The two shall become one flesh, and the Church will help them grow in unity and holiness for the rest of their lives.
Each Catholic family will see itself as both a reflection and an integral part of the Church and her mission.
That is Bishop W. Shawn McKnight’s goal in intensifying ministry to married couples and those who are about to be married.
“The marriage bond is a unique and exclusive relationship between husband and wife for the sanctification of the couple and for the procreation and Christ-centered nurturing of children in a family,” Bishop McKnight stated. “Marital love is at the service of the couple, the children, the community and the world.”
Toward that end, the bishop has appointed five deacons to coordinate and facilitate aspects of marriage ministry throughout the diocese.
For the next three years, they will help parishes promote sacramental marriage as a calling from God, worthy of meaningful preparation and lifelong accompaniment by the entire parish.
Deacon Burdett Wilson of St. Joseph Parish in Salisbury and St. Mary of the Angels Parish in Wien will serve as the diocese’s parish outreach coordinator for marriage preparation.
He and his wife, Joyce, will lead parishes in the training and implementation of a soon-to-be released diocesan policy for ongoing marriage preparation.
Deacon Stephan J. Kliethermes of St. Martin Parish in St. Martins will serve as diocesan coordinator for marriage preparation programs.
He and his wife, Helen, will help lead parishes in supporting and/or strengthening the ministry of Pre-Cana and Engaged Encounter teams, and in implementing new initiatives and programs that will expand marriage preparation resources for parishes.
Deacon Robert W. Reinkemeyer of St. Andrew Parish in Tipton and Annunciation Parish in California will serve as diocesan Natural Family Planning coordinator.
He and his wife, Lisa, will help lead parishes in supporting and strengthening the ministry of current Natural Family Planning (NFP) providers in the diocese.
Deacon Jon Bequette of Holy Spirit Parish in Centralia and Deacon James Farnell of St. Brendan Parish in Mexico will serve as diocesan coordinators for marriage enrichment.
Deacon Bequette and his wife, Paula, and Deacon Farnell and his wife, Theresa, will help lead parishes in supporting the ministry of Marriage Encounter for renewing married couples, and Retrouvaille for healing wounded marriages.
The Bequettes and Farnells will also take a leading role in recommending and implementing new initiatives and programs that will expand the Church’s resources to support and enrich married couples.
These appointments and became effective Oct. 1.
Each of the deacons will carry out his new role in addition to the responsibilities of his parish assignment.
Deacon Enrique Castro, diocesan director of marriage ministries, and Father Francis Doyle, diocesan moderator of marriage ministries, will assist them.
“A God commitment”
Deacon and Mrs. Wilson share a passion for helping couples prepare for marriage.
They’ve been involved in Engaged Encounter for 30 years and have been its diocesan coordinators for about a decade.
Engaged Encounter is a Catholic renewal weekend for couples who are preparing for marriage.
“We know absolutely for certain that couples who spend a bit of time thinking ahead about what it’s going to be like to be married, do better once they are married,” said Deacon Wilson.
Married couples also need guidance and support.
“Every married couple has struggles of some sort,” he said. “It’s part of being married. But it’s better when you realize that you’re not alone.”
No married couple is perfect, but many are successful in working through struggles in a distinctly Catholic manner.
“Whether in good times or hard times, they’re still loving each other as Christ told us to love each other,” said Deacon Wilson.
“They’re doing it based on their belief in God and family and the Church,” he said. “The Church is an integral part of how they’re living their faith.”
He pointed out a major difference between “dating love” and married love.
“Dating love is mostly infatuation,” he said. “But married love is when you make a commitment to love the other person, even if you don’t like them today.”
The husband and the wife remain committed to working through difficulties, no matter what.
“It isn’t a feeling like hot or cold,” he said. “It’s a logical and heart commitment and a God commitment.”
Deacon and Mrs. Bequette helped with marriage preparation when they were members of Sacred Heart Parish in Columbia.
“Marriage is a sacrament for a reason,” said Deacon Bequette. “It’s really, really important to be prepared well for it.”
He’s looking forward to helping parishes discover unmet needs in marriage ministry.
“There are doors that need to be opened that we can’t even see yet,” he said. “So we will pray and will open doors as they present themselves, and we’ll find out how we can do the most good.”
He sees a need for parishes to help newly married couples stay connected to their parishes while ministering to other people.
“It’s a fact that couples who pray together stay together,” he said. “Those are stronger marriages.”
Bishop McKnight appointed Deacon Castro diocesan director of marriage ministries in 2018.
Those ministries include marriage preparation, Natural Family Planning (NFP), and marriage enrichment.
The bishop directed him to contact the people throughout the diocese who carry out these ministries, and find out what kind of help they need.
He worked with Helen Osman and Ashley Wiskirchen in the diocesan Communications Department to promote the various marriage ministries on the diocesan website and publicize their events online and in The Catholic Missourian.
The bishop also asked Deacon Castro to help formulate a diocesan policy on helping couples prepare for marriage.
Deacon Castro spent about a year consulting with all the priests, deacons, religious and laypeople who are involved in marriage prep throughout the diocese.
“We sent them a survey to find out what they thought the policy should include, what elements and components are necessary to prepare couples well,” said Deacon Castro.
That feedback, along with input from various diocesan advisory groups, led to a policy that the priests of the diocese will review at their annual institute next week.
“Basically, we want to help prepare couples for their vocation, for their life,” said Deacon Castro. “We want to provide couples the resources for what God is calling them to be.”
The goal is to have laypeople in each parish work with priests and deacons to prepare couples for marriage.
“These lay marriage preparation leaders will receive training in order to know what they’re supposed to do,” he said.
He emphasized that proper marriage preparation gives a couple many tools for dealing with the challenges they will encounter as husband and wife.
“It doesn’t take away any of the problems or difficulties that married couples face,” he noted. “It just helps them manage them with God’s help.”
Deacon Castro said parishes need to provide ongoing follow-up, mentorship and accompaniment for newly married couples.
He said the newly appointed deacons and their wives will be points of contact with people who will carry out these ministries in the parishes.
“Each has a particular role, but they’ll all be working together,” he said.
For instance, Deacon and Mrs. Reinkemeyer, who are certified NFP instructors, will help parishes connect engaged and married couples with people who can tell them about NFP and its benefits.
Deacon Bequette and Deacon Farnell and their wives will focus on promoting marriage enhancement programs and helping determine what kind of ministries need to be started or expanded.
For instance, they will make sure pastors have the resources they need to help husbands and wives who are dealing with pornography addiction.
Any marriage resources the diocese provides will be available in English and Spanish.
Most will also be available online.
“Riches and responsibilities”
At the Priests Institute, Bishop McKnight and the priests of the diocese will discuss a soon-to-be-implemented diocesan policy for ongoing marriage preparation.
“The Church wants to ensure that those entering the life-long commitment of marriage are adequately prepared for the riches and the responsibilities that are intrinsic to it,” the bishop stated.
Deacon Castro said marriage ministry will be ongoing and subject to periodic review.
“I’m really excited about this,” he said. “It’s a different way of seeing and doing things. Instead of having one person in charge of marriage prep, you’ll have several people working together.”
He asked for prayers for everyone involved in marriage ministry to be able to discern “what God wants from us in this particular time” and to cooperate with His grace.
Deacon Bequette requested prayers “simply to be put in the position to do the most good.”
“I’m so thankful for the gift of Holy Orders,” he said, referring to the sacrament by which he became a deacon.
“And I frequently say to God, ‘You’ve chosen me for these Holy Orders. Please show me how to use them,’” he said.