Archdiocese helps interfaith couples prepare for marriage
More than 30 percent of couples married in the archdiocese today are interfaith – either the bride or groom is non-Catholic. From a strong Catholic perspective, today’s marriage preparation programs address that special situation in several ways.
"We take the non-Catholic’s different faith background into account, so we try to be very clear and use less Catholic ‘insider’ language when we’re talking to these couples," said Peter Kennedy, interim director of the Center for Family Life Formation.
In addition, interfaith couples answer questions highlighting the unique aspects of an interfaith marriage as part of a pre-marriage inventory taken by all couples. Called FOCCUS (Facilitating Open Couple Communication, Understanding and Study), the inventory was developed by the Omaha archdiocese and is used worldwide.
The inventory, which helps couples flush out issues that might need more discussion, takes that extra step for interfaith couples to help them address challenges that can arise from not sharing the same faith.
Often the requirement of raising children in the Catholic faith is a concern for interfaith couples, Kennedy said.
"We can also see conflict in those situations where both people have strong religious preferences," he said, "so we offer a lot of discussion points to consider.
"One of the difficulties most couples have is that they haven’t looked beyond their immediate relationship, so marriage preparation helps them imagine what marriage and family life will look like in the future," he said.
For all couples, good communication about issues uncovered during marriage preparation is vital, Kennedy said. "And regardless of their faith traditions, being able to pray together is a necessary part of the relationship."
Marriage prep steps
Contact a parish to begin the process – The pastor’s approval is required to begin marriage preparation.
Select and attend the suitable education program – The archdiocese offers several options, including programs for those marrying for the first time, those where one person is remarrying and those who are civilly married seeking convalidation.
Complete the FOCCUS Pre-marriage Inventory and attend facilitation sessions – The inventory helps couples appreciate their relationship, learn more about themselves and discuss topics of importance to their marriage. Trained facilitators review the inventory report and guide the couple’s discussions.
Plan the wedding rite – The priest or deacon who will witness the marriage meets with the couple to plan the details of the wedding ceremony.