Marriage ‘rescue’ ministry helps spouses rediscover love

Paul and Tracy Satterfield

By Dino Durando

No one needs to learn new statistics about the state of marriage today or divorce rates to know that many marriages are hurting and in need of help.

When Paul and Tracy Satterfield were at a hopeless time in their marriage they attended a Retrouvaille weekend to try one last time to keep their marriage from leading to divorce. “We were separated and had divorce papers written up. We were seeing counselors, but I still needed more. I wanted to know other couples that had survived a painful and hopeless marriage. We got that at Retrouvaille,” Tracy said. Paul and Tracy are members of Holy Spirit Parish in Overland Park, KS and are now members of the local leadership team for Retrouvaille.

“For the first time in 30 years together, I became vulnerable to Tracy. I was able to share my weaknesses, my fears and my failures. As I shared myself fully, our bond strengthened,” Paul said. Working through their difficulties became easier as they learned to communicate better, to share their feelings and learn to listen to each other in a deeply respectful way.

“Because of our Retrouvaille experience I feel valuable and valued by my husband. I can talk to him about anything. For years we danced around subjects assuming we know how the other would react, when in reality we wanted the same things, but didn’t have the skills to communicate,” Tracy said.

Their story is not a unique one; countless couples have been helped in a similar way to renew and rediscover their love and marriage. Their website (retrokc.com) describes the ministry, “Retrouvaille is an International community of disciples committed to the continued healing of their marriages and, empowered by the Holy Spirit, sharing their stories, talents and gifts to promote and spread the healing ministry of Retrouvaille.” The ministry was founded in Canada in 1977 by a Catholic priest who saw the urgent need to help couples avoid divorce who could, with help, reconcile, forgive, and keep married. Their conviction is that “every marriage, a union of one man and one woman, deserves the opportunity to survive, be healed and thrive as a covenant of life and love.”

The word Retrouvaille (pronounced re-tro-vi with a long i.) is a French word meaning rediscovery. Thousands of couples headed for cold, unloving relationships or divorce have successfully overcome their marriage problems by attending the program. Retrouvaille is Catholic in origin and orientation, but they welcome all married couples, regardless of religious background. “Some have already separated or divorced, but want to try again. Many are struggling to stay together,” Paul said.

What’s the secret to Retrouvaille? The secret is that there is no secret. Instead what couples who attend the weekend and the post-sessions experience is a new way to live their marriage and a community of supporting couples who are walking with them. The program consists of an initial overnight weekend combined with a series of 6 post-sessions held over the following 3 months. The main emphasis of the program is on communication in marriage between husband and wife. It gives spouses the opportunity to rediscover each other and examine their lives together in a new and positive way.

Jerry and Kim Bronder

Jerry and Kim Bronder are members of the Retrouvaille team in Kansas City. When they moved to Kansas City they helped keep the ministry alive at a time when it was in danger of dissolving locally. “We always knew we needed to stay involved with Retrouvaille and if leadership was how we got involved then we relied on God’s help and strength. We knew that our marriage was stronger and better because of what we learned through Retrouvaille, so it was our duty to give back to others,” Kim said.

One of the most important thing they learned through their own journey was “to communicate with each other in a safe and healthy way because we tended to let conversations get out of hand. The tools we have with Retrouvaille over the years continue to help us be more kind and loving, less selfish and more giving to each other,” Jerry said.

After the initial “honeymoon” period in the months and years following their wedding many couples fail to transition from the lifestyle they lived prior to marriage and begin to increasingly live what Retrouvaille calls a ‘married singles’ lifestyle. While married, they drift apart in the things they do and spend more time doing things as individuals than they do together. Should adversity, infidelity, or any other number of things that challenge the integrity and strength of their relationship arise, many couples are not equipped with the tools to face difficulties together. Retrouvaille presents an antidote or treatment for the ‘married singles’ lifestyle.

There is no guarantee that couples who attend a weekend will stay married. When Tracy talks to couples about Retrouvaille who are skeptical that it can help them she insists that “They have nothing to lose and so many things to gain. It’s up to the couple to discover how much they can gain.” So, she urges them, “This proven weekend has helped the most hopeless of marriages, why not give yourself a chance at hope?”

Paul answers the skeptics by simply saying, “It can! It can help your marriage!” He shared that, “We’ve seen hundreds of couples that were lost, in pain, separating, or separated (like we were), and have seen God work his miracles on them. Spouses who attend will find a non-judgmental community of couples who have been there, understand their pain, and will guide them through the process of learning how to love again.”

Retrouvaille will be offering a weekend in Kansas City, January 26-28, 2018. Couples who want more information could speak with a priest or deacon and may reach the Retrouvaille team for information or to register by calling 1-800-470-2230 or email retrokc@gmail.com.

Dino Durando is director of the Office for Family Life in the Diocese of Kansas City – St. Joseph.

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Wednesday
January 17, 2018
Newspaper of the Diocese of Kansas City ~ St. Joseph