By Debbie Shelley

The Catholic Commentator 

A little more than three years ago, God kept waking Elizabeth Schroeder up at night, calling her to start a ministry to help couples strengthen their marriage at her parish, St. George Church in Baton Rouge. She thought about the families she knew who were impacted by divorce and separation.  

 

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Couples enjoy a night of fun and marriage building opportunities at a Supper and Substance evening at St. George Church in Baton Rouge.  Photos provided by Jeff Echols   

 

“I started looking around and families that I thought were doing well were falling apart,” said Schroeder. 

Initially reluctant to answer God’s invitation to start a ministry, after a year of “wake-up calls” to do so, she approached then pastor Father Mike Schatzle with the idea and he embraced it. 

The focal point of the ministry is to educate couples that marriage is a sacrament and what a sacramental marriage looks like. Marriage educational and spiritual formation opportunities at St. George are explored. 

“When people are engaged, they have time to spend together. But after they get married, they have less time together and more stress,” said Schroeder.  

Couples can find resources through the ministry and enjoy evenings out with Catholic couples at social events, such as Supper and Substance, which includes presentations on faith and marriage issues and games. Babysitting is provided.  

Amy and Jeff Echols, who serve on the Marriage Enrichment Committee and help organize the Supper and Substance events, said it’s important for couples to focus on making their relationship better by focusing on each other. 

“So many times couples are busy during the week and they say, ‘What are we going to do on Saturday night?’ ” said Amy.  

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Father Paul Gros, parochial vicar at St. George Church in Baton Rouge, speaks at a Supper and Substance evening at St. George Church in Baton Rouge.

 

Games during the dinner include the “Not So Newlywed Game” and “Battle of the Sexes” trivia games.  

“It’s a fun faith-based event with other Catholic couples, some who have never met before,” said Jeff, who explained couples who meet through the events may run into each other in places outside of the church setting and get to know each other further. 

The ministry also brings in special speakers, such as Dr. Allen Hunt of Dynamic Catholic, who will present “Passion and Purpose for Marriage” in March.  

Couples wanting to take their relationship “to the next level” can also attend a retreat, according to Dr. Gretchen Schneider Burton, who helps with counseling couples for the ministry. The next retreat will be Friday, Nov. 15, 1:30 – 6:30 p.m., and Saturday, Nov. 16, 8 a.m. – 4:30 p.m., at the Kleinpeter Center at St. George.  

When husbands and wives dialogue with each other after a presentation, counselors walk around to help those who are “stuck” on a point or need clarification.  

“The retreats provide an opportunity for couples to revitalize their marriage. When they leave they feel like they have a fresh start,” said Burton. “They take away from the retreat a new perspective.”  

Bridget Wendell, who participated with her husband, Sean, at last year’s retreat, said the retreats draw couples of different stages in life and backgrounds and “meet you where you are at.”  

“They leave you with a plan for your marriage. It helps you understand where each other is coming from,” said Wendell.  

She said because marriage is the cornerstone of society, it requires attention.  

“You need to work on your marriage,” said Wendell. “Just like you work out in the gym to improve your health, you have to work at your marriage and spiritual life if you want it to get better.” 

Schroeder echoed her thoughts, “If you want to be an Olympian, you have to have Olympian goals.”  

For more information, call Schroeder at 225-287-5153 or email elizschro5@gmail.com.