|John and Terri Bosio, parishioners at St. Stephen Catholic Community in Hermitage, have developed a new program to help engaged couples prepare for marriage. “Joined by Grace” is a six-chapter introspective question and study program supported by mentor couples. “Joined by Grace” has been published by Ave Maria Press and is available for use by parishes.|
A formula for a healthy, happy marriage may seem elusive, but a Nashville husband and wife, after decades writing and researching, may have come close to setting engaged couples on the right track with a newly released program that aligns with Catholic teachings on marriage.
John and Teri Bosio, themselves happily married for more than 40 years, have been working with Catholic dioceses on marriage preparation programs since 1978 when they were hired by the Archdiocese of Kansas City, Kansas, as family life coordinators. At that time, they were to implement a marriage preparation program that used mentor couples. John also has served as a marriage and family counselor and Teri as director of religious education. “Happy Together,” a book they co-authored after 10 years of research, was published in 2008.
In 2011, Ave Maria Press began surveying priests and pastoral workers about their marriage prep needs with the objective of publishing a program that would address both the teachings of the Catholic Church on marriage and the needs of being engaged and married in 21st Century society. Given their work in the field, Ave Maria chose the Bosios to lead the new project, resulting in “Joined by Grace,” a six-chapter introspective question and study supported by mentor couples. With the book, they already had the material and were able to adapt it into the “Joined by Grace” program.
It was not ready to present to last year’s World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia, but the Bosios listened carefully to experts and bishops there. As members of the National Association of Catholic Family Life Ministries, they presented “Joined by Grace” at the 2016 annual meeting in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and the program was ready for sale to the public Oct. 15.
The formula that makes the program – and thereby marriages – successful is a dedicated blend of research and testing, sacrament-based text, couples’ witnesses, and Church teachings. While conducting the research, the Bosios sought to address two primary needs that seemed perennially to be lacking among engaged couples: the need to connect with a parish community and for catechesis.
“Many couples, especially those where one of the partners is not Catholic, tend to downplay the religious dimension of their marriage,” said John Bosio, who writes the “Faithful Marriage” column for the Tennessee Register. He cited a 2011 report by the National Marriage Project that indicated predictors of marital success: commitment, regular church attendance as a couple, belief that God is the center of the marriage, spirit of generosity toward one another, and support of the community.
By community, they mean the parish community. Bosio said the most difficult obstacle to overcome is that of parishes feeling that marriage preparation requires a great deal of work. While he concedes that it does, the program is broken down into manageable steps.
In the Diocese of Nashville, parishes can opt to use “Joined by Grace” or remain with their current marriage prep program, but Deacon Tom Samoray, director of Family Life and Marriage Ministry for the diocese, enthusiastically encourages it, combined with the Diocesan Engaged Couples Retreat.
“With the utilization of ‘Joined by Grace’ by more parishes, once the couple comes to the Engaged Couples Retreat, we would have a more accurate gauge on how the couples are being prepared for their sacrament,” Deacon Samoray said. “One thing the Holy Father posited is that preparation and marriage must be solidly supported and celebrated by the entire parish congregation.”
“Joined by Grace” is a program in which couples are invited to explore their relationship through a number of topics, such as their impressions of their partner’s family traditions, how they reconcile after an argument, if they feel as though they could do it differently, and what “giving of oneself” means to them.
At the same time, however, it is structured so that the couple’s relationship becomes a mirror image of Christ’s relationship to the Church.
Their approach, they explained, incorporates the “findings of social sciences, the teachings of the Church, and the lived experience of married couples.”
“But the core message of ‘Joined by Grace’ can be summarized in St. Paul’s command to the couples in Ephesus: ‘Love your spouse as Christ loved the Church.’ ‘Joined by Grace’ takes this command seriously. We believe that the way Christ loves the Church through the seven sacraments is the way husband and wife are to love each other,” the Bosios said.
“Joined by Grace” has already received the endorsements of Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, and Bishop David R. Choby of Nashville, who calls it a “most excellent tool to help parishes welcome young couples to marriage and help prepare them to embrace Christian vocation.”
John and Terri Bosio, parishioners at St. Stephen Catholic Community in Hermitage, have developed a new program to help engaged couples prepare for marriage. “Joined by Grace” is a six-chapter introspective question and study program supported by mentor couples. “Joined by Grace” has been published by Ave Maria Press and is available for use by parishes.