SASKATOON — Catholic Engaged Encounter is offered annually at St. Peter’s Abbey in Muenster, but organizers would be delighted to present the weekend of inspiration and preparation more often to couples preparing for marriage.
At a recent diocesan Administration Day, Engaged Encounter team members invited parish leaders to encourage couples to consider the program, describing its benefits, and expressing a need for higher numbers to attend the weekend, with the next one scheduled for April 1-3, 2016.
“We have many couples who report that they came believing they knew everything about each other and their relationship, but that they left having learned more, and deepened their relationship, feeling more committed to each other, aware of things they need to follow up on, and glad that they took the time to come,” said Lynn Freistadt, who, along with his wife Wanda, serves on the Engaged Encounter team.
Rev. Demetrius Wasylyniuk, OSB, team member and guest master at St. Peter’s Abbey, gave a brief history of Engaged Encounter, which has been in existence for some 40 years. “The concept of the Engaged Encounter came out of the Worldwide Marriage Encounter,” he said.
The international Catholic Engaged Encounter program recently accepted an invitation from the Pontifical Council of the Laity to attend the world congress of ecclesial movements and communities in Rome, Wasylyniuk noted. “It is officially recognized by the Vatican as a movement of the faithful.”
The program has been offered in St. Peter’s Abbacy, in the Diocese of Saskatoon and in the Archdiocese of Regina. The Muenster program is now alone within the diocese since the Saskatoon Engaged Encounter program has ended (the abbacy joined the diocese of Saskatoon in 1998.) However, in recent years, numbers have declined.
Engaged Encounter at Muenster cannot continue without support from parish leaders in the diocese, stressed Wasylyniuk. “And what we mean by support is the sending of couples to Engaged Encounter.”
Other team members spoke passionately at the diocesan Administration Day, providing information about the format and the quality of Engaged Encounter.
“Couples are given an opportunity to look at their relationship through individual reflections, private sharing and discussion, guided by the presentations given by the team,” said Wanda Freistadt.
“We share our marriages, our relationships, our lives with the couples who are participating. Our priest present is integral, presenting with us, clarifying church teaching, and giving his personal experience and insights into relationships, vocations, marriage, family and life. He also shares his life with the couples.”
Engaged Encounter sessions begin with a presentation by the team, followed by a set of questions given to each of the couples to reflect on, described Lynn Freistadt. At the heart of the Engaged Encounter experience is the engaged couple spending time together, deeply communicating with each other.
“The actually separate and write their answers to the questions. After a time ... they exchange their writings and read and discuss them. This is the process that truly encourages couples to encounter each other and God,” he said.
Fifteen talks throughout the weekend fall into five themes: family of origin, sacramental marriage, communication, intimacy, and values, listed Wanda.
“Each of the talks then provides an opportunity to look at the topics in a concrete, practical way, using the examples from the lives of the presenters,” added Lynn. “Our intent and prayer is that the couples will be able to go home with the tools and the desire to continue their encounter in their marriage.”
“Our goal and our purpose is about an encounter,” agreed Angela Yakimoski, who along with husband Kevin is a team member from St. Scholastica Parish in Burr.
“It is an encounter that happens with couples together, it is an encounter that happens with God. We are guides for them to help them start the conversations that are crucial for marriage.” Both Angela and Kevin stressed the importance of engaged couples carving out time for this vital encounter, to listen, talk and interact — and to really focus on their relationship.