Although Seb and Kath Dell’Orefice have been together for 15 years, civilly married for 12 years and have had five children between them, it was only through their pre-marriage course and spiritual direction before marrying in the Church that they “finally unlearned the secular understanding of marriage and learned the Sacrament’s God-ordained meaning”.
For the first time in their lives, the reconverted couple had a true understanding of their marital responsibility for each other, their children, their community and to God.
This experience of an enriched vocation through formation led them to take part in The Marriage Course, a program aimed at building healthy marital relationships that was piloted at St Joseph’s Moorebank in July.
“The Marriage Course promised to give us the tools to stay married – not just living together but loving each other right through … and it didn’t disappoint,” said Kath, a high school teacher in Sydney’s south-west.
“We talked to each other, listened to each other. We learned new things about each other.
“We laughed and we cried. We held each other as we worked through painful memories and made plans to create new ones. We enjoyed seven weeks of intimate date nights which we’d never done before, never in 15 years, and our hearts were filled with a deep desire to give back freely what we had been given.”
“Humbled to be able to share what we have learned, we wanted to do anything necessary to give back to the parish.”
It wasn’t long before this desire for service was realised when Seb and Kath were given an opportunity to lead The Marriage Course themselves.
“Humbled to be able to share what we have learned, we wanted to do anything necessary to give back to the parish that had done so much for us,” Seb told The Catholic Weekly.
“We felt so joyful welcoming 11 new couples and knowing that what we had been so blessed to be a part of was about to be shared.
“Not only that, but we were excited to get a refresher on all that we’d learned ourselves.”
Held at the parish in collaboration with the Somascan Marriage Enrichment Ministry and the Life, Marriage and Family Team of the Archdiocese of Sydney’s Centre for Evangelisation, The Marriage Course is being run over seven sessions starting from 9 November.
Formation is provided through a video series featuring high quality presentations by experts in marriage support and includes testimonies by married couples from all over the world.
Presentations are accompanied by journals used by each couple to facilitate conversations between one another and offer advice on how to build up their marriages given what they have learned in their lives.
Hashya Weerakkody, member of the SCE’s Life, Marriage and Family Team and coordinator of The Marriage Course initiatives in Sydney, reinforced the importance of formation for married couples whose vocations are a sign of God’s love in the world.
“The witness of a married couple is the first marriage preparation their children will ever receive,” Hashya told The Catholic Weekly.
“Married couples making the time to engage in formation specifically in the calling of marital vocation should lead to a greater discovery of their spouses and freedom in revealing the love of God to their children and those they encounter.
“The aim of The Marriage Course is to provide a space for married couples to receive this formation in community with others who are on a similar path to heaven through their shared vocation.”
Hashya is hopeful that, in running the course, more parishes will be inspired to create a space to nourish their married couples and encourage them to share the graces of their sacramental vocation.
As witnesses to that, Seb and Kath are determined to teach others what they wished they had known from the start, that the relationship a married couple shares must be nurtured and respected.
This is why we recommend The Marriage Course so strongly,” said Kath.
“Married couples making the time to engage in formation specifically in the calling of marital vocation should lead to a greater discovery of their spouses.”
“It guides married couples – couples newly married or married for decades – how to love each other the way God intended.”
Developed by British couple Nicky and Sila Lee in 1996, The Marriage Course supports couples who are married to strengthen their relationship, keep the spark alive and stay connected.
It has been run in more than 127 countries with more than one million couples and is intended to act as a bridge between the church and the local community.
For more information on The Marriage Course or any of the initiatives led by the SCE Life, Marriage and Family Office, contact Hashya Weerakkody at [email protected]
The Somascan Marriage Enrichment Ministry is one of a number of parish-based programs run by the Somascan Fathers at St Joseph’s Moorebank and St Christopher’s Holsworthy including the Behold the Man Men’s ministry, the Catholic Women’s League and the Somascan Young Adult and Teens groups.
Contact the Somascan Fathers at: [email protected] for more.