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Central City couple builds family, looks to retirement with faith

Patrick and Janelle Benson

Patrick and Janelle Benson of Central City say their growing relationship with God and with each other after 30 years of marriage will serve them well in retirement.

That’s because they have learned to trust that Jesus wants to be part of their everyday lives, they said.

"The stress level goes down when you can trust God’s plan and not stress over the everyday bumps in the road that we encounter," said Patrick, a sergeant with the Nebraska State Patrol for the past 32 years. "That’s not saying we don’t have life challenges, but we try to put our trust in God … believing he is there for us in all life’s ups and downs."

Patrick will retire in two years and Janelle, a registered nurse, hopes to cut back her hours within the next five years and retire in 10 years. That will give them both more time to be with their seven grandchildren, go on motorcycle trips, fish and just be together, they said.

"Of course, these plans are tentative, knowing we will follow God’s plan for us," said Patrick, who wants to continue to work in some capacity after retirement.

The Bensons, who were married at St. Luke Catholic Church in Ogallala in 1985, said their relationship has matured over the years because of tools they received from Worldwide Marriage Encounter, which they first became a part of 16 years ago.

"Worldwide Marriage Encounter took us from a good marriage to a great, loving relationship," said Janelle, who became Catholic after she married Patrick. "Our faith today continues to be the central focus of our relationship. We know that without God as the center of our relationship we would not be achieving God’s desire for our marriage."

Through that program, which they now help lead and promote in Nebraska, they also learned to communicate about their feelings openly and without judgment, they said.

"We all have feelings and they are not right or wrong. They cannot be controlled but … our behavior can be controlled," Patrick said. "We also don’t just say ‘I’m sorry’ when we hurt one another. We ask for forgiveness from each other, which has much more meaning than just saying sorry."

And when it comes to their faith in Christ, Patrick and Janelle said growth has happened mainly through prayer and developing an everyday relationship with Christ.

Earlier in their marriage, they prayed together before meals, at night with their three now-grown children, and when they needed help. But over the years, they said they’ve learned that Christ is there all the time and wants to be part of their life all the time.

Couple prayer time also has strengthened their marriage, they said.

"Even if it is sitting together holding hands and praying silently, you are still together but you are joined in such an amazing bond," Janelle said. "Locking out the outside world and focusing on just us and God is different from our early years of marriage, where we were much more concerned with careers, material things and raising kids."

The Bensons said it’s also important to find things they can do as a couple.

They are active at their parish – St. Michael in Central City. For the past seven years, Patrick and Janelle have taught religious education to high school juniors and seniors. They both serve as lectors and as extraordinary ministers of holy Communion, and they currently are in Patrick’s first year of formation in the diaconate program for the Archdiocese of Omaha.

And they have tried to pass their faith on to their children, the Bensons said.

Their daughter Becky Howe, a member of St. Vincent de Paul Parish in Omaha, said she is thankful her parents have centered their lives and their marriage on serving the Lord.

"It was a blessing to grow up in a home where my parents put each other and their family as their greatest priority," she said. "Mom and Dad have set a great example for my brothers and me on how important it is to have Christ in our marriages."

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