By DAVID MYERS
Southwest Kansas Register
In the St. Augustine Room at the Cathedral of Our Lady of Guadalupe, what at first sounded like couples taking part in marriage counseling, at first glance appeared to be something quite different.
The role-playing exercise, in which priests played husband, wife and counselor, was part of the marriage preparation “Prepare and Enrich” training program, which is currently being introduced to the Diocese of Dodge City.
This July session was the first of two sessions in the diocese presented by Joyce Webb. The second was held in August and included several priests as well as other church personnel.
In many parishes, the program has already replaced the FOCCUS marriage preparation program formerly used in the Diocese of Dodge City. By October, all parishes in the diocese will be utilizing the “Prepare and Enrich” program, which, along with its companion program, Engaged Encounter, will fulfill the requirement of the Catholic Church for all couples preparing for marriage.
All priests in the diocese are expected to have attended either the July or August training sessions, which also were open to deacons and their wives, Parish Life Coordinators, Pastoral Ministers and others who are presently engaged in marriage preparation.
Additionally, 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 the community.
“Prepare and Enrich” is “more complete, more informative than the FOCCUS assessment,” said Father Jim Dieker, pastor of St. Anthony Parish in Liberal. “We’ve jumped right in to it and it seems like it will be very helpful. I already have set up four couples on it.”
The way “Prepare and Enrich” works is this:
First, 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.
Not only is the assessment for engaged couples, but there are customized assessments designed for marriage counseling, marriage enrichment, and dating couples who are considering becoming engaged.
Cost of the program varies depending on the parish, but is not expected to exceed $50 per couple, and in some cases will be offered for free. Father Dieker said that one of the advantages over the FOCCUS program is that “it gives very direct instructions to the counselor. These are characteristics that this person is showing; this is one of the problems you need to be dealing with.”
Prepare and Enrich is designed to help couples:
Explore strength and growth areas;
Strengthen communication skills;
Identify and manage major stressors;
Develop a more balanced relationship;
Explore family of origin issues;
Discuss financial planning and budgeting;
Establish personal, couple and family goals, and;
Understand and appreciate personality differences.
Among the many issues addressed in the assessment are communication, conflict resolution, roles, sexuality, finances, and spiritual beliefs.