Worldwide Marriage Encounter is known for its weekend retreats for married couples and priests. Now the ministry is offering an online option during the coronavirus pandemic.
Restore, Rekindle and Renew Enrichment is a seven-night virtual enrichment experience for married couples and priests. The program will be offered in August and again in September. Couples will meet online for seven nights over a three-and-a-half week period, listen to presentations via Zoom and have discussions on their own.
Tony and Sue Morris of Sts. Peter and Paul Parish in Waterloo, Ill., who serve on the U.S. Ecclesial Team for Worldwide Marriage Encounter, said that the online format is similar to a traditional Weekend Encounter experience. It debuted in the New York area in the spring and received positive responses from attendees.
“There will be presentations and questions for couples to discuss among themselves to get to know each other better,” said Tony Morris. The program also allows couples to “rediscover some of the magic that has been lost over the years just because of life happening.”
“It’s an opportunity for those couples who have been sheltering in place, living in a whole new world, to connect with each other,” Sue Morris said. “There’s no sports to go to … everybody’s lives are different” now because of the pandemic. “They’re learning to talk to each other again and to find the things that connect them.” The online program, she added, “is helping them to communicate at a different level.”
Worldwide Marriage Encounter, a faith-based, pro-marriage movement, dates back to the early 1950s, when Spanish priest Father Gabriel Calvo offered a series of conferences for married couples. The focus was on the development of an open and honest relationship and learning to live out a sacramental relationship in service to others. Worldwide Marriage Encounter exists in 90 countries, and it debuted in the United States in 1968. The first weekend retreat in the Archdiocese of St. Louis was held in 1972.
The Marriage Encounter weekend is based on the Ignatian Spiritual Exercises and is designed to help husbands and wives strengthen their listening and communication skills. While the weekend is Catholic in its approach, it is open to all married couples. The concept of marriage as a sacrament also is strongly promoted, as well as proclaiming the Sacrament of Holy Orders. Many priests are involved in the ministry as chaplains, presenters, and even participants, helping them to see their ministry in a whole new light and connect more meaningfully with those they serve.
Father Robert “Rosy” Rosebrough has been involved as a chaplain with Worldwide Marriage Encounter since 1973. The retired priest, who is still involved in the ministry, said that marriage is the cell that affects the “whole mission,” including the family and parish community.
By offering an online program, another aim is to reach those couples and priests who might otherwise not have the time to attend a weekend Encounter. “There are people who say, I could never do this before, but I can do several nights” in a format spread out over several weeks, said Father Rosebrough. “Most people are bitten good by the second session, and they see the importance of communication, put into context with their relationship.”
Restore, Rekindle and Renew Enrichment
and Renew Enrichment is a seven-week virtual enrichment experience for
married couples and priests offered by Worldwide Marriage Encounter.
The program will be offered from 7-9 p.m. on Mondays and Wednesdays, Aug. 10 and 12, Aug. 17 and 19, Aug. 24 and 26 and Aug. 31.
will be repeated in September from 7-9 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays,
Sept. 15 and 17, Sept. 22 and 24, Sept. 29 and Oct. 1, and Oct. 6.
The cost is $90 per couple. Financial assistance is available. To register, visit www.stl-wwme.org and click on Apply Online. Or call (314) 649-7317.