By Steve & Kathy Beirne
Our prayer ministry for engaged couples began about ten years ago when we started providing the UNITAS program in our parish. That program runs for seven weeks. Our intent was to involve as many parishioners as possible in preparing couples for their marriage, so that it would be apparent that the community was supporting their entry into this important sacrament. We had couples acting as sponsors, others providing a meal, and still others serving the meal. Others gathered door prizes for each evening’s meeting – but core to the entire effort was the prayer ministry.
Forms were distributed in church prior to the program asking who would be willing to pray for an engaged couple as they went through the program. Each person (or couple) was assigned one of the engaged couples to pray for. We sent a picture of the couple with their first names and wedding date, and asked that they pray for them until their wedding.
In addition, we gave names of the couples to the children in our parochial school, also with a picture. The photos were posted in each classroom, and the children prayed for the couples daily. One year the pastor had the children make placemats for the couples with their advice for marriage. The drawings and the sayings touched the couples, and the children told them, “Don’t fight.”
The prayer ministry is an important one from both sides. Knowing that they have the support of others in the parish is a comfort to the engaged. It makes them feel part of something larger than themselves. From the other side, those who are prayer partners feel involved in the important work of getting couples ready for a Catholic wedding and for the work of living out a lifelong, happy, healthy, holy marriage. The first year, we had a 100 year old woman who offered to be a prayer partner. The couple she got to pray for were getting married on her own wedding anniversary. You can imagine how meaningful it was for both parties to have that connection.
Recently we have begun asking the prayer partners to write a letter to be given to the couple on the last night of the program. This strengthens the awareness of the engaged to the love and concern that enfolds them.
We now have one volunteer who takes charge of this aspect of ministry to the engaged, from collecting the forms with the names, phone numbers, and e-mail addresses of the prayer partners to assigning them couples and making sure they receive the photos. We ask that the letters for the couples be left in the sacristy toward the end of the program so postage is not involved.
Having had this ministry for ten years we now see it as integral to our marriage preparation program. Many of the couples attending the program are only tangentially related to the parish – it is the parish they grew up in, or they have recently moved to the area. This program connects them in a positive way to the larger community.