By SUZANNE HAUGH, Special To The Bulletin | Published September 13, 2007
The Southeast Retrouvaille communities will host the 2007 Retrouvaille International Council Meeting Sept. 28-30 at the Westin Atlanta Airport Hotel. The meeting, which will include workshops for couples and priests, is open to anyone who has attended Retrouvaille, a program to help couples heal and renew their marriages.
“It’s like we’re going to meet a big family,” described Kathy DeNell of the gathering, which will include a host of workshops designed to “grow communities and nurture marriages.” She and her husband, Dick, along with Karen and Keith Kreager, serve as the meeting’s coordinators.
A sampling of the workshops include “Our Marriage Rediscovered,” “Personal Finance: God’s Plan,” “Crisis Averted: Understanding Conflict Management” and “Enrichment in the Local Community.” Several of the workshops will be presented in Spanish and priests will be able to attend workshops specific to their interests as well.
Bishop Kevin Boland of Savannah is a keynote speaker during the weekend and Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory will celebrate Mass.
The registration fee is $675 for couples, $475 for priests, and includes Friday and Saturday night accommodations at the Westin Atlanta Airport Hotel, all meals on Saturday, breakfast and lunch on Sunday, all registration fees and conference materials. Participants may come earlier in the week or stay Sunday for an additional $128 a night.
It’s easy as a married couple today to become lost. “You have work, the house, children, but not time for you as a couple,” DeNell explained. “In the romance stage of your relationship you share anything, talk about everything. Then the kids come, money is tight, and you begin to experience differences—you don’t even talk. … It’s very easy to go in separate directions.”
The pattern of isolation is familiar to Dick and Kathy, whose first husband passed away, leaving her to raise three young children. She met Dick, a divorced father of two, and they married after his first marriage was annulled. But the couple soon realized that their different approaches to childrearing strained their marriage and created a “mess.”
“We were at the doorstep of divorce. I have no doubt that that’s what would have happened if we hadn’t gotten involved in Retrouvaille. We never wanted (divorce) for our kids.”
Now the couple are grandparents and remain involved with Retrouvaille “because it’s good for us.”
“Change doesn’t just happen. You have to desire it,” DeNell said. “Together we can change ourselves.”
Five Retrouvaille weekends are held in the Atlanta Archdiocese each year for couples seeking to heal their marriages. After each weekend the couples who attend are offered a voluntary six-week follow-up. Having grown out of the Marriage Encounter movement, the first Retrouvaille weekend was presented in Canada in 1977 to more effectively focus on couples going through difficult times, separated or divorced. Retrouvaille is now available in many parts of the country.
“We want to keep families together. We want children to grow up in a family. … This sacrament (marriage) is very important. It’s a gift we give to each other when we say our vows. It’s called a living sacrament.”
The DeNells made their Retrouvaille weekend in 1995 and always look forward to events like the International Council Meeting, where they see old friends and make new ones. “It’s a wonderful time to meet other couples and a time to learn. We have to take the step to be in unity as Christ calls us to be.”
For more information on the 2007 International Council Meeting or to register to attend an initial Retrouvaille weekend, visit www.retrouvailleofatlanta.org or call (770) 495-8592.