OVERLAND PARK, Kan. (OSV News) — Paul and Tracy Satterfield, members of Holy Spirit Parish in Overland Park, said they never imagined they’d travel to Africa for an international marriage conference, let alone get to snuggle up close with elephants. That’s because their marriage almost ended in divorce in 2012.
Yet, for three days, beginning on Sept. 22, the pair joined couples from around the world in Cape Town, South Africa, at the International Council Meeting of Retrouvaille, a peer ministry for those struggling in their marriages. Retrouvaille (pronounced “retro-vai”) comes from the French word for “rediscovery.”
And while the Satterfields were in South Africa, not only did they enjoy a safari, but they also received what they say is an incredible honor.
While participating in workshops and meetings in South Africa, Retrouvaille community members throughout the world were voting online for those they wanted to see serve in leadership positions at the international level. On the last day of the conference, the Satterfields, who currently serve as regional coordinators for six states, learned they had been voted to serve as deputy international coordinators for the global ministry. In two years, they will become the international coordinators.
It’s definitely something that was not on their radar.
“During our tough times, we never dreamed we’d share our story. We never thought we’d be on that stage telling our story. We never thought we’d be involved in leadership in this organization. We became local leaders, then regional leaders, and then served on the international marketing committee and now this,” Tracy told The Leaven, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Kansas City.
In their role as deputy international coordinators, one of their duties will include answering questions from across the globe. One of the most frequent questions they are asked earns a big laugh from Paul every time, Tracy said.
“How are you going to fix my spouse?” is the question they hear most frequently.
Paul’s response is always the same.
“We’re not. You’re going to,” he said.
“We tell them up front this is a peer ministry,” she said. “There’s no counselors or professionals on site. We tell you what we did, and we give you techniques on how to communicate on different things in your life. We teach you that, but you’ve got to do the work.
“We cannot work harder on your marriage than you will,” she continued, “and we tell them that it’s going to be a working weekend and that the post sessions are vital to achieving the goal of saving their marriage.”
“You can ask God to move a mountain,” Paul said, “but you’ve also got to pick up a shovel.”
At the international level, the Satterfields noted, one of the things they will have to do is navigate the different notions and ideas surrounding marriage, such as dowries, living arrangements and legal definitions, all of which can determine, from the church’s perspective, when couples can qualify for Retrouvaille. But they won’t be alone in their ministerial efforts.
Father Mark Mason, a priest of the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City, first met the Satterfields online during a Retrouvaille meeting. The trio formed a bond, and as such, he is the third member of their international team. Coincidentally, or perhaps providentially, his first Retrouvaille experience years ago was attending a weekend in Kansas City.
“It is a place of miracles,” said Father Mason. “Retrouvaille weekend is a place of miracle. Every time I go on a Retrouvaille (experience), it’s like getting a shot in the arm for my own priesthood because I see tangible results of the Gospel in action-healing, forgiveness, restoration, salvation working in the hearts and minds of people.
“Plus, I recognize a powerful ministry that lay people are giving to one another. They’re giving the gift that they have received to others, and that’s what the Lord wants us to do.”
As for what he sees as the Satterfields’ gifts and how they’ll approach their new international roles, Father Mason said, “They look at Retrouvaille like all of us should the Gospel. It’s something that has been given to us for the sake of ourselves and others that we are to give back.
“So, they will be good stewards of Retrouvaille in terms of its present and in terms of its future. Because they know the power that Retrouvaille has in the lives of couples who have no hope at all to stay together.”
Marc and Julie Anderson write for The Leaven, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Kansas City, Kansas.