A new marriage preparation process is being implemented by the Diocese – a change that will affect the current Pre-Cana programs offered as well as the sacramental preparation for each engaged couple in their parish.  stock image
A new marriage preparation process is being implemented by the Diocese – a change that will affect the current Pre-Cana programs offered as well as the sacramental preparation for each engaged couple in their parish. stock image
" "We know that engaged couples are seeking more comprehensive and practical marriage prep, and we feel this gives couples what they need. Also, couples can work independently." " Peg Hensler
When Father James Grogan prepares couples for marriage, he tells them that “every person has a right and an obligation to choose for themselves an ‘extraordinary marriage’” – the true character of a sacramental marriage.

Marriage preparation is a key tool to support couples toward that goal, which is one reason why Father Grogan – pastor of Nativity Parish, Fair Haven – is a member of the Diocese of Trenton’s Marriage Ministry team and supporter of a new diocesan initiative.

A new marriage preparation process is being implemented by the Diocese – a change that will affect the current Pre-Cana programs offered as well as the sacramental preparation for each engaged couple in their parish.

The new process, which was announced to all parishes via information sessions in early March, encourages the use of marriage mentors whose role is to accompany their engaged couple through marriage preparation and into the first years of marriage, explained Peg Hensler, diocesan associate director for Marriage Ministry and Natural Family Planning. It was developed, she said, in response to the 2015 diocesan Plan for Strengthening Marriage.

It incorporates “Better Together,” a marriage prep and enrichment program from Dynamic Catholic. In this time of coronavirus restrictions, Dynamic Catholic has allowed for the adaptation of the program.

“With Dynamic Catholic’s written permission, we’ve created a special online marriage prep class that can be completed by the engaged couple at their own pace with the oversight of their preparer [priest or deacon],” Hensler said. “This option ... is specifically only for the COVID-19 crisis, but it provides us with a great opportunity to encourage couples to complete the entire program, and make them aware of the host of free marriage prep resources.”

Inspiring Couples

“Better Together” is planned to be fully integrated into all parish and diocesan Pre-Cana events by January 2021, Hensler said, and will involve interactive training of teams. There are several pilot teams that will begin using the new model in 2020, including Nativity Parish; St. Clement Parish, Matawan; St. Robert Bellarmine Co-Cathedral, Freehold, and St. Benedict Parish, Holmdel, as well as at diocesan Pre-Cana events later this year.

A separate timeline reflects plans to incorporate the use of the program by January 2022 in all parishes. This will require hands-on training at the parish and Cohort level. Parishes may request training and begin implementing the new model any time.

The “Better Together” program has rich content that is useful in many ways, Father Grogan said. For example, “It can be used as a powerful resource by parish priests and lay marriage ministers to help couples gain a foundation of understanding about what the Church actually teaches about marriage.”

Plus, “the modification to the Pre-Cana programs … will help team couples craft their witness talks, and can tie the weekend Pre-Cana experience with the opportunity for the couples to continue with ‘Better Together’ on their own, to continue to recognize the place and power of God within their married lives.”

Positive Feedback

The program was selected, said Hensler, because it is fully funded and free for all married and engaged couples. The entire program includes 12 sessions that deal with all topics covered in marriage preparation. Each session includes a set of six short, impactful instructional videos. Also included is a couple’s workbook.

“We know that engaged couples are seeking more comprehensive and practical marriage prep, and we feel this gives couples what they need. Also, couples can work independently,” she said.

Josue Arriola, diocesan director of Evangelization and Family Life, was appreciative that “this is the first time marriage preparation in the Diocese is using the same program for English and Spanish-speaking communities. This past January was our first marriage preparation using ‘Better Together’ in the Hispanic community at Mother of Mercy Parish, Asbury Park, and it was very successful.”

For more information, including timelines, slides and links, visit www.dioceseoftrenton.org/better-together.