| Preparing to make a lifelong commitment
Mimi Streett, the new diocesan coordinator for marriage and family life, got an unexpected — and most welcome — assist at a recent marriage preparation weekend.
While 23 couples, ranging in age from their mid-20s to mid-40s, were at St. Mary's Parish in Walnut Creek for their two days of wedding preparation, there was a steady stream of young basketball players and their coaches making their way to the nearby gym.
Upon learning that the couples were there for marriage preparation, one coach stopped and told Streett: "This is the most important thing they'll ever do. I wish they knew that."
Streett invited him to "come on by."
Another coach came by and told the couples just that.
Streett, who became the Oakland diocese coordinator in November, has many years of experience in marriage preparation. She recalls hosting her first marriage preparation course with her husband John 26 years ago, when they had a 3-month-old.
Over the years, the Streetts, who have five children, have been involved in revamping marriage preparation courses in the Archdiocese of San Francisco. Along the way, they've prepared many couples for marriage, including children of their friends.
When a couple meets with the priest who will preside at the marriage, he will offer the options available for the necessary marriage preparation course. Some parishes conduct their own marriage preparation courses. Some couples are referred to marriage preparation courses offered through the Department for Evangelization and Catechesis' Marriage and Family Life office.
"Some of the pastors are really interested in bringing marriage preparation back into their parishes," Streett said. "They see it's a re-entry point." She said she is interested in working with pastors who might want to offer this to the engaged couples in their parishes.
The diocese offers two options. There is a resident retreat weekend, in which couples spend a weekend at a retreat house. One is scheduled in Danville this spring.
Less costly is the commuter retreat weekend option. These sessions are often held at Bethany House in Concord. However, like the one at St. Mary Parish in January, some are being scheduled in parishes.
Streett noted that the diocesan retreats are attended not only by couples from throughout the diocese, but by couples from outside the diocese as well. Twenty-two sessions are planned for English speakers in 2014. Three sessions are scheduled for Spanish speakers.
Additional opportunities are available for those preparing for remarriage or convalidation.
Marriage preparation comes at an important time on a couple's faith journey. "It's one of the big re-entry points for the new evangelization," Streett said.
And, unlike continuing education for employment, for example, marriage and parenthood — "the two most awesome, difficult, possibilities for joy and connection to eternity in your life" — often come without instruction.
But the Catholic Church sees the value in preparing for marriage. At the commuter weekend for example, Streett worked alongside five married couples who spent time with the engaged couples.
While couples at the January session were preparing for weddings that were scheduled from February to October, Streett points out that it has been said that marriage preparation begins much, much earlier.
"John Paul II the Great talked about how we need to have marriage preparation start when children are young," she said. "We learn so much in our family life."
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