History Project – Working with Engaged Couples

Sandy Richards Sullivan shares memories of the years when she and Tom were part of the parish marriage preparation team. Besides the subjects our married couples discussed with the engaged couples during their home visits, those planning to marry also took lengthy per-marital inventories. In those days the inventories had to scored by hand, and Father O’Connor, pastoral associate Andrea Thomas, or volunteer counselor Joanne Yurosko discussed the results with the couples. St. Mary’s began using pre-marital inventories before this became the norm in the diocese, and we were among the first to use married couples in the parish as part of the marriage preparation process.

The Catholic Church in the 1980’s was concerned about the high rate of divorce in the community.  Father Tom embraced the idea of using married couples to talk to engaged couples after he met with them.  Each couple filled out a “Compatibility Questionnaire”.  Father Tom believed that married couples could dig deeper into what to expect in marriage on a day-to-day basis.

My husband Tom and I welcomed couples into our home.  We reviewed the questions each had answered and looked for differences as well as common ground.  Three areas were covered.

Finance: Work ethic of both. Who would be the main provider? Would the wife work? Have you thought about a budget? A 5-year plan?

Family: Have you talked about children?  You are marrying each other’s family. Do you like each other’s parents and siblings?

Spirituality:  Do you have the same beliefs?  How long have you attended St. Mary’s?

These are only samples of what was asked of the couple.  It usually took 2 or 3 meetings to finish the discussions.

Lynn and Tony Till were one of our first couples. They had a plan and followed it. The Tills were married on October 5, 1985 —50 years to the day that Tony’s grandparents were also married at St. Mary’s.

Recently I asked Tony if he thought that the time spent discussing real life issues was worthwhile.  He said “Well, we are still married, have two children and grandchildren, so I guess I could say yes!  St Mary’s was a great place to raise children.”

Sandra Richards Sullivan, February 2023