Newspaper Archive of
Arkansas Catholic
Litlte Rock, Arkansas
June 17, 1990     Arkansas Catholic
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June 17, 1990

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PAGE 8 ARKANSAS CATHOLIC JUNE 17, 1! Once upon a time... Encounter By Pat Sweeden Special to Arkansas Catholic Through almost 17 years of marriage, Dolores and I have experienced a pretty normal relationship. If you counted all our arguments, factored in the total number of days spent not communicat- ing and divided the sum by the actual amount of time we usually allowed for "discussing" our problems, you would get a quality rating somewhere around average -- for divorced couples. Like a lot of other'marriages that have survived, ours has made it this far through blind commitment, sheer ig- norance and a lot of faith. If we make it all the way to our original goal of "together forever," it will be due in large part to Marriage Encounter. The idea of making a Marriage En- counter had been brought up a num- ber of times by friends and relatives who had been through the experience, and who, no doubt, saw that we needed it. My reaction was always the sane, Weah. Sounds great. Know you got a lot out of it." I was not motivated to make:a "retreat" for marriage enrichment or spiritual renewal. It wasn't for us. Dolores had quite different feelings about it, but she kept them to herself. When "encountered" couples talked to her about their experiences, she really listened. She wanted to go. And she prayed that someday I would want to go, too. We did finally make an Encounter in February, 1989. In the brief time since then, we have learned that there is a right time for couples to "discover" each other again through the Marriage Encounter weekend. There is a level of need that must be reached and a de- sire to satisfy that need that must be present. The intensity of that need is different for different couples, and even for spouses within a marriage. Often, one spouse just doesn't want to con- front the m irriage. We have yet to meet an Encountered couple, however, who hasn't been led in some way or another to their weekend. For some, it comes in the thoughtfulness of friends who offer to watch the children. For others, it may just be the intrusion of a com- pelling thought during the quiet Despite my determination that nothing worthwhile could possibly come from this "retreat," something did happen. moments of Mass. Many Encountered couples will tell you that it is the work- ing of the Holy Spirit as He leads and guides and, in some cases, pushes a little. I had to be pushed. Dragged may be a better word. !just didn't want m go, and of all places not in our own parish. Why couldn't we at least go off to Subiaco or St. John's or anywhere we could be anonymous? The HolySpirit had other plans. Our marriage had been fruitful (five children), Successful (no major inter- ruptions) and we tried to live and raise our children in a Christian atmosphere. But a number of family crises, includ- ing the death of a child, had taken a Call your local post office! Then, call Agnes Knittig at ARKANSAS CATHOLIC, 664-0340. toll on our relationship. Confused by the very different coping methods we each used in dealing with these crises, we began to have problems borne of resentment and misunderstanding. As each crisis took a greater toll, we lost our ability to communicate, and our relationship began a spiraling, down- ward fall. It'was Dolores' hope that we could stop this fall, and somehow begin to regain what we had lost in our relation- ship. She was sure that Marriage En- counter was the key. Through much persistence and prayer, she was eventu- ally able to convince me that we had to do something. And if she felt so strongly about this "Encounter" concept, then why not? Nevertheless, I went to the weekend with great reluctance. I wasn't much for =group" therapy, and I certainly was not going to share our problems with our fellow parishioners. Despite my deter- ruination that nothing worthwhile could possibly come from this "retreat," something did happen. The ,structure of the weekend provided a rare oppor- tunity for quiet reflection and face-to- face communication about some of the most important issues facing our per- sonal and married lives. There were no "sharing sessions, and actually we had very little personal contact with the other couples. It'was just the two of us. Strange as it heems, for the first time in our marriage we really began to hear each other. We stopped being individuals and began again to be partners in the marriage bond we had created 15 years earlier. Dolores recalls that we faced issues I had to be pushed. Dragged may be a better word. I didn't want to go. and problems that we were both aware of, but had never really talked about. "It was that new awareness that lifted us. It was like we were meeting again for the fin'st time. It gave me a of rediscovering each other ing what we had lost. It was like in love all over again." We didn't solve all our weekend, but that is not Encounter is for. It is to help find a vehicle to use in dealing their everyday problems, as well as crises. It forced us to talk about that were important to us, but that! had never talked about before. It see a little deeper into each other'i Most importantly, it gave us needed structure i establishing the ing process of logue. That is what needed the most. "Marriage is a great way couples to slow and take the outside wc Dolores says. fast-movingI world today, tend to forget to time for each During the Encounter weekend all l distractions are removed. It's just two of you. You can listen to in a way that just isn't possible ioI daily rush." If there is a summary to this, it is Marriage Encounter can help. A doesn't need to have a crisis to benefit, and in ter isn't intended for riages. It is simply ess, an investment in a good an opportunity to make it better; (Pat and Dolores Sweeden are ers of Immaculate Conception North Little Rock. They now work as, couple in Marriage Encounter the Board of Little Rock National Encounter as coordinators ers.) Come to St. Joseph's Church 61 st Annual Picnic Saturday, June 16 In Center Ridge. Great Food * Games * Refreshments * Dance =. We are serving our homemade ,*'-'-- Italian Sausage and S " .... ;:>: Supper $8 adults, 1/2 price for children's plates. Serving hours are 3:30 PM to 9:00 PM. Plates to go are available. AnUcipated Mass: Sat. at IPM The second St. Anthony church in Ratcliff, abandoned around 1! used for a barn, had been built "on another man's property by according to a note written on the back of this 1948 picture. front is "74-year-old Mr. Irwin." The first St. Anthony's was anti-Catholic arsonists at Caulksville. (Cou esy Diocesan Archives)