5 minutes with ... Art and Ginger Otto

March 15, 2011

HOUSTON — Art and Ginger Otto met in 1977 at summer school at the University of Texas at Austin. A date in the dorm’s TV lounge led to conversation that lasted until 4 a.m., a pretty clear signal that the duo had a lot in common. 

Ginger, a teacher, and Art, an electrical engineer, have three children and say they are committed to sharing with couples across the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston the secret to creating happy, holy marriages. The Ottos serve as coordinators for the Houston North World Marriage Encounter. They recently shared their understanding of their marriage as a vocation with the Texas Catholic Herald.

Texas Catholic Herald: The Church calls marriage a vocation because it is more than a couple’s choice to wed, but their response to God’s call to build a lifelong partnership of love. How would you describe your marriage as vocation?

Art and Ginger Otto: One big concept that we have learned over the years is that the love that we have for each other is much more than just a feeling. It is a decision to love one another unconditionally, no matter how we are feeling at the time. [It is] a decision we are called to make over and over again. In saying ‘yes’ to make working at our relationship a priority in our lives, we are answering God’s call. Jesus told the apostles to love one another as I have loved you. We are each called to reflect God’s love to each other, to show each other that ‘I appreciate and value you just as you are.’

TCH: How do you recall ‘discerning’ your choice to marry? And how has your understanding of your married life as a vocation evolved over the years? 

Ottos: We really did not have a good understanding of the idea of vocation when we got married, but we were committed to spending the rest of our lives together. As time has gone on, we have come to a better understanding of the covenant relationship between God and the two of us, and the idea that our marriage is a sacrament that reflects the love of God to those that we come into contact with.

TCH: Besides your children, in what way has God blessed the two of you through your married life?

Ottos: We have been blessed to be around people who care about marriage and are working to make their marriages even better, and this gives us the impetus to keep trying to improve our own relationship. Organizations, such as Marriage Encounter, and marriage enrichments at the parish level, have helped to give us the tools to keep working at growing closer.

TCH: Every couple experiences challenges in their marriage. What has helped you most to weather the tough times?

Ottos: Our trust in God, the knowledge that He was in control and that He was there for us, helped us get through some rough patches.

TCH: What advice would you give to couples wanting to keep their marriages holy, vital and growing? 

Ottos: You need to keep the lines of communication open and make a special effort to not only share information, but also your inner thoughts and feelings with each other. Make time to really show each other in words and actions that ‘I appreciate you, I understand you and I’m glad God made you just the way you are.’ Surround yourselves with people who are working on improving their own relationships with each other and with God. †

— Monica Hatcher