by Fr RON BENNETT
The Book of Ecclesiastes Chapter 3 talks about the seasons of life. This year the season of Marriage Encounter came to an end in Aotearoa / New Zealand, at least the giving of Marriage Encounter weekends. It lives on in those who have experienced a weekend, and its influence in their lives.
Marriage Encounter came to New Zealand in 1978, as a gift from Australian couples and priests. A team of three couples and a priest would come from one of the Australian states, arriving in Auckland in June 1978 for a weekend, and then driving down to Wellington to do a weekend there. Each month, a team from a different state would arrive to give weekends. In a short time, we had our own New Zealand team.
In July this year, 44 years later, Marriage Encounter formally came to an end on these shores, due mainly to a shortage of couples to give the weekends.
Marriage Encounter is unique, in that it seeks to renew both the sacraments of marriage and priesthood in the Catholic Church. That was one of the strengths of the movement. Both sacraments are calls to be lovers – a couple’s love for each other, and a priest’s love for his people. It also provided a bond between these two sacraments.
It is for happy couples, who love each other deeply and want to spend quality time together to celebrate their love, away from any distractions. It is also for priests, as they see their people’s love for them, and reignite their love for their people. It has also given birth to Retrouvaille, for marriages at risk, and Engaged Encounter, for couples preparing for marriage. Retrouvaille has ceased in New Zealand, but Engaged Encounter continues.
- Fr Ron Bennett is a previous national team priest, Marriage Encounter.