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

Region’s Marriage Encounter Leadership Team shares long history, commitment to enhanced communication

the Inland Register

(From the May 23, 2002 edition of the Inland Register)

Nineteen years ago Tom and Kathy Dauer and Father John Birk spent a weekend together. Since February of this year, they are once again united – this time, in ministry.

In 1983, Father Birk was part of a team which included three married couples. The team made Marriage Encounter weekend presentations. The Dauers attended one of those presentations.

In the years since, Father Birk and the Dauers have been involved various church ministries, in many different roles, with paths sometimes crossing, sometimes moving in different directions. Now, however, they are united in working together as the Section 13 Leadership Team for the U.S. Secretariat of Worldwide Marriage Encounter. That ministry includes responsibility for Marriage Encounter efforts in the five states of Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana, and Alaska.

“The Marriage Encounter weekend changed our lives,” said the Dauers. They agreed that “it opened our eyes to ways to enhance our communication. That brought new energy, commitment, and intimacy into our marriage.”

The Dauers point out that communication was not necessarily a problem which received an instant fix over the course of that one weekend. Instead, they say, the weekend helped them learn how to focus on “sharing ourselves openly with each other.” Ultimately, that increased sharing leads them to a more intimate relationship. It also provides a basis for ongoing movement in the marriage relationship – what they call “a lifestyle of dialogue.”

Father Birk also speaks highly of the weekend experience. He said that the Marriage Encounter weekend he attended “changed my life more than any other experience I have had.”

Although Marriage Encounter focuses on helping couples improve communication skills, Father Birk said that the weekend taught him “how important (communication) was for my relationships with people in the Church. I found myself relating more to the struggles of couples. I communicated more easily with the people I was called to serve in the parish.” Even his preaching improved, he said, as a result of his experience.

The roots of the Worldwide Marriage Encounter began in the late 1950s when a priest in Spain developed a program for helping married couples improve their communication skills. The program was presented during the course of a weekend. In 1967 the experience was brought to a Christian Family Movement conference at Notre Dame University. There a priest and a few couples from New York decided to present the experience to couples in the United States. By 1971 the weekend began spreading around the United States and eventually to other parts of the world.

In the last five years the latest Marriage Encounter Weekend Outline was implemented across the United States. That new outline incorporates ideas and changes which help the program adapt to changing times and attitudes. Despite changes, however, the core values of intimacy and responsibility in a marriage relationship, an ongoing commitment to fundamental communication as the touchstone of the marriage, remain the same.

Ultimately, Marriage Encounter seeks the renewal of the Catholic Church through the renewal of the sacraments of matrimony and orders. It flies in the face of a culture which rarely values long-lasting commitments to valued vocations such as marriage and the priesthood.

The mission of Worldwide Marriage Encounter is the renewal of the Catholic Church through the renewal of the sacraments of matrimony and holy orders. The work of Worldwide Marriage Encounter is to enrich and strengthen relationships, both the relationship of a couple in marriage and the relationship of a priest to the people in the Church.

For more information about Marriage Encounter, call 1-800-795-LOVE (5683) or (509) 484-5683. The next Marriage Encounter weekends are scheduled for June 21-23 in Lewiston, Idaho, and October 18-20 in Spokane at Immaculate Heart Retreat Center.

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