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Marriage Uncorked

New program for Catholic couples meets at restaurants, not churches

Guest speaker Chris Codden speaks at the inaugural dinner of Marriage Uncorked.

Photographer: JIM DAVIS | FC

Guest speaker Chris Codden speaks at the inaugural dinner of Marriage Uncorked.

PEMBROKE PINES | Why does every church meeting have to be in church?

Mike Ros came up with a simple answer: It doesn’t. Especially when the people you want to serve may not want to come to a church.

Hence the Nov. 15 launch of Marriage Uncorked, a program for young Catholic couples held at a restaurant several miles from Ros’ parish, St. Mark’s in Southwest Ranches. The new series of socials blended the parish’s marriage ministry team with the support of the archdiocesan Office of Marriage and Family Life.

Darrian and Natalia Abascal, who attended the inaugural dinner of Marriage Uncorked, say they text each other throughout the day.

Photographer: JIM DAVIS | FC

Darrian and Natalia Abascal, who attended the inaugural dinner of Marriage Uncorked, say they text each other throughout the day.

Raquel Acosta holds Noella, her 5-month-old daughter, during the inaugural dinner of Marriage Uncorked.

Photographer: JIM DAVIS | FC

Raquel Acosta holds Noella, her 5-month-old daughter, during the inaugural dinner of Marriage Uncorked.

And they may have hit on something: More than 50 people – some newlyweds, some married for decades – attended the first night, at BJ’s Restaurant in southwest Broward.

“Everyone is looking to belong to a group, but many couples see religion as something that’s not part of daily life,” Ros said in an interview. “I feel that a welcoming environment helps to break that barrier.”

The first guest speakers for Marriage Uncorked were Chris and Richard Codden. She’s director of marriage and family for the Diocese of St. Cloud, Minnesota. She has also spoken in South Florida in 2013, 2014 and 2017 on the Fully Engaged Premarital Inventory, which she co-authored.

The two enthused over the dinner in Pembroke Pines, with its chatty, youthful buzz.

“I’m trying to wrap my mind around this,” said Richard, her husband. “There is such an excitement around here. Whatever you do to bring people closer to Christ is good.”

 

BRIDGING THE GAP

Some of the 50-plus attendees were already sold on the idea of Marriage Uncorked. Among them were Brian and Raquel Acosta, at the dinner with their 5-month-old daughter Noella.

“There’s a gap between young adult and married ministries,” Raquel said. “I think this (dinner) can help bridge the gap.”

In her talk, Codden discussed implications of the three promises a couple makes during matrimony. She noted that Jesus himself declared each husband and wife to be “no longer two, but one flesh.”

“How important it is that God in Christ elevated it to a sacrament,” Codden said. “We’ve entered into a covenant, an unbreakable bond with Christ and the Church.”

She broke down the first marital question: “Have you come here to enter into marriage without coercion, freely and wholeheartedly?” For her, that question highlights the importance of free choice.

“I have the free will to run out the door,” she said bluntly. “But I choose you and give myself to you.”

Codden then unpacked the second marital promise: to love and honor each other for life. She stressed that it’s not only about finding happiness, but also about giving it – even to the point of sacrifice.

“It’s day-to-day living,” she said. “It’s how we talk about them even when they’re not with us. It’s each of them putting their spouse above themselves. Christ is the model. He gave his body and blood.”

 

NURTURING FAITH

She followed with a lighter example: Richard’s love for ice fishing and her distaste for cleaning fish.

“Do I love to ice fish? Noooooo,” she said, drawing laughs. “But I love Richard’s face when he catches a fish.”

Lance Angella answers a question from Richard Codden during the inaugural dinner of Marriage Uncorked as Lance's wife, Sarah, listens at right.

Photographer: JIM DAVIS | FC

Lance Angella answers a question from Richard Codden during the inaugural dinner of Marriage Uncorked as Lance's wife, Sarah, listens at right.

The third question – “Are you open to receive children?” – is about more than sheer procreation, Codden pointed out. It’s also about “raising them in accordance with Christ and the Church.” And it implies that the couple must nurture and grow their own faith.

“Sometimes, people think that all the Catholic Church talks about is having kids,” Codden said. “But it’s also about bringing them up in the faith. But how can we give something that we don’t have?”

Codden’s appearance wasn’t all talk: She challenged the couples to tell each other what small things they do every day to deepen their love. By their answers, some were way ahead of her.

Lou Mendez said he makes coffee every day for Madelyn, his wife of 37 years. And she walks him to the door every day as he heads off to his job as a CPA. “He sometimes says, ‘Don’t get up,’ but I do it anyway. It shows love,” she said.

For Darian and Natalia Abascal, who have been married two years, the answers came via texting: They send each other notes all day, punctuated with emojis.

“The day can get tough,” said Darian, a plumber. “Reaching out to her grounds me.”

 

THE LITTLE THINGS

Natalia said she appreciated seeing older couples at the Marriage Uncorked dinner. “It was good to see people married more than 20 years. They have a solid relationship, but they say you’ve still got to work at it every day.”

The moment hit home also for Lance and Sarah Angella, even though they had been married only for two months.

“It’s the little things that matter,” said Sarah, who attends Our Lady of the Lakes Church, Miami Lakes, along with Lance. “And it’s not about just words, but also what you don’t say.”

Codden then invited everyone to turn to their spouse and repeat their marriage vows. As she expected, it became an emotional moment.

“It took me back to the first time we exchanged vows,” said Dana Rodriguez, who has been married to Lemay for 22 years.

Marriage Uncorked is the fifth program run or supported by a ministry team at St. Mark, which includes 20 couples. The group also has run weekly home prayer gatherings, marriage retreats and an archdiocesan program for marriages in crisis.

Mike Ros said he thought up the name from the New Testament story of the wedding at Cana. It was there that Jesus performed his first miracle, turning water into wine.

He adapted the idea of a restaurant venue, rather than a church setting, from Theology on Tap, a series of informal talks for young Catholics held in pubs. It helps to create a relaxed setting, Ros said.

“When we say ‘the Church,’ we are the Church,” he said. “Socializing, getting to know our friends – this is part of it. Together, we can leave a mark on our kids, our Church and our community.”

Stephen Colella, director of the archdiocesan Office of Marriage and Family Life, said Marriage Uncorked was one of the first evenings of its kind, and that it filled a distinct need.

“We need community, and we have a lot of gifts to give,” he said.

Lemay and Dana Rodriguez repeat their wedding vows during the inaugural dinner of Marriage Uncorked.

Photographer: JIM DAVIS | FC

Lemay and Dana Rodriguez repeat their wedding vows during the inaugural dinner of Marriage Uncorked. "It took me back to the first time we exchanged vows," Dana said.


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