“We came as individuals, Marriage Enrichment made us a team again.”
“It was a new beginning for us.”
“We came because we thought we needed a new spark, but found we needed a complete overhaul.”
“I was relieved to find out that other couples face the same challenges.”
“We found the love we had misplaced."
”Marriage Enrichment brought us closer to Christ and to each other.”
This ministry has evolved over the period of nearly thirty-seven years. The first ideas for development of the ministry were in 1973. They were based on the need for a marriage program that could be presented by married couples in their own church (in this case, a Catholic parish in Albuquerque, New Mexico). Furthermore, married couples needed to develop the ministry so that it would be based on real-life experiences. Clergy and religious have played very defining and supportive roles in the development.
The concepts of "we are all learners, and we are all teachers" and "leadership resides in everyone" formed the foundation for starting the first Marriage Enrichment Weekend (Weekend) program. The tenets and principles of the ministry and the process of the Weekend evolved over several years with input from all who participated. A steering committee within the church (parish) was formed to coordinate the Weekends within the parish and promote unity of purpose. This initial development stage culminated in documenting of the guidelines for the Weekend, steering committees, the servant-leadership approach to ministry, and other basic ministry concepts.
The sole purpose of the guidelines is to support the ministry. Without exception, the development of the guidelines has involved input from the Marriage Enrichment community (i.e., those working with the ministry). This has helped ensure that a broad base of experience and ideas are included in the process. Most importantly, it is our belief that the Holy Spirit has worked through the people of God in guiding the development of the ministry and the guidelines.
The Program then began to expand to other parishes and congregations in the late 1970's and throughout the 1980's. This included expansion into Spanish. An Executive Committee was formed to coordinate these efforts. Meetings, conferences, and workshops were held to develop guidelines for sponsorship, materials, symbols, and related matters. The Engaged-Couple Enrichment (Engaged) program evolved during this period to help couples prepare for their vocation of marriage. In addition, follow-up programs called Married-Couple Support Groups (Support) and Marriage Renewal and Education (Renewal) were developed.
The tenets and principles of the ministry and the marriage formation processes of the programs evolved with input from thousands of couples and individuals who participated. The collaborative effort has involved laity, clergy, and religious who represent a broad range of experience, ideas, and expertise. They have been guided by the desire to strengthen marriage, family, and community while promoting unity-of-purpose. Through this process, the program evolved from the Holy Spirit working through the people.
An initiative to expand the ministry nationally was undertaken in the 1990's. A number of workshops and conferences focused on strategizing for the future. This affirmed the basis tenets and principles of the ministry and identified the need for a more thorough documentation of the guidelines. It also identified the need to restructure the way the ministry was administered.
This resulted in the formation of the ministry as a nonprofit organization in 1998 (titled: "The Marriage Enrichment Weekend Program, Inc." The purpose of this action was to secure the identity of the ministry and to place the ministry on a firm legal and financial foundation. This was considered essential for sustaining the ministry and for future growth. It also established a Board of Directors, bylaws, and other governance requirements and policies under which the ministry must operate to be in compliance with Federal and State laws. As a consequence, the ministry materials are now copyrighted and the logo and others marks are nationally registered trademarks. The sponsorship and leadership requirements became a part of the legal structure. In addition, the Board was formally charged with being responsible for the guidelines, with facilitating the process of development of new guidelines, and with ensuring that the guidelines are followed.
From 2002 to 2006, two new additional programs were developed. They are called the Married-Couple Retreat (Retreat) and Youth Dating and Healthy Relationships (Youth). The Retreat is a one-day (or three-evening) program for married couples. It recognizes that many married couples, due to their busy lives, cannot attend a full Weekend. Also, many parishes/congregations do not have the resources for presenting a Weekend. The Youth program is a marriage education program for youth at the time of dating and courtship. The programs and materials were organized into both a book series with the theme: Marriage Enrichment Journey ® .
The dynamics of these Marriage Enrichment programs include a mix of active participation, community-building elements, sacramental sharing, private time, and the exploration of marriage with the help of other couples. These ministries "work" because they arose from the people in actual circumstances. They answer a need and are real and positive. They involve people sharing and probing the depths of themselves. These ministries cover all stages of marriage throughout the life cycle. They surface the gifts and talents of people and recognize that leadership resides in all people. They develop lay leadership in couples, community in parishes/congregations, and inter-parochial and inter-denominational cooperation.
The ministry has been sponsored by several Christian denominations and has been active in seven states and in Mexico. An organization that promotes growth and unity of purpose has evolved. The organization includes the leadership and team for each program presentation, and a steering committee for each parish/congregation. Centralized coordination for the ministry was provided by a board of directors working with a regional advisory council and coordinating groups.
In 2012, the ministry transferred to the Archdiocese of Santa Fe. The purpose was to help insure long-term stability. The previous non-profit organization "The Marriage Enrichment Weekend Program, Inc." was dissolved. The ministry was then organized under the Family Life Office of the Archdiocese. The former board of directors continued to operate as a board and coordinate both national and local program activities. The new name for the ministry was "Archdiocese of Santa Fe Marriage Enrichment Programs." The Archdiocese continued support for national outreach, including the inter-church and inter-faith dimensions.
This program continues to evolve along the lines of couples ministering to other couples and parishes/congregations reaching out to other parishes/congregations. As in the past, it will continue to stress the need in today's world for couples to share the richness of their lives and to become involved with other people, their community, and society.
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