It’s necessary to rediscover the plan drawn by God for the family, to reaffirm its greatness and irreplaceability in the service of life and society.” These recent words from Pope Francis remind us of the vital importance of marriage preparation as an opportunity for couples to lay stable foundations and understanding for their future marriage and family writes Rebecca Thorat of Marriage Care.

This Diocese is looking for volunteers to train as Marriage Preparation Course Facilitators and deliver Marriage Care’s interactive “Preparing Together” programme. Preparing Together has an imprimatur from Cardinal Vincent Nichols and prepares engaged couples in-line with recommendations from the Bishops’ Conference Guidelines for the Preparation of Couples for Marriage (2016).

This is a rewarding and much loved role – we often hear volunteers talk of the ‘buzz’ and positivity of marriage preparation days and the appreciation they receive from couples who, although nervous to attend at first, express how much they benefit from the sessions.

Deacon Martin Bell trained as a Marriage Preparation Course Facilitator in early 2018 and joined the local team in Tyneside. He shares his experience with the Northern Cross:

“The Diocesan Marriage and Family Life Coordinator approached us about training as facilitators – the idea was for us to be trained and deliver, but also to seek other couples within the partnership to become trained. The training course was enjoyable – intense, challenging, fun and rewarding and those who ran it were ordinary people who shared their experiences and insights and humour. There were opportunities to ask questions and to hear differing views and opinions as to how best to approach different topics and exercises, which was very helpful. During the last day of training we are given the opportunity to practice our skills in the safe environment of the team and facilitators we trained with.

After training and having joined the local Marriage Care centre we have found everyone helpful and supportive. Given our family and working lives, it is not always possible to attend all meetings and training sessions, but the staff who run the office are always at the end of an email or telephone, and there’s the Diocesan Marriage and Family Life Coordinator also.

Lindsey and I tend to work as a couple and share the day between us. Lindsey, as a teacher, is more skilled and experienced than I am at delivering material in a timely fashion: she’s very good at managing the ‘blocks’ of time for each segment of material.

We both get as much from the interaction with the couples attending as all seem to get from the interactive style of the material. The Sunbeams (where couples write down what they like about each other) always go down well.

I tend to do the section on the Sacrament of Marriage and, as a deacon, I find it a very powerful, reflective way to approach and explain the Sacrament.

I’m there, first as someone who is daily living out the gift of marriage and learning something new about marriage himself, and secondly as a deacon. I’m very conscious that, in the eyes of some of the people attending they are marrying someone of another faith / church, and it does not mean a great deal to them, yet this is a real opportunity to show humility, to explain church thinking and teaching and to share the good news of the gospel.

In terms of what we get out of it, we both enjoy meeting and working with groups and engaged couples: the number who have met via on-line means is always fascinating (even though were not that old, on-line dating didn’t exist when Lindsey and I met!).

We both enjoy the ‘banter’ with the couples, listening to their stories, their journeys – it’s always very memorable.

The day is also a good chance for us to reflect on our own marriage. At the end of the day, couples always seem to be positive and to have really enjoyed it!”


This article is reproduced with the kind permission of Rebecca Thorat, Marriage Care and the Northern Cross where it first appeared in September 2019 edition.