SPARTANBURG – Dozens of couples are a little bit closer after participating in a recent marriage enrichment program at Jesus, Our Risen Savior Church.
Father Paul Moreau of Atlanta put the focus squarely on the couples. This was a time to open up. It was a time to talk, to communicate. A time for husbands and wives to learn something new about each other or to learn something they had forgotten about themselves.
Paul and Alison Efinetz were one of 45 couples that attended, and they were glad they did. Father Moreau’s anecdotes about life and marriage touched them.
Alison was amazed that the young priest had such a wealth of information.
“He took it from his personal experience,” she said, “from his family, his brothers, sisters, other couples and their situations. And it was all Bible based. It was very informative. You could relate to him.”
He brought up situations and showed how couples resolved them. During one of four sessions, Father Moreau urged the couples to do things for the right reason and not take the easy way out.
After another session, the couples filled out marital conscience exams. Spouses had to write 10 things about themselves and 10 things that they knew about their partners and their marriages. They then traded lists and talked about them.
“We’ve been married 11 years, and I was surprised I knew so little about my husband, his dreams and what is important to him,” Alison said. “Out of 10, I only got three.”
The exercise, however, opened up the field of communication. The couples began to relax and enjoy themselves.
“Everybody was laughing out loud, that jolly laugh you get when you can’t stop,” Alison said. “The fellowship grew, and soon everybody was comparing stories.”
The Marriage and Family Life Committee at Our Risen Savior made sure everybody was comfortable. They put on a catered breakfast, a catered lunch, and a wine and cheese reception. Then they topped the whole thing off with Mass, where everyone renewed their wedding vows before digging into a wedding cake.
The couples showed up from parishes all over the Upstate, including St. Mary, St. Mary Magdalene, Prince of Peace, St. Paul and Our Risen Savior. Several drove down from Rock Hill, and at least one couple pulled in from Charlotte, N.C.
Seeing the large crowd, Father Chuck Snopek of Our Risen Savior brought in another priest to help with the Sacrament of Reconciliation and with one-on-one spiritual direction. The couples kept the priests busy the entire day, said Tina Andress, a committee member.
She urged Father Moreau to address confession and the graces couples receive from it. That was all it took. The confessional soon filled up.
Father Moreau also talked about spiritual divorce and how couples drift apart if they don’t keep the lines of communication open and God centered in their marriage. Often, he said, the hustle and bustle of life can take over a marriage and soon crucial topics become off-limits.
To combat that pitfall, Father Moreau offered the couples the “Ten Commandments of Matrimony.”
George and Anna Gagnon took the list to heart.
The first one, George said, was to learn the true meaning of love and to be self-giving.
Other commandments included: discover and satisfy the needs of your spouse; give praise and appreciation but don’t expect it; be aware that moods change and that is normal; don’t try to dominate; and remember the importance of seemingly unimportant things such as flowers. The final commandment was to pray together.
“I would pray for me to be a good husband, but I also need to pray for her to be a good wife,” George said.
He said Anna was really moved by the commandment to be self-giving.
The whole experience at Our Risen Savior overwhelmed Anna, George said.
“Father Paul brought a lot of very helpful information to work through,” he said. And they have only been married a little over a year.
Andress said the participants included couples who were engaged, just married, married with babies, married with teenagers, and married with grown children.
Many said that Father Moreau had reinforced their belief that marriage means sharing your spiritual life with your spouse.
They opened up and shared many things that day at Our Risen Savior. And when they left, they walked out light-hearted and in love.
“It was kind of like their wedding day all over again,” Andress said.