By Dubravka Kolumbic-Cortese | Correspondent
Married couples who participated in a retreat Feb. 12 in St. John Neumann Parish, Mount Laurel, were treated to a blend of music and Scripture courtesy of Father Jim Grogan, pastor of Nativity Parish, Fair Haven, who also shared his own experience with married life.
The retreat was held during National Marriage Week, (Feb. 7-14) and the day after World Marriage Sunday (Feb. 11), and included Father Grogan’s advice on living out one’s Baptism in married life.
Father Grogan, who officiated the wedding of one of his three sons just weeks earlier, spent 25 years married to his wife before she died of cancer 10 years ago. He said he believes every couple has a chance for an “extraordinary” marriage, especially with the support of faith and the Church.
“I find it a great opportunity to do the mentoring part of marriage with events like this,” he said, pointing out that great attention is paid to marriage preparation, but often not enough to sustaining a healthy marriage after the ceremony.
“The part that is often overlooked is after the wedding, to mentor [the couples] to have an extraordinary marriage. I believe a large part of that is how they learn to pray.”
Participants at the retreat were blessed with Father Grogan’s words of wisdom and his musical talents, as he supplemented his talk with guitar and song. The couples also renewed their baptismal promise before receiving a blessed and lit candle, which Father Grogan encouraged them to place near where they keep their keys.
“We sometimes forget that we are baptized, just like we are married,” Father Grogan said. “Every day as you leave your house in the morning and take your keys and you see that candle, you’ll remember you were baptized.”
He pointed out that marriage is sometimes hard work, as can be one’s baptismal vows. He also encouraged the couples to talk about the liturgy after they attend Mass.
“Then you are taking the Word of God outside of Church,” Father Grogan said.
During the Mass held after Father Grogan’s presentation, a vow renewal took the place of a sermon. Jack Coulter surprised Cathy, his wife of 32 years, with a renewal of their marriage vows and the blessing of new wedding bands by Father Grogan, a longtime friend of the happy couple.
Father Grogan later left the couples with these parting words: “You are to walk always as children of Christ. Keep the light alive with your beloved.”
Parishioners Karen and Joe Tordy have been married for 33 years and have known Father Grogan since their children were in school together.
Karen Tordy said it struck a chord with her when Father Grogan said, “It’s our job to help each other get to heaven.” She added that it is important “to get closer to each other as we celebrate the Mass and grow together.”
“It’s important to reflect on praying as a couple,” her husband added.
Fellow parishioners Jim and Denise Clutter, married 31 years, said they thought it would be a good idea to experience the retreat as a couple. “Marriage has its ups and downs, but this is a way to bond again,” Jim Clutter said.