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!
Marriage preparation in the Diocese of Harrisburg shall take place over a minimum of nine months and consist of the following components:
- Canonical Process – Initial interview with the priest or deacon where the required canonical forms are completed.
- Take a Pre-marital Inventory – (e.g. FOCCUS, PREPARE, etc.).
- Formation – Meet at least four (4) times with a mentor couple, a priest, a deacon, or another parish-appointed leader for marriage preparation.
- Conference – Attend one of the diocesan conferences, per the preparing clergy’s instructions. Note that these conferences fulfill the diocesan requirement to attend a short introductory talk on Natural Family Planning as well as a talk on the sacramentality of marriage:
- God’s Plan for Love – a conference focusing on the sacramentality of marriage and marital sexuality.
- Engaged Encounter – a weekend retreat covering both life skills (communication, conflict resolution) as well as the sacramentality of marriage and marital sexuality.
- Assessment Process – Meet with the priest or deacon for a final assessment before marriage (done as needed).
- Liturgical Planning – Meet with the priest, deacon, and any other liturgical ministers to plan a prayerful and reverent ceremony.
Marriage preparation begins and ends in your parish, so please make an appointment with your parish as soon as possible to begin the process.
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 Love 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 here: 2019 / 2020.
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 Holiday Inn Express in Harrisburg, PA. For a complete listing, please see the brochure here: 2020 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.