National Marriage Conference held in Saskatoon
By Kiply Lukan Yaworski
Some 350 people attended a national marriage conference in Saskatoon March 19-20, reflecting on the theme "A Time for Hope: Finally, Good News about Marriage."
Participants came from across the diocese, the province and the country, including delegates from British Columbia to Antigonish, Nova Scotia.
"There was just an incredible spirit of hope during this conference," said Blake Sittler of the diocesan office of Marriage and Family Life, who led the diocesan committee organizing the event. "People are looking for good news - and they found it here."
The conference began with presentations by historian Stephanie Coontz of Olympia, Washington, and sociologist Reginald Bibby of the University of Lethbridge putting the story of marriage into context, Sittler said. The academics cited history and statistics, dispelling myths about the state of marriage, both in the past and today.
Connecting marriage to the paschal mystery was the theme of a spiritually-focused presentation by Kathy and Neil Heskin of Illinois, a couple who have been active in marriage and family ministry for 32 years.
A local panel described their personal experiences with a spectrum of marriage ministry happening in the diocese, including the work of the Marriage Task Force, divorce and remarriage ministry, marriage preparation, vocation awareness and Retrouvaille (see related article).
Dr. Richard Gaillardetz, a theologian and author who holds the chair in Catholic studies at the University of Toledo, offered a practical spirituality of marriage during his talk, presented at an annual Marriage Appreciation Banquet held in conjunction with the national conference.
Celebration of the Eucharist with Archbishop Albert LeGatt of St. Boniface, Bishop Bryan Bayda of the Eparchy of Saskatoon, and Bishop-elect Donald Bolen of the diocese of Saskatoon included a renewal of wedding vows for conference participants. "Couples described how looking into each other's eyes as they made that recommitment was truly a powerful spiritual moment," noted Sittler
In his homily, LeGatt reflected on the "long lingering look of love" that couples exchange in old movies. Jesus also has a look of love for each beloved child of God: including the woman caught in adultery in John's gospel, LeGatt noted.
"Jesus sees her for what God calls her to be, sees her for what she is in God's eyes: the beloved - as all God's children are the beloved," he said. "Jesus has trust, he has faith in her, and what her life can be if she allows the love of God to be the truth in her life: ‘go and sin no more.'"
When it is difficult to love, to get beyond hurt and resentment, our invitation is to be like Jesus, to choose to love, to trust and to reach out again, LeGatt said. In living this way, married couples "indeed are an icon, a reflection, of God's unending love for us," he said.
"You do it again and again and again as couples, in the way in which you continue to trust in each other, and you choose to reach out to each other in love. Within that you are truly a sacrament within the Church," LeGatt said. "What will give the strength to choose to see your spouse in that way? The Word of God… Within your hearts, have the crucified and risen Lord alive in you, and with you in your marriage."
The committee, which was made up of couples from throughout the diocese, included Deb and Gilbert Chevrier, Wendy and Abel Desa, Darcie and Mark Lich, Kathy Lozinsky, Katarina and Shaun Nechvatal, Gerry and Sheldon Scheck, and Michelle and Dean Yurkowski.
Hosted by the Roman Catholic Diocese of Saskatoon, the conference was organized with support from a number of groups, including the Ukrainian Catholic Eparchy of Saskatoon, Worldwide Marriage Encounter, Greater Saskatoon Catholic Schools, Catholic Family Services, Queen's House, and St. Thomas More College, as well as a number of other sponsors and supporters, including the Bishop's Annual Appeal