by WAYNE McTAGUE
Christchurch diocese hosted the biennial Marriage Educators Training Weekend at the Chateau on the Park on May 18-20. The venue opposite Hagley Park superbly complemented the keynote speakers, format, personal testimonies and fellowship for those involved in the ministry of marriage education.
As an initiative of the Catholic Network of Marriage Educators (CNME) , the conference sought to form and encourage those involved in marriage education and enrichment in the Catholic Church.
Returning to Christchurch for the first time since 2008, the conference was well attended and enjoyed by the 143 delegates — 56 from Auckland, 6 from Dunedin, 6 from
Hamilton, 2 from Palmerston North, 14 from Wellington and 54 from Christchurch.
The theme for this weekend was “Christian Marriage: Radical Demands — Extravagant Mercy”.
This theme played out in many ways as the weekend unfolded and participants explored the profoundness of that statement, being reminded continuously that marriage
exists not to make people happy, but holy.
From the moving personal testimonies delivered by several couples, to the keynote speakers — Francine and Byron Pirola (Marriage Resource Centre, Sydney), Suzie and
Diggs De Gouveia (former marriage educators, Christchurch), along with Yvonne and Brian Pauling (Imago Relationship trainers and educators), the weekend was full of techniques, training, enthusiasm and ideas to transform participants’ own relationships
into passionate, joyful embraces of the Lord’s calling.
Those present were reminded that no-one is called to a mundane marriage, no-one vows on their wedding day to become masters of mediocrity. Participants were asked to confront their own failings, seek out distractions and destructive patterns of behaviour, then surrender them to a past life. A reminder was given that, yes, this will be tough, but not impossible. People were asked to cross the bridge to their spouses’ reality, to rest there
awhile and see things through the other’s eyes. An explanation was given on how to reconcile hurts and differences in safe and loving ways so that, having responded intentionally to those radical demands, people could experience the Lord’s extravagant mercy.
This reality was encapsulated in the homily of Bishop Paul Martin, SM, on Pentecost Sunday, during the closing Mass. No longer were those present to be fearfully locked in a
room just as the disciples had been following Jesus’ departure.
As the baptised, participants had been touched by the flame of the Holy Spirit, and so had the challenge to go forth to spread the Good News.
If the remaining 11 disciples could step out and convert 3000 after their encounter with the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, what could 143 modern disciples achieve through this wonderful
ministry? Watch this space.