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Take a retreat to plan for marriage Print
Guest column
Thursday, Aug. 27, 2009 -- 12:00 AM

I remember when my wife and I became engaged what great fun it was to go to the department stores and put together our gift registry. In fact, the greatest gifts I received (I mean, we!) were three different grills! I ended up returning them all and getting the daddy of all grills – what a gift!

Guest Column

Now that we just passed our 16th wedding anniversary, and the gas grill rusts on the back porch, I realize that there were other gifts far more important than the grills. In fact, perhaps the most meaningful gift was attending a weekend retreat for engaged couples before our wedding.

My wife and I had talked about many, many things during our dating relationship -- I didn't think there could be much more to discuss. But the opportunity to focus only on us -- for a full weekend led by married couples sharing their own experiences and the wisdom of the Church -- would have a far greater impact on our marriage than I realized at the time. In fact, I credit that experience for the ongoing success of our marriage.

Welcome to the Marriage Insert!

Twice a year, the Catholic Herald publishes a special section of its newspaper specifically on marriage. The current issue is the fall edition and again includes a variety of articles and advertisements that should be of interest to engaged and married couples alike.

This past June, I attended a conference on Marriage and Family hosted by the National Association of Catholic Family Life Ministers (NACFLM). The theme of the conference was "Becoming a Marriage-Building Church" and it was held in anticipation of a pastoral letter on marriage planned to be released this fall by the United States Council of Catholic Bishops. The letter will focus on highlighting marriage as both a natural and sacramental gift to humanity.

It is my hope that the letter will bring greater attention to the foundational meanings of marriage (both unitive and procreative) in a culture that is quickly redefining marriage to something of far less importance than God planned. Look for additional news on the letter as we near the new year.  And I expect a full story in our next Marriage Issue in March of 2009! God bless!

Andy Galvin, marriage preparation coordinator for the Diocese of Madison

New weekend retreat

I am very pleased to announce that the Diocese of Madison is now offering its first Weekend Retreat for Engaged Couples on October 23 to 25. Over the past six months, a team of four married couples and a priest have developed a phenomenal retreat that will no doubt have a profound impact on the couples that attend and the success of their future marriage. Why? For three basic reasons:

First, the weekend is about the engaged couple. It will speak directly to the love they feel deep in their hearts. It will provide ample time for couples to discuss, ponder, and dream free from the distractions of everyday life. The sacraments of Confession and Mass will be offered.  More time to talk together, romantic candle-light dinner for two, and some fun sprinkled in, too!

Second, married couples will share their experiences of the joys and struggles of everyday married life. Marriage isn't always pretty! But it's real life…and it's important for engaged couple to understand the realities of two people joining together for life and the challenges of starting a family.

Third, as Catholics we believe that Christ must be the center of our marriages. What does that mean? How is that played out in day to day living? We will explore God's plan for marriage, with the assurance that joy is the fruit of following His plan.

How it's different

How is this different from the other two marriage prep days offered by the diocese? The weekend retreat will include the content of both programs. If a couple attends the retreat, they do not need to attend the other two days. But the material is packaged within a quiet, restful weekend that allows the couple to focus on themselves. And, you get two requirements taken care of in one weekend!

The cost of the weekend is $295 per couple, including all materials, meals, and lodging. The weekend will be held at Bishop O'Connor Center and start at 6 p.m. on Friday and conclude at 12 noon on Sunday. Registration closes on October 16, so register early. Space is limited.

I urge engaged couples to fit this opportunity into their schedules. We spend so much time, energy, and money on the wedding (the average price of a single wedding day is $26,000!),  a $300-weekend that will put your marriage on the right track hardly seems a burden. Isn't it worth a lifetime of love and joy?

For more information and registration, go to or call Andy Galvin at 608-821-4517.

Andy Galvin is the coordinator of the marriage preparation program for the Diocese of Madison.