By Barb Arland-Fye
The Catholic Messenger
Parish ministers are reporting an increase in troubled marriages and divorce during the ongoing pandemic, prompting Marriage & Family Life Coordinator Marianne Agnoli to spread the word about Covenant of Love Marriage Mentor Ministry.
“The impact of the pandemic on some marriages has been extremely challenging,” said Agnoli, underscoring the need for the couples trained in the ministry to accompany couples who could benefit from it. Even before the pandemic emerged in 2020, approximately 136 couples a year were approaching clergy concerning difficulties in their marriages (Diocese of Davenport Marriage and Family Inventory, 2018).
Covenant of Love Marriage Mentor Ministry is effective for couples committed to restoring and strengthening marriages. Both spouses must be open to following God’s plan for marriage, and to put into place the practical tools provided. “Love that lasts for a lifetime entails hard work and commitment,” Agnoli said.
Committed mentor couples listen closely to the challenges that struggling couples are experiencing, offer their assessment of the situation and suggestions for a fresh perspective or actions to achieve desired results. Mentor couples assist the couples they mentor to establish goals that matter most to them and ways to implement practical tools for everyday life, with the knowledge of God’s plan for marriage. This enables couples to nurture their love for one another as they continue to grow in their relationship with Christ, Agnoli said. Marriage mentor ministry helps married couples in a sacramental marriage to live the fullness of the Catholic faith.
Nine couples from the Davenport Diocese and 23 couples from the Archdiocese of Dubuque completed training in the Covenant of Love Mentor program established by Texans Greg and Julie Alexander, who led the training in 2019.
In their journey with the couples they mentor, marriage mentors share stories and experiences, including their journey toward a deeper understanding of the fullness God intended for their marriages. They share the failings and victories in their own marriages and offer practical tools needed to best live out the sacrament of marriage.
Deacon John and Tracey Jacobsen of Sacred Heart Cathedral in Davenport are among the marriage mentor couples trained for the Davenport Diocese. They have been married nearly 34 years and mentored a couple from outside their parish. “We are not professional counselors, we’re just another tool, reminding couples that their marriage is not just between the two of them but that God is part of it as well,” Deacon Jacobsen said. “It’s about a couple walking with another couple.” Tracey said, “We let them know we aren’t perfect.”
The couple that the Jacobsens mentored learned about the ministry through their pastor, and researched information about it on the diocesan website. They participated in six mentoring sessions with the Jacobsens, each session taking about an hour. Sessions covered God’s plan for marriage, forgiveness and healing, servant-spouse, God’s plan for chastity, communication, and spirituality in marriage. The couple had homework to do after each lesson.
“Their biggest issue was lack of communication and keeping their marriage fresh,” Deacon Jacobsen said of the couple. He and his wife recommended regular date nights, something they practice in their own marriage to keep it fresh, fun and connected.
Forgiveness is another essential element in marriage that the Jacobsens emphasized to the couple. “You have to make sure you forgive each other,” Tracey said. “We are pretty good at forgiving each other after 33 years of marriage,” Deacon Jacobsen added.
They also talked with the couple they mentored about the importance of making time to pray together and attend Mass together. The Jacobsens do both, although during Mass Tracey sits in the pew while her husband assists at the altar.
The Jacobsens hope the couple they mentored has succeeded in getting their marriage back on track and are grateful to have, for a short time, walked with them as companions on this journey of faith. Mentoring helped reinforce and strengthen their marriage, too, the Jacobsens said.
“Our hope is that our diocese can let more people know about the Covenant of Love Marriage Mentor Ministry,” Tracey said, especially during a pandemic that compounds the stresses couples and families already experience. “It’s such a good program,” she added. “You can give and receive a renewed sense of hope for marriage.”
Mentoring for your marriage details:
Learn more about the Covenant of Love Marriage Mentor ministry by visiting the Diocese of Davenport website (https://davenportdiocese. org/ff-covenant-of-love) or call (563) 888-4242.