ST. BONIFACE — Donald and Alesa Sutherland went to Saskatchewan to participate in the Retrouvaille program with the goal of bringing it to Manitoba for the first time.
Founded in Quebec almost 40 years ago, Retrouvaille is a program offered internationally, based on the Catholic concept of marriage as a sacred commitment. The program aims to help any couple going through difficulties, or even a separation, to reconnect and begin to communicate again, regardless of faith or beliefs, age, experience, or the nature of their problems.
“The idea is that couples get together for a weekend to attend presentations given by other couples, who, like the participants, have experienced difficulties, but have overcome them thanks to Retrouvaille,” said Alesa Sutherland. “The couples who give their testimonials are not psychologists or counsellors, they are simply peers,” Donald Sutherland explained. A priest is also present.
“It’s a very gentle approach,” Alesa says. “It’s not about finding who is guilty, but about learning how to communicate again! It should be noted that couples are not obligated to share their story with the others throughout the weekend. The program is there to give them some basic tools — it’s up to each couple to do with them what they will.”
“The simple fact of being around a table with other couples who share the same belief in the importance of marriage is a great help,” she maintains. At the end of the weekend, couples are encouraged to participate in followup sessions in order to help them re-establish communication with each other as much as possible. In this way, they can rediscover their intimacy.
“There are many resources in Manitoba to prepare for or enrich marriage. But there are few options to help those facing difficulties, especially for Catholics,” concludes Sophie Freynet-Agossa, co-ordinator of the Service of Marriage, Family and Life at the Archdiocese of St. Boniface. “That’s why we’d like to start Retrouvaille here.”
A first weekend session of the Retrouvaille program is planned for 2016. Until then, information sessions about the program will be offered in different parts of the province. Couples who have rekindled their marriages, thanks to Retrouvaille, will share their experiences with those who would be interested to learn more about the program.