Prayerful Preparation

Couples participate in Pre-cana Program


The Church is constantly working to enable us to understand more deeply the Sacramentality of marriage and to achieve it. In our Byzantine Catholic Tradition, we refer to marriage as a “Mystery” and crown couples to remind them of the sacrificial love they must have for each other. A heavenly marriage requires earthly work.

To help couples prepare for this life commitment, the Office of Religious Education has been sponsoring a Pre-Cana Program since 1999 at various locations. This year the program took place March 30 and April 6 at the Byzantine Catholic Seminary of SS. Cyril and Methodius in Pittsburgh, Pa.

This new location offered an opportunity for the seminarians to attend the presentations along with the 12 couples registered and experience a demonstration of the Crowning Ceremony. Topics were presented were: “Communication, Forgiveness & Intimacy” by Father Thom Dansak; “Finances & Budgeting” by Sandee and Mark Collins; “The Crowning Ceremony” by Father Will Rupp; “Elements of a Healthy Marriage” by Chris and Amanda Singel; “Why a Church Wedding” and “Theology of Marriage” by Deacon Dennis Prestash; and “Marriage & Sexuality” by Dr. Matthew Minerd.

Father Thom’s presentations were thought-provoking, insightful and humorous. Being a Navy chaplain for 3o years, his experiences shared with the couples were applicable, fundamental and revealing. He ended his presentation saying, “Falling in love is a wonderful blessing. Staying in love is a choice we make every day and it takes a lot of hard work. Keep God at the center of your marriage and you will make the right choices and don’t forget the family that prays together, stays together.”

In almost every marriage, at some point there is conflict over money and its proper management. Sandee and Mark talked about their personal experiences in money management and emphasized a common commitment to this basic principle: What you have is given to you by God, not to serve yourself but to serve others.

An on-going component to the Pre-Cana Program is an explanation and demonstration of the Crowning Ceremony. Father Will, Director of Spiritual Formation at the Seminary, explained the theology of the Crowning Ceremony and the prayers that accompany the ritual.

Chris and Amanda presented their ideas for ways to keep your marriage strong. They emphasized there is a difference between simply growing old together versus maturing together. Using various quotes and examples, they shared their own experiences and challenges they have overcome as a married couple, demonstrating you need to work as a team.

Deacon Dennis has given presentations at the Pre-Cana Program since 1999. He has the gift of engaging the couples to interact with each other and process the material presented. Through media clips and a PowerPoint presentation he helps the couples recognize the importance of being connected to a parish community where their faith can be nourished.

He tells the couples: “The decision to be married in Church is a continuation of your Baptismal commitment. The Church is there for you in times of joy and in times of trouble. You have an entire faith community that wants your marriage to succeed and is committed to helping you in any way it can. Count your blessings and they will flow.”

The Church’s teaching on marriage and sexuality was presented Professor Minerd who teaches a course at the Seminary entitled, “Marriage, Sexuality and Contemporary Issues.” He told the couples the Catholic Church has been extremely clear on what it considers an essential element of the expressions of sexual marital love. That is, a couple is to be open to the creation of new life. The use of Natural Family Planning respects the Church’s teaching on marital love.

The couples were encouraged to learn more about this method and information containing scheduled planning sessions was included in the couple’s packet of information. Evaluations submitted by the couples expressed deep appreciation for the experience and a few suggestions for future planning.

After coordinating the PreCana Program for two decades, I have to say, the 12 couples who attended the 2019 program were a joy to work with and an exceptional group.