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Couples trained to mentor

those preparing for marriage

By DAVID MYERS
Southwest Kansas Register

Couples helping couples; that is one of the tasks of the “Prepare - Enrich” marriage preparation program of the Diocese of Dodge City: mentor couples offering a guiding hand to women and men who are preparing for marriage.
In the St. Augustine Room at the Cathedral of Our Lady of Guadalupe, several couples gathered recently to study and understand what they may encounter when serving as a mentor couple. “Couples about to marry have many adjustments, mutual decisions and pressures,” said Judy Johnson of Prince of Peace Parish in Great Bend. She attended the training session with her husband, Jim. “As a mentor couple we can serve as a confidential neutral party to facilitate discussions between them.”  
The Prepare - Enrich program, which was introduced to the diocese last October, replaces the FOCCUS marriage preparation program formerly used in the Diocese of Dodge City. Along with its companion program, Engaged Encounter, Prepare - Enrich fulfill the requirement of the Catholic Church for all couples preparing for marriage.
“We have been blessed in our years of married life,” Judy responded when asked why she and her husband wanted to be a mentor couple. “Serving as mentors for couples who are about to begin their married journey together is a way for us to give back.  
“Selfishly,” she added, “it is also a way for us to continue to grow in our own married vocation.  Developing a relationship with a couple about to embark on their new vocation will be exciting.”
Each parish or parish cluster is encouraged to have at least one English or Spanish speaking mentor couple to apply the program, depending on the needs of their community.
Mary Bieker and her husband, Darrel, also of Great Bend, were asked to become a mentor couple by their pastor, Father Reggie Urban.  
“My husband and I attended the Engaged Encounter weekend 16 years ago and it was such a meaningful and unifying experience for us as a couple,” Mary said. “We decided then that we wanted to be able to do something in the future to help other engaged couples. The ‘Prepare - Enrich’ program appears to be a good way to do that as well as continue to enrich our own marriage.”
The way the program works is that couples preparing for marriage will contact their parish priest, who will email them a personal identification “key” to access an online assessment – or “inventory” -- designed to identify the couple’s strengths, as well as areas in which there is room for growth. It takes about 30 minutes to answer the questions.
The responses, which are kept in strict confidence, will then be returned to the administrator of the program, who will provide the couple with four to eight follow up visits, during which they will discuss and help the couple understand the results.
“It was affirming for both of us to take the Prepare - Enrich [inventory] and then use those results in our training,” Judy said. “The research based materials have a history of success.”  
Kathy and Tom Fitzgerald were in their late teens when they married 38 years ago.  
“Statistically speaking, our marriage might have ended in divorce,” Kathy said. “We have weathered storms together that has helped us grow and become stronger.  Our faith has been an important part of our marriage.
“I enjoyed the training very much.  I think it will be a very positive way to guide couples preparing for marriage. It will also help the mentoring couple know how to guide the sessions we have with them.  The survey that the couples complete help lead the discussion. The process helps to make it a non-judgmental type of mentoring.”   
Kathy explained that a “married couple might better be equipped to answer and guide in some areas where a priest lacks experience.  Our hope is that we can share what we’ve learned from experience that might help them in the future when they face various trials in their relationship.  It might also enlighten the engaged couple to the differences that they might have.  In recognizing this in advance, it should help them learn how to address conflict in a positive way that will lead to a lasting and enriching life.  
“The added benefit for us is that this experience will also help Tom and I to strengthen and grow!”  
For more information, visit prepare-enrich.com.

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