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‘Bootcamp’ graduates rediscover their marriage mojo

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Marriage bootcamp - the Catholic Weekly
Couples discussing their journey on Alpha’s The Marriage Course. Photo: Patrick Lee

At a Mass and dinner on 3 May, 15 couples received a blessing and celebrated the completion of a seven-week marriage ‘bootcamp’.

Designed to re-energise their relationship, The Marriage Course has helped more than 1.5 million couples around the world find their marriage mojo.

Those gathering at Ryde Gladesville Catholic Parish ranged from couples married for 40 years to those about to welcome their first child.

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Celebrating Mass was parish priest, Fr Greg Morgan, with assistant priest Fr Dan Drum the co-celebrant.

“Tonight is a beautiful celebration. It’s wonderful that these couples are making this investment into their marriage, so that it can be all they want it to be and all God wants it to be,” said Fr Dan.

“It was great to see that no matter how old or young your marriage is, these couples saw the value in having their relationships renewed and re-energised. It’s a night of great joy,” said one of the organisers, 44-year-old Phillipa Manley.

Phillipa previously ran Alpha in her parish.

Through the Life, Marriage and Family Team from the Sydney Centre for Evangelisation she heard about The Marriage Course, which is developed by Alpha International, and saw an opportunity for both her parish and her own marriage of 20 years.

Marriage bootcamp - the Catholic Weekly
Couple after having finished The Marriage Course. Photo: Patrick Lee

“Steve and I have four kids aged 10 to 18 and were so busy being mum and dad, we had forgotten how to be husband and wife. That’s the basis of this course—that prioritising your relationship is the best thing for your family,” she said.

“People were interested straight away. Because there is a need for a course like this,” said Phillipa.

“Once life sets in and the stresses of life and kids comes along, there’s a need for renewal and support to find the tools to support couples,” she said.

The course invites couples to a ‘date night and deep discussion’ where they share a meal, watch a thought-provoking video and engage in intimate conversation with each other on that topic.

“It felt awkward at first. But we found it wonderful. It really encouraged us to have discussions we hadn’t talked about before and to touch on things we’d forgotten like improving communication,” she said.

Empty nesters 62-year-old Mandy and 66-year-old Richard Cuneo have been married for 39 years.

Now both retired, they realised they “had to refocus on reshaping our marriage,” said Mandy.

“It fit where we were in our lives. There was just the two of us at home. It was worth a try,” said Richard.

“It wasn’t what we expected. It wasn’t lectures,” said Mandy. “The course makes each of our relationships the focus and that is what we lose in the busy-ness of modern life. The date-night is a big part of the course, “said Mandy.

“We now do date nights very regularly and plan what we’re going to talk about and do something each time,” said Richard.

Marriage bootcamp - the Catholic Weekly
Sharing a meal together at the last meeting for Alpha’s The Marriage Course. Photo: Patrick Lee

“We’ve put 95 per cent of what we’ve learnt from the course into our relationship.

“It gave good guidance to ways of solving conflict, being more intimate, that bring your relationship out more. We connect at a different level now,” Mandy reflected.

Fr Dan was impressed by the effect the course had on the graduates. He and Verbum Dei married couple Ace and Rowena Penano were on hand to serve them during the seven-week course.

“Before the course I spoke to the couples and got to know them. After it ended, I could see the change and the growth in them,” he said.

As priests are often consulted by couples, he also found the course helpful.

“It’s always good to know what the elements of a good Catholic marriage, the challenges couples face and how to deal with those challenges. It helped me better accompany them on their journey,” he said.

After 20 years of married life, Phillipa, is now revelling in a more open and honest relationship with husband Steve.

“We have been using some of the tools to navigate tricky situations or tense moments in our lives and it has pushed us to prioritise date nights and time together. I’m hoping to run it again next year,” she said.

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