It seemed simple enough. A couple of days spent on a married couples’ retreat with my husband, Doug, and I would have a story for the magazine. Did it turn out to be that simple? No. In fact, the retreat experience left me learning a great deal about my marriage as well as myself. The retreat, entitled Marriage and the Cost of Sharing, took place the first weekend of December. I admit that when I arrived at St. Francis Retreat Center in DeWitt my thoughts were not totally focused on what was about to take place. The premiere of the magazine was just days away. Our 4-year-old son was looking forward to decorating for the holidays – I actually had to consult my day planner to see when we could schedule a visit to the tree farm. A friend was hosting an open house the same weekend. We had plans for a family outing to see a performance of The Nutcracker. The retreat came at the worst possible time for Mr. and Mrs. Funk. Or so it seemed ... The first evening when the 25 or so couples gathered for introductions, it was apparent that we came from all walks of life and all stages of life. For some of us, the retreat was a first-time experience while others were veterans. And I soon learned my first lesson from hearing couples share their stories as to why they were attending the retreat – none of the things I was worried about when I walked through the doors mattered. My relationship with Doug was the only thing that mattered now – even the story for the magazine took a back seat to what was unfolding. When I initially told Doug about the retreat, his first question was: “How are two priests that have never been married going to teach me anything?” Well, Fr. J. Munley, Chairman of the Department of Formation for the Lansing Diocese, who facilitated the retreat along with Fr. Larry Delaney, Director of St. Francis Retreat Center, quickly put an end to any doubts as to their ability to relate to married couples. “Your vocation and my vocation is the love of God and the love of other people,” Fr. J. said. “Everyday you choose to be married. Everyday I choose to be a priest. “There are days when I wake up that I don’t want to be a priest. Two things keep me in – my commitment and the fact that my commitment was made out of love.” That was the second lesson I learned. Even on those days when I don’t particularly like being married, I made a commitment out of love – through the good times and the bad.
Fr. Larry provided the third and most important lesson through his five steps to love: 1. Accept yourself – nobody can be for you what you have to be for yourself. 2. Accept others – we all are made in God’s image and likeness. 3. Trust. 4. Show your love. 5. Intimacy. Or, as Fr. Larry put it, “Into me you see.” At the conclusion of his presentation, Fr. Larry gave us a little project. We were to take a walk and discuss the aspects of the list that we were good at as well as what we needed to improve upon. Well, the list was full of reasons why I fell in love with Doug – he is very good at all those steps. Me, I’m a different story. The running joke in the family now, after the retreat, is that I’m loveless – I’m not very good at any of the five steps. However, since that painful realization, I’ve been working very hard on each one. And Doug is helping me with my biggest hurdle – accepting myself for who I am. The retreat left me with a sense of renewal in terms of my relationship with Doug. We are discussing things that we learned and are growing together as a couple. Instead of looking at what is going on “right here, right now,” we are focusing on each other. Like the song says: Grow old along with me, the best is yet to be ... And that’s what I’m looking forward to – spending the rest of my life with Doug, it’s only going to get better! Oh, and going on retreat again next year – the tree can wait.
My Husband’s Turn. by Kathy’s husband, Doug Funk
I laughed, I cried, then I agreed with my wife’s request to attend the married couples’ retreat. Needless to say, being a non-Catholic, I did not picture myself as one to attend a Catholic retreat. I was wrong to have doubts. St. Francis Retreat Center was an ideal setting to begin the process of self-awareness. My two main concerns were that I would be bored and that I would be forced to be involved in something that would ultimately lead me into embarrassing myself. I was wrong.The combination of Fr. Larry and Fr. J. was an enjoyable way to present the thought provoking topics of discussion or, more appropriately, for contemplation. Fr. J.’s presentation on the 10 ways to express love (See www.FAITHmag.com) and Fr. Larry’s five steps to love became the impetus for discussions between Kathy and I on how we express our love for each other and for God. This “stepping aside” for the weekend helped focus on the little things that all too often we fail to express to each other due to our hectic lifestyles. I left the retreat as a better, more loving husband – just ask Kathy! I have gone from, “Who? Me? A retreat?” to “When can we go again?” And I would recommend the experience to all! And A SpecialCoupleDoug and I both met couples who touched our hearts. Deacon Rogelio and Estela Alfaro of Cristo Rey Parish were attending their 29th retreat together – an annual tradition they began in 1971. “After our first retreat together we felt spiritually fulfilled,” said Rogelio. “We needed time away for ourselves from everyday living and societal pressures.” The Alfaros were kind enough to share what they feel has been most important throughout their 40 years of marriage. “We pray together,” Rogelio reflected. “We forgive each other and trust one another.”