Dr. Lenard Kelley, Director
Office of Family Life

The Office of Family Life will offer training in February for clergy and clergy-designated lay ministers and volunteers in how to administer a marriage preparation program specifically designed for parishes in the Archdiocese of Hartford.

While large-group regional workshops such as Engaged Encounter will continue, the office is adding a new alternative – a parish-based mentor-couple approach to marriage preparation. The office hopes to strengthen marriage preparation, also known as Pre-Cana, by making the premarital coaching more customized and relevant for today’s engaged couples.

“I’m hoping to move toward a better, more personal marriage program that helps people understand the importance of committing their marriage to Christ,” Dr. Lenard Kelley, Director of the Office of Family Life, says. “We want to help young couples transition from the single life to the married life as seamlessly as possible.”

The new parish-based mentor approach to marriage coaching is dependent, Kelley says, on mentor couples instructing and working with the engaged couples. For the past few months he has been visiting parish priests all around the archdiocese to gain their support and to identify mentors in the parishes.

Mentor couples can be a deacon and his wife or any married couple in the parish who gains their pastor’s approval and goes through the training in February and March, he says, or in October if they miss the first opportunity in the spring. Kelley would like to see mentors in every parish, instructing engaged couples and accompanying the couples in the first year or more of marriage.

“Communities that use a mentoring program have a 17.5 percent lower divorce rate,” Kelley says, citing one study in the journal Family Relations.

To accommodate people’s busy schedules, the office has schedule multiple training dates at the Pastoral Center, 467 Bloomfield Ave., in Bloomfield.

Workshops slated for Feb. 14 (for clergy only) and Feb. 15 (lay-professionals and volunteers) will address the new FOCCUS premarital inventory. The single-day workshops will run from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Workshops on Feb. 21 (for clergy only) and Feb. 22 (everyone else) will provide a general overview of marriage preparation today. These single-day workshops will be held from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. For those who prefer an evening option, this same training will be available over two days, on Feb. 17 and 18, from 6 to 9 p.m.

The second round of workshops will cover: five aspects of marriage preparation with a Catholic perspective; eight essential life skills; historical and current marriage statistics in the archdiocese; and what sacrament of marriage advocates can do to promote more sacramental marriages.

An additional workshop in March will focus on the “For Better & For Ever” marriage preparation program.