A Catholic organisation that has helped thousands of married couples enrich and strengthen their relationship is celebrating its 40th anniversary at the end of this month.
More than 70 married couples, nine Catholic priests and a bishop are meeting in a hotel in Daventry on June 30 for a special weekend convention to mark 40 years of Marriage Encounter in England and Wales, which is part of the Worldwide Marriage Encounter movement.
Bishop Peter Doyle, the Bishop of Northampton, the diocese in which the convention is being held, will attend on the Saturday to give an official welcome.
As part of the celebration, the couples and priests will all reflect on their first Marriage Encounter weekend, the event that is at the heart of the movement.
A Marriage Encounter Weekend offers couples the opportunity to grow closer and to improve their commitment to each other, and priests to deepen their awareness of and their relationship with their people in a pastoral setting.
Through a programme of presentations from other couples and a priest, the weekend helps people to refocus on the values that are really important to them and to live more joyful and purposeful lives.
The Marriage Encounter movement began in Spain in 1962 when a Roman Catholic priest, Father Calvo, presented the first Marriage Encounter weekend to 28 couples in Barcelona.
He saw the need to encourage married couples in their communication and saw the potential
of their love in reaching out to their families and communities.
He recognised that the ideal for marriage was a deep unity and intimacy that would influence society at large in spite of the pressures of modern life.
The movement spread rapidly to South America and then soon became established throughout North America before spreading to Europe, Africa and Austral Asia.
The movement also spread into other parts of the church and to the Jewish community.
Worldwide Marriage Encounter continues to be the strongest pro-marriage movement in the world now presented in over 87 countries and is made available in twelve faith expressions.
Tony and Pam Darroch, of the British national leadership team organising the anniversary convention said, “We know that all the couples coming to the convention and many others who have experienced a weekend, often after many years of marriage, speak of enjoying the delight of rediscovering each other and having a life changing experience.”
Father John Naughton, the National Team Priest added: “Marriage continues to be under threat as an institution and married couples experience all kinds of pressures on their relationship, especially in these difficult economic times. We hope people will hear about this event and want to know more about how they can enrich their marriage.”
Marriage Encounter is not aimed at marriages that are in difficulty, because the movement does not offer advice or counselling for marriages in crisis and the weekend does not involve any group participation; the couple focus on each other.