By Lindsay Steele
The Catholic Messenger
SOLON — Getting married couples together on a regular basis — especially those with young children — isn’t always easy, but St. Mary Parish-Solon has found a way to make it work.
One Saturday a month, about 16-20 adults from the parish join up to socialize and participate in faith-building activities through St. Mary’s Marriage on Tap program.
“It gives us a couple hours of adult conversation. It’s a way to build the church community; most of us are in a similar phase of life,” said Mark Petersen, husband to Melanie and father to two young boys.
Lindsey Carey, the parish’s coordinator of young family ministries, developed the program about a year and a half ago with the intention of enriching the marriages of parishioners young and old. “It’s for everybody, from engaged couples to empty-nesters.” Currently, the majority of participants are in the 25-50 age range.
An essential piece of making Marriage on Tap work is the availability of free babysitting at the church during the program. “Childcare isn’t cheap and the couples might not spend this time on their marriage otherwise,” Carey said. Melanie Petersen echoed Carey’s sentiment. “With a 3- and 7-year-old, it is hard to break away and have a date night, especially with other couples. This is a way to make our own little date night and mingle with other people. It’s a great way to grow in your faith, too.”
Carey noted that the Saturday time slot seems to work well for the program, as it occurs right after Saturday night Mass. Some core couples have been a part of Marriage on Tap since the program first began, but the timing makes it easy for couples who haven’t attended previously to give it a try.
Monica and Wade Chapman began attending Marriage on Tap in December. They are the parents of 12-year-old triplets, one of whom helps with babysitting during the event. Wade said he enjoys the opportunity to share his faith and life with others and enrich his spiritual life.
Most of the time, the group meets in the basement hall and enjoys a potluck dinner and refreshments before participating in spiritual enrichment activities led by local speakers or DVD/workbook material. Occasionally the group travels off-site to volunteer at the local food pantry or serve a meal at the Ronald McDonald house. They’ve also made blankets for the local domestic violence shelter.
On Jan. 16, the group watched a video about the concept of forgiveness in marriage, which sparked a lively discussion. The group agreed that asking a spouse for forgiveness is better than just saying “sorry,” as it opens up the possibility of dialogue. They also identified the “I’m sorry-that’s okay” dialogue that is commonplace in American culture and can make the concept of Christian forgiveness more difficult. According to the DVD, forgiveness doesn’t mean being a doormat or being able to live without consequences. It is about healing and being called to love as God loves. One participant expressed that the act of going to confession regularly helped that person to be more forgiving at home.
While discussing the somber subject and sharing personal testimonies, the group also shared a lot of laughs. Though the event was supposed to end at 8:30 p.m. — about two-and-a-half hours after it began — it seemed that the conversation could have continued well into the night. At about 8:45 p.m., Carey had to cut off the conversation so that they could relieve the babysitters next door. The group said a prayer before heading home.
Monica Chapman said, “It’s nice hearing from people who have the same values as you and tell stories you can relate to.”
Most gracious and awesome God we ask for your graces to be poured out on our marriage and all the marriages in the world. We know that you are the author of this beautiful sacrament and we ask for the strength to be able to live it out according to your plan. With humble hearts we ask to be filled with the Holy Spirit so that we might be an example to those who encounter us, especially our children. We desire to be that sign of love that Christ has for his church. We thank you for the gift of each other and ask that Mary, our blessed mother, intercede for us to be obedient to our marriage vows, to love, honor and cherish one another ‘til death do us part. We ask this all through Christ our lord. Amen.