SASKATOON — Phil and Mary Wrubleski are eager to bring practical marriage enrichment opportunities to couples in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Saskatoon.
The Wrubleskis are current chairs of the diocesan Marriage Task Force, which over the past 15 years has worked to affirm, celebrate and enrich marriage.
Finding new ways to strengthen marriages in an era when programs such as Marriage Encounter have ebbed is a priority, says Phil.
Married couples seem to be getting into trouble earlier, adds Mary. “We need something more between Marriage Preparation and Retrouvaille (aimed at marriages in crisis).”
One new idea is marriage mentoring, in which a younger couple is invited to meet monthly with a more established mentoring couple in the parish who is trained to engage in helpful conversations about marriage, life and children.
The diocesan task force has been connecting with Family Life Canada, looking into the training required to prepare mentor couples for this role, says Phil. The strength of marriage mentoring is that it is low-key, relational and grounded in real-life experience, based on the idea that “most marriages don’t need an overhaul, just regular tune-ups.”
Couples who have weathered difficulties have a lot to offer younger couples, says Mary. “Phil and I would not still be together had it not been for the crises we went through together. You develop tools, your marriage gets stronger.”
Sharing insights with younger couples in a social setting can plant seeds and provide critical support that helps a marriage grow rather than breaking up.
In recent years the diocesan Marriage Task Force has led a number of initiatives — such as marriage enrichment evenings, re-examining marriage preparation materials, and leading local lineamenta discussions on marriage and family life in response to the synod on the family.
At the present time the Marriage Task Force is partnering with a number of evangelical Christian churches for an April 2017 Saskatoon Marriage Network event; developing a study guide on Amoris Laetitia (the Joy of Love), Pope Francis’ post-synod apostolic exhortation on marriage and family life; and assisting in planning a provincial Catholic conference on Amoris Laetitia to be held in Saskatoon next spring, a joint effort with all the dioceses and eparchies in Saskatchewan.
Amoris Laetitia is a beautiful document, easy to read and filled with insights that deserve to be widely known and discussed, say the Wrubleskis. “It is a pastoral document,” says Phil. “It is timely and very brave.”
It doesn’t shy away from the real challenges facing families, and it is filled with hope for healing and strengthening ordinary family life, fitting in with Pope Francis’ image of the church as a field hospital, tending to wounds in the world, the couple notes.
“We need to remember how many people we meet and talk to have a situation that is real, that is difficult. They need to be listened to and loved,” says Mary.
The Catholic dioceses and eparchies in Saskatchewan are working together on a study guide of the document, and an April 2018 conference on Amoris Laetitia, which would feature ordinary couples connecting their lived experiences to the document themes and insights.
“Our dream is to get this out to the whole diocese, the whole eparchy,” says Phil.
This spring, the diocesan Marriage Task Force is also part of an ecumenical Saskatoon Marriage Network event featuring a number of marriage and parenting workshops by Dave and Donalyn Currie of Doing Family Right Ministries April 27-29 at Circle Drive Alliance Church.
The Christian churches involved in the Saskatoon Marriage Network all recognize the importance of marriage and family life, says Phil. “We have a lot in common.”
Sessions include a presentation all day April 28 for couples married 20-plus years, as well as a daylong marriage-building experience for all married couples April 29, with a special focus on those married less than 20 years. How to leave a spiritual impact on confident children is the topic for a separate parenting workshop April 28.
As part of the network’s Weekend of Impact, Dr. Dave Currie will also tackle the challenging issue of pornography in a presentation for clergy, pastoral leaders and all those involved in family ministry April 27 at an event that begins with lunch.
“We are hopeful that there will be participation from our Catholic community,” says Phil.
The Wrubleskis also hope to attract other married couples from all areas of the diocese to participate in the work of the Marriage Task Force and move toward putting other ideas into action — including digital outreach.
“We want to offer people something to sink their teeth into, to get more things into motion,” says Phil. Anyone interested can reach the Marriage Task Force by calling Blake Sittler at the Catholic Pastoral Centre.