Gratitude, reconciliation and service focus of couples’ conference

February 7, 2016

HOUSTON — If attendance at last year’s first couples’ conference “Together in Holiness” is anything to go by, would-be participants shouldn’t wait until the last minute to sign up. 

Organizers have secured a larger venue at St. Cecilia Catholic Church to accommodate what is expected to be an 800-plus crowd, a jump from last year’s conference, which had 500 in attendance and a 100-plus on the wait-list.

“If there’s a waiting list, it’s telling you something — that there is a need,” said Deacon Arturo Monterrubio, director of the Archdiocesan Office of Family Life Ministry, which is hosting the April 2 event with the St. John Paul II Foundation. “This is a wonderful opportunity to provide a service and enrich marriages.”

This year’s conference focuses on couples who are raising children and how they can make home a community of life and love while exploring the theology behind it. Speakers will talk about the notions of gratitude, reconciliation and service, and look at family as a school of love, based on the teachings of St. John Paul II, Pope Benedict XVI and Pope Francis.

Christopher Stravitsch, who with Arland Nichols, started the foundation, said there clearly is a need and desire to build and nurture a successful marriage and family life, as evidenced by the success of last year’s conference and the feedback they received. In addition, Stravitsch believes there is a need to bolster traditional families, citing a cultural push against large families and the legalization of same sex marriage. 

“Large families are looked upon curiously — there just isn’t a celebration of the goodness of the family,” he said. “If we follow His plan we can all let God be the author of love — people want that, especially with the challenges families face and the attacks on families.”

Stravitsch said what he and Nichols offer through their foundation is support for engaged and married couples in healthy relationships who want to dig deeper into their faith and embrace a vibrant spiritual life in their marriage and family. Nichols is among what Stravitsch said is a dynamic group of speakers who will inspire and empower those in attendance. 

“People want a more vibrant vision of what they can become — a community of life and love,” Stravitsch said. 

While there is a focus on couples raising children, Monterrubio, also a deacon at St. Paul the Apostle Catholic Church in Nassau Bay, said the conference offers something for couples in all stages of their life, including empty nesters, grandparents and those caring for aging parents — or both.

“We put so much effort in our children — we need to make that continuous growing as a couple and be ready when the children are not with us,” Monterrubio said.

Speakers include Deacon Harold Burke-Sivers, a Dynamic Catholic speaker and radio host; freelance Catholic writer Emily Stimpson; Denise J. Hunnell, MD with Human Life International and Nichols, with Mass celebrated by Father David Konderla of Texas A&M’s St. Mary’s Catholic Center. Registration includes box lunches for registered adults, opportunities for the Sacrament of Reconcilation and Eucharistic Adoration.

Founded in 2013, St. John Paul II Foundation, a national Catholic apostolate with initiatives in seven dioceses, also hosts conferences for health care professionals with Converging Roads and clergy through Shepherd’s Heart. Register online at