Editor’s note: This monthly series looks at the many programs that are financially supported by the Diocesan Services Appeal in the Diocese of Palm Beach. Donations to the DSA stay local, financing 47 Catholic initiatives within our five counties. The funding protects the most vulnerable among us, from the unborn child to the elderly, provides food for those who are hungry, sustains our Catholic schools, supports seminarians preparing for the priesthood and much more. This installment in the series explores diocesan marriage preparation programs.
PALM BEACH GARDENS | As someone who has benefited from the Catholic Church’s emphasis on the sanctity and vitality of marriage, Deacon Louis Romero feels blessed to be in charge of marriage ministry in the Diocese of Palm Beach.
The marriage programs are “much better, much more intense” than the ones in existence when he was married 30 years ago. “Now we try to give these couples the best opportunity that we can to let them know what they’re getting into, the permanence of marriage, the sacrament of marriage. We do the best we can,” he said.
Working as diocesan marriage ministry coordinator for nearly five years, Deacon Romero explained that the job consists of overseeing programs for engaged couples and those who are already married.
Marriage prep involves retreats offered in English and Spanish, during which couples learn about the sacrament of marriage, the importance of communication, responsible parenthood, finances, threats to marriage and prayer in marriage, he said.
“We cover as much as we can. Ideally, when they get back to their parish, they’ve already signed up for the Fully Engaged program, which is a mentor program,” Deacon Romero said, involving four to five meetings with an experienced couple. Together, they go in depth on the issues covered during the retreat.
“We’re not just rolling them through and making them check a box,” he said. “We’re trying to evangelize. We’re trying to grab ahold of their hearts and show them the church is real and God is real.”
The retreats are handled by Deacon Romero’s office, and the mentor couples are overseen by the parishes. The objective is to welcome couples and show them that they belong and will greatly benefit from an ongoing relationship with Christ and his church.
“We have a great team that helps at the retreats and have great mentor couples out in the parishes that are of the same mind,” he said.
For married couples, there are educational Marriage Tune-Up events, the annual wedding anniversary Masses with Bishop Gerald M. Barbarito and, for those facing particularly difficult challenges, there is the Marriage Boot Camp program, he said.
The first Marriage Tune-Up is set for Saturday, Sept. 10, from 7:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. at St. Jude Parish in Tequesta. The cost is $100 per couple. Sign up by going to https://tinyurl.com/2ach2kyp. The goal is to help couples keep their relationships fresh, loving and closely tied to their Catholic faith, Deacon Romero said.
“God has to be in your marriage. He has to be primary in your marriage. That will build the foundation of the family,” he said.
The Diocesan Services Appeal supports marriage ministry by helping fund educational materials, the retreats, training for mentor couples, development of new initiatives like the Marriage Tune-Ups and more, Deacon Romero said, all aiming to build stronger marriages.
“We’re not just sitting here in an office on the phone. We’re actually being the face of the diocese in parishes and helping couples,” he said. “The DSA affords us opportunities to put on programs like in September, plus it funds the boot camp for couples who are in trouble. It just offers something for married couples, whether for a tune-up or some help, or for engaged couples to get a taste of marriage.”
Thanks to the generosity of Diocesan Services Appeal donors, marriage preparation programs are supported by the Diocese of Palm Beach. The faithful’s participation in the appeal is a vital part of the diocese’s ability to provide these services. For more information about marriage prep programs, visit https://www.diocesepb.org/ministriesoffices/ministries/marriage-family-life-faith-formation-youth-ministry/marriage-ministry/. To contact Deacon Romero, call 561-775-9557 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. For details on the DSA and how to donate, go to https://www.diocesepb.org/ministriesoffices/offices/development/diocesan-services-appeal/.