“Now get up and go into the city and you will be told what you must do.” Acts 9:6.
Archbishop Chaput asked three things from the Community: do something for families, share the beauty of the liturgy and teach on the Jewish roots of our faith.
Christian and I took the first one to heart: do something for families.
We hadn’t started out well as a couple, living together before marriage, having an abortion… We wanted to help others do better than us and to be strong in their love for each other and Christ. Our past brought with it a lot of pain, and we felt called to help others avoid that pain, or to heal from it.
We had worked at the Diocesan radio station of Nimes, in France. I had to fill a two-hour broadcast on the subject of my choice. I invited a charismatic author and theologian, Georgette Blaquière, to talk about marriage. Georgette was in the process of writing her book: Oser Vivre l’Amour (Dare Live Love). We had the honor of spending some time with her to prepare the broadcast and it completely changed our view of marriage, and our lives! It took us to the very foundations of this awesome covenant of love and enlightened it from the inside out, from the roots to the treetop.
This gave us a great foundation on which to start a solid marriage prep.
We worked hard for several weeks to put our marriage preparation course together.
At last, we had something on paper, and it was time to put it to the test. We began teaching live classes in the basement of the Community house. It was five evenings, once per week, for five weeks.
Our first class left us disappointed and frustrated. We were giving a lecture to the couples, and even though they were happy, we didn’t feel we were touching their hearts and helping them grasp and own the teachings of the Church.
As we were discussing this with our youngest daughter, Charlotte’s, teacher, at the Denver International School, and expressing our discouragement, he offered to sit in our next class, to observe and take notes. His field of expertise was pedagogy: he taught teachers how to be great educators. God was providing!
When the complete set of five evenings was over, he shared his observations with us.
1) No more lecturing, it doesn’t compel couples to change.
2) Get them involved, ask them questions, challenge them to look for answers before you give them the teachings.
We learned that this was called the heuristic method of teaching.
From Vocabulary.com: Derived from a Greek word that means “to discover,” heuristic describes a rule or a method that comes from experience and helps you think through things, like the process of elimination, or the process of trial and error.
We reworked the whole course with our friend and tried it. It was an amazing difference! Couples were a lot more involved, and excited. We were really reaching their hearts.
We persevered in giving classes almost every month. At the same time, Christian continued with his duties leading the community.
After four years of this, we were burned out and in need of a sabbatical.
During this time, the archdiocese of Denver asked us to help couples in remote places who didn’t have access to in-person marriage prep classes. Since our course was very interactive, we decided to try to teach it via email. The results were amazing! We were working with these couples one-on-one, getting them to discuss important topics together, in depth, and we were seeing them open up and change, embracing the teachings of the Church. We were in awe!
Christian then said, maybe we should start a website and teach the course online?
This sounded quite crazy as we didn’t have the slightest idea on how to do that.
Again, our motto came back to us: how is this going to happen? The Holy Spirit was faithful and sent us his emissary in the person of Randy, the school’s janitor! Before working at the parish, he had been building websites for trucking companies and was thrilled to help us start our own. It took several weeks of hard work and hair pulling, but we finally launched CatholicMarriagePrep.com on May 10th, 2004. Mother’s Day.
It became clear that the Lord was asking us to devote our time to this new ministry, and to reach out to couples all over the United States, one by one.
We were torn: we had committed our whole life to the Community and now we were asked to leave it. The relationship with the community in Denver was deteriorating. We asked the Lord to show us his will.
We didn’t have to wait too long.
Our superior suggested we move to another diocese and start something else there. We really didn’t know how we could be accepted in another diocese when it had taken almost 5 years to really be a part of the Archdiocese of Denver. How will this be done? Our lives once again depended on that crucial question.
One day, while we were waiting for our old faithful, donated Buick, to be checked at a good friend’s shop, we started chatting with his sister-in law. She had just returned from a trip to Medjugorje and was on fire with faith. We told her about our difficulties, and that we had no clue where to start. She said,
“Did you think of Colorado Springs?”
We didn’t even know Colorado Springs was another diocese! We knew only one priest there, so we decided to call him, knowing that we probably wouldn’t find him. He was a missionary and always on the road. The first miracle occurred that night: he was at home and he invited us to come see him the next morning.
That day was a Wednesday, I remember clearly. When we arrived at his place, he had already organized schooling for our daughters, and found a house for us, plus he was offering us a job at his parish for $1,000/month!
It was the clearest answer we could have ever hoped for. Once more, the Lord was opening doors beyond expectations.
On July 17th, 2004, we left the house of the Community in Denver, without a penny, and moved to Colorado Springs. It was the feast of Blessed Charlotte of the Resurrection and the monsoon was on full blast! The basement of our new house was flooded. What a welcome!
Several awesome friends had pledged to support us financially for a year and we will forever be grateful to them. We are especially thankful to Blayne, the head janitor of the parish, for funding our move (in its entirety!) from Denver to the Springs.
In October 2005, we cut our ties with the Community for good. We now shared our time between the parish and developing our marriage prep course. The Lord was operating miracles and conversions through this prep. We were the stunned witnesses of something that was much bigger than ourselves
The ministry grew quickly, and we found ourselves working with couples online all day. When we got to more than 80 couples each, we decided it was time to hire other instructors to help us answer them all, one-on-one. God provided, as He always had. Our oldest daughter, Mattie, was the first to join, then a couple of great friends we had met when the Community started, and so on. We took on more engaged couples and were able to give each the attention they needed.
The following year, Bishop Michael Sheridan hired us as the directors of the office of Marriage and Family Life in Colorado Springs.
The Lord was leading.
Each time we attempted to implement something new, on our own initiative, it failed. Each time a request came from a priest, success!
On June 17th, 2010, our son-in-law, Moses, came to Christian and asked if he and our daughter could work with us. This day, Christine wrote in her diary: “Lord, you provide for everything! It’s incredible! I would never have imagined, even in my most crazy dreams, that Moses and Mattie would be interested in working full time for CMP! They came themselves to us to ask! It’s super genius!”
A priest from California asked us once if he could use our marriage prep to prepare Quinceañeras. We told him it would be a bit too intense for 14-year-old girls. He asked us to rework it for them, and after complaining a little, we got to work and this is how our Quince program began. Then a priest from our diocese asked us to do a Baptism prep online for both parents and godparents. We kind of slacked on it, but requests came from several sides until we decided to get to the drawing table! And our baptism prep was born!
The Lord is really in charge, we only have to obey and follow His lead.