to reconnect

Aaron and Ava Pfeiffer, members of Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary Parish in Indianapolis, pose with their 1-year-old son Ezra. (Submitted photo)

Aaron and Ava Pfeiffer, members of Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary Parish in Indianapolis, pose with their 1-year-old son Ezra. (Submitted photo)

By Natalie Hoefer

Unless couples devote intentional time to communicate, pray and have fun, marriage can become a stagnant, unfulfilling routine of tasks repeated day in and day out. Spouses can become disconnected or even become strangers to each other.

A conference or weekend retreat focused on spouses reconnecting can not only break the routine cycle but pave the way for a healthier, more fulfilling, Christ-centered marriage.

Two such opportunities will be available to married couples in the archdiocese this spring.

The first to take place is a Together in Holiness (TIH) marriage enrichment conference at St. Jude Parish in Indianapolis on April 27. This event is an offering of the national St. John Paul II Foundation and offers an additional opportunity for couples to grow in holiness through an optional TIH Formation Series with other couples after the retreat.

The second opportunity is a Celebrate Marriage Getaway Weekend at Our Lady of Fatima Retreat House in Indianapolis on May 31-June 2. Organized by Celebrate Marriage, a local ministry founded by members of Our Lady of the Greenwood Parish in Greenwood, the weekend will offer opportunities to celebrate fellowship, fun and community with other married couples.

‘The domestic Church is made for community’

As a father of 10 (and “husband of one”), Ryan Hanning is familiar with the different directions in which family life can pull spouses.

“So many things compete for our attention,” says Hanning, the presenter for the upcoming TIH conference at St. Jude. “It’s essential that we make time to come together in prayer and refocus on the most important first things in family life—and specifically in the life of the Church, to be reminded of the mission God has given them and that the Church has entrusted them with.”

The theme for the April 27 conference is “Family: a Seedbed of Vocations.”

“It’s about the eucharistic mission of families and how families can develop vocations by virtue of being a family,” says Hanning, a professor of Church history and theology and fellow of the non-profit San Juan Diego Institute based in Phoenix. “The family is the perfect and preferred setting to be able to hear that call.”

Hanning will offer two talks during the 8:30 a.m.-3:30 p.m. conference, which begins with Mass. Archdiocesan director of vocations Father Michael Keucher will also speak at the event. Opportunities for the sacrament of reconciliation, adoration and Benediction will be available during the lunch break.

“Family life is messy and full of challenges,” Hanning notes. “To be able to walk and navigate those challenges with other parents who know the real-life struggle and challenging call to raise our children as saints is something we ought to do more of.”

To help in that goal, the TIH experience includes an optional opportunity for couples to form TIH Formation Series groups.

The seven-part series for small groups offers “year-round marriage enrichment for Catholic spouses [through] a community of accompaniment with other like-minded couples, equipping them with the formation, encouragement, support and practical tools to grow together in holiness as spouses and parents and to form their children in the Catholic faith,” according to the TIH website.

Aaron Pfeiffer, who with his wife Ava took part in a group last year, says the series helped the couple understand that “the domestic Church is made for community.”

As a young couple—the members of Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary Parish in Indianapolis were married in September 2021 and have a 1-year-old son—the Pfeiffers appreciated having “other couples to talk to and bounce ideas off of.”

The Formation Series consists of seven meetings through the course of a year. Each meeting centers on a topic that applies to an overall theme that changes each year. After sharing a meal, couples read Scripture and discuss the topic laid out in the TIH material.

“My favorite part of the meeting is the ‘Bring It Home’ section where they give practical things for you and your spouse to discuss and implement at home,” says Aaron. “It forces us to communicate about what we learned in the previous session and helps you get more out of [the series].”

The Pfeiffers plan to participate in the next TIH formation series.

“You have to put your spouse before your kids,” says Ava. “Your kids need so much, you can lose sight of your marriage. You have to keep in mind that your marriage is still the big piece of that foundation, keeping that first. Then the family flows from there. Your children learn from your example.”

A getaway to ‘connect, have fun’

In 2010, Marcy and Tom Renken attended a Worldwide Marriage Encounter Retreat eight years into their marriage.

“We came out of it on fire for each other and for marriage being a covenant calling,” Tom told The Criterion in a July 15, 2016, article.

The Renkens, members of Our Lady of the Greenwood Parish in Greenwood, founded Celebrate Marriage in 2011. The ministry’s mission is to help Catholic couples of all ages “live your marriage by God’s design, reconnect, and have fun” by offering Christ-centered enrichment, says Marcy.

Those opportunities cover four areas: Celebrate Romance, a February dinner and dance; Celebrate Fun, an evening of games and competitions; Celebrate Marriage, an annual day-long conference focused on improving relationships and keeping God at the center of marriage; and an overarching theme of Celebrate Community.

That last theme is to help couples understand “your marriage is bigger than you are,” Tom explains. “It’s not just for the two of you but also for your children, your friends, your family, your Church.”

Joy is another overarching aspect of Celebrate Marriage.

“We hear all the time, ‘Marriage is work.’ Yes, marriage can have challenges,” says Tom. “But we believe that, with God and the right attitude, it’s meant to be joyful, not all work.”

That joy will shine through as the ministry offers its first Celebrate Marriage Getaway Weekend at Our Lady of Fatima Retreat House in Indianapolis on May 31-June 2.

“It’s going to hit on all four areas of what our ministry offers,” says Marcy.

“The theme of the weekend will be ‘Connection’—connection to each other as a couple, to our family, to our community and to our faith.”

The event will include talks offering tools for “a stronger, more connected marriage,” she says.

Throughout the weekend, Marcy adds, participants will have the opportunity to connect with other couples “to share experiences, build friendships and grow together—with lots of fun activities, too!”

She says she and Tom are “very excited” about the weekend getaway.

“We’ve been wanting to do some sort of weekend experience for some time now,” she says. “It gives couples the opportunity to experience all our events in a single weekend and come away with new energy in their marriage and keep the spark alive in their marriage.”

The retreat came about through Jennifer Burger, program manager of Our Lady of Fatima Retreat House, contacting the Renkens.

“Knowing how meaningful our Tobit marriage prep weekends are for couples getting ready to receive the sacrament of marriage, we wanted to offer a program that would bring couples from newly married to many years of marriage together to hear a speaker and offer an opportunity to reflect and celebrate the bond each shares as husband and wife,” says Burger.

Her idea and the Renkens’ vision for a weekend retreat meshed. When the weekend of May 31 through June 2 suddenly became free, Burger says she knew the event “was meant to be, and we’re delighted to partner with Celebrate Marriage to sponsor the inaugural Celebrate Marriage Getaway Weekend here at Fatima this year.”

The Renkens are passionate about strengthening and growing Christ-centered marriages. They’ve helped couples start Celebrate Marriage at Nativity of Our Lord Jesus Christ and St. Joan of Arc parishes in Indianapolis. They’ve also helped establish a Celebrate Romance dinner/dance at St. Thomas More Parish in Mooresville.

“Marriage is the foundation of our families, which is the foundation of the Church, the foundation of communities and the world around us,” says Marcy. “Without strong marriages, everything starts to crumble.”

(The April 27 Together in Holiness conference at St. Jude Parish in Indianapolis begins at 8:30 a.m. and ends at 3:30 p.m. The cost is $54 per couple and $35 per individual through May 11, after which the price is $64 per couple and $40 per individual. Childcare for children ages 2-12 is $5 per child. Scholarships for couples and individuals are available. For more information or to register, go to forlifeandfamily.org/events/th24-inin or contact Heather Grimes at 832-779-1070 or heather@forlifeandfamily.org. The Celebrate Marriage Getaway Weekend will be held at Our Lady of Fatima Retreat House in Indianapolis on May 31-June 2. The event starts with check-in at 6 p.m. on Friday and ends after 11 a.m. Mass on Sunday. The cost per couple is $450 through May 17, and $500 after. The cost includes one room for two nights, three meals on Saturday and breakfast on Sunday. To register, go to bit.ly/CMGetaway2024 or contact Lisa Coons at 317-545-7681 or lcoons@archindy.org. For questions on the event, contact Jennifer Burger at 317-545-7681, ext. 106, or jburger@archindy.org. For more information about Celebrate Marriage, go to celebratemarriageministry.com.)

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