1 – Fr Michael: “I saw that you started the online CatholicMarriagePrep.com in 2004. Why did you start an online marriage prep?”
CMP: “The Archdiocese of Denver, knowing that our program was very complete, deeply spiritual, and interactive, asked us to help couples who were far from town and couldn’t participate to in person classes. So, we answered and the fruits are beautiful”
2 – Fr Michael: “How did you keep the program interactive when it’s done online and all in writing with no video calls? Please explain.”
CMP: “Each engaged couple is paired with a trained, certified, paid, mentor couple. Mentor couples will help guide engaged couples through the course. Within our course, are no lecture. There are not multiple-choice questions nor is it a pass or fail program. The engaged couple receive a list of questions with resources to ponder, and discuss together before writing down their answers to be submitted to their mentor couple. Writing down their answers helps them deepen their reflection. We have “his” and “her” answers or a combined answer. Engaged couples can ask as many questions as they want to their mentor couple. The fact that they have to discuss each and every question helps them not only to reflect on each question, but also to know each other in a different light, in a very deep and more spiritual way. These kinds of discussions and the quality time they spend together are priceless, a great way to bond, and grow their own intimacy!
Now there are several major ingredients to any program: the content and the delivery. The content for Agape CatholicMarriagePrep.com is based upon the Teachings of the Catholic Church, St John Paul II’s Theology of the Body, Humanae Vitae, Amoris Laetitia and many more. If the content was enough, why not just give the engaged couples the Bible and the Catechism of the Catholic Church to read? Obviously, it’s not enough! Another major ingredient is the ‘delivery’. We put ourselves in the shoes of the today’s engaged couples and ask the question “How are they going to process and understand this? How are they going to accept it, make it their own, and adopt it in their daily lives?” And as Pope Francis said in his Wednesday General Audience of April 20, 2022: ‘True educator accompanies, listens and dialogues’. This is what our mentor couples do.”
3 – Fr Michael: “Now you say that each engaged couple is ‘paired’ with a mentor couple, does that mean they can’t choose their mentor couple? I saw that you have over 45 mentor couples, why not let them choose their mentor?”
CMP: “We thought about it. Each mentor couple has a short bio and a picture on our website, and indeed, engaged couples could choose based on this info or the picture. However, we don’t think it’s enough information. When they register, each engaged couple gives us their background information. For example, are they both Catholics? Is it their first marriage? How old are they? Is it a convalidation? Are they both bringing children from previous marriages? Is one Catholic and the other Jewish or Muslim? Are they both Vietnamese or Hispanic, ect.?
We have trained dispatchers whose job is to ‘pair’ engaged couples to mentors who will be best related to them.
An easy example: an engaged couple in the military is paired with a mentor couple in active duty or having military life experience. A Vietnamese couple is paired with a Vietnamese mentor couple. A Catholic/Jewish couple is paired with a mentor couple having experience with the Jewish tradition/community.
Having similar backgrounds helps them build the trust needed to pass on the Teachings of the Catholic Church.”
4 – Fr Michael: “Why not have volunteers? It would make your program more affordable to the engaged couples.”
CMP: “It’s really hard work to journey with the engaged couples. These mentor couples have to be trained, they go through the whole program as an engaged couple would, they have to answer to some very hard questions, and help engaged couples who are in difficult situation. They are accountable to the ministry, to the Clergy, and to God. Any marriage prep program has a great responsibility of the spiritual future of each engaged couple who chose marriage as their way to Heaven, to fulfill their vocation. “The laborer deserves his payment,” Jesus said in Luke 10:8)”
5 – Fr Michael: “Why not offer video-based program, it would be cheaper.”
CMP: “You are right. Video based programs could be very cheap! We would only need limited staff and little overhead. When the videos have been produced, the costs are limited, they consist mainly of the maintenance of the website, salaries of a small staff, it’s all digital and automatic. But the results are not the same.
6 – Pastor: “You suggest that the results are better with the online one-on-one mentor led program than with a video-based marriage prep program?”
CMP: “Engaged couples love to watch videos, this is true. Still, it’s very passive and we are not great fans of video-based programs, or any program, where attention span shrinks at light speed. These couples are preparing for the most important step of their lives! They are the future of the Church, and we owe them something more than putting them in front of videos, even if they are of great quality. Videos do not allow for deep discussions between the couple. People are very passive in front of videos. If you look at the “learning Pyramid”, you will see that people generally remember 30% of what they see, 50% of what they see and hear (both called Passive Learning). However, they remember 70% of what they say and write (Active Learning)! And besides remembering what they learn with active learning, they get to bond in an incredible way. Watching videos as a complement to a deep program is a good idea, yes. And our program does offer videos that are very short and to the point to illustrate and complement specific teachings.”