Marriage retreat enriches couples and their relationships
By RENEE WEBB, Globe editor
November 20, 2003
SPENCER - Married couples from throughout the Diocese of Sioux City had the
chance to relax and reflect on their marriage at a retreat recently held at
Sacred Heart Parish Center.
According to Bev Hurni, director of family ministries for the diocese, 28
couples attended the retreat that was titled "Living the Promised Life... a
Spirituality of Marriage." The retreat, which was sponsored by the Office
of Faith Formation for the diocese, drew a wide range of couples from those who
had preschool-age children to ones married over 40 years.
The retreat was facilitated by Mary Jo Pedersen of the Family Life Office for
the Archdiocese of Omaha. She presents this same retreat throughout the country.
"This offered some enrichment to married couples, particularly relating
to their vocation of married life," she explained. "It gave a deeper
understanding and awareness of what the theology of marriage is all about."
Hurni pointed out that when couples go through marriage preparation, there is
a limit to what information they retain. In addition, people's circumstances may
change as the years go by and so do their areas of interest.
"As Mary Jo said in the retreat, we are pretty na´ve when we stand up
there and say those vows - for better for worse, for richer for poorer -
forever," she said.
Paying special attention to the married relationship through a retreat such
as this can be a form of preventive maintenance, she added.
"Your car may run okay, but if you have the oil changed it can run even
better," said Hurni.
During the retreat Pedersen presented several talks centered on a wide range
of topics relating to married life. Some of the topics covered in the retreat
were marriage as a vocation, the spirituality of marriage, the need for
reconciliation in marriage, how spirituality and sexuality in marriage are
connected and other topics.
In one of her talks, Pedersen told the couples that the married vocation was
the only vocation where two people were called to be one in heart, mind and
Following the talks, couples had time alone to discuss how the various issues
related to their own relationship. There was also time for them to talk with
"Mary Jo also gave practical ideas as to how to sustain the promised
life," noted Hurni. "She is very knowledgeable about theology and the
vocation of marriage, but she is able to bring it down to earth so you can
easily understand what she is talking about. She shares personal stories from
her own marriage and family life to illustrate things."
The Office of Faith Formation received many positive comments on the
Sue Ahlers of Hartley attended the retreat with her husband Michael after
hearing good things about the retreat from some couples who attended this
retreat last February in Sioux City.
"For us, it was a good chance to get away from the stress and burden of
everyday life to refocus on our marriage," she said.
Ahlers found Pedersen to be an excellent and enjoyable speaker.
"She had a good mix of Catholic theology along with examples from her
own life. She kept it light. My husband really enjoyed it to," noted Ahlers.
They would encourage other couples to attend if the diocese offers it again.
In response to the question, what was most helpful, some of the responses
were time alone with the spouse, learning how God is in all aspects of marriage
including sexuality and was helpful in putting faith back into the marriage.
The couples gave high marks to the speakers and found it beneficial to see
other couples - especially those married 40-plus years - take time to nurture
their marriage. One couple said this retreat would be helpful as they
reestablish priorities in their marriage.
Hurni said if people are interested in attending a marriage retreat such as
this one, they should contact her at (712) 233-7531. She would also like to know
if a parish would be willing to serve as a host site.