CHARLESTON—The Worldwide Marriage Encounter program will celebrate 50 years of helping married couples improve their relationships by rediscovering their love for each other and improving communication.
The program’s success is achieved through weekend retreats with other couples looking for the same results, organizers said. Their focus is to help couples deepen their relationship and understand how to relate to one another in a Catholic marriage with Christ at the center. Marriage Encounter also guides priests and religious on how to improve communication with their flocks.
Marriage Encounter, considered the first marriage enrichment program for couples, began in 1952 when Father Gabriel Calvo developed conferences for married couples centered on an honest relationship and sacramental giving to others as part of married life. This continued for about 10 years throughout Spain, migrating to Latin America in 1966 and to the Spanish speaking population in the United States. By 1969, it had spread throughout the United States and to other parts of the world. These conferences became weekend retreats.
But what happens on these retreats?
The weekends consist of all attendees gathering at a central location on a Friday evening and staying until Sunday morning. Three couples and one priest give presentations each day. Each presentation ends with a question for the couple to take back to their rooms to reflect on in private. This allows each person to understand how he or she affects the relationship by who they are and how they behave, and gives the couple a chance to talk about it.
Jay and Mary Reynolds, past leaders for South Carolina Worldwide Marriage Encounter, attended in 1996 when they realized they were in a rut and needed to become a couple again. It helped them become closer.
Mr. Reynolds explained that during the retreat, couples are given tools for better communication, including prayer, attention to the sexual relationship, receiving support from others, and checking in with one another daily.
Marriage Encounter is “an evolution thing. You don’t jump into the deep end of the pool first,” he said.
To find out more about retreat schedules in South Carolina, visit scmarriage matters.org or visit the national website at wwme.org.
By Tori Walters/Special to The Miscellany