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Married couples called to recall and renew their love

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Couples attend the Called to Love day retreat for married couples with international speaker Christopher Padgett at Ryde and Punchbowl over 13-14 May. Photo: Alphonsus Fok
Couples attend the Called to Love day retreat for married couples with international speaker Christopher Padgett at Ryde and Punchbowl over 13-14 May. Photo: Alphonsus Fok

Sneha Saverimuttu, 38, and her husband and Mario, 36, married in 2019 after long years of “holding on for the Catholic spouse” but their early life together hasn’t been as they hoped.

At the time she met her husband Mrs Saverimuttu was grieving her father, who died unexpectedly on a family holiday aged 59.

Then about a year after their wedding her brother experienced a sudden onset of severe mental illness and took his own life.

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“We’ve had so much tragedy that I had a whole lot of things to deal with after that, and I think our marriage went through a particularly challenging time,” she said.

“We were newly married and we just really had to rely on our faith.”

They were among those who attended one of the Called to Love day retreats for married couples with international speaker Christopher Padgett at Ryde and Punchbowl over 13-14 May. An evening event was also held on 12 May in Lewisham.

Organised by the Life, Marriage and Family team at the Sydney Centre for Evangelisation, each event was an opportunity for reflection, discussion, prayer, sacraments and the renewal of marriage vows.

“I think one of the things we don’t do so well as Catholics is invest in our marriages the way that we should,” Mrs Saverimuttu said.

Attendees of the Called to Love day retreat for married couples with international speaker Christopher Padgett renew their marriage vows. Photo; Alphonsus Fok
Attendees of the Called to Love day retreat for married couples with international speaker Christopher Padgett renew their marriage vows. Photo; Alphonsus Fok

“I think it’s an institution that’s under attack everywhere and sometimes you just really need to come back and invest in your marriage from the spiritual perspective.

“One of the first sessions invited us to remember our first date and how we felt when we first set eyes on each other.

“It was quite beautiful and funny reminiscing about that. We first said hello over CatholicMatch but we also had mutual friends who set us up.

“I agreed to meet Mario for a drink, thinking that if I didn’t like him I didn’t have to sit through a whole dinner. But we ended up talking until 2am and we even prayed the rosary together.”

Francis Ohwofa, 33, and his wife Ayani, 36, have been married just 13 months and have their hands full with their 10-month-old son Ogheneruno.

“A marriage and a child is a lot to happen in one year,” Mrs Ohwofa said, smiling.

“We left him with my mum and my aunt, it’s the first time we’ve done anything together since he’s been born.

“We’ve had our difficult times and recently we’ve come to a point where there are things we’re doing that help.

“Some of what Chris said today affirmed those things. We’ve also learnt new ideas that will help.”

Speaker Christopher Padgett, who is the co-founder of the US-based Centre for Holy Marriage, said during the retreat that "one aspect of marriage renewal that tends to resonate with couples is remembering why they fell in love in the first place". Photo: Alphonsus Fok
Speaker Christopher Padgett, who is the co-founder of the US-based Centre for Holy Marriage, said during the retreat that “one aspect of marriage renewal that tends to resonate with couples is remembering why they fell in love in the first place”. Photo: Alphonsus Fok

Mr Ohwofa appreciated hearing from more mature couples how they had met various challenges.

“We’re still young in marriage so hearing things from people who have been married for a long time and learning from them will go a long way to help us,” he said.

“Though we haven’t had the same experiences ourselves we can still learn from them about how we might navigate conflict in the future, and how we might come up with solutions to problems.”

Mr Padgett, co-founder of the US-based Centre for Holy Marriage, said that one aspect of marriage renewal that tends to resonate with couples is remembering why they fell in love in the first place.

“There’s power in the memory of the joy of that time,” he said.

“And then there are basic principles to healthy marriage which always make sense for people because ultimately, they are the theological and cardinal virtues at their core.

“And we ask people, what would that look like for you to allow those virtues to grow?”

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