Congratulations on your engagement!
This is a very exciting time, and we share the joy and the hope that you feel as an engaged couple. We wish to support you as much as we can as you prepare to join your lives together in Christ’s Church.
As part of your engagement, the Church requires marriage preparation so that: couples have a better understanding of marriage as both a sacrament and a vocation; to help you discern and deepen your commitment to each other in marriage; and to learn more about each other and yourselves before you get married. Marriage preparation is a great blessing, and numerous university studies have shown that couples who engage in marriage preparation have a significantly lower risk of divorce than couples who do not (e.g. Stanley, “Premarital Education,” 2006).
Remember that marriage preparation begins at your parish, so please contact your parish as soon as you get engaged to begin marriage preparation. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact our office for help.
With that in mind, the Diocese of Harrisburg provides the following guidelines for marriage preparation within the diocese.
May God bless your engagement!
- Canonical process – Begin with an initial interview with a parish priest or deacon, where the required canonical forms are completed.
- Formational Process
- Completion and discussion of a pre-marital inventory at your parish (e.g. FOCCUS, PREPARE).
- Participation in one or more of the following:
- A parish-based mentoring program, combined with a God’s Plan for a Joy-Filled Marriage conference; or
- A Catholic Engaged Encounter weekend.
- Assessment process – A second meeting with your priest or deacon.
- Instructional process (as needed).
- Liturgical planning for the wedding.
Marriage preparation begins and ends in your parish, so please make an appointment with your parish to begin your preparation and to determine which course of preparation you will take.
Many parishes support a network of married couples who held guide and prepare engaged couples through their discernment period. Our office supports these parish-based programs by training new mentor couples, offering periodic in-service trainings, and overseeing the use of the FOCCUS inventory and other tools. To find out more about mentor couples at your parish, please contact your parish directly. To inquire about becoming a mentor couple, please contact our office for more information.
As a complement to the mentor couples program, God’s Plan for a Joy-Filled Marriage is a single-day program that explores the Church’s teachings on: marriage as a sacrament and a vocation; the human person and God’s design for marriage; and human sexuality. To learn more about the God’s Plan program, please visit their website here.
The diocese offers many God’s Plan conferences throughout the year and in a variety of diocesan locations, although you should only sign up for a conference after your initial meeting at the parish. For more information on dates and locations, please see the brochure.
Catholic Engaged Encounter (CEE) is a multi-day retreat for engaged couples to spend time away as a couple and to learn more about the faith and about marriage. On the weekend, couples communicate in depth about their future lives together – their strengths and weaknesses, desires and goals, and their attitudes about money, sex, children, and their role as a family in the church and in society. For more information on Catholic Engaged Encounter, please visit their website here.
The diocese offers eight CEE retreats held throughout the year. All retreats are held at the Hampton Inn in Mechanicsburg, PA. For a complete listing, please see the brochure.
Natural Family Planning (NFP) is a scientific, natural, and moral way to space or limit pregnancies for couples who have a serious reason for doing so. The diocese offers a variety of ways to learn about NFP – in person, online, and in a live online class. There are also multiple methods of NFP, some of which may make more sense for you as a couple depending on your biological, lifestyle, and personal circumstances, as well as your preferred learning style. To learn more about NFP, please visit our NFP page.