Five years ago, when Casey and Natalie Pavlak were engaged, they traveled to another parish in our diocese for a day of Pre Cana talks and discussions. It got the job done, but as Natalie remembers it, it wasn’t the most intimate or engaging method of marriage preparation.
“We were in a room with 30 couples,” Natalie says. “It wasn’t a very personal or intimate experience, but that was our only option.”
So, Casey and Natalie were thrilled when Fr. Godfrey asked them to serve as a sponsor couple in the one-on-one marriage preparation program he was bringing back to the Cathedral of St. Peter.
“When I was little, my grandparents ran the Sponsor Couples program here,” Natalie says. “It was back in the ‘80s and ‘90s, and I still get people coming up to me and telling me that my grandparents were their sponsor couple. It’s amazing that their impact on marriages is still felt today, and Casey and I are honored to be a part of this ministry ourselves now. “
The Sponsor Couples program is a couple-to-couple-based, pre-marriage counseling of sorts. The sponsor couple meets with the engaged couple in the sponsor couple’s home, and together they discuss the many different aspects of married life.
“The idea is to assure, as much as possible, that the couples have discussed the primary topics that affect and direct married couples every day to avoid surprises and some difficulties in their married life,” Fr. Godfrey says.
The sponsor couple uses the same workbook that is used at the diocesan Pre Cana workshops, but this couple-to-couple approach offers the engaged couple an opportunity to address important topics in a more personal way as they prepare to live out their marriage.
“This approach to marriage preparation allows both couples to be more open than you would be in a room of 30,” Natalie says. “As a sponsor couple, we air some of our dirty laundry and help the engaged couple see that while we do have disagreements, we are able to resolve them by being on the same page about our priorities. In turn, the engaged couple is more open about their questions and concerns.”
Marriage is a beautiful vocation, but it isn’t an easy one, and through the Sponsor Couples Ministry,
Fr. Godfrey hopes to equip engaged couples with the tools they need to thrive through the difficult times.
What’s more, both Fr. Godfrey and Natalie emphasize the beauty of this program for the personal bonds it creates.
“It allows the engaged couple to form a friendship with another couple who is walking through marriage alongside them,” Natalie says. “It helps them see that they can and should work as a team, and they know they can always reach out to us for help.”
“Occasionally after a couple is married and they hit a tough spot, they will reach out to their sponsor couple for support,” Fr. Godfrey adds. “The relationship having already been established, they have somewhere to go to engage in conversation.”
If you are engaged, both Fr. Godfrey and Natalie say they would encourage you to consider participating in the Sponsor Couples program. It is a wonderful way to ensure you are best prepared for married life. Meetings with sponsor couples are completely dependent on engaged couples’ needs. Typically, the two couples will meet in the sponsor couple’s home two to three times, but the where, the when, and the frequency are completely dependent on the couple’s needs and schedule.
For marriage preparation through our Sponsor Couples program, contact the parish office at 618-234-1166, and you will be connected with a sponsor couple to get you started.