From the

Official News Magazine of the Diocese of Spokane

Deacon Eric Meisfjord, Editor
P.O. Box 48, Spokane WA 99210
(509) 358-7340; FAX: (509) 358-7302

Retrouvaille teaches couples skills to improve troubled marriages

by Bonita Lawhead, Inland Register

(From the Nov. 15, 2001 edition of the Inland Register)

The Retrouvaille program in Eastern Washington and northern Idaho has a new name: Inland Northwest Retrouvaille, and a now-complete team of local leaders: coordinators Dave and Joanie Pfister of Coeur d’Alene, Roy and Betty Wheeler of Sandpoint, and Dwight and Jane Weigelt of Spokane. The new priest moderators are Father John Birk of Pasco and Jesuit Father Bill Dibb of Spokane.

Although the name and personnel have changed, the focus of the Retrouvaille program is the same: to help couples in hurting marriages.

The Retrouvaille program ministers to couples in troubled marriages. The program often is seen as a last resort, a final attempt to heal a damaged relationship before the break becomes permanent.

The three team couples and one of the moderators guide a Retrouvaille weekend. They lead workshops for the participants and share their own stories of how they were able to keep their marriage together through Retrou-vaille. Their stories are typical.

As with many couples who enter Retrouvaille, the Wheelers decided to give the program a try as a last resort. Divorce attorneys were being considered.

But the communications skills they learned in Retrouvaille helped them see how their actions hurt each other. The new skills showed the couple how they could talk about issues and difficulties. The skills were invaluable in keeping them together.

The Pfisters’ marriage was rescued from heavy personal strains. The couple has been involved in Retrouvaille since 1978 and joined the Inland Northwest group in 1998. “It’s good to be able to give something back,” she said.

Dwight and Jane Weigelt found their relationship in severe crisis. They had become distant from one another, mentally separated. Divorce seemed the only option.

But the couple came to realize “that what we had was worth saving,” said Dwight. They learned of Retrouvaille independently of each other, and made the weekend that they credit with saving their relationship.

“After 20 years our marriage was a mess, but we were able to get it turned around in less than 20 weeks,” Dwight said. He and Jane made their Retrouvaille in September 2000 and began speaking for the program the following January.

Retrouvaille’s six follow-up weekends are as important as the program’s first weekend. What couples learn in the first session is expanded and reinforced in the follow-up sessions.

The benefits of Retrouvaille are well-documented and the program continues to grow. Pfister said the weekends “are getting bigger, and we’ve been filling up” St. Joseph Family Center, where the weekends are held in Spokane. The team has three weekends scheduled during 2002 – the next one is in February – and hopes to start Retrouvaille in Yakima next year.

Even though it has Catholic origins, the program is open to couples of any denomination. While couples who have no religious affiliation can also participate, the weekend focuses on God and is centered around the couple’s spirituality. Confidentiality is paramount and only first names of the couples who participate are used.

Retrouvaille, a French word that means “rediscovery,” was started in Canada in 1977.

Persons wanting more information can call toll-free: 1-888-251-5911, extension 8422. Retrouvaille also has a web site.

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