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Parenting classes adapt to couples’ changing needs

It’s been a year since the archdiocese began offering one-on-one parenting classes instead of large-group gatherings as part of marriage preparation for couples with children.

And they appear to be a hit.

"Every couple we’ve had go through the course has said, ‘this is awesome, it’s so practical, focused on our needs,’" said Valerie Conzett, director of the Center for Family Life Formation.

The two-hour sessions are run by trained facilitators available to all rural and urban parishes, and the training was created as a response to requests for more personal counseling.

Each couple and their facilitators arrange the best time and place to meet, whether it is an extended lunch hour, at the parish office, in someone’s home or elsewhere, Conzett said.

Thus far, eight teams of facilitators have been trained, she said.

"But we welcome more. Ideally we want each facilitator to only have to work with four to six couples a year," she said.

Over the last year, 75 couples bringing children into their marriages used the program, which is offered in concert with other marriage or remarriage preparation programs, including Catholic Engaged Encounter; Marriage: A Journey for Life; and Marriage: A Journey for Life Remarriage.

And while the classes are required for couples who have children from a prior marriage, anyone in the archdiocese is welcome to take advantage of the parenting program.

Peter Kennedy, the center’s manager of family life ministries, said people who take the parenting course might be working through a variety of personal situations, such as a man or woman bringing a young child into a new marriage, an older couple with teenagers or a couple whose adult children have concerns about their parents marrying.

"We are really trying to meet the needs of each couple in a way that reflects the Jesuit principle of ‘Cura Personalis’ or ‘care for the whole person’ and be present to these couples in a way that provides the individualized attention they need," Kennedy said.

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