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Black Catholic Young Adults

Marriage Retreat

The scriptures state that in marriage two becomes one flesh. Yet that merger takes continual hard work and renewal. That is why the S4TJ Empowerment Ministries has been bringing Delaware Valley husbands and wives together for a weekend of refreshment through workshops that address the challenges of contemporary married couples. Once again this happened at the 5th Annual Marriage Enrichment Weekend held at the Willow Valley Double Tree in Lancaster recently.

Article Index
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In this Young Adult Service, the Rev. Dr. Howard-John Wesley, a Baptist minister from Alexandria, Virginia, challenges the young and young at heart to explore their trust in God by showing how God reveals himself. Click for full story
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The organizers are S4TJ founder Georgette Hall-Peterson and Angela Edmonds Brooks. Both are graduates of Neumann University’s pastoral care and counseling master’s degree program. The group was founded around 2007 and then the marriage weekends began two years later. The women’s husbands join them in conducting the various workshops. Neumann University is a private Catholic educational institution founded by the Sisters of St. Francis.

“Georgette and I are both nationally certified counselors,” Brooks said. “The retreat started as a dinner and movie night during February just to bring couples together for an evening of fellowship. We found ourselves discussing the challenges that married couples face and the hard work that is involved in maintaining a strong and healthy relationship. So, it (evolved) into us thinking that maybe we should bring like-minded couples together for a weekend.” Even though the retreats draw about 13 couples the reach of the information garnered reaches many more, according to Brooks. This is because most of those in attendance are members of various churches throughout Philadelphia and the surrounding counties. All are encouraged to share the information garnered with members of their home church in a formal or informal manner.

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“This is about looking at therapy and counseling in a new light,” Brooks said. “Traditionally in the African American community and in the Black Church there has been a stigma about getting counseling. We often grow up in households or churches where we are told things like you should keep your business at home. Then if you do want to get counseling there is that whole stigma that you don’t want anyone to know because mental health is not something you should talk about.”

“So, these workshops go beyond that point. It is about being proactive in addressing issues as they come up even before it reaches a critical point or crisis. We have to move past that African American concept of keeping your business in your house. This helps couples discuss personal things with counselors and others who are like-minded in order to improve your relationship,” Brooks said.

Thus, the recent weekend was very interactive. There were message boards that revealed the topics of the day, provided the backdrop for various games, and literature that encouraged open dialogue. Naturally, one of the most heated marital topics continues to be finances. So, there was a section devoted to budgeting and dealing with different financial styles among partners.

Another “hot topic” at these sessions revolves around the issue of selfishness. There is always a balancing act among spouses as to how much self-care is needed to avoid burnout and attend to one’s need against how much should one be sharing and giving of oneself to their partner, children and other members of the family.

“My husband, Raynard, conducted a workshop based on Gary Chapman’s book about the five love languages,” Brooks said. “Then we also have to deal with the entire family so the issue of blended families comes up since people often remarry or marry others who already have children or grandchildren. This is another issue that is relevant to even families in the church.”

Of course, the organizers insisted that the weekend not just focus on the problems of marriage, but also on the joys and spirituality as well. So, there were light moments when the couples could enjoy each other’s company and there was time to pray and worship as a couple which further enhanced the bonding experience.

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