CNS photo
CNS photo

By EmmaLee Italia| Correspondent

The diocesan Department of Evangelization and Family Life is sponsoring a series of workshops this summer that will help enrich and train those interested in parish marriage ministry.

Titled “Marriage Formation Mondays,” the series will begin June 4. All workshops will take place from 6:30 to 9 p.m. in the Diocesan Chancery / Pastoral Center, 701 Lawrenceville Road, Lawrenceville. While the primary audience for these workshops includes Pre-Cana team couples, marriage ministry couples, mentors and deacons, other married couples and parish leaders who wish to learn more are encouraged to sign up.

“Anyone who’s ever been to a marriage ministry event sponsored by our department is welcome,” said Peg Hensler, associate director of marriage ministries and Natural Family Planning. “We believe that marriage is fulfilled in the service the couple gives to their parish … and we are providing the formation and structure for them to serve.”

The impetus for the workshops came from the diocesan marriage ministry team of parish pastors, deacons and married couples, who determined as a committee the need for marriage ministry formation throughout the Diocese. A seven-point plan being implemented includes “improving the effectiveness of marriage preparation … and intentional support throughout marriage.”

“There is a role for every active Catholic married couple,” Hensler explained. “If you are active in your parish, you deserve a community of people like you in parish marriage ministry… and for anyone serving married couples, we believe everyone has something unique to give… When we can provide a platform to use those gifts and to serve, marriage is strengthened.”

Topics planned for the series will be presented in two sessions, parts one and two, and are as follows:

 -- June 4 and 11: Presentation Skills for Marriage Ministers and Pre-Cana Teams; Presenters: Father James Grogan, Josue Arriola, Peg Hensler; Description: This workshop demonstrates how to engage an audience from the outset, write and deliver a powerful witness talk, integrate story telling into teaching, facilitate small group sharing and utilize Power Point effectively.

-- June 18 and 25: Relational Skills – The Basics of Marriage Mentoring; Presenters: Susan Commini, Kevin and Barbara Dohrenwend, Peg Hensler; Description: Peer-to-peer ministry, or mentoring, enables married couples to accompany and minister out of their own experience to engaged and married couples in every stage of life. This workshop offers the fundamentals of mentoring and accompaniment, with an overview of key relational skills, including active listening, accompanying prayer, levels of communication, and a process of forgiveness, healing and reconciliation.

-- July 2 and July 9: Understanding Sacramental Marriage – A Catechesis for Marriage Ministers; Presenters: Cristina D’Averso, Deacon Dennis Slavin, Peg Hensler; Description: Pope Francis describes Catholic marriage as “an art…where divine love dwells.” This workshop will discuss the myriad aspects of Catholic marriage that bring the natural and supernatural together, and make it unique among all other human relationships. Participants will discover the origin of Christian marriage and follow its history into the present day, exploring major post-Vatican II development.

Participants may attend any number or all of the workshops, which Hensler says will include active discussion. “It’s very much adult learning, and very interactive, rather than lecture-driven,” she said.

Cost for each workshop is $10 per person, or $25 per person for all three workshops. Registration and payment is open online at A downloadable mail-in form is also provided for registration and payment by check. Participants who complete all three workshops will receive a letter of completion.

In addition to Marriage Formation Mondays, the Diocese will also offer a series of workshops to train core teams for marriage ministry, titled “Core Team Training – How to Start Marriage Ministry in Your Parish.” The training workshops will take place from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on June 16 in St. Robert Bellarmine Co-Cathedral, Freehold; Sept. 8 in Nativity Parish, Fair Haven; and Sept. 29 in St. Gregory the Great Parish, Hamilton Square.

A requirement of the diocesan Plan for Strengthening Marriage, the core team training workshops will teach participants about a particular model of marriage ministry that oversees and coordinates all marriage-building initiatives in the parish, based on a peer-to-peer ministry structure.

Hensler said her department has made quantifiable goals to get a number of parish marriage ministries up and running within the year.

“It’s a culture shift,” she said, “and it’s going to take some time … but we’re already seeing a positive upturn in the way Catholics respond to marriage in the Church.”