Life Changing Retreat for Engaged Couples
By Amy Julian
Director of Family Life Ministries
Just like that, the last Heart to Heart Retreat for Engaged Couples in 2022 is in the books! The retreat is one of the required components for couples of all ages preparing for the sacrament of marriage in the Diocese of Rapid City. However, many couples find it to be far more engaging than a mere “required component.” At the most recent retreat, 100% of the participants who submitted an evaluation claimed that the retreat gave them an opportunity to both grow closer to God, and to their fiancé. One couple commented, “It was life changing for us, we felt our relationship grow and strengthen in a different way.”
Almost a decade ago, a group of couples and a few priests, who had been involved in the Engaged Encounter Retreat ministry in the diocese, came together to re-envision and update the retreat. Hundreds of hours and many cups of coffee later, the Heart to Heart Retreat was born.
The three-fold vision of the retreat was to provide: time together to talk, rest and pray; an opportunity to grow in their relationship with Christ and experience his great love for them through the rich tradition of Catholic prayer traditions; an introduction (or re-introduction) to the Gospel message of love and the Sacramentality of Marriage.
Facilitated by the office of Family Life Ministries, priests, deacon couples and other married couples, the highlight of the weekend for many couples is the witness provided to them by the married couples on the team. The Heart to Heart team couples develop talks that are guided by the outlines written by the original team, and enhanced by their own personal journey in married life. “I really enjoyed and appreciated the time that the team gave to us couples and the personal stories that were shared to really bring us closer to God” said one of the retreatants.
However, perhaps the most powerful component of each weekend is the time the couples spend together privately in prayerful discussion. After each talk, the couple is invited to engage in a process called WED: Write, Exchange, Dialogue. They separately write their reflections on the talk, then come together to exchange their reflections, reading them aloud to each other, and finally to dialogue about their thoughts. A couple remarked “The WED dialogue helped us navigate through a couple current problems we were stuck on. We left the retreat at peace with a couple issues.” Another participant added, “Having these thoughts down on paper gave them a whole new meaning. Tears actually flowed ❤️❤️❤️❤️”
Thoroughly Catholic in both design and implementation, the couples pray throughout the weekend in many ways, including Mass, adoration and confession, some of them for the first time in years. Knowing that many of the participants are non-Catholics, the team strives to create a welcoming atmosphere for all faith backgrounds. One civilly married couple, attending in preparation for the convalidation of their marriage, commented, “So grateful for this experience, my husband was really surprised by how engaged he felt throughout all the talks. He underestimated the importance of this retreat for us, he walked away ready for RCIA.”
Perhaps Deacon Larry Kopriva, who hosted the last weekend with his wife Elke, put it best. “Everyone of these couples walked away changed.”