Washington D.C., Feb 26, 2019 / 03:05 am (CNA).- A global marriage ministry is launching a new initiative to provide resources, encouragement and enrichment opportunities for military couples in Canada and the United States.
The project is part of Worldwide Marriage Encounter (WWME), in conjunction with the North American Military Services Outreach (NAMSO).
Worldwide Marriage Encounter, which originated in the 1950s with Spanish priest Father Gabriel Calvo, is a marriage enrichment program that offers weekend retreats to help couples foster communication skills, inspire family life, and promote friendships with other Catholic couples.
The military initiative was announced on Feb. 19 by Dave and Lucy Snyder, who first attended a WWME marriage retreat in 1977. They have held a range of leadership positions at WWME’s local and regional levels and been on the national board for a number of years.
Now a retired member of the U.S. Army, Mr. Snyder told CNA that the program hopes to create bonds between military couples and shed light on the specific challenges they face.
Military couples may find themselves encountering obstacles that other marriages do not experience, and they need to know they are not alone, he said, pointing to the support of priests and other families in similar situations.
“There is a good way to make it through our lives together and still be happy and faithful in our commitment,” he said.
At the website www.foryourmilitarymarriage.com, military couples share their experiences through a blog; links offer resources, statistics and tips for building health relationships; and an online network connects Catholic military couples, offering fellowship and encouragement for one another, regardless of age or stage of married life.
This online experience is part of a bigger NAMSO program, which also includes one-day marriage retreats at the local parish or military base. These six-hour events enrich marriages through workshops and lectures dealing with communication, combined decision-making, prayer, and cooperative service to the Church, among other topics.
Also offered are “journey talks” – four-part programs that take people on a journey of self, as a couple, with God, and with others.
“This is what we call positive reinforcement strategy, whether it is in couple prayer or learning to be better listeners [or] learning how to serve our community as a couple,” Snyder said.
“It’s really a positive and uplifting program.”
A major component of the program is the building of relationships with other military couples.
“NAMSO’s Marriage Enrichment program offers wisdom and insight from couples who have lived the military life and understand the unique challenges and circumstances that can put pressure on a military couple’s relationship,” said a statement on the website.
Snyder stressed that military couples face unique circumstances, including long-distance relationships during deployment, ongoing relocation of families, and potential struggles after military tours that may involve PTSD or injuries.
Couples who have been through these experiences already are able provide valuable advice to younger couples, he noted.
“That’s why we use active and retired military,” because the shared experiences create an “awareness of the struggles that military couples go through,” he said.
“There is kind of kinship there that most, especially the retired ones, have gone through … and are much more aware of some of the pitfalls that can happen.”
Marriage is important for society, Snyder said, but today it faces many distractions. He expressed hope that the new website and the NAMSO retreats can reinforce family life and sustain the commitment of marriage for couples in the military.
“We want to ensure that couples have good strong goals for commitment in their marriage because of the importance of marriage in our Church and then in our society, as we want to raise good, healthy kids [and] provide role models to them of a good marital relationship,” he said.