Conference helps couples build domestic Church

March 24, 2015

The Office of Family Life Ministry and the John Paul II Foundation for Life and Family are hosting a conference to empower couples to embrace a vibrant spiritual life in their marriage and family.

“Together in Holiness” on May 2 is the first of what is hoped will be an annual event to provide couples with the inspiration, guidance and tools to grow together spiritually through prayer.

“I think families clearly are struggling and thirsting for a way to realize God’s plan for marriages and family life, and our programs help to address that need,” said Arland Nichols, who with Christopher Stravitsch started the John Paul II Foundation in 2013.

Nichols said the conference is mainly directed at engaged and married couples in healthy relationships who want to take the next step. Guided by Pope John Paul II’s teachings about the family, the curriculum, Nichols said, is meant to teach couples how they can thrive together in holiness, raise their children to be good, virtuous Christians and build the domestic Church that Pope John Paul II spoke of.

“We want to encourage the desire to see Christ in our lives and in our (spouse’s) and children’s lives,” Nichols said. “I often say attending these conferences will help you to realize God’s plan for your marriage and help you not only survive your marriage but thrive in your marriage.”
Nichols and the Archdiocese’s Teresita Johnson said there is a clear need and desire for this kind of direct support for couples, who find it increasingly difficult to be a Catholic family in today’s increasingly secularized culture.

“We see all around us the brokenness of families — my family is part of that — everything from the scourge of pornography to the frequency of divorce and the number of young people leaving the faith,” said Nichols, adding that his parents are divorced.

Johnson, associate director the Archdiocese’s Family Life Office, said their office is happy to be a part of the conference because it supports their mission and helps their ministry reach a fresh audience with the Church’s teachings on marriage and family.

“We don’t claim to have all the goods,” Johnson said. “This helps us fill a void in our direct services to married couples.”

“Together in Holiness” is one of the three main initiatives of the foundation. The others are a continuing education program on Catholic healthcare ethics and Shepherd’s Heart, which provides continuing education for clergy on life and family issues.

The founders bring a wealth of experience to the foundation.

Nichols, who is married with five children, was a teacher, writer and administrator before starting the foundation. He served as director of education and evangelization for Human Life International. Prior to that he taught at Pope John XXIII High School. He is currently completing a Ph.D. in bioethics at Regina Apostolorum in Rome. He has a bachelor’s degree in philosophy from Texas A&M University and a master’s in theology from the University of St. Thomas.

Stravitsch previously was director of collegians at Assumption Seminary in San Antonio. Stravitsch, along with his wife Sarah, also provides Catholic counseling services. A licensed professional counselor and marriage and family therapist, he also is completing a Ph.D., focusing on spiritual formation of couples and families, through The Catholic University of America. He has a master’s degree in family and marriage therapy and theology from St. Mary’s University in San Antonio and a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Texas A&M.


More Information:
“Together in Holiness” conference for married and engaged couples is set for May 2 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at St. Cecilia Catholic Church, at 11720 Joan of Arc Dr.
Check in is at 8 a.m. followed by reconciliation and a Mass, conducted by Retired Bishop Vincent Rizzotto. Presentations include EWTN co-hosts Jim and Joy Pinto’s “Seeing the Face of God in Your Spouse and Children,” Christopher and Sarah Stravitsch’s “Diving into Spousal and Family Prayer” and Father Dwight Longenecker’s “The Way of St. Benedict for Modern Families.”
The cost, which includes lunch, is $45 per couple and $25 per person. Limited free child care also is available. Parents should bring lunch for their children. To register, visit and click on Houston, Texas. †