Retrouvaille: Organization offers hope to hopeless marriages
By Jean Torkelson
“Our marriage had deteriorated to absolute misery,” said Diana Lovell. “’OK,’ we said, ‘we have nothing left but to go to Retrouvaille.’”
The organization with the ornate French name was an item in a two-year-old church bulletin that the couple had saved but never acted on.
It was the mid 1990s. In a desperate, “What do we have to lose?” moment, Ron and Diana Lovell signed up for a Retrouvaille weekend in their hometown of San Diego.
“We went in Friday night very scared and fearful, and we left on Sunday with a newfound hope,” she said.
Over the course of the weekend and in the three-month program that followed, not only was their marriage restored, but the Lovells eventually became Retrouvaille leaders themselves. Now living in Denver, they run the Colorado chapter of the Catholic-based international program.
The last Retrouvaille weekend of the year in Colorado is Sept. 28-30, and some openings are still available (See accompanying box for details.)
The Lovells also hope to interest priests of the Archdiocese of Denver to volunteer at least one weekend per year for Retrouvaille. The program is presented by three married couples and a Catholic priest. Priests are also encouraged to come and experience a weekend.
Although the weekend takes place in a comfortable local hotel—the name is not disclosed to protect participants’ privacy—Lovell said: “This is a working weekend. …You do not have time to go to the pool and lounge around. You’re here to save your marriage.”
Encouraged by Archdiocese
Retrouvaille started in Quebec, Canada, in 1985 as an offshoot of the effective Marriage Encounter series, which was designed to strengthen basically sound marriages.
Last weekend scheduled in 2012
Date/Place: Sept. 28-30, at a Denver area hotel
Cost: $200 registration fee, opening weekend.*
To register: go to www.helpourmarriage.com or call 303-328-8658
*Additional $375 donation requested. Total cost includes weekend’s food and hotel lodging, materials and follow-up meetings for three months. Payment adjustments made according to need.
In contrast, Retrouvaille (pronounced “ret-troo-vie”) means “rediscovery” and is meant for marriages in serious, even irrevocable, trouble. Couples of every or no faith background are welcome to join the program, but Retrouvaille is Catholic-based and encouraged by the Archdiocese of Denver.
“We do our best to let parishes know of upcoming weekends,” said Phil Webb, director of the Office of Marriage and Family Life. “So many couples have reached the point of disillusionment and unhappiness that we believe we should promote every tool for healing that exists, especially ones with proven results like Retrouvaille.”
Focus on the sacrament
The weekend launches the three-month program, which includes seven follow-up sessions held for half days on Saturdays. Couples learn communication techniques and use reading materials and follow-up support to “rediscover” their lost marriages. Privacy is the standard. Except for volunteer sharing during the workshops, “Couples are not expected to share anything about their own relationship,” Lovell said.
The Lovells and fellow organizers (all volunteers) call themselves “peer ministers” because, like their peers, they know the pain of a dying marriage, and because they believe they are part of a ministry, with “faith and God” at the heart of the solutions.
Participants range from couples married less than a year to more than 50 years; some are already divorced. No matter how long the marriage or how damaged, said Lovell, “We really focus on what the sacrament of marriage is, and the commitment we all made when we first got married.”
Jean Torkelson: 303-715-3122; www.twitter.com/DCRegister