So You Want To Get Married!
June is usually associated with weddings. Even the Pope’s intention for this month is “The Beauty of Marriage” and the Parish Prayer intention highlighted the same theme (see page 8).
I have been handling the English Pre-Cana Seminar in St. Ignatius the past three years. It is for couples intending to get married. It is a series of some 6 modules of two hours each, given ideally four months before the intended wedding date of the couple. The name of the course takes its inspiration from John 2: 1-11, The Wedding in Cana.
So far, I have accompanied very interesting combinations. Examples are: Malaysian-Japanese, Australian- Vietnamese, Filipino- English, French-Brazilian, Korean-American, etc. Thus, the topic of Inter-Cultural Marriage is an essential feature. Also, it is rare that the couple are both Catholics. One of the partners is likely to be a Protestant, Buddhist, Shintoist, of no particular religious denomination, or even an atheist! Some come not because they want the seminar. The majority see it simply as part of the requirement for a church wedding. Many plan to have the ceremony not necessarily in St. Ignatius, but actually in their home countries. It just happens they are in Japan because of work and thus find it convenient to do the course while here.
Recently, I thought of contacting several couples who finished the course just before the pandemic times and ask them: Has the Pre-Cana helped prepare them for married life? What did they find helpful/not helpful in the course? What are their suggestions to improve the course?
|Couple A:||We felt very grateful that we had the chance to study with you, even if he felt that, regardless of religion, it is “just so you know.” As you can imagine, things happened to us exactly as you mentioned: we argued about how to adjust our life, got frustrated when I thought he could not understand my feelings, he also felt upset when things did not happen the way we expected, he being in his native clime when we are back in his country, all the drama ... But, in the end, we are very lucky to have made it through. Everything we learned really helped. You reminded us about 'the wine' in married life. We will try our best to remember it through our daily life. Also, on to how to "refill" it before it runs out!|
|Couple B:||Loved it! Pre-Cana was definitely a benefit for us. It helped us understand each other. We learned how to communicate our individual needs and talk of our differences. It gave us an opportunity to discuss important issues and topics with the help and guidance of a counselor. Now that we are married, it made it easier for us to talk about our problems and be wiser in making decisions. It strengthened our faith in the Lord.|
|Couple D:||My husband and I both felt that it was a good experience for us to take time and consider what it meant to be married and whether this would be the right step for us. In our case, it was only you and us, so it was nice to have the small, private conversations. I appreciated the opportunity to ask questions and receive immediate, direct answers. It was also good to have additional reading materials and advice on topics such as compatibility and conflict resolution.|
|Couple D:||I think it gave us a better understanding of the significance of the wedding and the commitment that goes with it. We liked to hear about the various examples that you shared, and as a result we too could reflect about them as a couple. I think it gave us a better understanding of each other and since we could share a lot of things during the sessions, it gave more understanding of each other’s past.|
Points for Improvement
Feedback 1: At some later sessions, especially when we studied about Catholicism and Church teachings, there was not much interaction, which sometimes caused us to lose focus. Therefore, it would be nice if you could ask questions. Instead of "Do you have any questions?”, it could be "Do you agree or not agree, and why," because if all we do is study, we get passive. We need a trigger from you to think and speak out. This way, you could also focus more accurately on areas where the couple is less knowledgeable. I know some couples who only want to study to finish the course, but for us, we had fun studying and interacting with each other and with you.
Feedback 2: We felt that dealing with the paperwork was difficult. We had to send a lot of documents back and forth, wasting time and resources. There was also some confusion about which documents were needed and when we would need to submit them to the government to report our marriage. We recommend creating a checklist and timeline about these documents so as to make the experience smoother
- Feedback 3: On one side, I liked the fact that the seminar was very custom-made for us and very private so we could share very easily and openly, but I think it would be great to be able to meet with other couples in one or a few sessions if possible so as to be able to discuss various perspectives more and get insights into the good or bad points of relationships.
by Sr Flor M. Florece, F.I.