A vow to represent the beauty of Catholic marriage

June 17, 2014

HOUSTON — When couples stand at the altar to celebrate the Sacrament of Marriage, they vow to give themselves to each other, to accept the gift of each other, until those famous words, “…until death do us part.”

With the busyness and societal pressures facing married couples today, sometimes they find the commitment to a life-long union challenging. They need to find ways to make their marriage a top priority in their lives, which is what they vowed to God and to each other. This commitment becomes even more critical when they begin to have children. Studies have shown that the foundation of a healthy happy home begins with the relationship between spouses. 

The Office of Family Life Ministry of the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston, which is funded by the Diocesan Service Fund, exists to serve and strengthen the relationships of married couples, as well as the family unit and individuals in all parishes. Its programs and services provide practical and theological guidance toward faithful living; a faith that is lived, shared, nurtured and passed from generation to generation.

According to Deacon Arturo Monterrubio, Archdiocesan director of Family Life Ministry, there is constant change and challenges presented to families, especially with the diverse cultures and languages within the Archdiocese. He said the ministry constantly evaluates the unique needs of each parish community, which necessitates offering all services in English and Spanish. By doing so, they reach 95 percent of the Catholic community.

Family Life Ministry’s main programs and services include marriage preparation, parenting and marriage enrichment, Natural Family Planning (NFP), and family life transitions designed for those passing through divorce, separation, or death in the family. Because of the dedicated volunteers and those who support the DSF, in the last 60 years, the ministry has grown from just offering marriage preparation programs to becoming a multiple family services ministry. 

“We are able to serve more than 1,000 couples every year in their marriage preparation, 400 families with parenting resources and workshops, and thousands of individuals on NFP Church teachings,” Deacon Monterrubio said. “We also form grief support groups for these families and individuals during difficult times. In addition, we collaborate with several faith and non-faith organizations to improve married and family life through better resources on a local and national level.”

Sasha and Anthony Pejerrey, who have been married two years, benefited from the Engaged Encounter (EE) weekend experience offered through the Family Life Ministry. To be married in the Catholic Church in the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston, couples choose between the EE or sessions with a sponsor couple for part of their marriage preparation. The Pejerrey’s believe the two-day weekend retreat allowed them to have time together away from the hectic wedding planning to focus on their upcoming marriage and the lifetime vows they would soon be making to each other.

“The most immediate benefit to our relationship was having a weekend during all the craziness of wedding planning where we just got to focus on ourselves as Catholic individuals, our future spouse as our betrothed and our upcoming marriage,” Sasha Pejerrey said. “We both have busy, involved families and lives, and knowing that it is okay to turn down some commitments to make time for each other was very comforting and liberating. The style of open communication taught at EE also is an invaluable tool for any relationship, but most especially that with your spouse.”

Not only does EE allow couples to learn about what the Catholic Church teaches about the Sacrament of Marriage, Pejerrey said it also helps couples dive deeper into their relationship, dream about their future, trouble-shoot difficult relationship and personal areas, and become inspired by other married and engaged couples.

The experience was so powerful to the Pejerreys, they became a host and support couple in the program, and will soon be graduating to the role of presenting couple during the retreat.

“Catholic married couples experience a great blessing, but also hold a great responsibility to represent the beauty of Catholic marriage to a culture that is drifting further and further away from a true understanding of marriage,” Pejerrey said. “We know that we may be some people’s only exposure to Catholic marriage, and with that knowledge, we always try to be our best selves and treat our spouse with the love and respect God calls us to show. We take comfort in this mission, and are inspired to be the best married couple we can be, so as to be a light to the world; we look forward to meeting and entering into community with more engaged and married Catholic couples soon through the EE program.”