Learning to Love: Center Brings John-Paul II-Style Event to America

Couples learned how to fall in love again. Families shared a nature hike, a movie night, a sing-along jam session, and more.

It was Family Week created by the Center for Family Life at Benedictine College in Atchison, Kansas, with 30 adult participants, and over 80 children, from as far away as Houston, Texas.

“Perhaps most surprising about Family Week for me was the great sense of hope for our culture that I received,” Deacon John Weist of Overland Park, Kansas, said. The families he met “were a light of hope for the unity that Jesus longs for all people. That light is brighter than I expected going into our week.”

Weist added that the theme of unity became an unofficial theme of the week. “The reality of unity through marriage and family” was referenced “in all aspects of our week — the formal lectures, our marriage skills segments, the witnesses from our interviewed couples, our shared group prayer and daily masses, our conversation — all of these points of learning and sharing kept reinforcing for me-God’s design for marriage and family as both a reality of unity and an agent for unity.”

Those “skills” he spoke about were led by Brad and Libby DuPont of the Office of Family Life for the Archdiocese of Kansas City Kansas.

The DuPonts led exercises that helped couples not only love one another, but to be “in love” with one another. “We need to go beyond an abstract wish for our spouse’s welfare to more particular, concrete actions,” she said.

“The speakers went way beyond our expectations. We were especially grateful to Fr. Luis and Fr. Jose, not only for their beautiful teaching, but for their joyful witness,”

She especially appreciated Father Jose Noriega, a Professor of Moral Theology specializing in the Sacrament of Marriage at the St. John Vianney Theological Seminary, in Denver, Colo., and pastor at St. Mary Catholic Parish, Littleton, Colo.

He stressed loving your spouse not just by willing “goodness” to your beloved, but by willing “particular goods,” concrete acts of love, to your spouse.

He and Father Luis Granados are priests of the Disciples of the Hearts of Jesus and Mary. Fr. Luis, who also presented during the week, serves as Academic Dean at St. John Vianney Theological Seminary in Denver.

Family Week was based on the work of the Disciples of the Hearts of Jesus and Mary’s experiences working with families in Spain and through the John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family in Rome.

“What these priests are doing is world-class,” said Tory Baucum, the director of the Center for Family Life at Benedictine College, who designed the week. “This year was an experiment to see if we could make this work, and we still have some kinks to work out, but it was a great success. This is going to grow year by year into an important resource that will help many, many families.”

Family Week was designed to be “a true experience of an authentic Catholic vision for marriage and family life with experts on both the theology and practice of family living.” Activities for couples and separate tracks for children were designed to meet three goals: Prevention, Restoration and Exploration. In other words, “Fighting back against the secular narrative about family life,” giving “Intentional couple’s time and family activities to help refresh and restore your marriage,” and learning “the spiritual fruits that come from living out the nuptial sacramental vocation.”

Dr. Jacqueline Rivers and her husband Reverend Eugene Rivers also spoke. Dr. Rivers earned her Ph.D. in African-American Studies and Sociology at Harvard University. They lead the Seymour Institute for Black Church and Policy Studies, founded by Rev. Rivers.

Other speakers included Mike and Kristi Dennihan, directors at School of Love in Kansas City, Dr. Jamie Blosser, Chair of Theology at Benedictine College, and Dr. Jeremy Sienkiewicz, a theologian at Benedictine College.