The COVID-19 pandemic forced couples to rearrange or postpone weddings all over the Diocese of Wilmington, but for men and women earlier on in their engagement, marriage preparation had to continue. So, with a bit of adjustment, the diocesan Office for Marriage and Family Life has moved its pre-Cana classes online, at least for June.
Couples who registered for pre-Cana for June — the diocese offers the class once a month at one of five parishes — will take place this Saturday, June 6.
“We did have to move to this platform to accommodate the needs from the pandemic. This is not our preferred method,” said Colleen Lindsey, the office’s director.
She said the diocese communicated with engaged couples and wanted to be as flexible and accommodating as possible. They need to feel as if their needs are being met.
The program itself has undergone a complete overhaul over the past few years, she continued. The Office for Marriage and Family Life has partnered with Ascension Press to offer a program called “Joy-Filled Marriage,” which is presented in a one-day session that begins at 8:30 a.m. and ends at 4 p.m. The host churches are St. Jude the Apostle in Lewes, St. Elizabeth Ann Seton in Bear, Holy Cross in Dover, Ss. Peter and Paul in Easton, Md., and St. Mary of the Assumption in Hockessin.
“It’s a very well-run, methodical program. We do it in one day to accommodate schedules,” Lindsey said.
“I think we’ve seen since we’ve partnered with Ascension Press and since we have this new, great program, and we’ve spent a lot of time in the diocese forming this program. We’re a couple years in, and the reaction from our couples has been phenomenal.”
After the session, the bride- and groom-to-be separately fill out evaluation forms, and they are given the option to remain anonymous. Lindsey said her office takes them seriously.
The Joy-Filled Marriage program communicates its curriculum, doctrine and education “beautifully and seamlessly,” Lindsey said. The diocese wants to make sure it is user-friendly and understandable for today’s couples. In some cases, an older couple is teamed with one of the engaged pairs.
“We have a lot of faith-filled young adults who have shown interest in facilitating the program,” she said.
The next pre-Cana class is scheduled for July 11 at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton. Although restrictions on gatherings are gradually being loosened, no decision has been made about whether it will be held in person or online, Lindsey said. Her office will wait until it receives further direction from the diocese.
“Everyone moving into this virtual world has done a phenomenal job, including the couples. They understand. They’re even grateful that we’ve offered this during the pandemic. We’ve gotten positive feedback from the way we’ve handled things,” she said.
“We’re working hard to make sure that nothing falls through the cracks. Marriage preparation is so important to help to build that foundation in a safe way. It’s a very important endeavor.”