The program offers marriage preparation through “companion couples,” a ministry similar to the sponsor-couple ministry — a couple-to-couple program — currently used in the Archdiocese of Louisville.
“Joined by Grace” is designed specifically for millennials — individuals born between the early 80s and the mid-90s, said Deacon Stephen Bowling, director of the Office of Family Ministries, during an interview Aug. 3.
The new program comes in response to Pope Francis’ April 2016 apostolic exhortation “Amoris Laetitia,” (“The Joy of Love”)
in which the Holy Father writes about love, marriage and family life.
The messages and lessons in “The Joy of Love” are “baked” into the program, said Deacon Bowling. The program is “sensitive” to couples coming from non-traditional situations, such as those already living together or those marrying non-Catholics, he said.
The program is based on the book “Joined by Grace,” written by the husband and wife duo John and Teri Bosio. The Bosios are authors and creators of marriage enrichment resources used in parishes and dioceses across the country. The program also uses a series of videos in which married couples share stories and insights from their lives together.
Engaged couples who participate in “Joined By Grace” will attend six meetings with a companion couple, typically over a three-month period, but the timeframe can be adjusted depending on the couple.
The companion couples can meet one-on-one with an engaged couple, but the program can also be adapted to small groups, said Deacon Bowling.
So far, five married couples in the Archdiocese of Louisville have been trained as companions and are available for engaged couples interested in this preparation, said Deacon Bowling.
Fran and Scott Thompson, members of St. Gregory Church in Cox’s Creek, Ky., went through the companion training in March. And they have conducted the “Joined By Grace” program with a young couple married about a month ago, said the Thompsons during a phone interview Aug.7.
The young couple they worked with brought some challenges with them, but also great commitment to the process. The groom was no longer connected with a parish and his wife is not Catholic, but they wanted a Catholic wedding, said Scott Thompson. The Thompsons, who’ve been married for 23 years, said the program helped to deepen the young couple’s faith as well as their own.
“It helped them to see what marriage is in reality as opposed to the story book marriages,” said Fran Thompson, who noted the young couple traveled from Lexington, Ky., to meet at their home in Bardstown, Ky.
He also noted that the videos led to “good discussions” between the couples.
Their time together was “prayerful,” said Fran Thompson, but they also got to know the younger couple on a more personal level and attended their wedding at St. Gregory.
Scott Thompson feels as though the program also served as a “refresher course” for his own marriage.
“We got a lot of good out of the program,” he said.
The sacraments form the program’s foundation. It aims to take the couples “deep into what it means to be a part of this church and receiving God’s grace,” said Deacon Bowling. The program, he noted, is more than marriage preparation. He also hopes it will help “anchor” the couples to their parish.
Following the six “Joined By Grace” sessions, companion couples are expected to meet with the young couples three times after the wedding. Deacon Bowling said he hopes these meetings will provide the opportunity for the companion couples to start talking to the newlyweds about starting a family, baptism and schools. It’s about “building the future of our parishes.”
Deacon Bowling said the strength of the program lies in the fact that it provides personal witness.
“We’ve always felt that witness is very, very important. It’s what brings people in and keeps them there,” said Deacon Bowling. “That’s why this is intended to be the Cadillac of marriage preparation. If we can get everybody doing this, that’ll be great.”
Those interested in learning more about offering the program — married couples, priests, deacons and parish staff — are invited to attend one of three hour-long information sessions at St. Gabriel Church, 5505 Bardstown Road, in Loft 1:
- Aug. 19 at 10 a.m.,
- Sept. 18 at 7 p.m.
- Oct. 18 at 7 p.m.
The information sessions are open and do not require registration.
Those who want to become companion couples may sign-up during the information sessions. The training sessions to prepare companion couples are scheduled for Nov. 11 and Feb. 4.
For more information or to register for the training sessions, email the Family Ministries Office at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Engaged couples interested in this program may contact Deacon Bowling at 471-2127.