The Catholic Commentator  

Marriage can often seem a lost ideal in modern society where divorce rates are estimated as high as 50 percent and broken homes and consolidated families are caught up in the carnage. 

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Retrouvaille offers hope to troubled marriages through a Christian-based program designed to help couples work through and resolve issues that may be causing trouble in the relationship. File photo 

 

One Denham Springs couple, however, having endured their own share of marital struggles, are hoping to make a difference by bringing a fresh perspective to a ministry that has been active in the Diocese of Baton Rouge for the past 27 years. Randall and Robin Bellard, parishioners at Immaculate Conception Church in Denham Springs, are one year into their new roles as community coordinators for Retrouvaille, a Christian-based program designed to help couples work through and resolve issues that may be causing trouble in their marriage.  

“We believe God led us to Retrouvaille to save our marriage,” Randall Bellard said. “Writing and presenting our personal story has helped us to heal our marriage. In thanks for this blessing, we want to give back and help other hurting couples.”  

He said Retrouvaille, which was established in the diocese in the spring of 1990 by couples who were volunteering in Marriage Encounter, is a three-phase program beginning with a weekend experience, followed by post-weekend follow-ups and monthly small group support caring meetings.  

The weekends last from Friday evening through Sunday afternoon and are presented by three couples and a priest. Bellard noted the presenting team has experienced disillusionment, pain and conflict in their own lives, and through their own personal struggles of reconciliation and healing, offer hope.  

Bellard, who has been married to Robin for 28 years, said couples will find courage and strength in the realization that they are not alone in their struggles.  

“Couples will not be asked to share their problems with anyone else (but) will be encouraged to put the past behind them and to look beyond the hurt and pain in order to rediscover each other in a new and positive way,” Bellard said, adding that the weekend provides “tools to help them with communication, forgiveness and trust. It teaches a dialogue process of meaningful communication on a feeling level.”  

Acknowledging that healing cannot take place in one weekend, the follow-up sessions include a series of two-hour talks by volunteer couples during a six-week period. Bellard said the majority of couples find the follow-up sessions to be the most productive components of the program, and where significant growth occurs.  

The final phase is a monthly small group support meeting, called “Continuing Our Retrouvaille Experience (CORE) that allows for a casual and supportive interaction with other Retrouvaille couples. Bellard said the meetings reinforce the communication tools learned on the original weekend. 

By any account, Retrouvaille has been a success, especially when considering that in the past 40 years 76 percent of couples who have attended a Retrouvaille weekend and the subsequent meetings were still married five years later. 

“In our society today, with the pressures of work, family life and other conflicting demands, marriage relationships are often taken for granted,” said Bellard, who makes it a point to try to eat dinner with his wife and their adult children daily while enforcing a strict “no electronics” policy. “Without attention and care, marriages wither and couples slowly and quietly drift apart and the children are often torn apart by hurtful actions. Far too many couples live in misery and do not know the joy of a loving relationship.”  

Bellard said he and his wife were first approached about becoming involved in Retrouvaille in 2016 while attending a CORE meeting. It was during that meeting when Erroll and Mary Grace, one of the founding couples, asked the Bellards if they would be interested in serving in the ministry.  

“Robin and I want to serve as many hurting couples as we can,” Bellard said. “One of our goals is to fill every weekend program. The more couples we serve, the more marriages we can hopefully save.  

“Just taking time to share your story with other couples and having them tell you, ‘Thank you,’ after hearing your story is the best feeling in the world. We are helping hurting couples and they are helping us to continue to heal our marriage.”  

“Robin and I are very excited,” he said, adding that he and his wife are involved in several ministries at Immaculate Conception, including the Knights of Columbus and vacation Bible school. “Robin and I allow God in our marriage and we pray together, because marriage takes three.”  

Weekends are held in the fall and in the spring, with the next one scheduled Sept. 8-10 at the Bishop Robert E. Tracy Center in Baton Rouge. Each couple pays a registration fee, and after the weekend, couples are asked to make a donation to help cover the expenses if they can. All materials and meals are include in the cost.  

Bellard emphasized no couple is ever denied the chance to attend because of financial difficulties and added that assistance is available. For more information, call 225-271-4092 or visit HelpOurMarriage.com.